An actress whose fresh-faced girl-next-door beauty has adapted easily to both comic and dramatic roles, Marley Shelton was born in southern California on April 12, 1974. Her mother was a schoolteacher who dabbled in acting while her father worked as a director for film, television, and the stage. During her high-school days, Shelton was a member of the cheerleading squad and was named prom queen in her senior year. She began to develop an interest in acting, and in 1991 won her first film role, a slam supporting part in Lawrence Kasdan's Grand Canyon. In the next two years, Shelton made a few appearances on episodic television and appeared in the made-for-TV movie In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco, but it was in 1993's The Sandlot that she made her first real impression on the big screen as Wendy, the lust-inducing teenage lifeguard. That same year, Shelton earned a recurring role on the dramatic television series Angel Falls, alongside fellow cast members Jean Simmons, Shirley Knight, Peggy Lipton, and James Brolin, but the show only lasted one season.
More television work followed, including key roles in several made-for-TV movies and appearances on Hercules and the revived Fantasy Island, before Shelton's film career began to take hold. She played Tricia Nixon in Oliver Stone's biopic Nixon and a beautiful but fickle teenager in the little-seen comedy Trojan War, but her first major hit came in 1998 with Pleasantville, in which she played Margaret, the love interest of leading man Tobey Maguire (and one of the first teens to become "colorful"). In 1999, she played Kristin, one of the "popular girls" in Never Been Kissed, and two years later scored her first leading role, in which she got to put her cheerleading skills to use as Diane, the pep-squad girl-turned-teenage mother and criminal in Sugar & Spice. Offscreen, in 2001, Shelton married television and movie producer Beau Flynn, who helped cast her as Chloe, the beautiful girl next door in the comedy Bubble Boy.
In the following few years, Shelton's onscreen career seemed to plateau somewhat when a variety of indie projects including Just a Kiss, Dallas 362, Grand Theft Parsons, and Moving Alan -- directed by her father, Christopher, and starring her sister Samantha -- failed to achieve mainstream success. Nevertheless the actress remained busy, and it was shortly after appearing in a failed updating of the once-popular gothic soap opera Dark Shadows that Shelton landed the role which, however small, seems to have been a turning point in her career. Though her role opposite Josh Hartnett in Robert Rodriguez's violent comic-book adaptation Sin City amounted to little more than a glorified cameo, it did provide wide-scale exposure in addition to connecting her with one of the most innovative and tireless filmmakers of his generation.
Subsequent roles in Wim Wenders' Don't Come Knocking, Paul Weitz's American Dreamz, and the Paul Haggis-scripted The Last Kiss were quick to follow, and in 2007, Shelton reunited with Sin City director Rodriguez for a substantial role in "Planet Terror" -- Rodriguez' zombie-filled contribution to the ambitious double-feature throwback Grindhouse. Shelton would go on to appear in films like W. and Scream 4, as well as on the TV series Eleventh Hour.