In the late 1990s, Chris Klein emerged as one of the hottest young actors in Hollywood after starring as Oz in the hit comedy American Pie.
With his boyish good looks, endearing awkwardness, and comedic timing, Klein captured the hearts of moviegoers as the sweet lacrosse player hopelessly in love with Heather, played by Mena Suvari.
The 1999 teen sex comedy was a massive box office hit and catapulted its young cast to stardom. However, while many of his American Pie co-stars went on to long careers, Chris Klein’s trajectory wasn’t quite as straightforward.
After a few more successful comedic roles in the early 2000s, Klein hit some bumps in the road both personally and professionally.
Though he continued to work steadily, he never quite matched the level of fame he experienced with American Pie. Though he will undoubtedly always be remembered as the lovable Oz, Chris Klein has quietly developed into a talented and versatile performer since his breakout role in the late 1990s.
Born Frederick Christopher Klein on March 14, 1979, in Hinsdale, Illinois, Chris Klein’s passion for acting was evident from a young age.
He was raised in Brookfield, Illinois, and is of German, Irish, and English descent. His first taste of the stage came when he sang “This Little Light of Mine” in a community theater in Chicago.
Later, his family moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where he attended Millard West High School. Here, he showcased his acting prowess in the school’s rendition of “West Side Story” and was also an active athlete.
Klein’s big break came during his senior year when director Alexander Payne offered him a role in the film “Election” after scouting Omaha for potential filming locations. This opportunity paved the way for Klein’s entry into the world of professional acting.
The American Pie Era
After his debut in “Election,” Klein’s career took a significant turn when he was cast as Chris “Oz” Ostreicher in the “American Pie” comedy teen films.
The first movie, released in 1999, was a box office hit, solidifying Klein’s position in Hollywood. In 2001, he reprised his role in “American Pie 2.”
After American Pie 2, Klein’s career began to branch out into more adult roles. In 2002, he played a leading role in the action remake Rollerball with LL Cool J and Rebecca Romijn.
The following year he appeared in the war drama We Were Soldiers alongside Mel Gibson.
Klein continued to work steadily in a mix of comedies and dramas throughout the 2000s, including the indie film The United States of Leland (2003), the romantic comedy Just Friends (2005) with Ryan Reynolds, the political satire American Dreamz (2006) and the notoriously awful, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009).
In between films, he also began taking on guest starring TV roles, appearing on shows like American Dad!, The Good Guys, and Franklin & Bash.
Klein had a minor role in the 2012 ensemble comedy American Reunion, reprising his American Pie character Oz one last time.
Personal Struggles and Sobriety
Klein opens up about his battle with alcoholism and addiction, emphasizing the seriousness of these issues. He mentions that it took years of trial and error before he decided to seek help.
When asked if addiction is a common issue among actors, Klein clarifies that everyone has their unique challenges, and not all actors face addiction.
He expresses gratitude for the opportunity to overcome his struggles and emphasizes the importance of making the choice to live a healthier life.
Reflecting on his journey, Klein believes that seeking help and rehab potentially saved his life, as continuing down the path of addiction could have had fatal consequences.
What is Chris Klein Doing Now?
Now in his early 40s, Klein has reinvented himself as a character actor. He’s taken roles in independent films and several TV series, showing off his range and transitioning to more mature roles.
More recently, Klein has worked mostly on television, with recurring roles on series like "The Flash," where he played the role of the serial killer Cicada and as Bill Townsend in the Netflix series “Sweet Magnolias.”
Beyond his professional life, Klein has also experienced significant personal milestones. He married Laina Rose Thyfault in 2015, and the couple has two children.
Klein reminisces about the early days of his career, particularly his roles in “Election” and “American Pie.” He acknowledges the importance of being prepared for opportunities, emphasizing that luck often arises when preparation meets opportunity. He believes that life is about seizing these moments and ensuring one is ready when they come along.
As he enters the next phase of his career, Klein proves that for some stars, longevity in Hollywood is a marathon, not a sprint.