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Breakouts 1999: Wes Bentley

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Stealing ‘BEAUTY’

Director Sam Mendes was about to make what he calls ”some sort of compromise” in the casting of Ricky Fitts, the self-possessed suburban dope dealer in American Beauty. Then Arkansas native Wes Bentley, whose minister mom and dad had nudged him into acting school, walked in the last day of auditions and upstaged the 30 other actors who’d already read. ”I wanted to come into this business with this kind of character,” says Bentley, 21. ”I’d been avoiding teen comedies, where the guy’s obsessed with getting laid.” Before Beauty, Bentley had a cameo in Beloved and played a lead in the as-yet-unreleased The White River Kid, a serial-killer drama costarring Antonio Banderas. But now that his arresting gravitas has proven a magnet for the under-25 crowd, driving Beauty‘s grosses to the $60 million range — and winning him raves along with heavyweight costars Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening — he’s experiencing intense newest-flavor courtship. Next fall, he’ll star in Soul Survivors, a Sixth Sense-type drama about a college student involved in a deadly accident. After that, Bentley’s on the prowl for ”serious stuff”—and (in case you didn’t get the message) that means ”no action movies with too many special effects.”

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