NEW YORK — While there’s no shortage of aspiring model/actor/filmmaker types in the city, few have had the breaks Matthew Gray Gubler has.

Not only has he walked the runways for Marc Jacobs, Burberry and Louis Vuitton, the affable 24-year-old makes his feature film debut Friday in Wes Anderson’s “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.” After serving as the director’s intern to fulfill a credit at New York University Film School, Gubler auditioned and was ultimately cast as Nico, the number one intern.

And as if jetting off to Rome for six months wasn’t enough — most of his time was spent on a boat with the likes of Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston, Cate Blanchett and Owen Wilson — Anderson also bestowed Gubler with the privilege of making the behind-the-scenes documentary that will be featured in the movie’s DVD version. 

The only downfall? Anderson’s master plan for geeking up the young and, well, pretty Gubler. “I thought the only reason I got [the part] is because I’ve got pretty cool hair,” says Gubler. “If I’ve got anything, I’ve got cool hair. But the first day I get there I get the worse perm you’ve ever seen. It looked like Ronald McDonald on crack cocaine. I thought it was an evil joke.”

Since he couldn’t quite tame the ping-pong ball of hair, Gubler bought a slew of Italian newsboy caps, adding yet another dimension to his already studied style.

Anderson’s affinity for Gubler likely lies in no small part to this type of fashion sensibility, which runs close to the director’s own. The neo-preppy style serves Gubler well, though. An inveterate thrift store shopper, he sports a uniform of baggy pants, collared shirts, colorful sweaters and threadbare Vans, along with artfully mussed hair, which lends Gubler a schoolboy charm.

Despite his new acting cred, Gubler’s true calling lies in making movies. His short film titled “The Cactus That Looked Just Like a Man,” (which clearly displays his twisted sense of humor) has been generating interest and even helped him land an agent. “It’s about a psychopathic farmer who meets a socially retarded city slicker,” Gubler explains. “People seem to like it, which I’m surprised about. I thought no one was going to like it except me and my mom.”

This story first appeared in the December 9, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Now Gubler is planning his next move — to L.A. He’s doubtful, however, that anything can top what he’s already achieved. “I got to be in my favorite living film director’s movie,” Gubler says with a laugh. “You know it’s only going to go down from here. I can retire now.”


FAVORITE DIRECTORS: Alfred Hitchcock, Tim Burton, Roman Polanski, the Coen brothers and, of course, Wes Anderson.

FAVORITE MOVIES: “Night of the Hunter,” “Rushmore,” “Buffalo 66,” “Psycho” and “Home Alone.”

FILMMAKING DREAM: “To make a horror film with Macaulay Culkin. After I saw “The Good Son,” I thought Mac’s no joke.”

MUSIC: “I’m like a 16-year-old girl. I like Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes.”

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