Goran Visnjic: Actor

updated 05/08/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/08/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

BAGK HOME IN CROATIA, GORAN VISNJIC HAD TO WORRY CONSIDERABLY more about life and limb than he does on ER, where he has succeeded George Clooney as the resident head-turner. Visnjic, 27, who grew up in the seaside town of Sibenik, served as a paratrooper in his country's compulsory military for 15 months—seeing active combat in the Balkans war for three. After he was released in 1992, he enrolled at the national drama academy in Zagreb. "All I ever wanted to do was act," says Visnjic, who caught director Griffin Dunne's attention in 1997's Welcome to Sarajevo and went on to appear in 1998's Practical Magic. Since then all the tall (6'4")-dark-and-handsome talk he has been generating is "flattering, of course," says Visnjic, who still performs Hamlet every summer in his homeland, where his ER episodes began airing last month. "But honestly I don't notice." He's alone on that score. "His eyes are very cool," says Heather Graham, his costar in the new romantic comedy Committed. The film's director, Lisa Krueger, was also taken by his "penetrating gaze," she says, adding, "He has the most amazing voice and a bold and direct sexuality. It's rare to have that much presence." Especially since he does nothing to nurture it. On the ER set, Visnjic says, "I just sit in the makeup chair at 6 in the morning." At home, he says, his Croatian artist wife of one year, Ivana, "is always buying things for me, though I use hair gel and that's it." Visnjic takes the same nonintensive care with exercise, favoring swimming and tennis over the gym ("yech, boring"), but gets the most revved up from four-wheeling in the hills near his L.A. home. "People don't think it's a workout, but it is," Visnjic explains. "You're really tired after." The same holds true at the end of a typical 12-hour day on ER's notoriously grueling set, but there has been a perk. "I have to wear a shirt and tie," he says. "I like it a little bit more than before."

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