The versatile actor talks candidly about family, flicks, and how he doesn't spend Saturday night.
From a small, recurring role on Friends to blockbuster films like Saving Private Ryan, the versatile Giovanni Ribisi seems comfertable with just about any part. But did movie moguls and agents ever try to get him to change his name? "They did bring it up plenty," he said, "but only at the start. I'm proud of my name, proud of my parentage, and to change it would have been a family disgrace."
In fact, he considers his parents, both alive but long separated, "my best friends."
A father himself, Giovanni and his former wife share custody of their daughter Lucia.
"She's a good kid and a really mind blowing individual," he gushed. "Now aren't I sounding like every proud parent?"
Giovanni admitted to being something of a computer geek. "I have a technical bent," he told me. "I love graphics and animation. but I'm an actor. It's important for me to know what technology is but not obsess over it." A Los Angeles native, he also spends time in the ocean. "I have not precisely a beach mentality but certainly a beach affinity. I used to have this overwhelming fear of sharks, so I took up surfing to get over it."
I'm always wary of asking people about religion. But Ribisi, a Scientologist, turned out to be refreshingly open about it.
"When I was a little kid, maybe about 11, I was standing outside church, waiting for a friend inside," he said. "This guy - a grown man - came by and started yelling at me for being a Scientologist. It was at the level of bigotry. People are getting away from that now. They are, if not accepting, then understanding that this is simply a practical philosophy." So he and Travolta and Tom Cruise (also Scientologists) don't all get together on Saturday nights and do chants and "double, double toil and trouble" kind of stuff? "Oh yeah, every Saturday night. You ought to come by. We really have a blast," said Ribisi laughing.
Born Dec. 17, 1974 in Los Angeles.
Married to Mariah O'Brien, 1997-2001; one daughter: Lucia, 9.
Why You Know Him
He earned his stripes in a variety of films, including The Mod Squad (1999), Boiler Room(2000), Lost in Translation (2003), Cold Mountain (2003) and The Dead Girl (2006).
What You Don't Know
He's surrounded by musicians: His father, Albert Ribisi played keyboards in the '60s band People! And Giovanni's twin sister, Marissa, is married to indie pop rocker Beck.
His Movie Roles
Giovanni's latest movie roles illustrate the actor's range: Perfect Stranger, with Bruce Willis, and Halle Berry, is serious, he said: "The subject matter is so dark, I can't say it was a happy set. But director James Foley made it great work, if not a walk on the beach." He described his other spring release, The Dog Problem, as he total antithesis of Perfect Stranger. "It's a much smaller movie in the romantic comedy genre," he told me, "much like a French New Wave movie. I select roles on the basis of wanting to play with people I respect." And unlike some actors, Giovanni's not into bad-mounthing the competition. "Why waste your time trashing people?" he said. "Do your own thing and be happy and imspired by people."