Jessica Biel rose to fame as the wholesome preacher's daughter on the WB television show 7th Heaven, then gained greater notoriety for trying to get herself kicked off the show via a risqué photo spread in the men's magazine Gear. Making such statements as, "Mary Camden is dead," the 17-year-old Biel indeed got out of her contract to pursue a movie career; when that floundered, she - amusingly - found herself reconsidering her haste and returned for guest spots on the program.
Biel was born on March 3, 1982, in Ely, MN, then raised in Boulder, CO. She was first discovered at the 1994 IMTA Los Angeles Convention, which earned her a scholarship to Diane Hardin's Young Actors Space in Los Angeles. Teen print modeling followed, and in 1996, Biel began her run as Mary Camden on the Aaron Spelling-produced 7th Heaven. Shortly thereafter, she was cast as Peter Fonda's granddaughter in Victor Nunez's rich character study, Ulee's Gold (1997), and as Jonathan Taylor Thomas' love interest in I'll Be Home for Christmas (1998).
But Biel grew tired of playing a good girl on television and tried to force the producers to fire her from 7th Heaven, claiming her pristine image was a factor that kept her from landing the role that went to Thora Birch in American Beauty (1999). When the producers would not release her from her contract, she posed on the cover of the March 2000 Gear under the headline "Fallen Angel." The images inside featured her sprawled topless on a bed and against a bathroom mirror, her hands providing insufficient cover in a manner that pushed even Gear's lax standards for showing skin. The issue become one of Gear's most popular ever, with terrific resale value on Ebay, and got Biel canned from the show.
However, the controversy and exposure did not immediately improve her film career. Biel's first post-Gear role was as a bikini-wearing babe in the Freddie Prinze Jr. baseball movie Summer Catch (2001), but the film barely made a flicker at the box office after being bumped from its initial release date. Biel has since been making guest appearances in her initial Mary Camden role and has been cast in director Roger Avary's The Rules of Attraction (2002). An ill-advised shortcut down the backroads of Texas found Biel and friends pursued by one of the silver screen's most notorious maniacs in the 2003 remake The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with supporting roles in David R. Ellis's intense pot-boiler Cellular and the vampire-slaying Wesley Snipes action fantasy Blade: Trinity serving well to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. While a blast into the clouds with Stealth provided innoffensive thrills for more forgiving movie-goers, few would stand up to defend Almost Famous director Cameron Crowe's saccharine Elizabethtown as even throwaway fun. In 2006, Biel traveled back in time to become the source of a decidedly supernatural mystery as the ill-fated love of a turn-of-the-centry Vienna magician portrayed by Edward Norton in director Neil Burger's The Illusionist.
Biel began 2007 at a low ebb, as the romantic lead in the apocalyptic sci-fi thriller NEXT. As directed by journeyman Hollywood action stalwart Lee Tamahori (XXX: State of the Union), and adapted (loosely) from the Philip K. Dick story "The Golden Man," the picture stars Nicolas Cage as Cris, an issue-ridden psychic who foresees the nuclear destruction of Los Angeles. Biel plays the seer's tender-hearted lover, who spends her free time every week at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, teaching the children of the Havasupai Indian reservation. The film bombed unequivocally at the box office, reeling in only around $14 million worldwide in its first week.
The actress next switched genres, unveiling her comic flair to audiences in the hotly-anticipated buddy comedy I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007). The Universal farce (released in the States in July 2007) stars Adam Sandler and Hitch's Kevin James as, respectively, Chuck Levine and Larry Valentine, the bachelors of the title - two straight macho firefighters who pose as gay marrieds to qualify for domestic partner benefits. No points for guessing that Biel plays the film's romantic lead; she's the attorney who represents the two men against the insurance company, with whom Sandler falls in love.