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Jesse Metcalfe is used to female attention.

During a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, the 27-year old actor clutches a generic baseball cap, presumably so he has something to slap on his head and slip away incognito if an estrogen riot breaks out.

Ever since he burst on the scene as teenage gardener John Rowland, who Eva Longoria claimed as her adulterous boy-toy on Desperate Housewives, Jesse Metcalfe has made the women go wild. Everywhere. It’s like Elvis enters the building, wherever he goes.

“From time to time, it seems like I have a pretty strong reaction from the ladies,” Metcalfe says, in an understatement. “I guess that’s not a bad thing.”

He thought he was used to frantic female fans after four years (most of them spent shirtless) on NBC’s steamy soap opera, Passions.

“But Desperate Housewives made me a household name, upped the ante, and multiplied everything,” he said.

Passions appealed primarily to teens and young adults, but Desperate exposed him to an entire generation of new fans.

“Housewives really made me popular with the older set,” Metcalfe said. “I have middle-age women coming up to me all the time proudly identifying themselves as desperate housewives and coming up with some pretty aggressive lines, like — well, you can fill in any garden-variety, double-entendre come-on you’d like here.”

Metcalfe’s film debut is only going to throw gasoline on this fire.

In John Tucker Must Die, a teen comedy that opened Friday, he plays the title character, a high school stud athlete working his way through the prettier part of the student body.

The premise is that tree alpha girls from different cliques — Sophia Bush, Arielle Kebbel, and Ashanti — after being slighted by Tucker, hatch a plan for revenge after each gets slighted by Tucker. They enlist a newcomer, the beautiful Brittany Snow of American Dreams fame, as their secret agent.

“I was attracted to the project by the script. It was kind of a new take on the teen movie. And when the cast came together, I was really looking forward to working with all the girls: Not only Brittany Snow, but Sophia, Ashanti, Arielle and Jenny McCarthy,” Metcalfe said.

The future hunk of Italian, Portuguese and French descent was born in Carmel Valley, Calif. Metcalfe’s parents split and he moved with his mother to Connecticut when he was 3. From the beginning, his striking looks always attracted attention.

“Unfortunately, it was something that I’ve always been made aware of,” he said. “When you’re a young guy going through adolescence, you don’t want to be too good-looking. I would kind of rail against it. I would dye my hair crazy colors and wear weird clothes and try to play it down.”

After attending prep school, he enrolled in the Tisch program for film and TV at New York University, hoping to write and direct movies. Metcalfe began modeling to support himself and on his first acting audition, at 19, he was snapped up by Passions, which entailed a move to Los Angeles.

“It was my training ground, my acting boot camp,” Metcalfe says.

“To have to learn in those circumstances is a very frightening thing,” says Ben Masters, Metcalfe’s cast mate on Passions.

The effect the youngster had on women was obvious.

“He’d walk down the hallways at work and every woman’s head would almost come unscrewed. And he didn’t even really know it. He was working on his lines,” Masters said.

After four years on the soap, Metcalfe left, eventually landing the lawn-boy part on Desperate Housewives.

“My role was kind of a dream. I got to roll around with Eva every day. She’s a pleasure to be around, so fun and energetic,” he said. “And she’s obviously gorgeous.”

Nevertheless, Metcalfe is yet to make a commitment to a third season on Wisteria Lane.

“They haven’t made an official offer and I haven’t officially accepted,” he said. “Desperate Housewives was an amazing opportunity and something I’m very thankful for, but I don’t want to get stuck playing John the gardener because he can be a little limiting.”