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Josh Holloway: Not Your Average Hollywood Baller

The former Lost star talks about ditching the scruff and getting shredded to star in Mission: Impossible.
Justin Stephens

The “Dirty Muskrat” is gone. The “Odor Catcher” has left the building. During the six years that Josh Holloway played the follicly blessed con man James “Sawyer” Ford on ABC’s Lost, he came up with various nicknames for the ever-present stubble that roughed up his chiseled mug. “I often called it the ‘squirrel that lived on my chin,’” he says, laughing, which he does a lot. “I don’t like facial hair.”



“I have always had a passion for basketball. I was determined to be an NBA baller. It was a time when videos of Magic Johnson, Dr. J, and Kareem in the ’70s shorts were everywhere. Coaches were like, ‘You can be anything you want.’ I believed them. I trained hard and I was good. I could play. Then I got so abused in high school, being on varsity but never playing, scrimmaging and getting beat up by all the big players. I was worn out and not having any fun, and my grades suffered because all I did was try to be a baller. And then I finally discovered pussy, and quit. [Laughs] So I went back to playing soccer. But I always played basketball because I loved it. And now it goes perfectly with all the training I do. CrossFit and cross training, all for joint stabilization, core—all that makes you a better athlete.”

Luckily for Holloway, his hirsute days are over. It’s been liberating to lose the signature scruffiness and reclaim some much valued privacy. “I noticed how well the Clark Kent disguise works,” he says, when he went to Prague last year to co-star with Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner in the new film, Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol. “I was told, ‘Lose the hair, lose the beard.’ And then I walk out on the Charles Bridge where there are probably seven street artists drawing images of Sawyer and nobody knows who I am—not a soul. It was trippy.”

A less trippy, more essential perk he enjoys for living a clean shaven life: “The amount of attention I get from my daughter now is awesome,” he says of 2-year-old Java. “Every time I shave I go, ‘Look!’ Then she feels my face, and I get lots of kisses.” If he sounds a little sappy here, well, let’s face it, there was always a surprisingly sensitive side to Sawyer that came, in part, from Holloway. But when it comes to his daughter, the actor is an absolute goner. “It’s overwhelming right now,” he says. “I’ve never loved anything so much that it hurts.”

This is a rich, if transitional, time for the 42-year-old Holloway, who hasn’t had a solid game plan since Lost wrapped its run in May 2010. “It’s like coming out of a long-term relationship,” he says of the seven years he spent on the series that elevated his career but controlled his life. Downing a beer in an old-school L.A. steak house, Holloway sports a woolen cap and long-sleeve gray T-shirt, with a couple of silver chains looped around his neck. Half a dozen years ago, as Lost became a pop-cultural pandemic, the swaggering, emerald-eyed actor was touted as a 21st century Steve McQueen, but the truth is his commitment to the series left him little free time for any plum offers. He lost a shot at the co-starring role of Sabretooth in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which went to Liev Schreiber. Then Holloway had to pass up the smaller part of John Wraith, played instead by the Black Eyed Peas front man He was also unavailable for roles in two westerns—the Brad Pitt epic The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and 3:10 to Yuma, with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale.


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