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For week ended February 27, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Summarized by Kent Larsen

Actor Matthew Modine Has Mormon Heritage
(The nice man cometh)
People Weekly pg63 21Feb00 P2
By Lisa Russell and Sue Miller

NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- People Weekly reveals that actor Matthew Modine grew up in a large tight-knit Mormon family in Loma Linda, California, and talks about Modine's early life as the son of a drive-in movie theater operator. Modine's career as an actor took off with his 1984 role as a Vietnam vet in "Birdy." He recently played the lead on the made for TV movie "Flowers for Algernon."

Modine, the youngest of five boys and two girls, says his family moved about every two years, but that the "pilgrim mentality, the family aspects and sense of community the Mormon church has. were a big part of our family." The family lived in San Diego, Salt Lake City, Orem and Imperial Beach, California, where Modine graduated from High School. Struck with the acting bug after seeing a documentary about the making of the 1968 film "Oliver!" Modine left for New York City immediately after graduation.

But after several months in New York, he became discouraged and enrolled in BYU. But that didn't work out either, and Modine dropped out after a few weeks. He held a series of jobs, and finally decided to try New York again in 1979. He was working as a chef at Au Naturel, a macrobiotic restaurant in Manhattan, and managed to get acting classes from renowned acting coach Stella Adler.

One day, a counter clerk at Au Naturel came back to the kitchen to tell Modine to check out a beautiful woman that had come in to the restaurant. "She was stunning," Modine says. The woman, Cari Rivera, who worked for a TV production company, became Modine's wife a year later at a Halloween-night costume ceremony at New York City's Plaza Hotel. "Everybody came in all these crazy costumes," recalls Cari (who played it straight). "My mother was like, 'Oh, the wedding photos!"' They now have a 14-year-old son, Boman, and a 9-year-old daughter, Ruby.

Modine says that Cari was the first person to believe in him, and not long afterwards, he started landing major roles. He got rave reviews for his role in Birdy and for his acting in Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket," (1987). He has since played on the stage and in TV movies. Along the way he turned down the "Maverick" role played by Tom Cruise in Top Gun because he didn't like the cold-warrior politics in the film. (He visited East Berlin in 1984, and says he dicovered that Russian soldiers are just people. He says "I never set out to be rich and famous. I wanted to follow my own path.")

Modine and his family now live in a four-story townhouse in Greenwich Village, closed to Madison Square Garden where Modine can see the Knicks play. "Everything is so convenient in New York," says Modine. "And it's multicultural. We don't have idiots like John Rocker." They also own a 100-acre farm in Millbrook, New York, close to neighbors Natasha Richardson and Liam Neeson.

Other actors are complimentary of Modine's acting, costar Kelli Williams in "Flowers for Algernon" says, "He's so good, you never actually see him acting, He can disappear into different roles, and you never know what to expect. He's a rarity." Actor Eric Stoltz, a pal since meeting Modine on the set of 1990's Memphis Belle, says his acting comes from his personality, "Matthew's a virtuous man-kind, honest, steadfast and true. He's Gary Cooper-esque." Liam Neeson agrees, "There's something old-worldly about Matthew. He's gracious and warm, and it's very comforting." Modine says that this is only the begining of his career, "I've created a foundation. Now watch the house I'm going to build on it."


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