Jessica Claire Biel was born in Ely, Minnesota, her 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. 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.
Biel landed her first feature film role as Peter Fonda's granddaughter in the 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.
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 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. Her performance was praised and it was a commercial success, scoring the number-one spot in its opening week.
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.
Biel also made a cameo appearance in the 2004 film Cellular and had a minor role in Elizabethtown. 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. Biel and Home of the Brave co-star Samuel L. Jackson were nominated for Prism Awards for their performances.
Then, after a three-year absence from television, Biel returned for what was to be the series finale of 7th Heaven. 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. Biel also produced and starred in a short film titled Hole in the Paper Sky, which was released in 2008. Earlier, in 2007, Biel signed on to play a stripper in Powder Blue, alongside Forest Whitaker, Ray Liotta and Patrick Swayze.
In 2008, Biel shot Easy Virtue, an adaptation of the play by Noël Coward. 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.
Back to her musical skills: Biel performed two songs on the Easy Virtue soundtrack, "Mad About the Boy" and "When the Going Gets Tough."
During the 2009 season at the Hollywood Bowl, Biel performed the role of "Sarah Brown" in a fully-staged concert production of Guys and Dolls with The Los Angeles Philharmonic.
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.