By Dan Jewel
August 02, 1999 12:00 PM

For Jason Biggs, stardom has come along easy as pie—apple, to be precise. In the taste-challenged raunch-fest American Pie, which claimed the top spot at the box office on its opening weekend, his confused character, Jim, shares a much-touted afternoon dalliance with the family dessert. By the end of the scene, says Biggs, “I was covered in pie. Pie just got everywhere, down my…I was just like, ‘Oh my God!’ ”

Some actors might have balked at such a scene. Biggs, 21, says he is flattered by the attention. “People ask if it’s going to bother me to be known that way,” he says, “but ultimately it’s a compliment. It means I’m being recognized for work I’m proud of.”

Indeed, Biggs seemed willing to do whatever the filmmakers wanted in his big-screen debut. “When I read the script, it was really explicit—and I’ve never laughed so hard in my entire life,” he says. “I didn’t really have any reservations. I figured at the very least, people will say, ‘Wow, that’s brave of him for doing that.’ ”

In a cast of virtually unknown actors, Biggs stands out—both for his way with sweets and for capturing the natural awkwardness of adolescence. The story—about four high school seniors who make a pact to lose their virginity—is “real and genuine,” claims the actor. In school, he says, “I was average—I wasn’t a Mac Daddy, I wasn’t a total player. I had the angst and the curiosity and all those things that come with it.”

He was able to bring all those qualities to his endearingly dorky character. “There was a lot of improv going on there,” says Eugene Levy, who plays Jim’s father. “Jason is very mature, and I was extremely impressed with his comic timing and his ability to just run with it.”

As for Biggs’s own parents, their initial worries faded when they saw the film. When she first read the script, says his mother, Angela, a nurse, “I wanted to know if he was going to be naked.” (He is not.) But when she saw the end result, “I laughed so hard I cried.” His father, Gary, a shipping-company manager, found it “hilarious,” says Biggs.

Growing up in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., the photogenic, outgoing child began doing TV and print ads at age 5. (Sister Heather, 27, is a tax specialist, and Chiara, 18, a student at Bergen Community College.) A typical gig—modeling animal noses—was a source of embarrassment in later years, until “I realized I could get girls with it,” he says. “I was like, ‘You know, I’ve modeled dog noses before.’ ”

In 1991, at age 13, he won a part on the FOX sitcom Drexell’s Class. He and his mother moved to Los Angeles, only to see the show cancelled after a season. When they returned home, Biggs landed a role on Broadway as Judd Hirsch’s son in the play Conversations with My Father, which led to a yearlong spot as rebellious Pete Wendall on As the World Turns.

But even while he found steady work, he kept up his grades at Hasbrouck Heights Junior-Senior High School, thanks to tutors and teachers who faxed him homework. After graduating in 1996, he studied briefly at New York University and Montclair State University in New Jersey. When he was cast in a TV series—which ran for nine episodes—he decided to drop out. “I told myself if I ever get a job out in L.A., I’m just going to stay there,” he says. Soon after making the move, he auditioned for Pie. “Jason was so believable,” says codirector Paul Weitz. “There’s a lot of realism to his performance.”

In his free time, the single (but “always looking”) actor runs and snowboards. (He has shed 20 pounds since filming Pie.) He avoids clubs, preferring to hang out in the three-bedroom Santa Monica apartment he shares with a friend. But his life is sure to get busier soon: Though he has not decided on his next film, he has been compared by critics to Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler. “Any comparison like that is great,” he says. “You want to compare me with guys making $20 million a picture? Uh, okay.” ‘ Besides, he clearly seems to share men-acting philosophy: “The best way to come across onscreen,” he says, “is to not hold back.”

Dan Jewel

Julie Jordan in Los Angeles