Josh Duhamel is A Bro With Soul

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Josh is wearing a Dior charcoal suit, Dolce & Gabbana shirt, Zegna tie, Tod’s black Chelsea boots and a Panerai watch.
Josh is wearing a Dior charcoal suit, Dolce & Gabbana shirt, Zegna tie, Tod’s black Chelsea boots and a Panerai watch.

Photo Credit: Michael Muller

All styling by Samantha McMillan • All grooming by Natalie Bruschi • Shot on location at the Exquisite Equestrian Estate 1135 Rivas Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272. Contact: Joyce Rey, J[email protected], 310-285-7529

For some young actors, a big break is worthy of a handsome prize. A private jet, colorful sports car, or house in the hills are not uncommon purchases among the newly rich and famous. However, that wasn’t the case for one of Hollywood’s most dashing gentlemen. When actor Josh Duhamel made it big, the first thing he splurged on was an old hunting cabin in the middle of nowhere. “I bought this property literally out in the woods. I bought 27 acres for like, nothing,” he reminisces. “I couldn’t believe that I got it for that [price]. It had just an old hunting cabin on it, no electricity, no toilet—just an outhouse and place to sleep. But I loved it because it felt… so primal. There [are] no amenities. You chop your wood, you clean your dishes in the lake. You want to take a bath? You go jump in the lake.”

It’s his incredible ability to be down to earth, to be another one of the guys, that makes Duhamel wildly likable and relatable to both sexes. Sure, it’s hard not to be taken by his smoldering brown eyes, mischievous megawatt smile and 6’3” frame, but spend a couple of minutes with him and you can’t help but feel like he’s a fun-loving older brother, quick to play a prank or provide a hug—whichever is necessary. He’s basically an average dude who happens to be a wildly handsome actor starring in one of the summer’s most anticipated blockbusters.

Come June 23, Duhamel will reprise his role as Lt. Colonel William Lennox in the fifth installment of the Transformers series. From director Michael Bay, Transformers: The Last Knight also co-stars Mark Wahlberg, Gemma Chan, Stanley Tucci and Anthony Hopkins. While Duhamel acknowledges that his character is there “to facilitate the military action stuff,” he loves acting in the large-scale science-fiction action movie because “working on a Michael Bay set is unlike anything else… He expects everybody to be ready to go, and there’s a lot of moving parts. You’ve got helicopters flying all over the place, you’ve got bombs going off, you’ve got this Porsche Carrera with a big crane on top of it with a camera. You’ve just got so much going on that everybody needs to be on top of their shit… There’s just something addictive about the energy on a set like this.” With these films, Bay is known for recreating authentic-looking battles between humans and oversized machines.

Duhamel wears a John Varvatos shirt and jacket, Nudie Jeans black jeans, Panerai watch, and his own shirt and shoes while sitting in the driver’s seat of the 2017 Lamborghini Aventador S Coupé.
Duhamel wears a John Varvatos shirt and jacket, Nudie Jeans black jeans, Panerai watch, and his own shirt and shoes while sitting in the driver’s seat of the 2017 Lamborghini Aventador S Coupé.

Photo Credit: Michael Muller

For the filming, which was shot in London, Duhamel had to be in impeccable shape so he could perform some of the complex stunts himself. “I shoot as many stunts as they let me do,” he says. “Anybody that says they do all their own stunts, I don’t know, that’s hard to believe. There’s insurance—it’s hard to get a movie bonded if you’re gonna be doing a lot of your own.”

One extremely “hairy” sequence he sat out of involved a giant raising gimbal, hydraulic lifts, a 45-degree angle tilt and 10,000-gallon drums of water. “They have these stunt guys there and they’d get them tied off so they didn’t fly off the platform because it’s 50 feet in the air. My stunt guy, Paul, thought he broke his arm. He had to get taken off in the ambulance. One of the camera guys got washed off because, with that much water, there’s nothing that’ll stop it… It got pretty dangerous. But that all lends to the authenticity of the movie.”

Although some of it is digitally enhanced (the Transformers themselves are computer generated), the rest is as real as it gets. During filming, Duhamel and company felt as if they were actually at war. “There [are] explosions and guns going off all around. It feels like you’re really in a battle most the time. Whether or not giant robots are there, you’re mostly just worried about catching brass in the face from the guy next to you… Michael surrounds us with real military guys and makes these battle scenes feel as real as possible.”

Actors rarely receive accolades for fighting mechanical aliens in summer blockbusters, but participating in a film series like Transformers has its perks. “To be a part of something like this is really helpful because… it gives you a lot more exposure internationally,” Duhamel explains. “It is important, in some ways, to be a part of a franchise because it gives you enough credibility, I guess, to go and make smaller movies. Which is what I really love to do.”

Josh is cool and casual in a Rag & Bone sweater, Nudie Jeans, a Panerai watch and his own boots.
Josh is cool and casual in a Rag & Bone sweater, Nudie Jeans, a Panerai watch and his own boots.

Photo Credit: Michael Muller

Friends, Films and Fatherhood

One passion project he’s been working on for the past two years is about to come to fruition. The Buddy Games is a film that Duhamel wrote with friend and television director, Jude Weng. It has been given the green light, with shooting scheduled to start this summer and Duhamel both directing and starring in the production. The film is “a dude comedy that really speaks to brotherhood, fellowship and friendship, and how important it is—especially as you get older.” It’s partly based on his own life. Every year, he gets together with long-time friends for a bro-mantic weekend of gaming. It’s a great way for Duhamel to reconnect with them and allow his competitive side to shine. “We go for a weekend and compete in all these different events, from paintball to go-kart racing to ping pong to golf.”

In the film, which revolves around a group of four men, one of the characters loses both of his testicles in an accident. “These guys have all sort of separated over the last few years because of an accident that happened the last time they got together… One of the guys that got hurt, his mother comes to the leader of the group and asks if he’ll get the guys back together to help save her son, basically, because he’s gone into this spiral…” Although it is too early for Duhamel to share which actors will be joining him on The Buddy Games set, he is able to confirm one co-star: Nick Swardson. “He’s from Minnesota, we’re both Vikings fans and he’s just like, no-holds-barred… The other guys, we’re still in the process of casting.”

For a glimpse of what The Buddy Games may consist of, one need not look any further than Duhamel’s public Instagram account. There he is with a buddy holding a giant fish he’s just caught. There he is with a buddy in a fur-lined snow cap at a Minnesota Vikings football game. There he is with a buddy on a Scottish golf course. There he is with buddies drinking red wine on a beach at sunset. In fact, you can learn a lot about the actor just by browsing. As a son, older brother, husband and dad, you can tell he’s also a true family man.

A recent image from Duhamel's Instagram account shows him reading to his son, Axl
A recent image from Duhamel’s Instagram account shows him reading to his son, Axl

Further, Duhamel is not afraid to dress up in costume or poke fun at himself. He’s not lacking confidence, as evidenced by his many candid selfies and videos in which he’s communicating directly with fans. The actor has 1.7 million followers—enough for the studios to take notice. “I have sort of a love/hate relationship with social media. I’m constantly struggling with what to post and what not to post because I am a pretty private guy and I like to keep it that way. But at the same time… the studios place a lot of value on that and it helps you to get jobs. I just try to do it as responsibly and un-invasively as I can, so I don’t feel like I’m selling my soul every time I post something.”

Selling his soul for entertainment’s sake, though, is something Duhamel is familiar with portraying. In the current dark drama, This is Your Death, he plays the host of a Bachelor-type reality series. On the big reveal episode, the woman who doesn’t get picked shoots the millionaire bachelor—and herself. The entire traumatizing event is aired on live television and everyone, including Duhamel’s character, is shocked to see ratings go through the roof. “He thinks he’s gonna get fired [but the producers and networks] actually have this idea to do the show where people go on TV and off themselves. And he’s like, ‘Are you kidding me? This is the worst idea I’ve ever heard, I’m not doing it, this is ridiculous, this is what I hate about what I do.’ Then he starts to think about it, and he’s like, ‘Wait, I can do this and tell it in my own way where it actually does people good. If it does something [that] makes people appreciate life, rather [than be] about death, it’s about life.’” But throughout the course of the film, the character experiences a transformation. “He sort of goes from the hero to the anti-hero in this movie. That’s really what I loved about it—it’s sort of the opposite of what you typically see. It’s shocking—the movie’s shocking. People are gonna love it or hate it. But it definitely leaves an impact.”

What’s shocking is that, according to Duhamel, a reality TV show where people commit suicide live could actually happen. “There’s no limit. It’s all about shock value and it’s all about whatever it takes to get people, to get eyeballs. So if there’s a way for a network to do it legally, I have no doubt they would do it.” He pauses to think carefully about the subject before continuing, “People have always had this primal, sort of bloodthirsty thing to watch this kind of stuff, as far back as the Roman Empire and the gladiators in the Colosseum. So much crazy shit [has] happened throughout the years. It’s all based in fear. News networks do everything to scare people so that they watch and they can exert control over them.”

Duhamel looks dapper in a Dolce & Gabbana suit and tie, a John Varvatos button-up shirt, Louboutin dress shoes and a Panerai watch.
Duhamel looks dapper in a Dolce & Gabbana suit and tie, a John Varvatos button-up shirt, Louboutin dress shoes and a Panerai watch.

Photo Credit: Michael Muller

Does he think we’re doomed and that the world’s going to hell in a handbasket? Judging by his personal motto, no. “Everything is going to be okay” is his generic, but reassuring, mantra. It’s the sort of thing one would expect and want to hear from a guy’s guy. Duhamel is also positive that the resistance movement will gain strength. “At the end of the day, there’s the other side of it, too. There’s gonna be a whole sort of revolution against all this stuff. And it’s gonna be more spiritual, there’s gonna be more compassion, there’s gonna be more people speaking out against it a little bit, like ‘What are we doing?’”

Another project he’s working on that’s sure to get people talking is a possible return to television. Duhamel got his start with a recurring role on the daytime soap, All My Children, and he could be reappearing on the small screen this fall with Unsolved, a limited series based on the Tupac/Biggie murders and the conspiracy surrounding them. Only the pilot has been shot, but Duhamel is hopeful it will get picked up for the entire ten-episode arch by USA Network. He would play a detective working the case. “Anthony Hemingway is directing/producing. USA is great—they’re doing really cool stuff and they’re not pulling any punches. They’re telling the story as real, as realistically, as it should be told.”

A limited series is the only type of television Duhamel says he would do at this point, as he’s not ready to commit to something that could possibly last several years. “I love what TV’s doing right now. I think it really is incredible and there’s so much great stuff out there that I just want to be patient and find something that I really respond to… It’s a little scary knowing that [a project] could go ten years, which would be great, but it’s also tough. I have so much other stuff that I really want to get done.”

Duhamel and his wife, Fergie, at a WildAid charity event.
Duhamel and his wife, Fergie, at a WildAid charity event.

Photo Credit: Brian To Photography

He’s also just wrapped Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda alongside Jennifer Garner and Nick Robinson, who portrays his son struggling to come out of the closet. “I’m playing the father of a 17-year-old kid, which I didn’t think was possible. And then I realized I was 44 and it’s totally possible,” he laughs—burly and genuine. “That was a bit of shock to the ego, knowing that I could have a son that old, but it’s been really fun. What I really loved about the script was that, normally, stories like this are heavy-handed and they take [the subject matter] very seriously, but this is more of a comedy than anything… It’s beautiful and it’s important. It’s one of those stories that I think is really relevant to now. It’s all about tolerance, acceptance and love—not hate and all that kind of stuff. For me, I really love what it has to say.”

Has he gotten mushier since becoming a father for real? Perhaps. In 2013, his wife Fergie gave birth to their son Axl Jack, an adorable towhead who graces many of his parents’ Instagram photos. But as Duhamel started playing the role of a doting dad onscreen as well, he’s shedding his heartthrob status. “I don’t know if I even was a sex symbol. Maybe when I was younger, but I don’t know. I don’t feel so much of that anymore. I’m playing the dad of a 17-year-old kid,” he laughs. “I’m that guy now. I don’t really look at myself as that. It’s all fleeting.”

With gray hair in his sideburns and beard, Duhamel is a silver fox—some may even call him a ‘DILF’—and he’s embracing it. “My wife, she had her colorist over and she was like, ‘Oh, I had her bring the coloring stuff.’ I was like, ‘What are you trying to say?’” The couple has been together for 13 years, which is practically an eternity in Hollywood. So what’s their secret to making it last? He puts it simply and eloquently: “We genuinely like each other and have a lot of love for our son, and have a good time together. And that’s about it.”

Josh poses in a Dior charcoal suit, Dolce & Gabbana shirt, Zegna tie and Panerai watch.
Josh poses in a Dior charcoal suit, Dolce & Gabbana shirt, Zegna tie and Panerai watch.

Photo Credit: Michael Muller

Shooting for a Hole in One

Although his family is deeply rooted in Los Angeles now, when Duhamel first moved to California, he lived in the Bay Area—more specifically, in and around San Francisco. “I lived [there] for about a year and love it. It’s like my favorite city in the country, it truly is. I just love the architecture. I love the culture, I love the food, I love the beauty… I would live there [again] if I could.”

He does make an annual pilgrimage to Northern California each spring for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, a professional golf tournament on the PGA tour where golfers are paired up with celebrity amateurs. “It’s a real honor to get that invite every year. It’s like Christmas. You get this leather-bound invite, inviting you back, and I’m like, ‘Yes, I’m going back another year!’ Cypress Point and Pebble Beach and Spy Glass at Monterey, they’re just such amazing golf courses.” He adds, “I’ve played a lot of golf courses around the world and there’s no better golf than out there. Those waves crashing against the rocks, overlooking the 18th hole at Pebble Beach, or just all the cypress trees, they’re so haunting and beautiful—I love it. I just look forward to it every year.”

Another bonus is donating the earnings to charity if he wins. And, although Duhamel has yet to make the leaderboard, he supports several important causes. He recently did a PSA for WildAid, the nonprofit that’s attempting to stop the trade, trafficking and poaching of wild animals. “I try to look at it from the point of view of like, say you’re an alien coming, say you go to a different planet and you find all these amazing creatures there and you look at, what, a giraffe or a tiger or a monkey. You know, there’s so many amazing creatures on this planet and they’re so specific to just here that we forget how precious they are and, I don’t know, as an animal lover and a lover of our planet, I just feel like, if I can help bring some awareness to it, I’m gonna do it.”

Duhamel wears a Dolce and Gabbana grey sweater
Duhamel wears a Dolce and Gabbana grey sweater

Photo Credit: Michael Muller

It’s safe to assume that Duhamel doesn’t do any hunting when he’s at his little cabin in the woods, which he describes as his happy place. Instead, he’s cleaning up the property, swimming in the nearby lake, spending time with his father, and eventually plans to take his son. “It’s very simple, but it is so peaceful and serene and beautiful and quiet. Just so quiet and beautiful, I love it. It calms my mind.”

He recalls a favorite memory there: “It was early in the spring and the water was still cold, but it was a beautiful day and it was hot out. I had this dock in the water—I was like, ‘I’m jumping in!’ I’d had the place for about a year and hadn’t got in water yet. But we’d just put this new dock in, so I stripped down to my underwear, and I was like, ‘Whoo whoo whoo!’ and my dad was like, ‘Be a brave soul!’ I was like, ‘Yeah, be a brave soul.’ That’s stuck with me ever since and I think of it often. ‘Be a brave soul.’”

Those four words have clearly become his philosophy in life—and we can see they’re absolutely paying off.

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