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GABRIEL MACHT has come a long way from his days of getting paid in cheeseburgers. This month, he hits the big screen in the so-cool-it’s-hot blockbuster Whiteout.


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Gabriel Macht got his rather inauspicious acting start around the time he was enrolling in kindergarten. “When I moved to L.A. at the age of five and a half, a friend of mine said, ‘Hey, let’s go do this talent show at the park,’ “ he remembers. “I played Annie and sang ‘Tomorrow,’ and I won the whole thing. [The prize was] a Big Mac.”

And while the reward was sufficiently satisfactory for a kindergartner, there was something else Macht took away from his first time on stage: a love of performing. “I think when you perform and somebody claps, it gives you some sort of introduction in wanting to be an actor,” he says.

Talent shows in the park were only the beginning for Macht. At the age of eight, he made his professional debut, costarring in a movie opposite Treat Williams and earning a Screen Actors Guild card. Though he continued working through his teens, he took a break from the business to attend college, enrolling in Carnegie Mellon University’s prestigious theater program. It was a somewhat surprising move given his already well-stocked résumé and connections (his father is also a professional actor). But Macht was as interested in the process as he was in the destination. “When I was in high school, there were a bunch of kids that were all ready. They already had agents; they were auditioning,” he says. “But for some reason, there was a part of me that felt like their acting wasn’t going to broaden. And I wanted to go back East and have those four years of college.”

He must have been onto something: Macht has worked steadily ever since, appearing in Sex and the City (you may remember him as “the Modelizer”), The Recruit (with Colin Farrell), and last year’s The Spirit, among others. He even played Elvis Presley in Steve Martin’s off-Broadway play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile. This month, Macht is back on the big screen, costarring with Kate Beckinsale in Whiteout, in which he plays a United Nations operative investigating Antarctica’s first murder. “It’s a total popcorn thriller,” Macht says. “It’s very accessible, and all the scares are in the right places. There’s action, but then there is also a bit of the slasher moments: ‘Oh my God, are they going to cut his finger off?’ “

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The film was shot in chilly Canada, but the cold temperatures didn’t faze the 37-year-old actor, who was once an avid snowboarder. “I probably haven’t been on a board in about five years,” he laments. “I dislocated my elbow and chipped a piece of it when I was snowboarding, and it’s not fun when you have to work.” Instead, Macht now chooses more cautious extracurricular activities, like traveling with his wife, Australian actress Jacinda Barrett. “I love Europe -- Amsterdam, Prague, Paris,” he says. “I had the time of my life in Bora Bora. We took a fake honeymoon there. We actually honeymooned in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.”

But for all his overseas adventures, Macht, who was born in the Bronx, says his heart will always belong to New York -- and his beloved Yankees. When asked if he would trade his acting success for the chance to play for his favorite squad, he pauses to think. “That is a great question!” he says. “I would say if I were 22 and single, yes, selfishly. But now, probably no, due to my family and being on the road.”

Indeed, family is something that has always been important to Macht, who grew up with three siblings and now has a two-year-old daughter with Barrett. What’s the best part about being from a large family? “That I’m the favorite,” he says with a laugh. “Oh, you have to print that!”

Professionally, Macht is currently gearing up for his next movie role. But he says he’d always consider going back to acting live on stage, where he first fell in love with performing. “I can sing, but I wouldn’t say that I’ve got a particularly great voice,” he admits. “But if I got an opportunity to do a musical, either on film or on stage, and they had the patience to work with me, I would love to do something like that.”

This time, however, he’d command slightly more than just a Big Mac.