A native of Stillwater, Oklahoma, where he was born on September 18, 1973, Marsden grew up with a sister and two brothers. Following a short stint at Oklahoma State University, he dropped out of school to move to Los Angeles and pursue his interest in acting. Marsden's move led to work as a Versace model and to a brief role as the original Griffin on Fox's Party of Five (the part would later be taken over by Jeremy London), as well as brief stints on a variety of other TV series.
Marsden's growing fan base got another boost when he was cast alongside Katie Holmes and Nick Stahl in David Nutter's Disturbing Behavior; despite the film's lackluster performance, in part abetted by an overabundance of teen horror films, Marsden was able to nab the plum role of Cyclops in Singer's X-Men. One of the most highly anticipated films of 2000, it allowed the actor to work alongside the likes of Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin, and Famke Janssen. Marsden's rising popularity was reflected in his busy schedule the following year; among his projects was Sugar and Spice, a black comedy that cast him opposite fellow up-and-comer Mena Suvari. In 2003 Marsden would once again appear as Cyclops in the big-budget X-Men sequel, X2. Marsden continued to work steadily insuch films as The Notebook and Heights before returning for trhe third installment of the X-Men franchise. Although he appeared again as Cyclops, he in fact scored more screen time in Bryan Singer's Superman Returns playing Lois Lane's husband who must contend with the fact that his wife is in love with the man of steel. He also played opposite Amy Adams in Enchanted a romantic fable that combined live-action with animation. Marsden would go on to enjoy a growing leading-man status, appearing in movies like The Box, Death at a Funeral, and a remake of Straw Dogs. Marsden would also appear in a memorable arc on 30 Rock.