Wide-eyed young actor Nick Stahl made his feature debut opposite Mel Gibson and courted the late-'90s teen crowd with a role in the thriller Disturbing Behavior (1998), but a number of his movies have not been the average box-office fluff.
Raised in Dallas, Stahl began acting at the age of four in commercials and local theater. After his first TV movie, Stranger at My Door (1991), Stahl soon moved to feature films with a starring role as the boy tutored by Mel Gibson's deformed recluse in the Gibson-directed drama The Man Without a Face (1993). Continuing to work with Hollywood heavyweights, Stahl played one of Susan Sarandon's sons in Safe Passage (1994) and acted with Walter Matthau in the TV film Incident in a Small Town (1994). After the young teen starred in the Disney film Tall Tale (1994), Stahl was back to TV movies with family drama Blue River (1995).
Alternating between mainstream fare and more challenging work, Stahl began to aim for a slightly older audience with a role in the independent rural crime drama and Sundance Film Festival entrant Eye of God (1997). Though Stahl joined the late-'90s teen movie brigade co-starring alongside Katie Holmes in the thriller Disturbing Behavior (1998), he also appeared that same year as a Charlie Company soldier who dies too young in Terrence Malick's hypnotic anti-war anti-epic The Thin Red Line (1998). Stahl began 2001 with roles in two Sundance Film Festival critical favorites, Todd Field's family drama In the Bedroom (2001) and iconoclast Christopher Munch's The Sleepy Time Gal (2001). On his way to becoming an indie fixture, Stahl then took on the unappealing role of the doomed titular character in controversial photographer-turned-director Larry Clark's exploration of true-life violent teen anomie, Bully (2001). Stahl, however, finished 2001 on the critical high note with which it began when In the Bedroom, featuring Stahl as Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson's son, earned raves and prizes as one of the best films of the year.
Though to this point Stahl's film roles had consisted of mainly low-budget and independent fare, all of this would change with the release of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003. Rumored to have taken over the role of John Conner following original star Edward Furlong's much publicized bout with drug abuse, Stahl eagerly stepped up to the role. The summer of 2003 also found Stahl gearing up for the premier of his the new HBO series Carnivàle.