Seventeen Ė July, 2000

Winners Take All

Mena Suvari and Jason Biggs, costars of the upcoming summer film Loser, have both gotten lucky in love.

Written by Dina Sansing

Mena Suvari is happy to gush about the love of her life with her friend and two-time costar Jason Biggs.† Headed for a day of shopping at Fred Segal in Los Angeles, young Hollywoodís favorite department store, the petite 21-year-old actress (sheís 5í4") towers over the road in her tan SUV, while Jason navigates as they cruise down Melrose Avenue on this warm spring day.† But before sheíll share the details of her whirlwind romance (she recently exchanged vows with cinematographer Robert Brinkmann), Mena grills her passenger: "I want the 411 on Jason Biggs, the big Hollywood heartthrob!"

Jason Biggs: I donít think Iíve told you this: I got myself a girlfriend.

Mena Suvari: Really!† How long has it been?

JB: Four months.

MS: Where did you meet her?

JB: At a party in Westwood [CA].† We just started talking and totally hit it off.† We clicked immediately and have been inseparable ever since. †Sheís a year older than me.

MS: Aha!

JB: Yep, an older woman.

MS: What does she do?

JB: Sheís a writer Ė not a screenwriter, she writes short stories.

MS: Did she go to college?

JB: Yes, and now sheís thinking about going back to get her M.F.A. in creative writing. † Sheís brilliant.

MS: What nationality is she?

JB: German-Jewish.

MS: German! [Menaís new husband is also German.]

This breezy rapport is typical for the two stars, who met while filming last yearís gross-out comedy hit American Pie and became friends while teaming up for Loser, an underdog love story directed by Amy Heckerling (Clueless, Fast Times at Ridgemont High). † Pieís success put them both on the map, but that was just the beginning.† Menaís turn as a young seductress in the Oscar-winning American Beauty secured her a spot on many red carpets, while Jason, who made his Broadway debut at age 13 in Conversations With My Father, has been steadily working toward leading-man status.† He recently portrayed a wanna-be player in Boys and Girls, which also stars Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Claire Forlani, and heíll costar with Christina Ricci in Prozac Nation, which started shooting in May. † While both their careers may be soaring, Jasonís social life hadnít been keeping up with the pace Ė until now. † "I havenít had a serious girlfriend since I moved to Los Angeles three years ago," admits the 22-year-old from Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.† "In a way I consider this my first real relationship."† Heíd prefer to keep the juicy details private.

JB: Do you have any great advice for me?† The last relationship I had was in high school, and I was a completely different person.

MS: Well, weíre in totally different situations, but [either way] you have to realize that there will be times when itís really difficult, and you have to grow together.

JB: And thatís part of the processÖ But at the same time, you donít want to jump the gun because you want to enjoy what you have now.

MS: Exactly. † Robert and I have already noticed how much [weíve changed] since we met.† It just takes time and experience.

Mena admits she doesnít even remember first laying eyes on her husband, whom she met while filming Sugar and Spice, a comedy starring James Marsden and Marley Shelton (due out this fall). † "Robert tells me about the first time he saw me, and I didnít even notice him!"† Mena says.† After a movie date followed by a romantic walk around a lake in Minnesota, where they were shooting, Mena was hooked.

The actressesís parents were understandably shocked after learning that their only daughter had secretly married a man sheíd known just seven months.† "Of course, they freaked," she admits.† "But they love him and have accepted everything.† Thatís just the way I decided to do it."

Mena, who is named after her Egyptian godmother, began her career modeling for several small catalogs in Charleston, South Carolina, before landing a part in a Rice-A-Roni commercial at age 14. † Just before starting high school, her family moved to Los Angeles, where her father, a psychiatrist, had accepted a job.

Adjusting to the new town wasnít easy. † I came from this all-girls Catholic school to a coed high school.† My skirts were down to my knees and my shirts buttoned all the way up. † I never went on any dates; no one ever asked me out," she says.† "I was the dork from South Carolina."

Instead of spending weekends at parties or clubs, Mena jump-started her career, making guest appearances on Boy Meets World and Chicago Hope.† Movie roles followed: Kiss the Girls, with Ashley Judd (1997); and Carrie II: The Rage (1999).† Then came the part of Heather, the choirgirl and object of Chris Kleinís affections in American Pie, followed by the role of Angela in American Beauty. † During that time, Mena also managed to squeeze in three serious boyfriends.† Looking back, the actress says her past relationships taught her a lot about what she wanted Ė or didnít want Ė in the future. † "I was always in situations [where my boyfriend] would dominate me," Mena says over coffee at the Fred Segal cafť.† "When I met Robert, he did a lot of things that I appreciated, like opening the door for me or saying hi to my mom and appreciating her.† He probably didnít even realize that they were things that were never prominent [with my other boyfriends]."

Mena wonít brook any criticism about her decision to marry.† "People can judge me for being so young, but they have no idea what Iíve been through. † Iíve been in a couple of bad relationships.† Thatís why I know Iím not missing anything."

Jason and Mena agree that, despite how glamorous their lives may seem, finding your perfect mate in Tinseltown is no easy feat. † "A lot of women put on an act [in order to] date a Ďname,í" Mena points out.† Jason agrees, and is happy to have found an exception. † "She was like a diamond in the rough. † Itís so great, itís almost scary."

On the subject of Menaís nuptials, Jason also has an opinion: "Iíve seen them together, and I know that they are absolutely in love. †What they have I want to have for myself."

On the set: † Loser

Written by Kristen Kemp

The atmosphere on the Toronto, Canada, soundstage during the final day of filming Loser feels sort of like a slumber party. † Mena Suvari skips around the set wearing pink pjís and fuzzy slippers.† Jason Biggs isnít fazed by the deep freeze outside.† Heís thrilled about the snow flurries Ė itís great weather for one of his favorite sports, snowboarding.† In fact, the wrap party is about to start, marking the end of three months of 14-hour workdays.† Despite the grueling schedule, Biggs says he will miss everyone.†

Out of character, the stars are as chummy as they appear on-screen.† Suvari is constantly teasing Biggs.† "Itís been great getting to know him Ė heís hilarious, creative and smart.† Iíve made the best friends here," Suvari says, taking a sip of Perrier in her makeup chair.† "Iíve become close to Jason, my hairdresser, the costume designer and especially Amy [Heckerling, the director]."

Heckerling, 46, is considered cool by her cast: She wears all black and is up on pop culture, partly because she has a 14-year-old daughter.† She also has a knack for turning her actors into stars.† She first spotted Suvari in 1994, on an episode of Chicago Hope, and was eager to have her read for the role of Dora.† "Mena gave a wonderful audition," Heckerling says. † "She was adorable, and the chemistry was there."† The two have since become friends; they adopted the sibling kittens used in the movie Ė part of Loser takes place in a vetís office Ė and plan to have regular kitty catch-ups when theyíre back in L.A., where they both live.† Heckerling also raves about Biggs.† "Heís going to be a big star," she says. † "Heís engaging and pulls every emotion out of himself."

Biggs is already in demand.† He spent his downtime during Loser shooting Boys and Girls, jetting between the Loser set in Toronto and the Boys set in L.A. † "I havenít been getting much sleep," Biggs admits.† But he says that his Dave Matthews CDs helped pass the time on the seemingly endless flights. † (Biggs, together with Suvari, Heckerling and a few other castmates, even squeezed in a Limp Bizkit concert in Toronto. † "We had an amazing time," Heckerling says.)

In Loser, Jason plays Paul Tennek, an out-of-place Midwesterner at New York University, who falls for Dora Diamond (Suvari), a beautiful student with a big crush on her English professor (Greg Kinnear).† About his character, Biggs says, "Heís got it rough.† I can relate; Iíve had moments in my life where Iíve felt like the world was against me. † But Iím really nothing like him."

He has, however, shared one experience with his on-screen counterpart.† "I had a tough time at NYU, too," he says.† "I was a freshman there, and I was so lost."† After one semester in 1996, Biggs dropped out to pursue his acting career (encouraged by a Daytime Emmy nomination for his role as Pete Wendell on As the World Turns, which he received while still in high school).

Despite his rising-star status, Biggs is considered very down-to-earth and was often spotted playing Ping-Pong with the crew or eating lunch with the stagehands.

Suvari spent some of her downtime on the set making beaded jewelry for her Loser friends.† "You know those bracelets with Austrian crystals that everyoneís been wearing?"† she asks. † "In stores, they cost sixty bucks! † So I bought a bunch of different-colored beads and leather strips and strung them myself."

Now, the wrap party is in full swing, and Biggs is turning slices of pizza into boomerangs, aiming them at the few people who are shooting the movieís final scene.† Suvari laughs but steers clear of Biggsí flying pepperoni.† "Hurry," he shouts.† "It will all be gone soon."

Q & A with Jason on that famous scene in American Pie, the changes in his life and loving what he does for a living.

On going back to his hometown when American Pie was #1, nonacting jobs (a "Sandwich Artist" at Subway) and being hot for older women.

Jersey boy makes good, his Broadway debut at 13 with Judd Hirsch in Conversations with My Father and being a stand-up guy.

Short, snappy answers to items like his first job, first crush, dating style and aspirations.