Billy Campbell: Actor

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

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

THE WAY BILLY CAMPBELL TELLS IT, HIS LAISSEZ-FAIRE STYLE didn't come naturally, When he arrived in Hollywood in 1984, straight from acting school in Chicago, Campbell says he cared very much about his appearance. "Though it sure didn't look like it," he says with a laugh. "I had the worst taste in the world." He favored flashy clothes and slicked-back hair, and, he says, his left earlobe still shows the trace of a piercing from "an impulse, But as soon as it became cool, it was uncool as far as I was concerned." Now 40 and starring with Sela Ward in the hit ABC romance Once and Again, Campbell has called a halt to all preening, "I just care to be comfortable," he says. "I shampoo only once a week or so, with tree tea oil shampoo. And when I slap moisturizer on my face—just some stuff I bought in the grocery store—I pile it through my hair." If the weather is warm, the 6'4" actor lolls around his two-bedroom West L.A. bungalow wearing only a sarong tied at the waist, a style that caught his fancy after a visit to Venice Beach. "Underwear?" he asks. "Are you kidding? That would defeat the purpose of a sarong!" Given the heartthrob status conferred by his portrayal of Rick Sammler, a shy divorced father who finds love with recently separated mom Ward, that revelation could be dangerous. But the never-married Campbell, who has a long-distance girlfriend, shrugs off any heat he has been generating: "If it wasn't me playing this guy, it would be another guy, and women would be screaming over him." Sela Ward, 44, is not so sure. "Billy has a beautiful face, and his eyes are very seductive," she says. The show's executive producer, Ed Zwick, attributes Campbell's appeal to the contrast between his appearance and demeanor. "Billy is large, he's great-looking and very masculine," says Zwick. "Then when he speaks, you realize he's a very sensitive, almost diffident man. That's an attractive combination."

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