March, 1999
By Stephen Rebello

Among 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.

Prinze's 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."

Prinze 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.

Prinze 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 aspirations.

However 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.

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