Jessica Claire Biel (born March 3, 1982) is an American actress, model, and occasional singer. Biel is known for her television role as Mary Camden in the long-running family-drama series 7th Heaven. She has also appeared in several Hollywood films, including Summer Catch, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Illusionist, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and The A-Team.Jessica Claire Biel was born in Ely, Minnesota. Her mother, Kimberly (née Conroe), is a homemaker and spiritual healer. Her father, Jonathan Biel, worked for GE and was also an entrepreneur and business consultant. She is of German, French, English, and Choctaw ancestry and has a younger brother, Justin, born in 1985. Biel's family moved frequently during her childhood, living in Texas, Connecticut, and Woodstock, Illinois, before finally settling in Boulder, Colorado. While growing up, Biel played soccer and also trained as a gymnast. She is also an avid snowboarder. From 2000 to 2002, she attended Tufts University in Medford, MA. Biel initially trained to be a vocalist, and from age nine appeared in several musical productions in her hometown, playing lead roles in productions such as Annie, The Sound of Music, and Beauty and the Beast.
At twelve, Biel attended The International Modeling and Talent Association conference in Los Angeles where she was discovered and signed by a talent agency. She began modeling for print advertisements, and appeared in commercials for products such as Dulux Paint and Pringles. Biel also played the character Regrettal, a lead role in a low-budget musical short titled It's a Digital World, but the film was never released. At fourteen, after auditioning for several television pilots, Biel was cast as Mary Camden, the oldest daughter in the family drama 7th Heaven. The show ran 11 seasons, making it the longest-running family drama in U.S. television history. In 2000, during the fourth season of 7th Heaven, Biel commented that she had 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 her performance was praised and it 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 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.
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 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. Biel also landed a part in Lincoln Center Theater's two-week-long workshop of the musical version of the Pedro Almodóvar classic Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, along with Salma Hayek.
In early 2007, Jessica co-founded the Make the Difference Network with her father and another business partner, Kent McBride. Make the Difference Network (MTDN) is a cause-oriented social network that connects non-profit organizations with potential donors and increases the awareness for small-to-medium non-profit organizations. MTDN's mission is to democratize giving by increasing the visibility of thousands of non-profit organizations and empowering potential donors to search, select, and fund these organizations' specific "wishes" and then to see the results of their giving. Make the Difference Network was also featured at the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative, where they made a commitment to democratize giving through the use of a social network. In 2010, Biel climbed to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro with members of the United Nation Foundation to raise awareness of the global water crisis. Also in 2010, Biel's humanitarian and charity work (as well as her popularity with young people) earned her a nomination for a Do Something Award. The awards show, produced by VH1, is dedicated to honoring people who do good and is powered by Do Something, an organization that aims to empower, celebrate, and inspire young people.
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