Balancing independent film and Hollywood, Stephen Dorff made his name as a versatile actor with a particular talent for playing assorted rebels and villains. The son of composer Steve Dorff, the younger Dorff opted for the acting side of show business instead. Entering the industry as a teenager, Dorff cut his acting teeth on TV in the late '80s with guest spots on several series, including Roseanne and Married With Children, and roles in TV movies, including I Know My First Name Is Steven (1989). Dorff jumped to feature films with the starring role as a socially conscious South African boxer in The Power of One (1992).
Voted the National Association of Theater Owners' Male Star of Tomorrow in 1992, Dorff next earned attention with his lead performance as Beatle manqué Stu Sutcliffe in the British biopic Backbeat (1993). He also appeared in the genre thriller Judgment Night that same year, with Emilio Estevez and Cuba Gooding Jr. Despite his Hollywood beginnings, Dorff focused more on independent productions in the mid-'90s, including the media satire S.F.W. (1994). His nuanced performance as Warhol Factory transvestite superstar Candy Darling in Mary Harron's acclaimed I Shot Andy Warhol (1996), though, definitively revealed that Dorff could be more than a pretty, brooding face. Dorff further held his own opposite Jack Nicholson in neo-noir Blood and Wine (1997) and against Harvey Keitel in crime drama City of Industry (1997), but neither film made a box office impression.
Dorff scored a summer popcorn hit, however, as Wesley Snipes' flamboyant vampire nemesis in the comic book adaptation Blade (1998). Displaying his range, Dorff starred opposite Susan Sarandon in the romance Earthly Possessions (1999) for HBO, and put two different spins on movie director characters in Phil Joanou's film à clef Entropy (1999) and John Waters' black comedy Cecil B. Demented (2000). Branching out into another medium, Dorff starred in Quantum Project (2000), the first film produced for the Internet. Dorff continued to do work in a series of independent films, but occasionally would appear in more mainstream fare such as fear dot com, Cold Creek Manor, and Alone in the Dark. He had his largest profile film in years in 2006 as part of the cast of Oliver Stone's 9/11 film World Trade Center. He maintained his footing in the independent film world by starring opposite Milla Jovovich and Aisha Taylor on that same year's .45.
Over the next several years, Dorff would find an ongoing series of roles in an impressive variety of projects, like Michael Mann's Public Enemies, Sophia Coppola's Somewhere, and Tarsem Singh's Immortals.