The Longest Ride heartthrob (and son of Clint) is making a name for himself in Hollywood

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Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Scott Eastwood may be the romantic lead of Nicholas Sparks’s upcoming film The Longest Ride, but don’t call him a sex symbol.

“I don’t know what that means. That’s silly,” he tells PEOPLE. “Honestly, I grew up in California. I’m just one of the guys. And there are so many good-looking guys in California!”

What’s serious is Eastwood’s appeal as a bull-riding cowboy in the film, which parallels the lives of two couples – one in present day, the other in the World War II era. The 28-year-old was drawn to the role because “he wasn’t just a guy falling in love with this broad,” he says. “He’s a bull rider, and I grew up going to the Salinas rodeo, so that was cool. I really connected to him. He has a little more grit.”

As for his dad Clint, Eastwood says his best advice for his blossoming Hollywood career has been: “Pay attention. Listen.” But, he adds, “It’s more advice about life. Just always try to better yourself as a human being.”

For the actor, that means doing things like getting his helicopter pilot’s license (“I grew up flying with my dad,” he says) and taking Spanish lessons. And in 10 years, he still hopes to be seizing the moment.

“Life happens when you’re not planning it,” he says. “If I knew the future, that would be boring.”

For more of PEOPLE’s interview with Eastwood, pick up the Half Their Size issue, on newsstands now