With puppy dog eyes and a lopsided grin, Jesse Bradford is a young actor who seems to have studied at the Paul Rudd School of Dorky Charm; like Rudd (with whom he co-starred in William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet), his earnest, intelligent good looks have made him a natural for playing both sensitive outcasts and unconventional romantic leads. An actor since he made his debut in a Q-Tip commercial at the age of eight months, Bradford first earned attention for his work in James Ivory's A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (1996), and made a splash in the teen heartthrob wading pool with his role as Kirsten Dunst's would-be boyfriend in Bring It On (2000).
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Born in Connecticut on May 28, 1979, Bradford made his first business contacts through his mother, who was a commercial actress. After appearing in a number of commercials, he got his next big break with a role on the TV soap opera The Guiding Light, and made his screen debut playing Robert De Niro's son in Falling in Love (1984). Following with more TV work, Bradford appeared as the offspring of yet another screen icon, this time as Harrison Ford's son in Presumed Innocent (1990). More substantial work soon came the young actor's way, first in The Boy Who Cried Bitch (1991), a little-seen drama in which he played the younger brother of a teenaged sociopath; then in Steven Soderbergh's acclaimed King of the Hill (1993), in which Bradford starred as a young boy forced to fight for his own survival in Depression-era St. Louis. The latter role brought him a number of positive notices and Hollywood attention; another starring role in Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog (1995) followed, as did the sizable part of Balthasar in Baz Luhrmann's celebrated William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996).
Bradford also earned sizable acclaim for his portrayal of the adopted French son of an American couple (Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Hershey) in James Ivory's A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (1998). Made the same year that the actor enrolled at Columbia University, the film was held in high regard by a number of critics who pointed to its ensemble acting as one of its major strengths.
Bradford's increasing recognition as an actor was reflected by his subsequent casting as a Clash-loving indie-rock boy with a weakness for his high school's head cheerleader in Bring It On, Peyton Reed's giddy, teen, cheerleading comedy. It wasn't long before Bradford stepped into the lead, and with his role in the teen time-travel thriller Clockstoppers (2002) the promising young actor did just that. Though Clockstoppers was little more than a moderate success at the box-office, Bradford ventured into Fear (1996) territory while being stalked by Erica Christensen in the teen thriller Swimfan. His experience on the small screen fairly limited to this point in his career, Bradford had an impressive two-year run on the political drama The West Wing before making the leap back to the big screen in the independent dramas Eulogy and Heights. A supporting performance as a man with a curious secret in Don Roos' 2006 comedy drama Happy Endings preceded a trip back in time in the first installment of director Clint Eastwood's ambitious World War II saga Flags of Our Fathers (which was followed soon thereafter by the Bradford-less Letters from Iwo Jima). He appeared in Oliver Stone's biopic W., and landed a major role in the adaptation of Tucker Max's I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi