At age 19, Matthew Settle moved to New York City and joined a rock band. When his lack of musical talent eventually forced him to rethink his career, he chose to become an actor. Numerous drama classes, failed pilots, and television films later, this Johnny-come-lately to the movie business landed his first high-profile role as the oldest principal cast member in the teen scream flick I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998). He was almost 29 years old.
Born on September 17, 1969, in Hickory, NC, Settle is the youngest of two girls and four boys. In 1983, his father, a Baptist preacher, and his mother, a church organist, relocated the family to Sevierville, TN. Settle sold records at Dolly Parton's nearby theme park, Dollywood, before deciding to become a musician himself. After getting kicked out of his New York-based rock group, he hawked meat and seafood off a truck on Long Island before Jay Julian, Robert De Niro's lawyer, got him into acting school. Settle borrowed money from friends to afford the classes, and then moved out to Los Angeles to begin his career.
Settle made his small-screen debut opposite Sarah Paulson as an Irish-American settler in the 1996 CBS pilot Shaughnesy. He went on to portray a frat boy in the movie of the week What Happened to Bobby Earl? (1997) with Kate Jackson and Kristian Alfonso, land a small role in the television film Murder in Mind (1997) with Ellen Burstyn and Kristin Davis, and play Green Lantern in the pilot for Justice League of America (1997) with David Ogden Stiers and Miguel Ferrer. In 1998, Settle graduated to feature films when he starred as Jennifer Love Hewitt's deceptively perfect college boyfriend in the thriller I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, the much-hyped sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997). After a brief return to television to play a young Bugsy Siegel in the Emmy-nominated HBO biopic Lansky (1998) and real-life teenage rapist Alex Kelly in the CBS television film Crime in Connecticut: The Story of Alex Kelly (1999), Settle joined Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, and Harvey Keitel in the cast of the World War II submarine film U-571 (2000).
Settle's next two films, The In Crowd (2000) and Attraction (2000), were psychosexual thrillers that failed both critically and commercially. In fact, after a disappointing premiere at the 2000 Toronto Film Festival, Attraction went straight to video. Yet, Settle's work in U-571 helped him join David Schwimmer, Ron Livingston, and Donnie Wahlberg as the officers of Easy Company in HBO's unforgettable World War II miniseries Band of Brothers. Executive-produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, the series earned unprecedented acclaim and garnered numerous awards, including the Golden Globe for Best Miniseries.
After returning home from Band of Brothers' European shoot, Settle began taking fencing instruction, sailing classes, and tap-dancing lessons in an effort to widen his skills as actor. He landed a guest-starring role on five episodes of NBC's ER as Brian Westlake, the abusive young husband of Maura Tierney's next-door neighbor. Shortly after his ER stint ended, Settle appeared as Ashley Judd's love interest in Callie Khouri's Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002), which also featured Sandra Bullock, Ellen Burstyn, James Garner, and Maggie Smith.
He went on to play Warren Beatty in The Mystery of Natalie Wood and had a major part in The Celestine Prophecy. In 2007 he was cast in the hit teen soap opera Gossip Girl as Rufus Humphrey.
No stranger to the theater, Settle has also performed on-stage in productions of Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park, Eugene O'Neill's Beyond the Horizon, William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and Anton Chekov's The Seagull.