For years, Austinites had a clear idea of who their local celebrities were. The list was relatively short, but easy to follow: Matthew McConaughey, the city’s quasi-official ambassador, and Willie Nelson, its spiritual avatar, at the fore, with Sandra Bullock, Kyle Chandler, Brooklyn Decker, Dan Rather, Andy Roddick, Robert Rodriguez, Elijah Wood, and maybe a handful of others.
Over the past year and a half, though, Austin has acquired a hefty new collection of stars. Or stars*: folks you may remember from such roles as the straight man on Entourage, a member of the ensemble from the Turner & Hooch reboot, or being Hilary Duff’s big sister. A brief, by no means comprehensive, list of names that may be vaguely familiar if you don’t press the “Skip Credits” button when you watch Netflix: Arrow’s Stephen Amell, Haylie Duff, Scott “Son of Clint” Eastwood; Entourage’s Adrian Grenier; Shazam’s Zachary Levi; Friday Night Lights alum Adrianne Palicki; onetime Sopranos star Jamie-Lynn Sigler; and Varsity Blues star James Van Der Beek. By tomorrow, that list may have ballooned: who else can afford to buy a house in Austin these days?
These stars* and their publicists have let the world—a.k.a. reporters for the New York Times, People, and the Hollywood Reporter—know that there’s this sleepy little gem of a town called Austin. “You don’t pay for parking anywhere,” Becca Tobin (of Turner & Hooch semi-fame) gushed, erroneously, to the Times.
With all of these faintly recognizable newcomers, however, comes confusion for longtime residents. Previously, if you went out for Tex-Mex and heard somebody order chips and queso with the familiar, avuncular drawl of Coach Taylor, the odds were pretty good it actually was Kyle Chandler. Now, though, with so many celebs running around, it’s hard to know: is that guy in the checkout line at H-E-B in one of the Fast & Furious movies, or does he just work out a lot? In order to help keep it straight, we’ve created a field guide to Austin’s newest and proudest asset: its B-list (and lower) celebrities.
The Scenario: You see someone who looks as if he could play Batman.
First things first: Does he look like he’d play Batman in a movie or in a TV show? If it’s a movie, that’s Christian Bale. He doesn’t live here, but he might be shooting a movie with Terrence Malick or something. Google it later. If he looks as if he’d play Batman on TV, then he does live here, according to the Hollywood Reporter, but he didn’t actually play Batman. It’s Stephen Amell, and he played a character called the Green Arrow on the CW’s Arrow who was kind of like Batman, except he shot bad guys with a bow and arrow, for some reason.
The Scenario: You’re pretty sure you know who that woman at Whole Foods is.
There’s a trio of actresses who all moved to Austin during the pandemic and then, in June, were the subject of a New York Times profile about their brave decision to do so. Haylie Duff, Sigler, and Tobin, all of whom have probably appeared on your television at some point in the past twenty years, formed a “quaranteam” that made the decision to decamp from L.A. to Austin together. They all seem friendly, are around the same age (35 to 40), and are a bit difficult to distinguish from one another, let alone every other white lady in town who does yoga. Does she look familiar because she’s one of the quaranteam, or did you maybe go to high school together? I don’t know either, but I wonder what flavor kombucha she’s putting in her basket.
The Scenario: Paul Walker? I thought he died.
He did. It was really sad. After his death, the Fast & Furious franchise brought in a new clean-cut white guy—Scott Eastwood, Son of Clint—to balance out the group in The Fate of the Furious (he didn’t return for this summer’s F9: The Fast Saga). He has, according to the Hollywood Reporter, relocated to Austin, where he continues to not be Paul Walker.
The Scenario: Look! Up in the sky! It’s Superman!
Ugh, we hate to do this to you, but it’s not. That square-jawed dude who looks like he should be wearing a cape is actually Zachary Levi, who played the Superman-lite title character in 2019’s Shazam! (Not to be confused with the Sinbad movie of the same title, which does not exist.) According to the Hollywood Reporter, Levi bought a property out in Bastrop, where he plans to build a film studio. The guy who currently plays Superman is named Tyler Hoechlin, and he bought a house in the Hollywood Hills a couple years ago. Easy mistake to make.
The Scenario: Is that Dawson?
The man who portrayed the titular hero of Dawson’s Creek does indeed live in Austin. Van Der Beek and his wife opened their home to Austin Life magazine in July, and he explained that he’d previously visited the city when shooting the Texas high school football classic Varsity Blues. These days, he’s a Texan of the “Got here as fast as I could” variety, proudly taking selfies in front of H-E-B and as a member of the audience of the Summer Stock Austin community theater in Zilker Park. If you think you see him, get kind of close and say “Dawson?” in an uncertain voice. If he doesn’t know what you’re talking about, it’s just another dude in his forties with long hair, of which Austin has many. If he acts kind of annoyed but seems secretly pleased that you remember who he is, you’ve got your man.