A puppy-eyed professional skateboarder turned actor, Jason Lee has proven himself as versatile and engaging onscreen as he once did as a skater who turned 360-degree flips on the half-pipe. Discovered by director Kevin Smith, who gave him his first break with a lead role in Mallrats (1995), Lee went on to win over critics and audiences with his portrayals of men who often harbored some degree of endearing immaturity and/or sweet-natured dorkiness. In the process, he created a reputation for himself as one of the more talented and underrated actors to emerge from the 1990s indie scene, eventually beginning to earn mainstream acceptance with his casting in such successes as Smith's Dogma (1999) and Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous (2000).
A native of Orange, CA, Lee began skateboarding when he was 13. Five years later he had gone professional, traveling the world, appearing in a number of popular skateboarding videos, and, along with a friend, founding the company Stereo Skateboards and Stereo Sounds Clothing. Deciding to retire from skateboarding before he became too old for the sport and went to seed, Lee made his first foray into acting in 1993 with a walk-on role in Allison Anders' Mi Vida Loca. Two years later he auditioned for and won the lead role of Brodie, a wise-ass slacker, in Kevin Smith's Mallrats (1995). Although the film received a critical thrashing, Lee did earn positive notices for his work in it, and was further rewarded with a lead part in Smith's Chasing Amy (1997). Cast as comic-book artist Banky, best friend and partner of Ben Affleck's Holden, the actor earned an Independent Spirit Award for his smart-assed yet deeply felt portrayal, and subsequently crossed over into more mainstream work with a bit part in the Will Smith suspense thriller Enemy of the State (1998) and a lead in the flop romantic comedy Kissing a Fool (1998), in which he starred with David Schwimmer and Mili Avital.
Lee again collaborated with Smith for the writer/director's Dogma (1999), playing the satanic Azrael alongside a cast that included Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Chris Rock, and Alan Rickman. His work in the high-profile film was complemented that same year by his well-received portrayal of a sweet-natured computer mogul in Lawrence Kasdan's ensemble comedy Mumford. The following year Lee appeared in one of his biggest films to date, Cameron Crowe's much lauded Almost Famous, portraying the lead singer of the '70s rock band Stillwater. Crowe and Lee would also re-team for Vanilla Sky in 2001. Edging ever closer to the elusive leading man status, Lee would subseqently appear in the ill fated Big Trouble before taking the lead opposite Tom Green in Stealing Harvard. Though Big Trouble and Stealing Harvard both performed abysmally at the box-office, the likable Lee could still hold out for romantic comedy success with the release of A Guy Thing in early 2003. A third strike in terms of hitting box-office gold, the undaunted former skateboard pro soldiered on into the cold wilderness for the horrors of Dreamcatcher before re-teaming with faithful cohort Smith for the one-two punch of Jersey Girl and Flectch Won in late 2003.
Over the coming years, Lee would tontinue to gain notoriety, popularly starring on the TV series My Name is Earl, Memphis Beat, and Up All Night, and appearing in movies like Cop Out and the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise.