Chris Klein

Also Credited As:

Frederick Christopher Klein
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Biography

With his all-American good looks and clean-cut image, Chris Klein rode the wave of the fin de siècle teen movie explosion, but had trouble sustaining an acting career as an adult. Discovered at his Omaha high school by director Alexander Payne for the Reese Witherspoon hit, "Election" (1999), Klein charmed as the polite student president candidate. He catapulted to fame with a lead role in the smash teen sex comedy "American Pie" (1999) and …
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Job Title

Actor, Music

Born

Frederick Christopher Klein on March 14, 1979 in Hinsdale, Illinois, USA

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About

With his all-American good looks and clean-cut image, Chris Klein rode the wave of the fin de siècle teen movie explosion, but had trouble sustaining an acting career as an adult. Discovered at his Omaha high school by director Alexander Payne for the Reese Witherspoon hit, "Election" (1999), Klein charmed as the polite student president candidate. He catapulted to fame with a lead role in the smash teen sex comedy "American Pie" (1999) and its sequel, starring as a sensitive jock in the vein of Keanu Reeves, to whom he was often compared. Klein struggled to keep his momentum going with roles in box office disappointments like "Rollerball" (2002) and "American Dreamz" (2006), but showed a spikier comedic edge with a rare villainous turn in "Just Friends" (2005). Famous for his relationship with actress Katie Holmes, the demise of their engagement dovetailed with the controversial whirlwind courtship of Holmes by mega-movie star Tom Cruise, with Klein finding himself mentioned more frequently in relation to their coupling than as a celebrity in his own right. Plagued by a stalled career and several PR speed bumps - DUI arrests, notorious interviews, a leaked "Mamma Mia!" (2008) audition tape - Klein had trouble adjusting to life as an adult working actor after his meteoric rise as a teen star.

Born March 14, 1979 in Hinsdale, IL, Frederick Christopher Klein was the son of Terese, a kindergarten teacher, and Fred Klein, an engineer. When he was 13, his family moved to Omaha, NE, where the handsome and athletic Klein was the football team's quarterback as well as an actor in school productions. In a discovery story worthy of the movies themselves, Klein was spotted by Omaha-born director Alexander Payne who was location scouting. Payne cast the fresh-faced, all-American Klein as a good-hearted but naïve jock who runs for student body president in "Election" (1999). Matthew Broderick played an embittered teacher who secretly resents the unbridled ambition of ultimate Type-A student, Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), and encourages Klein to run against her, setting a series of events in motion that will ruin his life. Although the film was only a modest financial success, Witherspoon received boatloads of critical praise, focusing ample media attention on the indie. Playing the least malevolent character in the film, Klein offered a portrayal that was likened by many critics to the charming early performances of Keanu Reeves, and he found himself very much in demand in just as he began attending college at Texas Christian University.

Film work - and not school - was in his future, and Klein notched an enormous hit the same year with the raunchy teen sex comedy "American Pie" (1999). An ensemble piece exploring the pact four high school boys make to lose their virginity before graduation, the movie not only shook up the box office, but made stars of its young, attractive ensemble, including Jason Biggs, Natasha Lyonne, Tara Reid and Alyson Hannigan. Klein again played a sensitive stud, a lacrosse player who begins the film looking for sex, but ends up finding love with choir girl Mena Suvari, as well as a newfound maturity. Klein was nominated for the Chicago Film Critics Association's Most Promising Actor, as well as for two Teen Choice Awards.

His rising status was further confirmed when he signed to star opposite Leelee Sobieski in the teen tearjerker "Here on Earth" (2000) - a weepie that was most notable for its use of the song "Where You Are," a duet warbled by the era's ultimate teen-pop couple, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey. As one of "The WB Generation's" leading lights, Klein sent many young pulses racing when he began dating fellow rising star Katie Holmes, the breakout star of the iconic "Dawson's Creek" (The WB, 1998-2003). Klein seemed assured of a hit when he signed on to star in the Farrelly brothers' production "Say It Isn't So" (2001) with Heather Graham and Sally Field, but the low-brow, "incest-or-isn't-it?" comedy bombed with critics and movieg rs. "American Pie 2" (2001), however, reunited the original cast to fantastic box office effect, even if the film's magic had seemingly faded. For his work over the last two years, the actor also nabbed the "Male Superstar of Tomorrow" Young Hollywood Award that year. Klein next starred in the ill-fated remake of the 1970s actioner "Rollerball" (2002) with LL Cool J, but earned a little more credibility by appearing in the Vietnam-era drama ensemble "We Were Soldiers" (2002), a true-to-life tale of the Air Calvary's landing in the Ia Drang Valley on Nov. 14, 1965 - the first major, and perhaps bloodiest, battle of the Vietnam War.

Klein was set to appear in the third installment of his "Pie" franchise, "American Wedding" (2003), but his part was cut for budgetary concerns. In "The United States of Leland" (2003), Klein was the boyfriend of a girl (Michelle Williams) whose autistic brother is stabbed 20 times by an alienated teenager (Ryan Gosling). The indie boasted an impressive list of ace character actors, including Don Cheadle, Jena Malone, Lena Olin and Kevin Spacey, although it made little impression with critics. The actor made headlines by proposing to longtime girlfriend Katie Holmes over Christmas 2003, doing the gentlemanly thing and asking her father's permission first. Not so in line with his clean-cut reputation, however, was his 2004 arrest/conviction for a DUI. Back onscreen, he played off his boy-next-door image and looks to great effect as the secretly psycho romantic rival of Ryan Reynolds for Amy Smart's heart in "Just Friends" (2005). Singing syrupy seduction ballads, flashing crazy eyes and covering it all up with his aww-shucks charm, Klein surprised many critics with his comedic flair. Even more surprising for fans, though, was the breakup of the Klein/Holmes engagement early that same year.

Holmes quickly jumped romantically from Klein to Tom Cruise, with the new power couple being engaged by June 2005, two months after having met. Their behavior and motivations - particularly that of Cruise - became fodder for countless speculation and rumors, especially when Holmes gave birth to a daughter in April of the following year. A persistent but unfounded rumor involved Klein supposedly being the father of Holmes' daughter Suri, although it may have been simply the product of a gossip culture in search of a glamorous conspiracy theory. Whether he was speaking from a place of emotional turmoil, revealing his true beliefs and opinions, or just joking around, Klein angered many with an interview he gave to ELLE magazine that year where he told an interviewer that he was an "alpha heterosexual" who was "not tolerant" of his girlfriends gaining weight.

Klein's next major project was "American Dreamz" (2006), an ambitious satire of American politics and "American Idol" (FOX, 2002- ) that garnered a lot of attention for the scope of its targets and its high-profile cast, including Hugh Grant, Mandy Moore and Dennis Quaid, but ultimately disappointed at the box office and with critics. Klein played a wounded veteran and boyfriend to Moore's cutthroat contestant character, literally stealing the show at the end of the film, singing and spurring an explosive finale. Although Klein began dating the actress Ginnifer Goodwin, his career momentum began to stall, and he appeared in a string of forgettable, little-seen projects, with the most prominent being the DOA action flop, "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li" (2009). The year 2010 was not particularly kind to Klein, either, when he was arrested for his second DUI on June 16, blowing almost two-and-a-half times the legal limit on a breathalyzer, and running the risk of jail time in light of his previous conviction. Additionally, Animal rights group attacked Klein as well for driving drunk with his pet dog in the car. Within days of the incident, Klein checking into a Utah rehab. Klein's image had already suffered a metaphoric black eye earlier in the year, when a video of him auditioning for the musical Meryl Streep movie "Mamma Mia!" (2008) went viral online. The audition, which saw a strange-acting, wide-eyed Klein exclaiming manically about the talents of Mandy Moore before struggling to sing the ABBA song "Lay All Your Love on Me," prompted Internet viewers to speculate endlessly about Klein's state of mind. The embattled actor proved he had a sense of humor about the leaked tape, however, and before his legal troubles, had recorded a parody for the popular "Funny or Die" website where, in a series of auditions for everything from "Twilight" (2008) to "Dreamgirls" (2006), he name-dropped Molly Ringwald, sang out-of-tune, and delivered intense-eyed monologues with his tongue firmly in cheek.