His name is Scott Wolf, but he goes by many other identities. Being a dimpled yet talented hunk, he’s known as The Next Tom Cruise. With a new movie, White Squall, and an esteemed drama series, Fox’s Party of Five, he’s known as The Next George Clooney. Some simply call him The Next Big Thing. And though his fame is recently minted, he already knows what Madonna knows about keeping one’s home address off the map. ”We’re in Laurel Canyon, and we’re tucked away,” he says, sitting in the far hind reaches of a black stretch limousine headed up a hill toward his house. ”I could tell you the name of the street, but then I’d have to kill you.”
But once he’s home, Wolf seems less shrouded in mystery. In fact, he seems like any other single guy who has just discovered the untold joys of disposable income. The house, which he shares with his younger brother, Gary, 26, a musician, is mostly unfurnished, with the exceptions of a big-screen, no, a great-big-screen Sony TV in the living room and a small basketball hoop mounted on the wall.
Wolf’s house tour starts with a small den decorated with a weight bench and a large desk. ”This is the office — slash — workout room,” he says, standing next to a bar that’s empty except for a few personal photos. He picks up a framed photo of the Party of Five cast. ”It’s such a cliché,” says Wolf. ”We love each other, and we work so well together. There’s ribbing here and there, but it’s all in good fun.” He points to fellow Party hunk Matthew Fox, who plays his older brother, and laughs. ”Matt calls me Movie Boy now,” he says.
In the living room, he picks up a miniature basketball and bounces it a time or two. ”I haven’t bought the house,” says Wolf, who is very nice, very polite, and a little jumpy, since this is the first time he has invited a reporter into his living quarters. ”I’m renting. I could’ve bought it. I guess I didn’t buy it for the same reason that my books are still in the boxes.” He nods his head and looks away, then tosses the ball squarely through the hoop.
House buying, of course, requires a steady paycheck, which is a new thing to Wolf. Until now, the 27-year-old actor, whose dimples allow him to play characters a full decade younger than he is, was the kind of star on whom teen magazines spilled abundant ink, while grown-ups never actually saw him in anything. But lately, his work has begun to catch up to his pinup appeal. In recent weeks, he has been jetting from L.A. to the Houston set of The Evening Star, Paramount’s sequel to 1983’s Terms of Endearment. And last month, Party of Five, about five orphaned siblings fending for themselves, won a Golden Globe as best dramatic series, beating competitors that included ER and NYPD Blue.
Wolf, who plays endlessly suffering 17-year-old Bailey Salinger, has been singled out as Party of Five’s favorite by viewers who have watched him struggle, in less than two seasons, with the deaths of his parents, a confrontation with the drunk driver who killed them, the fatal drug overdose of his girlfriend, his resentment toward his older brother, bad grades, leaving the football team, and any other miseries the show’s writers can contrive for him.
”We cast Scott first, and we cast him on the first day,” says Party’s cocreator Amy Lippman. ”He’s such a warm person that he seemed completely right for that character.”
It was Wolf’s bankable, adorable, wise-for-his-years quality that caught the eye of director Ridley Scott (Alien) when he set out to cast White Squall, based on the story of a 1961 ocean voyage in which six people lost their lives (Wolf plays a teenage survivor who narrates the movie). ”It helped that [Wolf] was in his 20s,” says the director. ”He was already carrying a kind of maturity. And he keeps himself fit. He hasn’t drunk too much. He looks 18.”
Indeed, Wolf’s clear eyes and flawless skin are not those of a young man spending too many late nights at the Viper Room. ”I have not, nor do I ever intend to check into Betty Ford,” says Wolf. ”I’m no saint. I’ll go out and have a drink with friends — but I don’t have a problem with it. I’ve gotten a lot of it out of my system, and I really don’t have much of a need for that now.”