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Hollywood Reporter[dot]com 3/11/99

Giovanni Ribisi burst onto the scene in last year's Oscar-nominated "Saving Private Ryan." One might be forgiven for thinking of him as something of an overnight sensation, but in truth, the talented Ribisi has been paying his dues in Hollywood for over a decade. Ribisi's TV credits include stints on "The Wonder Years," "NYPD Blue," "Chicago Hope" and "The X-Files." He is probably best known to TV audiences for his recurring role as Lisa Kudrow's brother, the clueless Frank Jr., on the sitcom "Friends." Ribisi's feature film work, which includes such fare as Richard Linklater's "SubUrbia," "Lost Highway," "The Postman" and "That Thing You Do!" brought him to the attention of Steven Spielberg, who cast him as Wade, the saintly, haunted medic in "Saving Private Ryan." Now one of the busiest young actors in Hollywood, Ribisi's new releases include Disney's "The Other Sister" with Juliette Lewis and Diane Keaton and the upcoming MGM remake of the classic TV series "The Mod Squad," in which he stars opposite Claire Danes and Omar Epps. The Hollywood Reporter's Judith Rumelt caught up with Ribisi to discuss meeting Steven Spielberg, dying on screen and his busy future.

  • The Hollywood Reporter: How does it feel to be a ShoWest honoree?
    Giovanni Ribisi: Receiving an acknowledgement like that is an honor, of course. It's very exciting.

  • THR: Tell me about your upcoming films.
    Ribisi: The first one is "The Other Sister." It's about two mentally handicapped kids exploring love and romance. To me the characters are so honest and innocent -- it's about the most simple expression of love. It was also one of the most incredible experiences in moviemaking that I've ever had. Juliette Lewis is an incredible actress. And Garry Marshall, the director, was so liberating. It was really a healthy, creative environment. I think a really beautiful movie was born out of it. Then there's "The Mod Squad," which was just a really fun movie to do, with Claire Danes and Omar Epps. It was directed by Scott Silver, who directed the movie "Johns."

  • THR: You've done a lot of film work, but you got your start in television. Which do you prefer?
    Ribisi: Definitely film. I grew up in acting, and I did a lot of TV when I was younger. I'm not criticizing TV, but with film, things are less censored. There's more creative freedom, and you can take your time to explore the character.

  • THR: How did you come to be cast in "Saving Private Ryan"?
    Ribisi: It was pretty much the standard casting process. I didn't hear anything for a long time, and then I met with Steven Spielberg -- I was called and told I had a meeting at Spielberg's house, and I thought, "I have what?"

  • THR: You don't hear that every day.
    Ribisi: No, you don't. So I met with him, and I remember he was in the process of editing "Amistad" at the time. He was like a kid, he had that passion and that fervor -- he was already editing his second movie of the year and prepping for this one, the third. It was amazing, especially considering the quality film it turned out to be. He warned me that it ("Ryan") was going to be a very physical film, very athletic.

  • THR: It certainly was. What was it like to die on screen?
    Ribisi: It was very complicated -- they had to take a mold of my torso, and there were all these tubes leaking fake blood out of me. So I was covered with this glucose-based fake blood, and wasps started to be attracted to it. So I was partly thinking about the scene, and partly about death and partly about these wasps.

  • THR: What are you working on right now?
    Ribisi: I just finished a movie called "The Boiler Room." I'd describe it as Wall Street on crack -- it's about a bunch of young punks who are given the opportunity to make money in an illegal brokerage firm.

  • THR: What kinds of projects would you like to see yourself working on in the future?
    Ribisi: I'm just attracted to good scripts, projects that have a great character in them, something I can spend a lot of time on. If that comes along, then that's what I want to do. My main goal is to do good work and be a part of good projects with good people.