By People Staff
June 07, 2007 12:00 PM

Note to single girls: You just never know when you might meet a nice eligible man. For Jennifer Aniston it happened a couple of months ago during a night out with her pal Courteney Cox at one of their favorite L.A. haunts, the Italian restaurant Il Sole. The pair ran into another friend, who happened to be dining with a tall, tanned and seriously handsome stranger. That would be Paul Sculfor, a 36-year-old Englishman and male model who had recently relocated to southern California. Since then, the 38-year-old actress and Sculfor have been spending time together, and, say his friends, it’s easy to see why. “He’s a lovely guy,” says Sculfor’s friend, London socialite Lady Victoria Hervey. “A gentleman. Simple things, like opening doors, he does all that. He’ll think of the woman before himself.”

Aniston – who has been happily single since splitting with Vince Vaughn last December – seems to be enjoying herself. Over the Memorial Day holiday, she and Sculfor shared a romantic three-hour dinner at One Pico, a restaurant in Shutters Hotel on the Beach in Santa Monica. While waiting for a table, Sculfor caressed her back, and they were seen holding hands after they sat down. During the three-day weekend, the couple hung out in Malibu. A few days earlier, they were spotted enjoying dinner poolside at L.A.’s Sunset Tower Hotel, where they were later joined by Cox. “They were clearly enjoying themselves,” says an onlooker. “And he is totally gorgeous.”

Jennifer Aniston (left) and Courteney Cox Arquette

A member of L.A.’s Brit community who has socialized with countrymen like Dougray Scott and Simon Cowell, Sculfor is a guy’s guy who likes to surf, work out, and – like Aniston – enjoy Mexican food. Sculfor’s friend Clare Staples, an L.A. writer, declares him “quite the most ridiculously handsome man on the planet” on her blog, though one source says he’s more than a pretty face: “He has a great sense of humor and is just a genuinely nice guy.”

Raised in the London suburb of Upminster by his parents, Jean and George, Sculfor was a star gymnast in high school. “He’s a fabulous son,” says Jean. “He’s excelled at everything he’s done.” At 16, Sculfor dropped out to pursue a boxing career. He showed promise in the ring, but he lost interest in the sport. “As soon as I discovered girls, my training started to slide,” he said in a 1997 profile in the British tabloid The Mirror. He wound up taking a $250-a-week job as a bricklayer, but when he was 24, his mother entered him into a modeling contest on a lark. Despite six hairline fractures and a chip in his nose earned during his boxing days, he won. At first, Sculfor wasn’t interested in modeling – “Being pampered makes me feel uncomfortable and I didn’t like all the posing,” he said of his early test photos. But his first job offer changed his mind. “As soon as they told me about the money, I was there like a shot!” he told the newspaper.

"He's one of our biggest guys," says Devin Parsons, a booker at Sculfor's London agency, Select Model Management, of the model's editorial and advertising work. "He's got movie star looks. He's got longevity."

Soon, Sculfor was shooting ads for designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, but it was a ’97 British TV commercial for Levi’s – in which Sculfor played a fisherman pawed by three mermaids – that made him a sex symbol in his home country. “He has a wonderful charm,” says John Hegarty, worldwide creative director for the ad agency BBH, who cast Sculfor in the ad. “He’s intelligent and really good fun to be around. You have to have a pinup when you’re selling a fashion product, but you want some depth behind it, some character there. He definitely had that.”

Interestingly enough, Hegarty happens to be the man who also cast Aniston’s ex-husband Brad Pitt in a steamy Levi’s ad back in 1991. “He’s very easy in front of the camera,” he says of Sculfor. “There’s a sort of air of insolence, a certain arrogance that makes him kind of interesting. Yet he’s lovely – absolutely charming.” Women seem to agree. In 1996, Sculfor began a two-year relationship with fellow British model Lisa Snowdon. “She’s beautiful,” he told The Mirror. “I go for girls with dark hair.”

After their breakup, Snowdon went on to date George Clooney. Sculfor later got together with English It-Girl Lady Victoria Hervey – a fixture on London’s social scene – after meeting her at a party thrown by Donatella Versace. “He does have a bit of Brad Pitt about him,” says Hervey. “They do look a bit alike.” Sculfor also told The Mirror that “it’s hard keeping a girlfriend in this business – you end up conducting your relationship on the phone.” But maybe things have changed since he left Britain for L.A. to pursue an acting career. “It’s funny, he was living there for a bit, then he came back to London, and he just decided to move back,” says Hervey. Of course it could be the sun and surf, or just maybe it’s a certain California blonde. “He sounds very happy. I think they’ll be quite good together.”

• By Jennifer Wulff. Jennifer Garcia and Mary Margaret in Los Angeles, Courtney Rubin, Pete Norman and Simon Perry in London, and Jeffrey Slonim and Lesley Messer in New York City