Date of Birth: March 8, 1976
Place of Birth: Los Angeles, Calif., USA
Sign: Sun in Pisces, Moon in Gemini
Relations: Companion: Sarah Michelle Gellar; Father: Freddie Prinze (actor)
Education: Graduated from La Cueva High School, Albuquerque, NM
Freddie Prinze Jr. is considered one of the coolest stars of young Hollywood, and yet he's plagued by memories of an ostracized adolescence. Moreover, he's the namesake of a successful '70s comedian who, due to an untimely death, ultimately left him nothing. And while others might have chosen to wallow and whine, Prinze remains remarkably grounded and affable.
Prinze was 10 months old when his father, 22-year-old Chico and the Man star Freddie Prinze, committed suicide. In 1980, Prinze's mother, Katherine Cochrane-Prinze, moved with her 4-year-old son to Albuquerque, NM, where they lived on his grandparents' ranch. Although his mom tried to shield Freddie Jr. from the truth about his father's death, "It was kids at school who told me my dad was a junkie who shot himself," Prinze recalled to the Calgary Sun. "I thought my dad had died because of an overdose of prescription pills."
Prinze espouses an appreciation for his father's comedic talents but cannot say much else about the man who called him "Pie." "I didn't know him and I still don't know him," he told the Sun. "I have the same image of him that everybody else does and that's from watching his old TV shows."
For the next decade, Prinze "watched cartoons, read comic books, and played video games. I didn't play sports. I didn't fit in, so I got picked on." In his interview with the Sun, the lanky actor said, "My classmates thought I was gay, on drugs, or just really, really strange. It was misery for me, so I only went to school to write tests or to hand in assignments."
As a possibly unexpected byproduct of his isolation, Prinze's interest in performance grew, and he often spent lunch hours doing scenes from movies he liked. "Ferris Bueller's Day Off was, like, the main one I would always do or comic books. I would fantasize about things. But I would always try to do that alone. I'd do it in the wrestling room, during lunch when I knew the wrestlers wouldn't be there," he recounted to The Record.
Prinze finally journeyed out of the wrestling room to dabble in local theater, managing at the same time to squeak by with a high-school diploma in 1994. Junior college was not an option, because things were financially tight for his family. Not inclined to get a job slaving away at the local Price Club for minimum wage, Prinze decided to instead try his luck in Hollywood. "[My mother] wasn't nuts about the idea, for obvious reasons," Prinze said in an online chat. "But [she] has always known that once my heart gets set on something, that's it. Whether I'm wrong or right, she accepts it. And either way, I'm gonna do it."
Armed with his determination and good looks, Prinze's first break came on the show that gave us Urkel, Family Matters. Prinze's character, a juvenile delinquent who brings a gun to school — had only four lines, but the part perhaps crystallized the parallels between his life and that of the elder Freddie. Prinze was moved to visit his father's grave and remembers saying, "Thank you. I hope you're watching now. I hope to make you proud."
The sitcom spot led to larger roles in some after-school television movies. In 1997, Prinze made his box-office debut in a small role opposite Claire Danes in To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday. Having had relatively little experience with girls, let alone with ones in Danes' league, Prinze admitted in BB magazine to having had a religious experience (of sorts) before their first kissing scene: "I got down on my hands and knees and said, 'God, I'm not asking you to make me smooth, I'm not asking you to make me like Joe Cool, I just don't want to throw up and embarrass myself and make this girl think I'm a lunatic.'"
Sadly, the movie did not do well and spent very little time in US theaters. Next came the dark independent comedy The House of Yes, which garnered a fair amount of hype at the 1997 Sundance Festival due to its subject matter and one of the female leads, Tori Spelling, but spent even less time in theaters than Gillian.
Prinze's ascent quickened shortly thereafter, when he starred opposite television bombshells Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar in Kevin Williamson's adaptation of I Know What You Did Last Summer. According to the Entertainment News Wire, the original novel by Lois Duncan had made quite an impact on Prinze when he was a fourth-grader: "I read this book and was terrified for a month and didn't want to sleep or anything, and then, suddenly, 10 years later, I opened a script and the title, in big, huge, frightening letters, said 'I Know What You Did Last Summer.' I had the biggest flashback, and after I read Kevin's terrific script, I really wanted to do it."
With newcomer Ryan Phillippe rounding out the adolescent dream team and partly because of Williamson's recent success with Scream, I Know was a hit with the kids. A solid future as a teen idol seemed cemented, but Prinze veered purposefully away from the heartthrob highway and signed aboard two flicks that went nowhere fast: 1998's Sparkler and Vig, the latter of which gave him a chance to act alongside the legendary Peter Falk. He also reluctantly reprised his role of Ray in the sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.
Setting his own course paid off, however, because in January 1999, on the 22nd anniversary of his father's death, the John Hughes-esque film She's All That opened, presenting leading man Prinze as a bona fide hottie. Prinze cultivated the cute-and-sensitive-boy-next-door guise for two of his next films, Down to You and Boys and Girls breaking up the pattern to star in the action-adventure Wing Commander. The latter movie was widely panned, but it gave Prinze the opportunity to fill the shoes of childhood hero Mark Hamill, who originated the role of rebellious pilot Christopher Blair in the CD-ROM game series. Speaking of Hamill, at age 6, Prinze and a cousin were re-enacting scenes from Star Wars when "Luke" (a k a Prinze) went flying down a slide face-first into a broken pipe, a collision that resulted in a still-visible scar on Prinze's chin.
The scar didn't keep Prinze from being named one of People magazine's Most Beautiful People of 1998 and hasn't hurt his chances with the ladies in the least. His three-year relationship with former General Hospital regular Kimberly McCullough recently ended, and he is currently linked to I Know co-star Gellar.
Professionally, Prinze was this close to reuniting with Danes for the black comedy Head Over Heels, but the female lead instead fell to Monica Potter. He can also be seen in next year's Summer Catch, smooching up WB ingénue Jessica Biel and hanging out for the third time with Mathew Lillard, with whom he co-starred in She's All That and Wing Commander.
2001 Summer Catch
2001 Head Over Heels
2000 Boys and Girls
2000 Down To You
1999 Wing Commander
1999 She’s All That
1998 I Still Know What You Did Last Summer
1997 I Know What You Did Last Summer
1997 The House of Yes
1996 To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday
1997 Detention: The Siege at Johnson High
1996 Too Soon for Jeff
1995 Family Matters
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )