Raw Power

Matthew Helms is a martial-arts expert, a boy genius...and Hollywood's hair apparent.

"Matthew's cousin in North Carolina sent us an e-mail saying she felt cool because her cousin was the 'hot' young Matthew Helms," says Tony. "People are taking about 'newcomer' Dennis and how cute he is."

A week before Cabin Fever's release, Matthew was recognized while shopping at Old Navy in Lakewood, picking out the outfit he'd wear to the film's local premiere at the Denver Pavilions. A woman who was waiting on him trotted him over to a group of her female co-workers, announcing that there was a celebrity in the house. Later that day, after a clerk at another store made a similar announcement over the loudspeaker, Matthew signed autographs and chatted with a couple of red-faced young girls who said they recognized him from the Cabin Fever trailers.

"That was cool. It made me feel good," he says. "I like girls. Yes, I do. But I'm not ready for a relationship. For now, that stuff can wait. I'm just going to focus on my career."

John Johnston
Sometimes you kick: Matthew Helms practices a 
martial-arts kata.
John Johnston
Sometimes you kick: Matthew Helms practices a martial-arts kata.

Matthew isn't sure what form that career will take. If Cabin Fever generates the kind of interest he and his parents are expecting, he'd be willing to move to Los Angeles. But if not, he's got plenty of other options.

"I see myself as either a doctor, or a lawyer, or a film director. But then again, I may like to open a martial-arts studio," he says. "When the time comes to decide, then I'll decide. When I see myself and my future, I think about Bruce Lee. He once said, 'Don't try to be a superstar. The word "star" is an illusion, something that someone calls you.' I don't want to be a superstar. I want to be a superactor."

With really super hair.

"I'd cut it for something really good," he says. "But not for an extra part. I'm just not going to do it. I don't want to have a cookie-cutter look. Long hair is myself, and I have to be myself. Some people want everyone to be the same. I just like to be different."

As predicted by Matthew, Becky spends much of Cabin Fever with her hands over her eyes. So do many other members of the capacity crowd that turns up for the film's premiere screening at the Pavilions on September 10. The movie starts out gently, with funny, talky scenes of the characters making out, smoking pot and challenging each other to beer-drinking contests. But the final thirty minutes are a barf-inducing romp in which almost all life forms -- dogs, deer, hillbillies, oversexed coeds -- are somehow mutilated. As Dennis, Matthew is one of the few characters who don't spend their screen time drenched in blood.

"I loved it," says Matthew. "That was just really cool to finally see it. I thought it was a good movie. I'll see it again soon."

Before the screening, a local publicist for Lion's Gate introduces Matthew, sending a minor ripple through the packed house. After the movie ends, Becky stands around the theater swapping business cards and regaling viewers with tales from the sets of both Cabin Fever and The Patriot. "Mel Gibson is really down to earth, that's true," she tells one wide-eyed woman. "And he's got a really nice ass." Tony hands out photos for Matthew to autograph; a couple of girls, around thirteen or fourteen, shyly approach and each snatch two.

Matthew shakes hands, gives high fives and fields congratulations and questions about his martial arts, his acting career, his hair. One Hispanic guy confessed that he thought Matthew was a girl when he saw him on screen.

"Yeah, well, I hear that from time to time," Matthew replies.

Eventually, the crowd files out and the cleaning crew comes in. Becky lingers a minute, taking in the empty house.

"Well, that was fun," she says. "I'm just happy to see my son get a screen credit. To get his name up there. And maybe now we can work on getting another one."

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