Stanley Tucci Embraces His Sex-Symbol Status at 61: 'I Don't Get It' — But 'It's Wonderful'

Stanley Tucci Embraces His Sex-Symbol Status at 61: 'I Don't Get It' — But 'It's Wonderful'

Stanley Tucci isn't sure why he's considered a sex symbol, but he's not mad about it.

In an exclusive interview for this week's PEOPLE cover story, the 61-year-old actor says he "feel(s) great about" the label, even if "I don't get it."

"Who goes, 'I feel terrible about that'? People think I'm sexy? How awful," he quips. "It's wonderful. I don't get it, but I'm very glad."

As for his general popularity, the host of CNN's food and travel series Searching for Italy says his Instagram following "explod(ed)" back in 2020, after her posted a video of himself putting together a Negroni cocktail.

For more on PEOPLE's cover story with Stanley Tucci, listen below to our daily podcast on PEOPLE Every Day.

"It changed my life completely," Tucci says. "All I had to do was be myself."

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Stanley Tucci photographed at a studio in London on February, 23 2022
Stanley Tucci photographed at a studio in London on February, 23 2022

Matt Holyoak Stanley Tucci

RELATED: Stanley Tucci Says His Wife's "Undying Attention and Affection" Got Him Through Cancer Battle

Tucci's sister-in-law and Devil Wears Prada costar Emily Blunt sings his praises too, telling PEOPLE that the actor, who is married to her sister Felicity Blunt, is "a beautiful painter" and "a great drummer" — as well as "weirdly flexible," with "a leg lift that rivals Jane Fonda's."

"He's an all-around renaissance man who knows the way to everyone's hearts," says Emily, 39. "And it's through having a damn good time."

Stanley Tucci photographed at a studio in London on February, 23 2022
Stanley Tucci photographed at a studio in London on February, 23 2022

Matt Holyoak Stanley Tucci

Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Stanley Tucci on PeopleTV.com or on the PeopleTV app.

RELATED VIDEO: Stanley Tucci Says He Reconnected with Felicity Blunt at Emily Blunt's Wedding and "That Was It"

The Oscar nominee, who was diagnosed with cancer at the base of his tongue back in 2017 and is cancer-free today, tells PEOPLE that the "undying attention, affection and encouragement" from his wife of 10 years (with whom he shares daughter Emilia, 3, and son Matteo, 7) "got [him] through" the diagnosis and treatments.

As for how he spends his free time these days, Tucci says, "A perfect day off for me would be going to the farmer's market, buy a bunch of food, start cooking, play with the kids."

"Then have people over for dinner," he adds. "To me, that's just a great day."

CNN's Searching for Italy follows Tucci exploring his Italian roots, putting the spotlight on the many little-known delights of Italy's diverse culinary culture. The six-episode first season premiered last February, and won an Emmy months later for outstanding hosted nonfiction series.

For more from Stanley Tucci, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.