Maggie Gyllenhaal is the new face — and body — of upscale lingerie line Agent Provocateur, posing for a series of slinky photos that might make even notorious cheesecake pin-up Bettie Page blush. “Maggie is not an obvious sex symbol,” according to AP co-founder Serena Rees. “She is interesting-looking, confident and beautiful in a way that is non-threatening, which makes her appealing to men and women alike.”
Not an obvious sex symbol? Yes, granted, she’s not Carmen Electra, but anyone who saw Gyllenhaal’s turns as a seductive minx in “Happy Endings” or as an innocent steno who learns to love S&M in “Secretary” is well aware of her on-screen sensuality. If Agent Provocateur really wanted to subvert the sex-symbol paradigm, after all, they could have hired Kathy Bates.
But it’s not like the tastemakers of Hollywood always know who the public thinks is hot. For every guy who drools over Jessica Simpson, there’s another who prefers Mo’Nique. And some women watch “Lost” as fervently for Terry O’Quinn as others do for Matthew Fox.
An unofficial survey among online pop culture addicts (bloggers, industry types, a comedian and, yes, a couple of plain old friends) for today’s least obvious sex symbols yielded some very interesting answers. (And to save reputations and marriages, interviewees asked to be quoted anonymously.) While the seven people listed below were among the top vote-getters, many surprising names were bandied about. Suffice it to say that Harry Dean Stanton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Allison Janney and the guys from “Mythbusters” can feel secure knowing that they’ve got fans out there who find them exceedingly sexy.
Dame Judi Dench
Everyone who nominated the four-foot-five star of “The Station Agent” and “Death at a Funeral” was convinced that he or she was alone in digging the intense actor. “I thought I was the only one who found him adorable,” confided J., a (male) designer in Seattle. “I saw ‘The Station Agent’ twice and both times my mind kept wandering to completely inappropriate places.” Concurring on Dinklage’s hotness was M.J., a (female) comedian and writer from Austin, Tex., who noted, “Peter has empathy and compassion and wisdom in his eyes, and his countenance. But there’s the razor-sharp intelligence and humor of someone who doesn’t suffer fools. My kinda guy!”
“What if this guy got you pregnant?” screamed the posters for this summer’s hit “Knocked Up,” as though such a thing were a fate worse than death. “So many people saw that movie and said, ‘Why would Katherine Heigl sleep with that guy?’” says D., a (female) writer in Atlanta. “And they never bought it when I said, ‘Because she was into him.’ As though you’d have to be drunk to want to sleep with a husky guy with a cute face and a great sense of humor.” While Rogen’s arc from slacker to responsible family man in the Judd Apatow comedy no doubt won him scores of female fans, he was already popular among bears, the subset of gay men who prefer a guy with meat on his bones. “We got to see his butt in ‘Knocked Up,’ and then he wore a cop uniform and a fu-manchu mustache in ‘Superbad,’” says A., a record-store employee in Los Angeles. “All in all, not a bad summer.”
© 2013 msnbc.com. Reprints