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GREEN WITHOUT ENVY PREFERRING 'HAPPY' OVER 'COOL,' ACTOR SHIFTS HIS ATTITUDE IN THE FACE OF FAME.

Byline: Glenn Whipp Film Writer

Seth Green knows a thing or two about fame. And why shouldn't he? At age 28, he has been famous for fully three-fourths of his life. When he was 8, he played Jodie Foster's brother in a John Irving movie (``Hotel New Hampshire''). Five years later, he was in a Woody Allen movie (``Radio Days'') playing not just any character, but the Woodman's boyhood version of himself.

Green has starred on ``Buffy the Vampire Slayer'' and in three ``Austin Powers'' movies playing Dr. Evil's conflicted son, Scott Evil. When he was 21, he said ``Cha-ching!'' in a commercial for a hamburger chain. The New Orleans Saints football team adopted the phrase, and when Green was invited to the Superdome to lead the cheer, he found he could not leave his hotel room that night for fear of being mobbed. All because he said, ``Cha- ching!'' (albeit very well). That night, cloistered in his hotel room, he was Elvis for 12 hours.

He didn't like being Elvis. And two years ago, he discovered he didn't like himself much either, or at least what he had become. The moment of recognition came the day after he went to the MTV Music Awards sporting black leather pants, insanely teased hair and a thinly veiled sense of desperation to be The Man. Green watched himself on TV the next day, making his way through the press line and was disgusted at what he saw.

``I was trying so hard to be funny and clever, but I wasn't funny, and I wasn't clever,'' Green says over a late breakfast of bacon and eggs at a Studio City coffee shop. ``It looked like I was panicking. Somebody had asked me a question, and I was just trying to be super-cool and impressive and failing miserably. And I watched it, and I don't know if anyone else would have perceived it that way, but I was just so humiliated and sad. I was like, 'Wow. When did I become that guy?' ''

Green isn't that guy anymore. Not that you'd particularly notice the change. Green remains the same affable, intelligent person he has always been, a nice guy who has made the transition from child actor to adult star without generating any tabloid headlines or losing any friends. The change has been an internal one: Green has conquered the selmposed pressure of holding onto fame.

``You see people change over a period of years,'' Green says, ``and it's so easy to do because Hollywood is such a small community. Every young person that becomes successful finds their way to one another, so you've got all these people perpetuating the same myths. It's kind of a different version of high school. I started to feel like I had to look and act and behave and be a certain way to be cool and then I thought, 'I'm not as interested in being cool as I am in being happy.' Because I found myself utterly miserable. So I just kind of started standing up for myself and taking a step back.''

Taking a step back has involved losing the leather pants and saying no to all the scripts that call for the youthful-looking Green (he stands 5- foot-4 and probably will be carded until he's 50 years old) to play scene- stealing youthful screw-ups. Instead, he's playing scene-stealing adult screw-ups and acquitting himself quite nicely.

Green's current movie is ``Knockaround Guys,'' a fish-out-of-water mob story with Vin Diesel, Barry Pepper and John Malkovich that's finally being released after an executive reshuffle at New Line Cinema put it on the back burner for nearly two years. Coming up, Green will play a club-hopping heroin addict opposite Macaulay Culkin in the low-budget ``Party Monster'' and a live-wire computer geek in a remake of the stylish 1969 caper film ``The Italian Job.''

``He has been doing this for most of his life and, provided he wants to, he'll probably be acting long after all of us have retired,'' says Jay Roach, who directed Green in the three ``Austin Powers'' movies. ``Every time I've worked with him, he's just gotten better, particularly at improvisation, and he was pretty good to begin with. And he has just as devoted a fan base - maybe more so - than Mike Myers.''

``Knockaround Guys'' directors Brian Koppelman and David Levien got a glimpse of that fan base when they were shooting their movie in small Canadian towns throughout Ontario and Alberta. When word got out that a movie crew with Green had arrived (forget about Vin Diesel - this was three years ago), the locals would come out and mob the production.

``He was patient and nice and talked to every one of them,'' Koppelman says. ``Kids and moms, he was signing autographs for a long, long time. Seth is a really special guy. He works hard, and he really seems to have a handle on what's important.''

So what's important? In a recent magazine article, Green listed his five favorite things: 1) hugging someone I love; 2) learning something new; 3) Central Park; 4) live music; 5) meditating.

He won't expand on Item No. 1, apart from saying, ``There are a lot of people I love in my life.'' The last new thing he learned was how to ride a motorcycle for ``The Italian Job.'' Central Park makes him think about his East Coast roots (he grew up in Philly) and pine for New York, although he's perfectly happy living in L.A. (Just don't ask him exactly where - remember, he's got to deal with those fans.)

As for live music, Green just saw the Breeders at the El Rey, as well as Coldplay and No Doubt. (``I wasn't a big fan beforehand, but Gwen (Stefani) won me over,'' he says.) He's a huge Beck fan, but he doesn't listen to him while meditating. But he might on the way to a nondenominational temple he attends on a regular basis. He's looking forward to being an involved dad but has no news on that front - and likely won't until you hear about him tying the knot.

For now, the victories come large (the ongoing smashing success of the ``Austin Powers'' movies), small (his satisfaction with his acting in ``Party Monster'') and personal (conquering selmposed pressures). If nothing else, there's the recent red-letter day when Green stopped to get a bottle of wine for a dinner party and the clerk didn't ask for his I.D.

``I was 28 years old with six days of facial hair growth, and that's when I didn't get carded,'' Green says laughing. ``Of course, I was buying a $50 bottle of wine, too. That probably helped. If I want to buy a case of Miller, I might have to let the beard go for a month.''

CAPTION(S):

3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- cover -- color) Taking a step back

`Knockaround' guy Seth Green looks at fame in a new light

(2) no caption (Seth Green)

(3) Green, left, confers with directors David Levien and Brian Koppelman on the set of ``Knockaround Guys.'' ``Seth is a really special guy. He works hard, and he really seems to have a handle on what's important,'' says Koppelman, right.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 8, 2002
Words:1205
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