Before he was drinking blood on The CW’s hit series, The Vampire Diaries, Ian Somerhalder was just a budding star in The Rules of Attraction, a film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel about sex, drugs, and college students.
While the 2002 film was largely popular due to James Van Der Beek’s unexpected dark turn following years on Dawson’s Creek, it was Somerhalder who stole the spotlight with his role as the underwear-clad Paul Denton.
The then 24-year-old actor spoke exclusively with ET about the role that saw him dancing in his underwear in a hotel room to George Michael’s “Faith,” making out with co-star Van Der Beek, and being on the edge of stardom.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it wasn’t easy,” Somerhalder said of playing the bisexual character that fantasized about kissing Van Der Beek’s character, Sean Bateman. “Because it's mental, you play mental games with yourself.”
And when asked about the kiss the two stars shared on screen, Somerhalder said it was about doing something different, something unexpected. “We knew it was something that was neat and would mess with people, which is fun,” he added.
The film’s darker content, which shocked many fans of Jessica Biel and Van Der Beek, was something that Somerhalder identified with. “Everyone's confused at some point in their life,” he explained. “There's a lot of misunderstanding in people's life driven by hormones and the influence of alcohol and drugs. You know what I mean? That's conducive of life. So, on that level you can relate.”
Somerhalder would follow the star-making part with an even buzzier role as Boone Carlyle on ABC’s hit series, Lost – the J.J. Abrams-produced show celebrated the 10 year anniversary of its premiere in September – and Damon Salvatore on The Vampire Diaries. But back then, stardom wasn’t on the actor’s mind. “It's just going to be get more work and better films and more fun,” Somerhalder said of the attention he might get from The Rules of Attraction, “and that's really all I think about.”
While Somerhalder still exudes plenty of sex appeal – especially now as he celebrates his 36th birthday – nothing will quite top that hotel room scene with him dancing on his bed. “We tore the hotel room to pieces,” he said. “It was not choreographed, it was fast, it was a one shot set up and that was it, boom, done.”