A former model, Amy Smart began her acting career on television. In 1997, she began to be visible in such feature films as The Last Time I Committed Suicide and Starship Troopers. Two years later, the actress used her blond, wholesome good looks to great advantage in both Varsity Blues and Outside Providence. The former film, one of the more successful entries in the teensploitation genre, featured her as James Van Der Beek's intelligent, clean-cut girlfriend, while the latter film cast her as a rich girl who falls for a poor boy (Shawn Hatosy) at a 1970s boarding school. That same year, she was also visible on television, guest starring on the WB Network's Felicity.
Smart's career really started to take off in 2001. Proving herself to be a major sex-symbol, her topless scene in the comedy Road Trip was partially responsible for the film's runaway success. That same year, Smart appeared in the ensemble film Rat Race and in the indie Macbeth adaptation Scotland, PA. In 2003, she could be seen both on HBO's reality show Project Greenlight and in The Battle of Shaker Heights, the film that was documented on the series. Smart started off the following year with a bang, appearing in two hit films by the end of the first quarter, The Butterfly Effect and Starsky and Hutch. Voice work in Seth Green's popular animated series Robot Chicken offered Smart a chance to work behind the scenes without the stress of having to look good for the cameras, with strong subsequent performances in The Best Man and Just Friends serving well to help the actress find her footing in the enduringly-popular romantic comedy genre. On the heels of a supporting performance in director Victor Salva's introspective drama The Peaceful Warrior, Smart would jump back into action for the first time since Starship Troopers as the endangered girlfriend of Jason Stratham's former assassin in the adrenaline-pounding thrill-ride Crank.