- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2000

This is a glorious time to be a movie star. But a hot career can ice over suddenly when young actors stumble making the transition to more grown-up fare. That's the issue facing Freddie Prinze Jr. as he graduates from high school characters while continuing to stake out a niche in the romantic-comedy genre.

In his latest, "Boys and Girls," the ridiculously handsome Mr. Prinze finally gets to play someone more "age appropriate," a college guy. This film also reunites the heartthrob with Robert Iscove, who directed Mr. Prinze's 1999 hit, "She's All That." "Boys and Girls" concerns a pair of longtime pals, played by Mr. Prinze and brunet British actress Claire Forlani (Brad Pitt's true love in "Meet Joe Black"), who are reluctantly but inexorably swept along to that inevitable coupling.

"It pokes fun, which I think is smart," Mr. Prinze says. "I think the screenwriters [Andrew Lowery and Andrew Miller] hate romantic comedies. Hence, they wrote one. They make fun of these movies, and at the same time, they made a romantic comedy. It's smart to take something you don't like and try to make it better than everything out there. The script was sickeningly sweet, but with enough cynicism to balance it out."

Mr. Prinze relates well to the comedy's premise. He, too, once harbored designs on a female best bud.

"She was a few years older than me," he recalls. "We had been friends for years. She was the fastest girl and I was the fastest guy in the school foot races. I liked her. She didn't like me. It made me crazy. I wanted to be with her so bad, and I had to listen to her talk about other guys. One guy mistreated her, and I beat him up. She got mad at me and stayed with him."

He laughs at the distant memory. "I never talked to her again."

A few of his movies, including 1999's more macho "Wing Commander," have misfired. To date, Mr. Prinze's talents have been displayed best in his trilogy of romantic comedies, "She's All That," "Down to You" and, now, "Boys and Girls."

"I specifically wanted to make these three movies for my generation," he says. "I wanted them to have a video library of films they could relate to. It was a goal of mine, because I didn't have that. I missed Generation X and never had John Hughes movies. I watched them on TV. That was my chance to make sure they had something to relate to. And now, I'm finished with those. I've made different types of movies, and I'm very, very happy with them."

The son of the late comedian Freddie Prinze is well aware of the risks of being typecast. To prevent that, he has deliberately varied his next roles.

"I just made 'Head Over Heels,' a 'Rear Window' style of dark comedy. I play about 27 years old, and I'm in suits the whole time. I hate suits, but I got to keep them. But I played an adult for the first time. And in 'Summer Catch,' the film I'm about to finish, I play my own age, around 24. I'm a baseball pitcher about to make it in the majors."

An obvious factor in Mr. Prinze's success is his good looks. Not for nothing was he named one of People magazine's "50 most beautiful people." He knows he has a legion of devout female fans, and he's frankly grateful, hoping that translates into good box-office sales.

"It's very flattering, and it makes me feel lucky," Mr. Prinze says. "I just do the best job I can do. This is my best movie to date. I've never been more proud of my work. But that's as far as I can go. You never know how a film's going to do. If it was a science, I'd bottle it up and sell it. I hope someone other than kids like it. I liked it. Then again, I like everything."

Though Mr. Prinze is reluctant to discuss his involvement with TV's "Buffy," Sarah Michelle Gellar, he concedes to being an unabashed romantic.

"I've always worn my heart on my sleeve. I always will until the day I die. That's the only way to live. If I love somebody, they will know it. And it can work out forever if they can appreciate that and give that back to you. It doesn't always work out for me, but I believe that it can. Nothing feels better than being loved."

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