US MARCH 2000
These Days, Jerry O'Connell has little trouble landing hunky parts - like a star quarterback in Jerry Maguire and a hero astronaut in this month's sci-fi flick Mission to Mars - but it wasn't always that way. O'Connell, 26, played the chunky kid in 1986's Stand By Me - a plum role, but one that did not put him on the fast track in size-conscious Hollywood. "After the filming, my parents were looking for after-school activities for my brother and me," says O'Connell. "Both of us were into Errol Flynn, so we started fencing, which had a lot to do with me dropping those pounds."
knew about a 1940's star such as Flynn isn't so strange considering that
he and his brother, Charlie, 25 and also an actor,
We lured O'Connell back indoors by inviting him to a training session at L.A.'s West side Fencing Center with coach Daniel Costin. Besides providing a great lower-body workout ("My legs are humming," says O'Connell the day after the hour-long match. "I can't even walk"), fencing offers a benefit that a treadmill doesn't. "There's an adrenaline rush when you grab a sword," says O'Connell. "It's exercise with a competitive edge."
That came in handy when he recently sold his first script, a romantic comedy called First Daughter that begins shooting this summer. In it O'Connell plays a rookie Secret Service agent who's assigned to protect the president's daughter. So does O'Connell's new status as a writer mean that the pen is mightier than the sword? Not quite. Says O'Connell, "I gotta get one of those swashbuckling gigs."