Giovanni Ribisi: Don Giovanni

"I'M SOOO SORRY," SAYS GIOVANNI RIBISI as his cell phone rings for, like, the third time in four minutes. "There, I'm turning it off. I feel like such a Hollywood asshole."

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At least he doesn't look like one. Hardly a frat-pack Golden Boy like your Matts and your Bens, the slight Ribisi, with short 'n' spiky sandy-blond hair and mournful eyes set in a moon face, could be the lost guitarist from those neo-punkers Green Day. But he's definitely an actor. The onetime TV vet (he did memorable turns as trouble-boys on shows like "NYPD Blue" and "The X-Files") has made more than 10 films, alternating between small parts in mega-flicks like The Postman to more substantial turns in indie fare like the upcoming First Love, Last Rites and, particularly, Richard Linklater's subUrbia, in which he showed soulful intensity as an alienated slacker watching the world spin beyond his grasp. Now, in Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, he plays the medic of the unit sent behind enemy lines to save the private ("We did boot camp with this drill sergeant and the rations tasted like cat food"), and this fall he's got a highly touted actory showcase in The Other Sister, in which he and Juliette Lewis play semi-retarded teens who get married.

Ribisi's biggest casting coup so far is winning a spot in the '90s big-screen rethink of the cop show "The Mod Squad" alongside fellow talents Claire Danes and Omar Epps. Ribisi's character, Pete, was originally played by the sultry stud Michael Cole, but this "Squad" is "a completely different concept from the TV version," says Ribisi. "I'm playing him as an Iggy Pop-like asshole who was originally incarcerated for sniffing glue on Hollywood Boulevard. This wasn't in the script, but that's what I came up with.

"It's been a crazy two years," Ribisi says of his nonstop schedule. Why, exactly, is he driving himself to distraction? "I'm still hungry," he admits. "But there will come a time when I want to take off and study flamenco guitar in Spain for a year." Probably not next year. He needs the cash, he says, not to mention the cell phone, because he and wife Mariah, an actress, now have a baby daughter, Lucia, named after the doomed heroine in the Donizetti opera. "I was against marriage," explains this impossibly youthful (23 years old) family man. "I thought it was something the Egyptians invented to prevent the spread of venereal disease. But my wife is so awesome. I was just smitten. She's beautiful--physically beautiful. And now we have this cute baby, and it's so great to come home after a day like this to someone who's just learning to crawl."

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Joshua Mooney



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