Riding the silver tide

American actor Steve Carell is known for many things - a droll wit and a willingness to humiliate himself for laughs, among others - but not for his looks.

That changed recently, when he started showing up at red-carpet events to promote his latest film, Despicable Me 3, with a head full of grey hair. Suddenly, he went from gawky comedian to sleek "silver fox", a term to describe a good looking grey-haired man.

Twitter user Chloe Gilke (@GilkeAsCharged) wrote: "Honestly take your Goslings and your Zayn Maliks and give me 2017 Steve Carell."

Talking to Entertainment Tonight, Carell, 54, quipped about his new-found Hollywood hunk status: "I am so sick of people just looking at me for my physical attributes. It's just genetic. There's nothing I can do."

The Sunday Times looks at other dapper silver foxes gracing television and movie screens.

Christopher Lee, 45

Singapore has its very own silver fox in actor Christopher Lee, whose mature looks have given the Malaysian-born actor an edge in a Taiwan TV industry dominated by boyish hunks.

Taiwanese director Tsai Yueh-hsun, who featured Lee in a cameo in his movie Black & White: The Dawn Of Justice (2014), told The Sunday Times at a promotional event that all of the female staff working on the production could not get enough of his salt-and-pepper look.

Tsai was quoted as saying: "All of them love him. I think it's because he has that charisma as a middle- aged man."

Lee is married to local actress Fann Wong and the couple's son Zed is two.

Wu Xiubo, 48

Chinese actor Wu Xiubo is fondly called "stylish uncle" in China, and for good reason - he looks debonair wherever he goes, thanks to his wardrobe of sleek suits and his always perfectly combed grey hair.

In a country obsessed with youthful idol dramas and films, he has managed to garner a huge fan following in China for playing the romantic male lead in the hugely popular romcom Finding Mr Right (2013) opposite actress Tang Wei, who is 11 years younger.

Wu, who was named Asia's Sexiest Male Vegetarian Celebrity by Peta in 2014, is married with two sons, aged 14 and 10.

R. Madhavan, 47

When Indian actor R. Madhavan posted a post-shower selfie on his Instagram account @actormaddy last month, it garnered over 100,000 likes within 24 hours.

Instagram user @iampreetx commented: "You've matured like a fine wine thats honestly the hottest thing ever can happen to a man."

Madhavan is married to former air stewardess Sarita Birje and they have a 12-year-old son.

Anderson Cooper, 50

Grey hair has become CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper's signature look, but he says he would not mind getting his original brown locks back.

The reporter, whose hair turned prematurely grey at the age of 20, said in a TV interview last year that his grey hair paired with his super fair skin is a "little too much".

"I've started to look like a White Walker from (HBO TV series) Game Of Thrones with the paleness. As soon as the White Walkers came on Game Of Thrones, I'm like, 'Hmmm, I'm related to them'."

He added that he would colour his hair, except that he "cannot imagine sitting in a salon with tin foil in my hair reading old issues of Rosie for hours".

John Slattery, 54

Like Anderson Cooper, American actor John Slattery went prematurely grey around the time he went to college.

Rather than make him appear old, the silver hair has made him look distinguished in TV shows such as Mad Men (2007 to 2015) and Desperate Housewives (2004 to 2012).

He occasionally dyed it previously, but has since stopped because he believes that "at this point, it isn't going to make me look that much younger".

Slattery is married to Talia Balsam, 58, the same American actress who was once married to another famous silver fox, actor George Clooney.

The Slatterys have an 18-year-old son.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 16, 2017, with the headline 'Riding the silver tide'. Print Edition | Subscribe