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Scientology's Influence

Scientology's latest star is actor Giovanni Ribisi, who joins fellow celebrities Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and Jenna Elfman in getting a helping hand up the showbiz ladder via the group's influential Hollywood network. Known to millions for his occasional role on Friends as Lisa Kudrow's slow-witted brother, Frank Jr., Giovanni first appeared on TV 15 years ago on popular series Highway to Heaven, later going on to recurring supporting roles on My Two Dads and The Wonder Years. But it wasn't until Friends that people began to take notice, leading to major roles in The Mod Squad, Tom Hanks ' That Thing You Do!, Lost Highway, The Other Sister, Suburbia (1997) and Saving Private Ryan where his performance as the haunting, tragic Medic Irwin Wade in Steven Spielberg 's World War II blockbuster, left an indelible impression on audiences and critics. Giovanni doesn't deny the influence of Scientology on his life: the group's teachings encouraging him to settle down and espouse family values.

"Like most young men, I was against marriage in my teens, but nothing could be more wonderful today than being with my wife and our beautiful baby daughter. Scientology has really helped me in the stability department," says Giovanni, 25, whose stunning actress wife Mariah O'Brien is another Scientology devotee.
And just like Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman or John Travolta and Kelly Preston, Giovanni and Mariah are Scientology's latest husband- and-wife recruits to hit the Hollywood big time, with Mariah winning parts in hit movies Being John Malkovich with Cameron Diaz and John Cusack, and Diamonds (1999) , opposite Kirk Douglas and Dan Aykroyd, having won her first big break in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.
"I thought marriage 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 long day to someone who's just learning to crawl,"
says the basset hound-eyed actor, who wed at Scientology's Celebrity Center almost four years earlier and is proud father to three-year-old Lucia, named after the doomed heroine in the Donizetti opera.
"Being a father for me, it sounds pompous to say that you've defined love or whatever, but I think it really helps towards that. It's a really beautiful thing to have this unequivocal, uncompromised affinity for somebody. "I don't know how I'd rate myself as a dad. My father always thought he did horribly as a father. I think I'm doing fine, and then I sit back and worry, and think 'Do I tell her NOT to do that?' And you start to try to be perfect and it gets confusing," says the Los Angeles born former child actor who recently starred opposite Ben Affleck in Boiler Room, a film touted as the next generation's Wall Street, about greedy, corrupt stock brokers and the evils of instant wealth and capitalism.
If Giovanni's Boiler Room character has a troubled relationship with his father, then things couldn't be more different in real life for the actor whose dad Al Ribisi was a one-hit wonder 60's pop star with the band People.
"My dad and I have an incredible relationship, which I feel so fortunate to have. Not that we haven't had any dissension between us, I guess. We have just learned to be able to let each other be who they are, and we're really good friends. "Especially now after I have a child, my respect for what he did when he had three in diapers is 'Wow! Can I do something for you?!' "My dad is a print broker and still works part time as a guitarist. He was once signed to Capital records and had a band called People in the 60s. They were one of those one-hit wonder bands of the time with a hit record called I Love You," says Giovanni, who next stars in The Gift (2000)] with Hilary Swank, Cate Blanchett and Keanu Reeves, and Gone In 60 Seconds (2000) with Nicolas Cage and Vinnie Jones.
Discussing his Scientology beliefs, Giovanni says:
"I can't really say I was born a Scientologist, although my parents were members. "It's an applied religious philosophy for me, and it's something very pragmatic that works. I know it's been in the press and all that stuff, but it's helped me immeasurably in all aspects of my life," says Giovanni who met his future wife Mariah at a Scientology meeting and also introduced troubled actress Juliette Lewis to the sometimes controversial church after the pair co-starred in The Other Sister. "I'm delighted that Juliette has stuck with the program and she has found support in the church during difficult times. "I find there's spiritualism in everything in life and Scientology helps make sense of that. I think spiritualism and commercialism can absolutely live together, in my own view point anyway. I think it's hard to take philosophy and generalise it because it's such an individualised, personal thing, so maybe people can't do that. "In Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard talks about ethics being a personal thing, so to that extent we make our own rules to live by. "Scientology affects every aspect of my life. It's hard to answer because it's such a vast subject. "I've never done drugs, except for cigarettes or alcohol. What grounded me was having my wife and my daughter and I think that's really good. For me, it helps me to focus and to just go 'OK, My life is acting'. "I haven't totally found myself, but I'm knowing more and more where I want to go."
Friends star and mentor Lisa Kudrow remains firmly supportive of Giovanni's burgeoning career, saying:
"There's nothing he can't do. I've only worked with him on the TV show, and that's one kind of acting. But with that, no problems. Whatever he needs to do, there are no obstacles. And that's one of the most important things about acting, to just be open to everything, and everything that needs to get done is just incorporated and justified to make it look like all is reasonable and working. He just makes everything work. I knew from the moment Giovanni walked on the Friends set he was destined for greater things."