CHRISTIAN OLIVER IS THE FIRST to admit he’s naive. “But,” he says, “I like to connect with people.” So on Oscar night 1994 that’s just what he did. Slipping uninvited into a post-Awards party at L.A.’s trendy Morton’s eatery, the German-born actor, now 23, began chatting like a Teutonic Forrest Gump with the likes of Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise. Then, spotting a phone, he called his girlfriend, fledgling actress Apryl Prose. “Guess vat,” he told her. “The drinks are free!”
“Christian doesn’t quite understand L.A. culture,” says Prose, 27. But guess vat? After crashing Morton’s, Oliver blossomed into a Eurohunk teen idol as Swiss exchange student Brian Keller on NBC’s Saved by the Bell: The New Class. Last May he quit the sitcom to try films and recently made his big-screen debut in The Baby-Sitters Club (based on the popular preteen paperback series) as Luka, a Swiss exchange student. “The guy had to be sweet and likable and sexy at the same time,” says director Melanie Mayron, “and that’s Christian.”
A native of Frankfurt, where his father is a banker and his mother a nurse, Oliver spent his 16th year at Millbrook High School in Raleigh, N.C. That same year, back in Frankfurt, he had played Candide in a local amateur production. “I loved acting,” he says. So much so that at 21, he moved to L.A., where he was cast in jeans, toothpaste and milk commercials as, intriguingly, the All-American Boy. That’s what Saved by the Bell producers were looking for when Oliver auditioned as Brian in 1994. Afraid to betray his accent, he finally blurted out, “I’m sorry! I’m from Germany!” He was forgiven—and hired on the spot.
Oliver, who shares a Studio City house with singer (and former New Kid on the Block opening act) Tommy Page and is still nonplussed when he gets panties in his fan mail, recently spent a week in Tahiti with Prose, whom he calls schatzi (“sweetheart”). “Hollywood hasn’t corrupted him,” she says. “It would break my heart if it broke his spirit.”