Marcum has worked in TV and movies, including Sex and the City, Tim Burton’s Big Fish, and Killing Christian, an independent feature made in Birmingham in 2005 by Wastebasket Productions. He also served as first assistant director on Killing Christian, which was featured in the 2006 Southern Fried Flicks Festival in Augusta, Ga.
“The thing about acting that appeals to me is to be able to become somebody different, to be able to take on somebody else’s life, to be able to vent in a way you can’t do in your normal life,” he says.
Even if Marcum doesn’t become a well-known actor, he’s already experienced a few minutes of fame.
In 2002, Cosmopolitan magazine picked Marcum as Alabama’s best bachelor in the annual 50-state “Hottest Hunks in the U.S.” feature. Evidently, something about his home town of Troy, Ala., produces good bachelors -- the 2003 winner, Bobby Jon Drinkard, and the 2006 winner, Kenny Glover, are from there too.
When he won the bachelor title, Marcum was working as a fashion model in New York, doing runway shows for such designers as Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui and Hugo Boss, and photo layouts for Harper’s Bazaar andCosmopolitan.
“Since I had done stuff with Cosmo before, they knew me and liked me.” Marcum says. “They said, ‘Well, we haven’t seen anything else yet, so we’re gonna just go with you for it.’”
His family and friends back home were excited, and his mom bought 15 copies of the magazine. Marcum made appearances with the other bachelors on Entertainment Tonight and Regis & Kellie.
Marcum had some fun with his newfound celebrity on a visit home. One night after what he describes as “a couple of cocktails,” he went to the Wal-Mart in Troy to get a pack of cigarettes. At the cash register he realized that he had forgotten his ID. “I just happened to look over and there was the magazine,” he remembers. “I grabbed it and showed the clerk I was 21. Sure enough, she sold them to me, and then she handed me a Sharpie and had me autograph it for her.”
Marcum himself never took the Cosmo appearance too seriously.
“It was fun, but it was never anything to hold in a glorious status or anything,” he says.
Back home in Troy, his friends made a lot more of the dubious honor than he did.
“Man, we saw the spread in Cosmo,” some guys told him one day. “That was awesome. How did you do it?”
“What are you talking about?” Marcum asked. “It wasn’t brain surgery.”
“It’s so good to have somebody from Troy actually do something,” they persisted.
“Man, it’s just a little magazine article,” Marcum said. “I kind of stumbled onto it, actually. I didn’t even get paid.”
Buddies kept asking him whether being in Cosmo helped him score with women. “That’s a big negative,” he would tell them. “They treat me the same way as they did before.”
Marcum was also inundated with emails, thousands of them — many of them romantic or blatantly sexual propositions — on an address set up by the magazine. “I got anything and everything, from [pictures of] naked girls to a 60-year old-man on an Indian motorcycle,” he says.
Most of the emails were at least amusing, but one was definitely not: A woman in Michigan wrote him and said, “I’m on house arrest, but when I can leave the state I’m coming down there to be with you.” She even Googled Marcum, found his parent’s address in Troy, and mailed a letter to their house, stating that anyone who stood in the way of her being with Stephen — including his mom and dad — would get hurt. Marcum and his family responded by seeking a restraining order.
With his first obsessed fan, Marcum was now a bona fide star. The experience made him even more suspicious than he might have already been about people obsessed with fame and celebrity.
“I’ve met all kinds of celebrities,” Marcum says. “I’ve never been one to be star-struck. I look at people at being good at what they do. I don’t look at them as a higher being or anything like that. Just because certain people have an almost morbid fascination that they have to stalk people and take photos of them out of a tree doesn’t make them superhuman.
“If I walked up on Robert DeNiro or something, I’d be nervous to talk to him, me being an actor,” Marcum says. “He’s an icon. It would just be kind of overwhelming to meet someone who I’ve looked up to for so long. But I wouldn’t be, like ‘You’re the best ever. You’re a God.’ I wouldn’t try to get his picture, or try to figure out what he sleeps in at night.”
Marcum met a bunch of celebrities while working as an extra on the Alabama locations for Big Fish. He had given up modeling full-time in New York and moved back to Birmingham in March 2003.
Marcum hung out with Steve Buscemi at a jazz bar in Montgomery. “The place was pretty much packed, so I just sat down at the first open chair,” he says. That chair happened to be at Buscemi’s table. “I asked, ‘Is this seat taken?’ He said, ‘No, man, it’s cool,’” Marcum recalls. “I ended up just sitting there, talking to him like it was nothing,
“And then you’d see groups of five or six people in a circle just staring and pointing at him.”
Marcum was pleased to find that the celebs he met on Big Fish, including Buscemi, Danny DeVito and Ewan McGregor, with whom Marcum shares a passion for Harley Davidson motorcycles, were friendly and professional. These guys provided him with some good role models if he’s ever lucky enough to find himself in their position.
Marcum refers to himself as a “jack of all trades,” and the list doesn’t stop with acting, modeling and bartending. He’s been a motorcycle racer. He’s a tattoo artist, with several designs proudly displayed on his own body. He’s a guitarist and drummer. He’s also written a screenplay with Laura Mullins, who co-wrote Killing Christian. I asked him if he thinks that he has the commitment and the focus necessary to become a successful actor.
“I believe that I’ll be successful at it but I don’t believe that’s what I’ll be remembered for,” Marcum says. “I’ll be remembered as a visionary, in everything I put my hands on.
“The whole thing that drives me is to do something that nobody’s ever seen this, nobody’s ever heard this, nobody’s ever done this, nobody’s ever experienced this,” he says. “And my driving force is to enlighten people, basically, bring them a vision they’ve never seen, bring them a note they’ve never heard, bring them something that people will walk away from and never forget.”
“I want to accomplish things that will make that little article seem like a footnote,” Marcum says.
If Marcum does achieve a level of celebrity, he says that he just wants to be treated with courtesy and respect, the same way he would treat his heroes if he met them. “I wouldn’t expect anybody to treat me any different than anybody else,” he says.