Published on January 19, 2011 by Christian
Biel landed her first feature film role as Peter Fonda’s granddaughter in the critically-acclaimed drama Ulee’s Gold, released in 1997. Her performance earned her a Young Artist Award. In spring 1998, during a break from filming 7th Heaven, Biel starred in I’ll Be Home for Christmas, playing the love interest of Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
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In 2000, during the fourth season of 7th Heaven, Biel commented that she’d grown tired of playing the wholesome preacher’s kid, and blamed the show for giving her a squeaky-clean image, causing her to lose out on a role in American Beauty (the part went to Thora Birch). In a last-ditch attempt to be released from her contract, she posed semi-nude for the cover of Gear magazine. The shoot sparked considerable controversy as Biel was still under eighteen at the time. Fans and producers of 7th Heaven were outraged, and the latter brought legal action against Gear magazine. 7th Heaven producer Aaron Spelling made it clear that Biel would be staying with the show for the remainder of her contract, although Biel appeared in minimal episodes in season five, due to her character attending college out of state. She has stated that she regrets the Gear shoot but considers it a learning experience.
In 2001, Biel played the love interest of Freddie Prinze, Jr. in the baseball-themed movie Summer Catch. The next year she starred as promiscuous college student Lara in the ensemble movie The Rules of Attraction, an adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel.
After leaving 7th Heaven at the end of its sixth season, Biel was cast in her first top-billing role in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film met with mixed reviews but was a commercial success, scoring the number-one spot in its opening week and going on to earn more than $80 million in the U.S.
In 2003, Biel began work on the third installment of the Blade film series, Blade: Trinity. Almost immediately after finishing it in 2004, she headed to Australia to shoot the action-thriller Stealth. Both movies were critical and box office failures. Stealth had a budget of $130 million but grossed $76 million worldwide. Biel also made a cameo appearance in the 2004 film Cellular.
Biel went on to audition for the role of Claire Colburn in the romantic comedy Elizabethtown, but the role eventually went to Kirsten Dunst. Biel was instead cast in a smaller role as Ellen Kishmore. She then played the title character in the indie film London.
Biel’s film career blossomed when she played a turn-of-the-century duchess in the period piece The Illusionist, co-starring Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti. The movie received mostly positive reviews and was a turning point for Biel, who had previously played more contemporary roles. She received the Rising Star Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival and an Achievement Award at the Newport Beach Film Festival for her performance.
Biel played an Iraq War veteran in the 2006 film Home of the Brave, a drama about soldiers struggling to adjust back into society after facing the hardships of war. Her performance was well-received but the movie was a commercial failure. After being pulled from theaters twice, it eventually went to DVD in late 2007. Biel and Home of the Brave co-star Samuel L. Jackson were nominated for Prism Awards for their performances.
Meanwhile, after a three-year absence from television, Biel returned for what was to be the series finale of 7th Heaven (the show was later unexpectedly renewed at the last minute by The CW Television Network). The episode had already been initially shot, but producer and creator Brenda Hampton was determined to have Biel featured in the episode, so Biel agreed to shoot her scenes during a break from filming her upcoming 2007 film Next.
In Next, Biel played alongside Nicolas Cage and Julianne Moore. She then played in the summer comedy, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, co-starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James. Like her earlier film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Chuck and Larry received mixed reviews, but opened its first week at number one at the box office. Biel also produced and starred in a short film titled Hole in the Paper Sky, which was released in 2008.
Biel was invited to announce nominations at both the Golden Globe Awards (with Rosario Dawson and Matthew Perry) and the Academy Awards in 2007.
In late 2007, Biel signed on to play a stripper in Powder Blue, alongside Forest Whitaker (who also produced the film) Ray Liotta and Patrick Swayze.
At the start of 2008, Biel shot Easy Virtue, an adaptation of the play by Noël Coward. Like the play, the movie is set in the 1920s and Biel plays young widow Larita, who impulsively marries John Whittaker in France and must face her disapproving in-laws on returning to England. The film premiered in September 2008 at the Toronto International Film Festival. Critics praised Biel for her performance, with Todd McCarthy of Variety saying Biel “more than kept up” with veterans Kristin Scott Thomas and Colin Firth and praising her “sparkling” performance. The Hollywood Reporter described her performance as “an irresistible force of nature — a kind, witty, supremely intelligent and beautiful woman who … is capable of rejoinders that thoroughly undercut her opponent’s withering criticism.”
In 2009, Biel lent her voice to the animated science-fiction film Planet 51.
In April 2008, Biel began working on the political satire Nailed, with Jake Gyllenhaal. The movie centers around a woman who accidentally gets a nail lodged in her head, then travels to Washington D.C. to fight for better health care. Filming wrapped up in late June after several production shutdowns. She is also co-producing and starring in Die a Little, a contemporary adaptation of the novel by Megan Abbott. A filming start date has not been set.