He mowed down competition like David Schwimmer and Paul Rudd to win the role of Mel Gibson's cocky best friend in the romantic comedy What Women Want.
But it was director Nancy Meyers's teenage daughter Hallie--not Meyers herself--who picked Mark Feuerstein out of the throng of potential Gibson sidekicks. "She watched my audition tape and said, 'Oh, that's the guy from those TV shows and that movie Practical Magic. I like him. Ma, cast him,'" says Feuerstein. Perhaps unbeknownst to Hallie, Feuerstein has also appeared in The Muse, Rules of Engagement and Woman on Top, but no matter--with What Women Want, he has his highest-profile film role to date as the comic contrast to Gibson's fast-track Chicago ad exec, who, after being electrocuted in a bathtub, suddenly finds himself able to read women's minds. "Mel goes from being a male chauvinist pig to the sensitive year 2000 man, but my character remains in the Neolithic era of sexual politics," Feuerstein laughs. "I represent all the men in the world who read Maxim." For a guy who, in real life, hails from a family of Harvard-educated lawyers and was a Fulbright scholar, working with Gibson proved a singular Hollywood education: "If you watch Mel eating a steak and smoking a cigarette at the last minute before a shot, not worrying about his hair or his face or his makeup, you know he is the least vain man in the world. And whether he's talking to the assistant grip or the director, he doesn't change his personality to seduce anyone." There is, however, a downside to the good fortune of What Women Want. "Once you've been Mel's sidekick, it's hard to be the sidekick in an indie film in New York. When you limit the playing field, you work less. But then, everyone should have such problems!"