Amiable and charmingly unassuming, actor Jesse Bradford made an early name for himself as a reliable child actor prior to making the often difficult transition to accomplished adult performer. A Connecticut native and the son of acting parents, he made his film debut at age four in Ulu Grosbard's drama, "Falling in Love" (1984). Working steadily throughout his childhood, by his teens Bradford was appearing alongside such superstars on the rise as Angelina Jolie in "Hackers" (1995) and Leonardo DeCaprio in Baz Lurhmann's pop adaptation of Shakespeare's "Romeo + Juliet" (1996). As he came into his own, the actor took on the role of leading man in projects like the thriller "Swimfan" (2002) and the sci-fi adventure "Clockstoppers" (2002). Equally adept at both comedy and drama, Bradford often lent his support as part of an ensemble in films as diverse as Don Roos' indie comedy "Happy Endings" (2005) to Clint Eastwood's WWII epic "Flags of Our Fathers" (2006). It was a pattern he continued to follow with work in anticipated features like Oliver Stone's examination of the 43rd president, "W." (2008) and the buddy comedy, "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell" (2009). Bradford's utility as a team player, combined with his ability to carry a film as its lead, ensured the actor a long and fruitful career in both independent and mainstream projects.
Born Jesse Bradford Watrouse on May 28, 1979 in Norwolk, CT, Bradford's parents were both commercial actors, who brought their son into showbiz while still an infant; his professional debut came at eight months in a television spot for Q-Tips. He began modeling at the age of four, and landed his first film role shortly thereafter as Robert De Niro's son in "Falling in Love" (1984). Bradford continued to work steadily throughout his adolescence and into his high school years, playing a seemingly endless array of self-professed "geology nerds" as well as homecoming kings in TV-movies and minor Hollywood films. Bradford first captured the attention of audiences and critics as the young lead in Steven Soderbergh's Depression-era drama, "King of the Hill" (1993). Though only 14, he more than held his own in a cast that included the late Spalding Gray, Elizabeth McGovern and future Best Actor Oscar winner Adrien Brody, and the critical praise quickly led to other substantial roles for him. He played a young computer hacker whose zeal to be accepted by his older pals (among them Angelina Jolie) attracts trouble in "Hackers" (1995). He also had a small role in Baz Luhrmann's update of "Romeo + Juliet" (1996), and played a fictionalized version of From Here to Eternity author James Jones in James Ivory's underrated "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries" (1998). Bradford's handling of the latter role, which was a particularly turbulent one, endeared him to the film's legendary producer, Ismail Merchant, who hired Bradford for his final project with James Ivory, "Heights" (2004), which afforded him some choice scenes with Glenn Close.
Bradford won over a broader audience as the quirky object of Kirsten Dunst's affections in the charming cheerleader comedy, "Bring It On" (2000), the film solidified his appeal with its largely young female audience and also showed off his musical skills during a brief and amusing scene in which his character plays guitar in a style best described as "frantic." Bradford's next two films played to the teen market with varying results; both the sci-fi actioner "Clockstoppers" (2002) and the "Fatal Attraction"-style (1987) thriller "Swimfan" (2002) gave his fans plenty to eyeball - especially the latter, which showcased Bradford frequently stripped to the waist as a high school swimming champ, but neither scored as well as "Bring It On" at the box office. For his part, Bradford expressed his disinterest in big-budget pictures like these, instead devoting much of 2002 to graduating from Columbia University with a degree in film.
Bradford returned a year later as a seemingly naïve White House page who proves savvier than he appears in several episodes of "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006). This was followed with the Don Roos film, "Happy Endings" (2005), which afforded him one of his richest and more complicated roles since "Soldier" and "King of the Hill." As a cynical and mostly inept filmmaker attempting to help star Lisa Kudrow find her adopted son, Bradford was given a superb showcase for both his dramatic and comic skills, proving that he could handle adult roles with ease. It also launched Bradford as a appealing new leading man - a fact that was not lost on People magazine, which named him one of 2005's "Sexiest Men." The following year, Bradford took a further step towards leading man status as Rene Gagnon, one of the Marines captured in the famous photo of the American flag being raised on Iwo Jima in Clint Eastwood's WWII epic "Flags of Our Fathers." Like his "Happy Endings" character, Gagnon was both charming and somewhat tragic, and Bradford handled both sides of the man with ease and skill, making his performance one of the film's standouts. With "Flags" under his belt, and three more features on deck, it appeared that Bradford's career was definitely entering its "one to-watch" phase.
Bradford followed with a starring turn as a tenant haunted by the reverberations of a horrible past event that transpired within a nearby apartment in "The Echo" (2008) as well as a romantic lead in "My Sassy Girl" (2008), as a pragmatic business student whose life is thrown into turmoil after meeting an alluring hellion (Elisha Cuthbert). Although neither project registered more than a blip at the box office, a cameo as George W. Bush's (Josh Brolin) college chum in the Oliver Stone presidential biopic "W." (2008) at least offered Bradford a few high-profile moments. The actor moved on to the feature adaptation of debauched memoirist Tucker Max's "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell" (2009), a drunken, sex-filled road trip movie in which Bradford played the misogynistic friend of the unapologetically narcissistic Max (Matt Czuchry). Unlike the best-selling book, the film failed to find an audience in theaters. Also unable to snag its desired demographic was his next attempt at regular series television - the short-lived Jimmy Smits legal-drama "Outlaw" (NBC, 2010), featuring Bradford as a lawyer on a legal defense team headed by ex-Supreme Court Justice Cyrus Garza (Smits).
Cast (Feature Film)
Appeared in Q-Tip commercials from age eight months
First film appearance was as Robert De Niro's son in "Falling in Love"
TV-movie acting debut, "Classified Love"
First leading role in a film, Steven Soderbergh's "King of the Hill"
TV-series acting debut in "The Rainmaker" episode of the anthology series, "Tribeca"
Joined Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie in the film "Hackers"
Cast as Balthasar in Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet"
Played the adopted French son of an expatriate American writer in "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries"
Co-starred in "Speedway Junky" (released theatrically in 2001)
Played the romantic interest in "Bring It On"
Starred in the sci-fi comedy "Clockstoppers"
Played the lead in the psychological thriller "Swimfan"
Co-starred in the black comedy "Eulogy"
Joined the ensemble drama feature "Heights"
Played a would-be young filmmaker in "Happy Endings"
Portrayed Rene Gagnon, one of the men who lifted the flag at the battle of Iwo Jima in Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers"
Cast as a college buddy of Bush, in Oliver Stone's controversial biopic "W."