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'80s actor known as Booger still busy in the biz

Nerd no more

Armstrong in 2002; Inset: Armstrong in a scene from 1992's "Revenge of the Nerds" sequel.  

By Serena Kappes

(PEOPLE) -- You're sitting in a restaurant, enjoying your dinner and all of a sudden someone screams out "Booger!" For most people, this would not be an appetizing experience. But Curtis Armstrong, who played the aptly named nose-picking character in 1984's "Revenge of the Nerds," still gets noticed for that role -- and says he has "no complaints" about it.

Booger was one of several indelible sidekicks Armstrong has created throughout his career -- from Tom Cruise's best friend in 1983's "Risky Business" and John Cusack's pal in 1985's "Better Off Dead" to Bruce Willis's coworker in "Moonlighting" (1986-89). "For an actor to have a role that they're recognized and remembered for over the years, it's unusual," he says. "It's very lucky if it happens once -- and it's luck that it's happened to me a couple of times."

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Today, the 48-year-old actor is still making his mark as a character actor in recurring roles on shows such as "Ed" and in under-the-radar films. In the past year, the L.A.-based actor's work has included a parts in the comedy "National Lampoon's Van Wilder" and four independent films, including the upcoming drama "Irish Eyes," with Daniel Baldwin. "The truth is, I've been acting almost more in the last couple of years than I have in many years, but it's not stuff that a lot of people are going to see," he says.

In fact, Armstrong hadn't planned on a film career. "My vision had always been that I was gonna be a stage actor and that was it," he explains. He had graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Rochester, Michigan -- and had even formed the theater company Roadside Attractions Inc. with a group of former classmates -- when he auditioned for "Risky Business" in 1981.

After working constantly in the 1980s, Armstrong tried his hand at screenwriting in the 1990s. With writing partner John Doolittle, he sold several scripts but none ended up on the screen. "It occurred to me after a while -- I didn't understand why I was setting myself up for two careers where I was going to be rejected," Armstrong says with a laugh. "You can do it all right with one, but come on."

Armstrong has quenched his "writing jones" by penning liner notes for a series of re-released CDs by the late singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson. He's also bubbling over about the computer-animated series he's been working on, "Noz and Grak: Alien Abductors," which he's voicing along with James Earl Jones and Mark Hamill. "It looks like nothing on earth," he says.

But Armstrong's favorite project is his daughter, Lily, 6, with his writer-producer wife of eight years, Elaine Aronson. And though Lily has never seen any of her dad's film or TV work (since they don't watch television at home), her school friends certainly have: "I show up at her school and all these little kids are running around screaming 'Booger!'"

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