Ron Livingston can do the movie-star thing. The 42-year-old—who played the dump-her-via-Post-it loser Jack Berger on Sex and the City and became a cult hero with Office Space—tilts his head 45 degrees, cocks his left eyebrow, and in a heartbeat, transforms into a matinee idol. But when he's not shooting that look, Livingston is back to being our favorite scruffy, soft-edged everyman.
Raised in Iowa, Livingston was schooled in regular-guyhood. With Midwestern self-deprecation, he talks about how he fancies himself a handyman around his L.A. home. "It's usually a two-step process," he says. "Step one: I spend three days working on whatever it is. Step two: I pick up the phone and call a pro who'll devote two days to fixing the original problem, plus the stuff I broke."
Livingston ditches the homespun charm for this month's The Time Traveler's Wife, based on Audrey Niffenegger's best-selling novel. Playing the lovestruck, if morally challenged, Gomez, he moves in on the wife of a friend. "I don't think Gomez is a bad guy," explains Livingston. "We don't plan to be good or bad. We just think, What do I want now? I want coffee now. I want the paper now. I want my friend's wife now."
Of course, when the casting was announced, the book's rabid fans—take a Twilight freak and add 10 years—started to nitpick immediately. The biggest complaint? That Gomez is supposed to be fair-haired. "I can't pull off blond, but I got some blond tips," Livingston notes. "Which is as close as I'll ever come to being in a '90s boy band."
Not that he wants for fame. "At a Sundance party, a bouncer let me in, but stopped Dustin Hoffman. I thought, How does he recognize me and not him? Dustin must have been thinking the same, because he said, 'Who the hell is he?'"