Freddie Prinze Jr.: The Artist Known as Prinze

Q: What actors inspired you when you began to act?

A: My two favorites are Denzel Washington and Jack Nicholson. You see the fire when you watch those guys act. Nicholson's performance in Batman is one of the most overlooked in the world. It was so beautiful and so psychotic. He's so smooth, it's like Barry White's singing. And Denzel is always the heart of his movies, the heart of the planet earth. He pours every ounce of his soul into every movement. Nicholson is the king of cool, Denzel is the prince of passion.

Q: What's your opinion about someone closer to your age: Leonardo DiCaprio?

A: He's an awesome actor. I love his work. He just vomits energy. I'm just now thinking this so it might come out weird: he, like, vomits all his own energy out so everybody can see it, and then he sucks up everybody else's. He's this intense listener. Yon can just leave the camera on him, it doesn't matter who else is in the scene.

Q: You started in TV appearing in "Family Matters."

A: That was my first show. It was in front of a live audience, so I hated it. I don't like instant gratification.

Q: A lot of actors feel that doing live performances is really the way to learn what acting is all about.

A: I don't believe so. Acting is very simple. If you look at the dictionary it says: to do. You listen, answer, commit and make sure that your shit is honest. That's universal, whether you're in theater, TV or film.

Q: If it's so simple, why are there so few really good actors?

A: It's like anything else; you have to work at it. Thus business is not real hard to break into, but it's hard to sustain a career. You see some kid being hyped as the next Brad Pitt, but once he starts buying into chat hype, the press murders him. People don't say that about me 'cause I don't allow that stuff to be said. I'm me, I work hard. I just want to make sure that at the end of every film I do I'm a better fuckin' actor than I was at the beginning.

Q: Have you liked all the films you've been in?

A: No.

Q: Which ones don't you like?

A: I can't stand Wing Commander. I can't watch one scene of that movie.

Q: How did it become so awful?

A: It's the simplest story in the world. I read the script and loved it. So did my buddy Matthew Lillard. We both got the parts. We went on location and they said, "Here's the new script." It was a piece of shit.

Q: Entertainment Weekly's film critic Owen Gleiberman seems to have it in for you in your last two films. He called Wing Commander "a preposterously dull and labored hack job," and Down to You "the dreckiest of teen puppy courtships." How do you take such criticism?

A: That guy hates me. He'll say things about my physical looks! Forget the acting thing. He'll write about my ugly smile. Like, what did I do, sleep with his mom?

Q: And how do you assess your looks?

A: I'm a pretty good-looking guy.

Q: If you could change any feature, would you?

A: No. This is me. I like me. I'm a good guy. I'm good to my family and my friends; I'm good at what I do. I'm a good me.

Q: I heard that you like to pull pranks on people. Tell me one.

A: The best one I ever did was to Claire Forlani on Boys and Girls. We're in San Francisco; she's all alone in her apartment. I'm a floor below, watching TV and they're talking about serial killers. I'm talking to her about that on the phone and she hates that. She's very British, very prim and proper, doesn't like to get scared. I keep saying, "It's not a big deal, serial killers only go after single white chicks in apartments." And she says, "I hate you so much!" It's midnight, so I said, "I'll let you go to bed." I wait two hours. Then I pull my black T-shirt over my head so only my eyes show, put on a black jump jacket with a hood on it and I get this big-ass butcher knife from the kitchen. I go up the steps, knock on her door and she goes, "Hello?' I say, "It's me,' and she opens the door and I have the knife raised and I scream at her! This girl, who's the whitest girl in the world, her skin changed color in three seconds, eight shades whiter, you could see right to her bones! She fell on the ground, found Jesus Christ, took Him as her savior right there, and screamed, "Please God, nooooo!" I fell on the ground laughing. She called all my friends and said, "I don't know what's wrong with Freddie, but I think you should talk to him immediately." I got her ass so good. Nothing's better than scaring people, man.

Q: Have you ever tried drugs?

A: I don't fool with drugs, never have. I don't drink now, either.

Q: You never did drugs because your dad did, or you just were never interested?

A: I didn't do drugs because I saw people do dumb sniff on drugs. When I started to understand more about my father, that became another huge reason. I would have a father if it wasn't for drugs, bottom line.

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