The hottest hunk in Hollywood ?
February 2002
Daily Record

Honk if you like the sexy Luka. Hunky ER doc Goran Visnjic is happy to play stupid when it comes to driving women crazy.

ER's Goran Visnjic is just happy to play dumb.

As Dr Luka Kovac in the top rated medical series, Goran sends hearts racing with legions of adoring fans swooning over the rugged good looks of Chicago County General Hospital's dishy doc. Far from being flattered by the phenomenal female attention he has received, Goran is refreshingly frivolous about being hailed as the hottest actor in Hollywood.

"Hunk? I don't know anything about hunk," says the 29-year-old actor. "When I first started being asked about that two years ago, I played dumb - 'Honk, vot does that mean? The thing on the wheel of a car, honk-honk?'"

Whether he likes it or not, Dr Kovac has proved to be the perfect tonic for female viewers suffering from withdrawal symptoms after the departure of George Clooney. Stepping into Clooney's surgical shoes might have been a daunting prospect for the most self-assured actor, but laid-back Goran took it in his stride.

"When I first started the show, everybody was asking: 'How do you feel replacing George Clooney?' I said: 'Guys, they took five new people on that season, it wasn't just me'."

While the watching world loves to see Dr Kovac in action saving lives, Goran is unwilling to join them.

"I cannot see myself on the screen, and I cannot hear my voice. I feel it's awful," he says.

Goran accepts that, had Clooney not decided to hang up his stethoscope to pursue a Hollywood film career, he probably wouldn't be in ER.

"I'm really grateful for the wonderful opportunity his leaving the show presented me," says Goran. "I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for him."

Goran's rise to stardom has been unconventional to say the least. Unlike so many superstars, he didn't rub shoulders with the rich and famous, court directors or set up home in Hollywood. Instead, Goran's community consisted of a small Croatian town off the Adriatic Sea where he lived with his brothers, bus driver father and sales clerk mother.

From an early age, Goran found himself drawn towards performing arts, landing lead roles in school plays and productions before attending the prestigious Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb at the age of 20. Far from being just a pretty face, Goran is a principled man who fought for his country, joining the Croatian Army in 1991 for a three- month stint.

"I felt I had to defend my country, that's normal," he says of his decision to fight in the Yugoslav conflict.

After his military experience he once again focused on his acting career, embarking on a series of theatrical roles. The turning point for Goran came in 1997 when director Michael Winterbottom cast him as a translator for a British news team in the acclaimed film Welcome To Sarajevo.

For the first time, Americans had their first taste of the statuesque actor and they wanted more. Further roles followed, including The Peacemaker and Practical Magic with Nicole Kidman and, more recently, The Deep End alongside Tilda Swinton. He also landed the love interest role next to Madonna in her 1998 video for The Power Of Goodbye. Nice work if you can get it. But ER has unquestionably been Goran's best part to date. The frantic pace of the medical drama has captured audiences but, as Goran explains, the exhaustive filming schedules can take their toll.

"It's like shooting a short film every 10 days," he says. "It's so intense and so fast, especially for me because English is not my native tongue and there are so many difficult medical terms. It really is a lot of work."

Tackling medical phrases and trying to master the art of pronunciation has been an uphill struggle.

"I have problems with some phrases. Things that are simple to a native speaker are tongue-twisters for me. Probably my English teachers are laughing when they see me on ER because I was the lousiest student in my class," he says "Making my English better is a slow job but it's getting better. Three years ago it would have taken me half an hour to say this sentence."

Like his ER character, Goran misses Croatia and, as he recalls, his move to Los Angeles in 1999 proved to be a traumatic experience.

"I like Hollywood, but I miss everything about my home country. For a long time I missed my family badly. I couldn't bear to be without them. I also missed the homely atmosphere of the area I grew up in. At times I felt so lonely I would just sit huddled on the floor of my flat in LA and start sobbing my eyes out. I felt I didn't have a friend in the world. I was a struggling actor in this huge metropolis and I didn't know what was going to happen next."

Comfort came in the shape of Goran's sculptor wife Ivana, who packed her bags and joined her husband to set up home in America.

"Seeing me in that vulnerable condition strengthened our relationship and it made it easier for us to live our American dream together," he says.

The couple first met after meeting in a crowded bar in a theatre where Goran was performing. Goran makes no secret of his feelings for the special woman in his life.

"I can't see me giving her up for anyone," he says. "She's the only one for me."

He may be spoken for in real-life, but Goran's ER character was embroiled in a love triangle in the last series between Abby (Maura Tierney) and Dr Carter (Noah Wyle). The eighth series sees Kovac continue to play the dating game as he is drawn to a mysterious French waitress called Nicole (Julie Delpy). Fame has brought Goran many perks but, despite his celebrity, he still craves the simple things in life.

"Here in America, you can have a big car and a big house but you are missing something that you can have in Europe, especially in the Mediterranean," he says "Where I'm from, my parents and my neighbours sit on the streets in front of their houses, on the stairs, talking and laughing."

The relaxed way of life in Croatia is in stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of life in LA, which Goran has trouble coming to terms with.

"Maybe we don't work so much as people here," he says "Maybe we are a little lazier than people here and we sure don't have so much money, but life is much easier and the quality of life is better."

Starring in a successful production is the dream of all actors but Goran believes it is important to never give too much of yourself away.

"I don't think actors mean to be secretive," he says. "They just don't want strangers to look through their kitchen windows."