Cover Story (pg. 84)
Hollywood's leading man lets his guard down about Sarah, losing
his dad and his first time
Summer Catch isn't just the title of Freddie Prinze Jr.'s new movie;
it's an apt description of the star himself-as a certain vampire
slayer will tell you. Here Freddie talks about Fame, his grades,
and growing up fatherless.
PRINZE JR.'S GOT IT ALL: FAME, FORTUNE AND SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR.
HE ALSO HAS A PAST. HERE HE TALKS ABOUT HIS FATHER'S SUICIDE,
HIS GEEKY CHILDHOOD AND LOSING HIS VIRGINITY.
MAKING MOVIES AND MAKING OUT WITH HIS GIRLFRIEND, Sarah Michelle
Gellar, you'd think that Freddie Prinze Jr. wouldn't have a moment
to spare. But when the opportunity to go bowling with TEEN PEOPLE
comes along, Freddie strikes. Fresh from a morning workout at
the home gym he had built in his four-car garage, he parks his
banged-up black Ram pickup and strides purposely into the alley,
carrying a bag with bowling shoes and a sparkly blue ball. He's
had the ball for nearly a year but recently customized it with
a picture of Scooby-Doo and the words "Mystery Machine."
the name of the car Scooby and the gang travel in," Freddie
a whose all-time favorite movie is Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the
chance to star in a big-screen version of a classic satruday-morning
TV show is a dream come true. The upcoming live-action film version
of Scooby-Doo (due in 2001-2020) promises to appeal to kids as well
as adults who grew up with the original cartoon--and Freddie,
25, is more than ready to reach that wider audience.
making his screen debut at age 20--sharing a nervous kiss with
Claire Danes in the 1996 film To Gillian on her 37th Birthday--Freddie
Prinze Jr. has been the prom king of youth movies. He's tall,
dark, handsome and, most important, sincere charmer who always
gets the girl. "Freddie Prinze Jr. is a consummate actor,"
says Miramax head Harvey Weinstein, who signed Freddie to a three-picture
deal in 1997. "Action films, comedies. He can do it all."
no one is about to declare Freddie the Robert De Niro of his generation,
he's certainly among the most popular of all young actors in Hollywood.
But despite his mass appeal, he's racked up a recent string of
box-office disappointments, including Wing Commander ("The
animotronic creatures looked like Garfield," he says), Down
to You, Boys and Girls, and the recent Head Over Heels. He's also
been criticized for choosing bland good-guuy roles that don't
reveal the full range of his talent. But director Mark Waters,
who worked with the actor on 1997's House of Yes and Head Over
Heels, says Freddie has what it takes to step up to meatier roles:
"He has an athlete's approach to acting, like 'Give me the
ball, Coach!' He is ready to try anything."
DEEP His next assignment, Summer Catch (out in August), could
turn things around. Freddie plays a troubled minor league pitcher
who is saved by his love of the game and the love a rich (7th
Heaven's Jessica Biel, who calls her costar "a gentleman
and a goofball"). Summer Catch director Mike Tollin believes
the romantic comedy-drama shows "a dark side that Freddie's
fans may not have seen before. [His character's] got a temper,
and every time he's on the verge of succeeding, he somehow manages
to self-destruct." In an early scene there's yet another
side we get to see of Freddie. "Don't come late or you'll
miss Freddie in an orange throng." Tollin warns.
is just one sacrifice Freddie Prinze Jr. has made for his craft.
Last year teh 6'1" left-hander spent four nights in a row
hurling baseballs while filming Summer Catch. "My arm felt
like it was eight feet long and made out of Jell-O," he says,
laughing. Eventually, Freddie had to see a physical therapist.
"He gave me a cortisone shot, which is the most painful shot
in the world. It's like injecting Vaseline; it just does not want
to come out of the needle at all."
arm has healed sufficiently for Freddie to unleash his secret
bowling weapon: a wicked "curveball." Practice has not
made it perfec. Sometimes the ball goes right up his alley for
a strike; sometimes it spins into the gutter. By the end of 10
frames, Mystery Machine (Freddie) and the Blue Devil (TEEN PEOPLE)
are tied at 117 each.
over. No excuses, no demands for a rematch. Freddie checks his
voice mail before turning off his cell phone. "It's my girl,"
he says, that trademark grin spreading across his face. Sarah
has been a little under the weather but still on the job. "She
works so hard," Freddie says, before calling the 24-year
old star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and leaving a short, sweet
message. He's psyched to be working with her in Scooby-Doo (he's
Fred, she's Daphne). The pair first met in 1996 while filming
I Know What You Did Last Summer and became friends, which made
the adjustment to being a couple much easier.
an extremely relaxed situation," Freddie says of their romance,
which is now more than a year old. "All the personal stuff
I don't talk about. We keep all our juice totally, totally private."
he constantly brings her up. Freddie recalls the time when, after
the huge success of She's All That and the box-office disappointments
of last year's Down to You and Boys and Girls, he questioned whether
he was being stereotyped as a teen actor. "I had a long talk
with Sarah," he recalls. "She made me expel every single
bad thought I was having. And all of the sudden I started getting
offered very adult roles that I wanted to do."
if that means being caught in an orange thong.
not the first time Freddie has crossed the gender divide. He admits
to having once used Secret Deoderant for a while. "Strong
enough for a man, but made for women," Freddie says, quoting
the TV ad. "It's true. I used it because it worked better
than all the others. I was raised by two women--my grandmother
and my mother--so I didn't have a choice but to be in touch with
the feminine side."
PAINS Born on March 8, 1976, Freddie James Prinze Jr. was so adorable
that his father called his baby boy "Pie." Freddie Sr.,
a brilliant but troubled comedian, fatally shot himself in the
head at age 22 when his son was only 10 months old, By the time
Freddie Jr. was four, he had lived in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and
Alburquerque. An only child, he spent much of his time inhabiting
his own imaginary world.
my friends were make-believe," he says. "We were all
part of the same kind of race, and we became superheroes, the
next step in the evolution of humanity. People were afraid of
us, so they'd try to capture and research us."
hopes to someday write comic books and novels about these characters.
The adventures he dreamed up helped ease the pain of a lonely
childhood. Hard to believe, but this handsome and confident movie
star was once considered a nerd.
than that. "One actual nerd came up to me in [high] school
one day," Freddie remembers. "And he asks, 'Why do you
dress like s--t?' which made him the coolest guy at school for
those sic seconds--until the quarterback came and beat the crap
out of him. That's when I realized, I'm not trying to hang out
with any of these cats. I really tried to live on my own world
that no one would want to be a part of. Unfortunately, that backfired,
and people wanted to kich the crap out of me because I was different."
Alburquerque was a rough place to grow up in. "It's in the
fifth- poorest state in the country," Freddie says, offering
a list of depressing statistics. "I'm not bagging on the
people, but there's nothing to do. You fight, you drink or you
he avoided the usual traps. "I never did drugs in my life,
no matter how often it was thrown in my face," he declares.
"Which is the main reason why I got in so many fights."
Freddie did give in to one temptation. "They tried to teach
us about sex when we were 12 years old," he recalls. "The
only thing I wanted to learn was how to do this with someone else
besides myself." His big moment arrived in the backseat of
a Bronco when he was 17. "I was the only virgin of everybody
I knew," he says. "I was terrified. She never liked
me the same again, and I couldn't deal. I had to break up with
her. But that was my first time, what do you want?"
he says, school was a disaster. Skiing was far more fun, and as
soon as snow started to fall, Freddie hit the slopes in Santa
Fe. "I had 48 absences in the winter semester of my senior
year and graduated with a D average," admits Freddie, who
now bolsters his street smarts by , as he says, "reading
my brains out."
OF MINEThe hardest part of being Freddie Prinze Jr. was not knowing
Freddie Prinze Sr. His father was the star of the popular '70s
sitcom Chico and the Man and one of television's first Puerto
Rican stars. But during his brief career, he struggled with the
temptations and indulgences that accompanied his quick rise to
fame. For years, Freddie's mother Kathy, sheltered her son from
the disturbing details of his father's early and violent death.
learned the truth when he was in the fifth grade, on a drive with
his uncle Ron, who had been Freddie Prinze Sr.'s manager. "We
stopped in fron tof Marilyn Monroe's house and he said, 'You know
she died too, before she should have. She was the biggest star
in the world, but she didn't know how to deal with her pain."
Then he held Freddie's face in his hands and said, "You're
going to make it."
did, but it took some time for him to come to grips with growing
up without his father. "At first, I felt like a criminal
stealing a ton of memories from other people. Then when I hit
21, I fell into this funk: I have no idea who my dad was."
the time Freddie Prinze Jr. was beginning to get attention as
an actor. (His first role was on the ABC sitcom Family Matters
in 1994.) During interviews, he recalls, "Every question
that I got asked, every single day, was 'How do you fell about
[your father]?' The only answer that I ever wanted to give was
'I don't have any feelings because I didn't know him.' So the
next question they asked is 'Do you feel your going to end up
jsut like him?' That makes me feel horrible. And then all of the
sudden one day you wake up, and you're all good. It sucks that
you didn't have a dad, but there's a lot of other people that
had it way worse than that, and they seem to be doing OK. It just
seemed a lot easier to be happy than to be bummed."
it caused him some grief, all of the media focus on his father
had an upside. "I had built walls," he says. "And
when they broke through that, I became a river. I'd just cruise
now? "I'm the most chill person I know," Freddie says.
"When I get stressed, I play video games, hang out with my
dogs [a Rottweiler named Cody and an Akita named Tyson] and know
that all the problems will still be there tomorrow, and I'll deal
with them then. I feel good, and all the people aournd me, we
all look at each other and think, 'We're the coolest people in
Freddie says he's cool, he's not being conceited. It's jsut that
he's truly content. "I'm happy with myself. I like who I
am. If people dig the way I dress, right on. If tehy don't, right
on. I'm a river, bro. I dress like the river. I'm not perfec,
but I'm cool with that."
love life, though, hasn't always been cool. When he and Sarah
first met, Freddie was dating actress Kimberly McCullough (Once
and Again). After the success of I Know What You Did Last Summer,
he was besieged wih movie offers. Soon, work took him away from
home for extended periods, and he and Kimberly went from being,
as Freddie puts it, "right on the same path," to going
in opposite directions.
first time I felt like an adult was when I was in that relationship,"
he says. "I took care of her, so I felt like a man."
Which helped him face the fact that he and Kimberly were growing
apart. "She got tired of not having a boyfriend around, and
it became something that we weren't willing to work on anymore."
his broken heart mended, Freddie had a revelation. "When
you realize what went wrong, you become a better person. Had [our]
relationship not ended the way it did, I would be nowhere as smart
as I am when it comes to relationships. I learned from the mistakes
ALL THAT With Sarah, he's a new and improved boyfriend--fully
attentive and unashamedly romantic. "I pay for every meal,"
says Freddie, who shares a house with Sarah in California's San
Fernando Valley. "I open every single door. Sarah's so dependent
she always goes to so it, and I'm like, 'Don't you dare, that's
my move.'" Since he's nearly a foot taller, he also has a
special move when it's time to kiss. "You have to crick your
neck," he says, standing up to demostrate, "or I spread
my legs and bend my knees, until I get into the right height."
December, he even spirited her off to Bali for a romantic getaway.
"We dedicated two days to traveling and checking stuff out.
And the rest was all about her and me and doing the nuclear fission
thing. She's so smart. You just sit back and listen; and when
she's done, you think, 'I'm a smarter person now. It would have
taken me 30 minutes to say everything she said in 45 seconds."
although not in his immediate future, is part of the master plan.
"The goal," Freddie says, "is to have a family
and kids and be a father and a husband one day."
sure he will make an excellent father because he remembers how
hard it was for him to grow up without one. So when the time comes,
he'll happily put his acting career on hold to play papa. "I
don't care if I stop making movies when I'm 30 or 40, because
when I have kids, I'm not working, and that's it," he says.
"If my girl wants to work, I'll hang with the kids, and I'll
cook and clean. We're both rich, so it doesn't matter."
challenge you to find somebody who treats the person they love
better than I do," says Freddie of his relationship with
Sarah Michelle Gellar (last June). "I'm the best boyfriend
in the world."
© 2001 Teen People Magazine. All rights reserved.