An actress whose love-her-or-hate-her screen presence can often be traced to the disastrous 1995 comic-book adaptation that should have been her breakout role, Lori Petty has endured the lingering failure of Tank Girl to prove herself capable of much more than battling maniacal super-villains with the aid of renegade kangaroos. The Chattanooga, TN, native first set herself apart from the pack as the first female editor of her high school newspaper in Sioux City, and the ambitious future actress was also active with the yearbook and the debate team. It wasn't long before Petty turned to acting as a creative outlet, and after making her television debut in a 1987 episode of The Equalizer she went on to appear in both Head of the Class and Miami Vice. Her roles in the made-for-television Bates Motel and the short-lived series The Thorns went largely unnoticed, and it wasn't until the early '90s that audiences truly got their first glimpse of the rising starlet. Following a brief but scene-stealing turn in the 1990 comedy Cadillac Man, Petty made her first big impression with a role as Keanu Reeves' surfing instructor in the following year's Point Break.
When her appearance in the 1992 women's baseball comedy drama A League of Their Own found Petty practically stealing the limelight from such screen heavies as Madonna and Geena Davis, casting agents took notice, and she subsequently landed roles in such high-profile releases as Free Willy (1993), Poetic Justice (1993), and the Pauly Shore comedy In the Army Now (1994). Though Petty's solid dramatic performance in the 1994 police drama The Glass Shield earned her kudos from the critics, the film only received limited release and her contributions went largely unseen. Of course, it was only a matter of time before Petty was given the chance to headline a film, and after beating out the likes of Spice Girl Geri Halliwell and Emily Lloyd she took the lead in the much-maligned 1995 film Tank Girl. A loud, brash and ultimately misguided attempt to bring the punkish comic-book heroine to the screen, the film was ultimately done in by its own excess.
Fans were pleased to see Petty bounce back the following year in the shortlived sitcom Lush Life, though the years that followed found her cast in a slew of B-level thrillers including Countdown (1996), The Arrangement (1999), Firetrap, and Route 666 (both 2001). After stepping into the director's chair and pulling double duty both in front of and behind the camera on 2001's Horrible Accident, Petty rocked her heart out in search of a record contract in the 2003 musical drama Prey for Rock & Roll.