Many an actor has been moved to pursue a career in showbiz after seeing a particularly meaningful movie. But The O.C.'s witty and winsome Adam Brody is probably the only one who'd admit that, for him, that film was I Know What You Did Last Summer. "It was a huge influence on me," the former video-store salesclerk confesses to TV Guide Online. "I always walked by [the VHS box] on the shelf and thought [of leads Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe], 'Those kids have it made.'

"At the time, I thought the movie was very cool," he continues, "but it was more their lives that I wanted. And, like everyone, I was in love with Jennifer Love Hewitt."

Ah, but the future Gilmore Girls sweetheart had a lot to learn before he'd be prepared to merge into the fast lane. "I thought acting was all about looks," he says. "That's what [the power brokers] tell you — you either have the look or you don't. So I'd walk by the mirror and if I was having a good hair day, I'd be like, 'I'm gonna make it. It's undeniable.' And if I was looking particularly haggard, I'd go, 'It's never gonna happen. I'm blowing it.'

"It's [dumb]," he adds. "But that's what they teach you."

Although the boyish 23-year-old seems to have been born to become the thinking teenager's pin-up, his confidence wasn't what it might have been, no doubt because his parents weren't exactly jumping for joy over his out-of-nowhere desire to go Hollywood. "It wasn't something that I'd been expressing for a long time," he recalls, "so they were kind of like, 'What the f---?!'" Brody's lawyer dad was particularly perturbed. "He said, 'All right, have fun being a waiter.'"

Now that The O.C. has made the up-and-comer a hot commodity, he's looking forward to even bigger, better things — among them, high-profile features that might put him in closer proximity to his onetime muse, Hewitt. "It seems to me as though the film community is looking at the [cast] with open arms," he says optimistically. "Now, I could eat my words — no one's actually done anything yet — but it seems like there's a lot of opportunity." Coming soon: We Know What He'll Be Doing Next Summer? — Additional reporting by Shawna Malcom