After earning his economics degree, he segued into acting in 1999 with a guest role on "7th Heaven" (The WB), which led to his being cast in the pilot of the high school set-series "Popular" in the role of jock Josh Ford. Being replaced for the actual run of the series by actor Bryce Johnson proved a positive development in Pardue's career, with the lack of work freeing him up for movie roles. A supporting turn in the off-beat comedy "But I'm a Cheerleader" (1999) as a gay teen enrolled in a program designed to "straighten" him out marked the actor's big screen debut. He followed up with a turn in the less funny "Whatever it Takes" (2000), an uninspired reworking of "Cyrano de Bergerac" for the teen set. Pardue gained more notice for his co-starring role as 'Sunshine', the long-haired California import who helps unite a school and community as the quarterback of the newly desegregated football team in the 1970s Virginia-set drama "Remember the Titans" (2000). Here his high school and college football past served him well, and audiences took notice of the charming character and his more-than-capable portrayer.Noted as one to watch by both Variety and E! Online following this turn, Pardue was poised to make his breakthrough, taking his debut starring role opposite Sylvester Stallone in "Driven" (2001), the action-packed Renny Harlin-directed look at the CART racing circuit. As the dashing rookie Jimmy Bly, he caught the attention of an even wider audience, and brought the right mixture of fire and apathy to the hot property reveling in his success and facing burnout. Turns in the less-flashy features "The Glass House" (2001) and "Rat in the Can" (lensed 2000) would prove Pardue's versatility, while his reputation as a grounded and professional person off screen would open ever more doors. In 2002 Pardue joined the young ensemble cast of writer-director Roger Avary's edgy and provocative film adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis' bestseller "The Rules of Attraction," playing a shallow 1980s college student caught up in a variety of sexcapades. In "This Girl's Life," Pardue goes on a blind date with a young woman (Juliette Marquis) he later finds out is a porn star.Then after appearing as a 20-something neighbor who is tempted by the prospect of a threesome with two thirteen year-olds in the acclaimed drama "Thirteen" (2003), Pardue played a high school swimming champion tired of the pressure and attention in "Imaginary Heroes" (2005), co-starring Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Daniels and Emile Hirsch. The low-budget indie was seen at a few festivals, including Toronto in 2004 and Santa Barbara in early 2005, before being released in a couple dozen theaters. Pardue then appeared in "Undiscovered" (2005) co-starring Pell James, Ashlee Simpson and Shannyn Sossamon. Thanks to poor reviews and limited advertising, the insipid romantic drama about wannabe singers guided by random fate and superficial ambitions remained true to its name by failing to crack seven figures in wide release opening weekend.
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