By Stephen Rebello
Hollywood's under-30 crowd, where attitude is often everything,
how supremely cool it is to run across a guy so openhearted and
endearingly odd around the edges as Freddie Prinze Jr. "There's
nothing you can't ask me because I'm not ashamed of anything I
say," says the 23-year-old, who looks like he could play
Keanu Reeve's sadder-eyed, more soulful younger brother. So how,
having become increasingly "money" since starring in
two I Know What You Did Last Summers, is he managing to stay so
beatific and unguarded? "My mom raised me in New Mexico at
the foot of the mountains, far away from any fast lifestyle,"
he says/ "I was an only child with zero friends whose life
was about comic books, cartoons and snowboarding. I've kissed
more girls in movies than I have in real life.
life did not start out so protected. In 1977, when he was 10 months
old, his comedian father, soaring as the star of TV's "Chico
and the Man" but despondent and doing heavy prescription
drugs after Prinze's mother divorced him, died of a self-inflicted
gunshot wound. "I'm the same age now as my dad when he dies,"
reflects Prinze, who was 22 at the time of this interview. "Every
day I feel a responsibility to never let anyone I love fell the
way I did when, at 13, a kid said, 'Your dad was a junkie who
killed himself and you're going to end up the same way.' I had
thought my dad was prescribed pills and died of a drug overdose.
I knew there was a gun involved, but not really exactly how."
has learned a lot about Hollywood sine moving here four years
ago - enough to land himself three recent fronting roles. He played
the swoon-worthy class president in She's All That, he'll appear
opposite Scream's Jamie Kennedy in the indie comedy-drama Sparkler,
and he'll team with close friend Matthew Lillard in Fox's action
epic Wing Commander.
laments that he came to filmdom in the '90s rather than the '80s.
"Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Pretty in Pink are an entire generation's
encyclopedia of feelings, but our generation has dick for movies,"
he declares, adding that only She's All That showed Hughes-style
things turn out for him, Prinze is determined to deal differently
with showbiz than his father did. "Drugs are the sucker's
way, man, and I'm not a sucker. I don't smoke, do blow, or hardly
ever drink, but there's still a fear: what if it's genetic? I
want to be like Evander Holyfield, who has a work ethic, morals,
a real heart, who understands his responsibility to hep other
people, To me, that's an American hero living an American dream.
© 1999 Movieline Magazine. All rights reserved.