The "Jeopardy" answer is: He's that Minnesota-bred actor who's now Jennifer Aniston's leading man.
Yes, that really is Steve Zahn on the movie poster for "Management," standing next to Jennifer Aniston.
"But it's not like I'm the guy with the machine gun on the movie poster," he quipped recently in a phone interview from his Kentucky farm. "You only see my back!"
"Story of my career."
To that end, the self-deprecating Minnesota-born-and-raised actor -- who has appeared in more than two dozen movies, from 1996's "That Thing You Do!" to "Management," a romantic comedy that opens today -- bristles at the idea he's a "leading man."
"I've had leading roles, but more in an ensemble kind of movie," Zahn said. "I respond more to that kind of movie. "
And in "Management," Zahn has found exactly that. He plays the night manager at a rural roadside motel who follows his heart in pursuit of a business traveler (Aniston). But he's just one of several in a talented cast that includes Woody Harrelson and veteran character actors Margo Martindale and Fred Ward.
"It was one of the best jobs I've ever had for various reasons," he said. "For me, and for all of us, really. It was an amazing crew. It was a great shoot, just one of those rare gigs. When you do a job where you can't wait to go to work the next day because you laugh so hard, and you're proud of the work, those are just kind of rare."
Zahn that said in some ways his career as an actor isn't much different from mountain climbing: peaks and valleys.
"You get used to them. And as you go longer, the valleys are less steep," he said. "My goal is just a meadow.
"I've never been one to say I need to be up in the mountains -- 'Get me some oxygen and some crampons!' I'm more like the hippie guy walking through the meadow and pitching my tent anywhere. That way maybe I can walk a little longer. And that's kind of the goal."
Making it outside L.A.
Born in the southwestern Minnesota city of Marshall, Zahn spent his early childhood in Mankato before his family moved to the Minneapolis suburb of New Hope. He began his acting career in a local production of "Biloxi Blues" before leaving to study acting at Harvard University. After a stint on stages in New York, he landed a role in 1994's "Reality Bites" with Ethan Hawke, Winona Ryder and Ben Stiller.
For the past five years, he's called a horse farm outside Lexington, Ky., home -- living with his wife and two children away from the Hollywood spotlight.
"It's not like a strategy," he said. "I just like to hunt and fish and sit on a horse. And I like it dark at night. It's not like 'I hate L.A.' I just can't live there because of who I am.
"But in turn, after that's said and done, I am living proof that you don't have to pound the pavement and go to dinner parties in L.A. to get work. Living in a big city doesn't necessarily make you a better actor or painter or dancer."
Zahn still makes his way back to Minnesota each year to see his family. His parents (his father is a retired Lutheran minister) still live in the same New Hope house in which he was raised.
"My kids love coming to Minnesota. Every year we do the same trek at Christmas, go to Camp Nickelodeon," he laughed. "We do what all Minnesotans do: We sit around and drink coffee and play cards."
While he's often recognized when he returns, he says the fame hasn't gone to his head.
"Twenty-five percent of that recognition is someone who likes your work," he said.
Then he laughed again.
"And then 75 percent of it is the answer to the 'Jeopardy' question."