Movie star good looks and a more than the usual share of talent have helped make Ryan Phillippe one of Hollywood\'s hottest talents, but the journey to success has not been without heartache.
The only son among four siblings, he was born in New Castle, Delaware, to chemical technician dad Richard and mum Susan, who ran a day care centre in the family home. As a student at the local Baptist academy Ryan showed a keen interest in basketball, soccer and tae kwondo, but at the age of 15 his enthusiasm found a new outlet - acting. After being spotted in a Delaware barbershop by a casting agent, he found himself a representative and spent the next two years attending auditions in New York, where he landed the odd modelling job. His persistence paid off when, aged 17, he landed the role of Billy Douglas in daytime soap One Life To Live. The stint lasted from 1992-1993 with Ryan quickly gaining attention for playing the first gay teenager in a TV drama. After moving to LA, he racked up credits on both the small and big screen, including 1996 film White Squall. But it was the huge success of 1997 horror flick I Know What You Did Last Summer, where he was cast alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr that brought him wider recognition in the industry.
It also made him a teen pin-up and brought a huge female following. The hit thriller led to other high profile outings in 1998 flick 54 - which further confirmed his sex symbol status - and the following year"s Cruel Intentions, in which he shared the screen with his girlfriend at the time and wife-to-be Reese Witherspoon.
He had met Reese for the first time in 1997 when he attended her 21st birthday party. At the bash the beautiful southern belle famously told him, "I think you\'re my birthday present". And the two spent five weeks exchanging letters and phone calls before going on their first date and moving in together soon after. They became engaged in December 1998 and married the following June, when Reese was six-months pregnant with their first child, daughter Ava - who arrived in September 1999.
Ryan, who was 24 when the pair wed, was back at work in 2000. This time around his films, including The Way Of The Gun and Company Man, weren\'t so well received. In February 2001 he announced he\'d be taking a break to look after Ava. "since Reese took so much time having the baby", he explained. While his wife became Hollywood\'s leading lady with Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama, he largely disappeared from the limelight - although he did fit in some acclaimed cameos in Robert Altman\'s Gosford Park and 2002\'s Igby Goes Down.
As his wife moved into the ranks of Tinseltown\'s top earners, picking up an Oscar along the way, many believed Ryan was finding it difficult to cope with her success despite his insistence that: "She is great at what she does and I\'m proud of her." While a second son, Deacon, was born in October 2003 the couple were open about seeking help with their marriage, working on the relationship with the help of a therapist. "There are obstacles in every family It"s never going to be perfect," insisted Ryan at the time.
By October 2006 they were announcing they intended to separate, however, with Reese filing for divorce. The breakdown of their seven-year marriage made headlines with claims in the media that Ryan\'s friendship with Australian actress Abbie Cornish was to blame. "I\'m not a perfect person, but I\'m not guilty of a lot of things I have been accused of," the actor told a US magazine.
While his personal life was thrust into the spotlight, his professional one had never been better. In a February 2007 interview he explained the irony. "I\'m literally in the worst personal period of my life, but the last year and a half, professionally, has been pretty remarkable." He was referring to the joint success of the ensemble cast of best-Oscar picture Crash and an acclaimed performance he turned in as leading man in Clint Eastwood\'s war drama Flags Of Our Fathers.
For Ryan, both of whose grandfathers had fought in WWII, the movie was the "best experience" of his career. His portrayal of John "Doc" Bradley made an impression on the critics, too, with Rolling Stone magazine hailing it as the film\'s "emotional centre" and describing it as "hauntingly implosive".