Matthew Settle: Settle'd Up

The star of the new I Know What You Did picture tells us that...Freddie Prinze, Jr. smells like fish?! Really.

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When Matthew Settle arrives at a Beverly Hills trattoria to talk about his role as Jennifer Love Hewitt's boyfriend in the teen-thriller sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, he wants to know, "How about doing this interview in my favorite magnolia tree instead?"

I'm game, so he tucks me into his Audi and whips a U-ey across four lanes of traffic. After a quick stop for two Jamba Juice energy shakes, we zip down an alley, then pull up to a gigantic tree. "C'mon, I'll hoist you," he says after I suggest we talk under the tree instead of in it. Whereupon I grab hold of a branch and with his hands under my butt, I find myself climbing. "The world opens itself to you when you let down your guard a little bit, you know?" Settle remarks as we nestle into the boughs. I guess so.

Born the son of a Baptist preacher in North Carolina, Settle broke into showbiz hawking country music records at Dollywood, then got into acting school in New York with the help of a lawyer, Jay Julian, who also happened to represent Robert De Niro. What Julian saw in Settle, others seem to be seeing too; just this morning the preppy, athletic 27-year-old auditioned for the high-profile submarine flick U-571, and this afternoon he's reading for a part as one of Bette Midler's studly playthings in the flashy comedy Boys R Us ("It's about these women on Long Island who never get laid so they start a madam ring").

That Settle has commercial appeal was established with his casting in I Still Know, a role he won over, as he puts it, "all the cool guys in town." Like? "I saw the E.T. guy there the day I was reading," he notes, referring to Henry Thomas. I ask, "Since you're Freddie Prinze Jr.'s rival for Hewitt's romantic attentions in the film, what do you offer that he doesn't?" "I don't smell like fish," responds Settle without missing a beat. "And what's your theory on what makes Hewitt so totally likable?" Settle doesn't have to think before answering, "She doesn't have any attitude, and she's always in the right head." And finally, a crucial matter to anyone being considered for Boys R Us: how does Settle stay so fit? "I'm not one of those guys who's so into the gym," he says. "I find it completely ego-driven, and that saps your creativity. I like to do calisthenics because you build more usable muscle." Which, take it from me, he's already proved.

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Wolf Schneider



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