It is said that stars are not born but made.

So what makes a leading man? Is it his talent? His sex appeal, hot bod, star power or sense of humour?

The staple stable of leading men such as Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and George Clooney possess such qualities and more, but also the requisite X-factor.

There are countless actors in Hollywood, but why is it only a handful become genuine leading men?

We look at some up-and-coming actors who may be the ones to replace some of Hollywood's elite by emulating existing careers.

Thousands would leap at the chance to lead a superhero sci-fi blockbuster. But Pratt had to be convinced.

Next Bruce Willis, Chris Pratt, 35 (above)

In fact, he actually turned down the invitation to audition for Peter Quill aka Star-Lord, the planet-hopping thief-turned-hero and leader of interstellar misfits, Guardians Of The Galaxy.

Opening here on July 31, the sci-fi adventure revolves around a team of intergalactic superheroes that also comprises Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a green-skinned assassin; a vengeance-seeking hulk called Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista); Rocket (Bradley Cooper) the trigger-happy talking racoon and a walking tree named Groot (Vin Diesel).

"I was scared and thought I was too fat to play a superhero," Pratt told Entertainment Weekly.

Pratt, who's married to US actress Anna Faris, also didn't want to go through the similar "he's too chubby" rejections that he received when he auditioned for the roles of Jake Sully in Avatar and Captain Kirk in the Star Trek reboot.

But Pratt's "fat and funny" days are over.

This man - who just last year tipped the scale at almost 136kg - has gone from being portly to studly, with an enviable six-pack for Guardians.

If things go well, his career trajectory could make him the new Bruce Willis.

Like Willis, who found fame through late 80s comedy series Moonlighting, Pratt's innate sense of humour has been fine-tuned on the small screen in Parks And Recreation.

Following his turn as the wisecracking action hero in Guardians (he's signed on for two more outings as Star-Lord), Pratt is the star of Jurassic World, the long-awaited fourth instalment of Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park.

Also like Willis, Pratt has demonstrated he's just as capable in handling serious stuff with his involvement in award-winning dramas like Moneyball (2011) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012).

Then there's their voice work. Willis voiced baby Mikey in Look Who's Talking (1989) and its sequel while Pratt voiced Emmet in The Lego Movie and may reprise the role in its expected sequel.

Next R-Pattz, Jamie Dornan, 32

Who better to fill the big "sex object" shoes left behind by Pattinson in his R-Pattz heart-throb days than this hunky Irish newcomer?

Like Pattinson, Dornan found his calling through modelling and then through film adaptations of pulp fiction catering to the fairer sex.

Pattinson, of course, had Twilight; Dornan has erotic romance novel Fifty Shades Of Grey, which author E. L. James developed from her series of Twilight fan fiction. James also stated that her first choice to play her leading man was Pattinson.

Dornan has seen his value skyrocket since news of his casting broke last year. After all, he beat out more famous guys for the role.

His nomination for 2014 Best Leading Actor BAFTA TV Award (for British series The Fall) shows he has the acting chops.

But only time will tell if Dornan's launchpad to international stardom won't be stifled by innuendo and laughable sex scenes.

And after filming books two and three of the Fifty Shades trilogy, Dornan will have to hope he can be accepted into more credible roles.

Next Brad Pitt, Robert Pattinson, 28

Yes, that Robert Pattinson.

The artist formerly known as R-Pattz. Why is he on this list of future leading men?

To date, the Brit has only been a star to the Twilight fans. Not that he has been content to coast on his sparkling vampire reputation, but his efforts to step out of the Twilight shadow (such as 2012's low-key Bel Ami and Cosmopolis) have failed miserably, possibly because they were roles that still hinged on his looks, and few equated "Robert Pattinson" with "credible actor".

But that may change soon. Perhaps taking a leaf from Brad Pitt's handbook - Hollywood's one-time pretty boy who couldn't be taken seriously until he uglified himself in Twelve Monkeys (1995) - Pattinson exchanged his famous locks for a rough buzz cut and is almost unrecognizable playing a half-wit criminal in the gritty post-apocalyptic drama The Rover.

Pattinson's performance has garnered high praise, with some saying it was "career-redefining". Through The Rover, Pattinson has finally stepped out of his teen idol pigeonhole.


Honourable Mentions

John Boyega, 22

This uncanny Denzel Washington-lookalike should have a soaring career, thanks to a galaxy far, far away.

The Brit newcomer has become a person of interest since being cast in Star Wars: Episode VII, but what he's playing in the highly secretive sequel is anybody's guess.

However, we hear he may be a Jedi in training.

Boyega has had great reviews for both his genre roles (Attack The Block, 2011) and straight dramatic roles (Imperial Dreams, 2014).

Luke Bracey, 24

His handsome mug might have been mostly hidden as Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, but we'll be seeing more of this Aussie hunk in the months ahead.

He has an action thriller The November Man opening here next month, then he has The Best of Me - a Nicholas Sparks romance - on the horizon.

Once up for the role of Christian Grey, Bracey's biggest break (some pun intended) is stepping into Keanu Reeves' former shoes as FBI agent Johnny Utah in the upcoming remake of Point Break.

This article was first published on July 16, 2014.
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