Date of Birth: September 10, 1974
Birth name: Matthew Ryan Phillippe
Discovered while getting a haircut in his native Delaware, Ryan Phillippe's interest in acting began at 13 when he saw Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. After moving to New York at 17, he began his professional career on daytime television with a role on ABC's soap One Life to Live. Playing a teenager struggling with his emerging homosexuality, the part was a milestone for daytime television, as a gay character had never been portrayed before. Phillippe stayed with the part for nearly a year before heading to LA to try his luck on the big screen.
Small roles in films such as Crimson Tide led to Phillippe's big break in Ridley Scott's White Squall. Starring various other up-and-coming young actors, including Scott Wolf, Balthazar Getty, and Ethan Embry, the film starred Jeff Bridges as the skipper of a seafaring school for boys that hits bad weather and sinks. Phillippe played Gil Martin, a youth terrified of heights and life due to the untimely death of his brother.
Phillippe cemented his placement among the ranks of the teen elite with his turn as arrogant jock Barry Cox in the Kevin Williamson-penned horror film, I Know What You Did Last Summer. Also starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze, Jr., the film became a sleeper hit that boosted the careers of its young leads. In the midst of that film's box office success, Phillippe busied himself with roles in various independent features sych as Gregg Araki's Nowhere, Little Boy Blue and Homegrown opposite Billy Bob Thornton and Hank Azaria.
Phillippe was finally given the chance to carry a film on his own in the role of Shane O'Shea in the ode to the infamously decadent '70s nightclub Studio 54 in 54. However, the film suffered critical backlash and displayed Phillippe's Adonis-like body more than his acting. Although the film failed to make him a box office star, his next film, Playing By Heart, redeemed him as an actor. In it, Phillippe gave a memorably moving performance as Keenan, a secretive, introverted young man brought out of his shell by a very extroverted, effervescent Angelina Jolie.
He proved he was truly bankable, however, with Cruel Intentions, Roger Kumble's modern updating of the classic French play Dangerous Liaisons. With devious sex appeal, Phillippe won critical acclaim and scores of new fans for his role as the petulant but sexy Sebastian. The film also gave Phillippe the chance to co-star with Reese Witherspoon, whom he married in June 1999, and with whom he has a daughter and a son. Unfortunately, their marriage fell apart in October 2006 when it became clear that he'd had an affair.