As a kid, Charlie Korsmo believed acting seemed way more fun than doing homework.
“We went on a family trip to Los Angeles and saw a TV show being filmed — Punky Brewster — and I thought, this looks like something anyone can do,” Korsmo, 40, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I think it was mostly an excuse to get out of school.”
So when the family returned home to Minnesota, Korsmo got an agent and started landing commercial gigs. Then came roles in What About Bob?, Hook and Dick Tracy with Warren Beatty.
“Anytime Warren was late, they’d send me to get him, because no one else wanted to yell at him,” he says. “I wasn’t starstruck.”
Once high school came around, Korsmo decided to leave Hollywood. “After Hook, that was my last movie as a kid, we really had a sort of choice to make,” he recalls. “But I hadn’t been in school for a few years. I suddenly found I didn’t really have friends my own age anymore.”
Korsmo returned to school and then went on to study physics at M.I.T., where he found himself itching to return to acting.
“The same reason I got into it in the first place, which was to get out of school, started to seem like a nice thing again after a couple of semesters studying physics,” Korsmo jokes.
He reconnected with his old agent, who got Korsmo a part in 1998’s Can’t Hardly Wait. While the teen romantic comedy didn’t find overwhelming box office success at the time, it eventually became somewhat of a cult classic.
Korsmo’s career also stalled after Can’t Hardly Wait. And while making a career out of acting was never his plan, Korsmo couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
“To be perfectly honest, I would’ve loved to have done one movie a year type of thing,” he admits. “But it just didn’t work out.”
After graduating from M.I.T., Korsmo worked in public policy in Washington, D.C., and then attended law school at Yale. Once he and his wife started a family, Korsmo went into teaching, and currently works as a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Over the years, the father of two fell out of touch with most of his former Hollywood peers.
“I still exchange Christmas cards with Steven Spielberg,” he says. “But other than that I have trouble keeping in touch with my own family let alone people I worked with back then.”
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But when an old director friend of Korsmo’s sent over a script for an indie film he was working on, Chained for Life, Korsmo found himself back in the business.
“I was not out there looking for parts, but he said there was a part in there for me, so I said, ‘We can do it in a very short shoot because I’ve got a job and I’ve got young kids,’ ” the former child star says. “But I really loved the script and the timing seemed right.”
- For more on Charlie Korsmo, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on stands now
Korsmo’s not planning a comeback though.
“I’m not quitting my day job, that’s for sure,” he quips. “But I was surprised how much fun I had.”