Stephen Dorff throws a few punches in Deuces Wild — opening Friday — a gritty rumblefest about teen gang violence in the late 1950s. But the sexy Blade star reserves the rough stuff for the big screen. In real life, he's much more of a peacemaker. "I'm a lover, not a fighter," Dorff says with a dry laugh.

Recalling the one time he's resorted to fisticuffs — after kissing another boy's girlfriend when he was 16 — Dorff says he prefers to discuss a disagreement. "I'm usually good at talking my way out of things," he shares. "Fighting to me seems kind of macho, and that's not really who I am."

Though Dorff prefers verbal sparring, he understands why his character, Leon — a gang leader who's out to drive drug dealers off his block — gets physical. "If somebody wanted to hurt my family," he muses, "I would have to fight. And that's what I like about Leon... the morals in him. He's a guy who's obviously trying to resist his demons and get out, but then he's being sucked back in."

His scruffy bad-boy looks may suggest a Hollywood rebel, but Dorff — who's been acting since age 13 — has wisely avoided child-star syndrome. Now, he hopes to keep troubled teen co-star Brad Renfro on the straight path. "He's been involved in some things that I wish he hadn't been involved in," Dorff says, "but I think he has the potential of having a very big career. I just tried to be the father figure and put my arm around him, and we had a good time working together."