From his first onscreen appearance opposite Winona Ryder in the 1996 coming-of-age tale Boys, Skeet Ulrich has invited comparisons with actors ranging from Johnny Depp to James Dean. With his cool stare and glacier-cut cheekbones, Ulrich has repeatedly been hailed as one of Young Hollywood's hottest, brightest stars, an accolade he has attempted to live up to with steady, if uneven, work.
Born Brian Ray Ulrich on January 20, 1970, the actor was raised in North Carolina by his divorced father. Ulrich acquired his unusual nickname from a Little League coach who dubbed him "Skeeter" because he was small, like a mosquito. Following high school, Ulrich enrolled at New York University where he was "discovered" by playwright David Mamet, who invited him to join his celebrated Atlantic Theater Company as an apprentice. Ulrich performed in a number of productions, and during one of them, he was spotted by director Stacy Cochran, who cast him in an ABC Afterschool Special. Cochran then gave Ulrich his first screen role in Boys, in which he was cast as Winona Ryder's brutish boyfriend. 1996 proved to be a prolific year for the newly discovered actor, who followed his debut with performances in The Craft (which also featured his future Scream co-star, Neve Campbell), the Sharon Stone prison drama Last Dance, Albino Alligator, and, most notably, Scream, in which Ulrich played Campbell's unhinged boyfriend.
1997 emerged as a quieter year for Ulrich, who appeared only in a small part (that, it should be noted, was much larger before the tyranny of the cutting-room floor) in James L. Brooks' critically acclaimed As Good As It Gets, and in the leading role in the largely unseen Touch. 1998 saw Ulrich take part in two more films: the obscure Vietnam drama A Soldier's Sweetheart (in which Ulrich starred with his future wife, Georgina Cates) and Richard Linklater's much-anticipated The Newton Boys, a film expected to mine box-office gold in part because of its ridiculously photogenic cast, which, in addition to Ulrich, included Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D'Onofrio. Despite such a powerful combination of tanned skin, flawless dentistry, and charmingly exuded testosterone, the film failed to find favor among critics or audiences. Ulrich's next feature, 1999's Chill Factor, met a similar fate, causing some to ponder what would come next for an actor who just three years earlier had been toasted as one of the most tantalizing samples that Hollywood had to offer. Ulrich fared somewhat better with Ride With the Devil: a Civil War drama directed by Ang Lee and co-starring Tobey Maguire, Jonathan Rhys Myers, Jeffrey Wright, and Jewel, it received a moderately favorable critical response.