12/15/1997 at 01:00 AM EST
NO MORE MR. NICE GUY
FOR ANDREW SHUE, PLAYING AN ABUSIVE husband in John Grisham's The Rainmaker, the new adaptation directed by Francis Ford Coppola, was a far cry from his duties as hunky Melrose Place milquetoast Billy Campbell. "On Melrose, it's more about what's between your hairline and your chin," says Shue, 30. "Nothing against the show, but there was a distinctly different feeling working on the movie." Shue, whose past big-screen work consisted of blink-worthy parts in Adventures in Babysitting and The Karate Kid, jumped at the offer to portray a bat-wielding brute married to the character played by Claire Danes
. "I was a little dumbfounded," he says. "I don't think Francis even knew what Melrose Place was, which might be a good thing."
Rainmaker casting director Linda Phillips-Palo thought Shue's choirboy looks were perfect for the small but pivotal role. "When you have a character who's going to go after a wonderful actress like Claire Danes
," she says, "you've got to be able to look at this person and say, 'Well, why does she stay? What attracts her?' "
To prepare for the role, Shue turned to his sister Elisabeth, 34, who was nominated for an Oscar for 1995's Leaving Las Vegas. "She was interested in every little thing I was working on," he says. Shue, who has a 16-month-old son with wife Jennifer Hageney, is now considering life after Melrose, on which he'll appear at least for the rest of this season. "This is not my coming-out party," he says of the film. "It's just one foot in the door."