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Who is Daniel Stern?

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Daniel Stern certainly doesn’t come across like one of the stars of last year’s top-grossing film, or like an actor whose latest movie, City Slickers, may be one of this summer’s big hits. He seems more like that nebbishy guy who got an A in high school calculus but whose name people tended to forget. While his role in the $271 million smash Home Alone has made him bigger than Big Bird with the kids in his Moss Beach, Calif., neighborhood, Stern insists he’s still ”a guy who just wants to act.” He doesn’t even take credit as the nasal- voiced narrator on The Wonder Years. ”Why confuse everyone and make them think there are two Kevins?” he says.

While Billy Crystal gets most of the jokes in City Slickers, Stern walks away with the pivotal scene, a tense confrontation with two drunk, sadistic cowboys that has audiences cheering.

Now 33, the Bethesda, Md.-born actor made a strong early impression in 1979’s Breaking Away and in 1982’s Diner, but his career seemed to sputter after that. Despite roles in Hannah and Her Sisters and Blue Thunder, he made more duds than hits. Remember C.H.U.D.? ”I just wanted to work,” he says. ”I had to look hard since I knew I’d never be the next Schwarzenegger.” His formula for picking parts is simple. He takes them, he says, ”if the personal-humiliation factor is not too large.” Next on his agenda: He plans to direct a comedy called Ace Ventura and to reprise his Home Alone role for the sequel that begins shooting in Chicago this fall.

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