By Serena Kappes with Maria Hernandez Jessica Herndon
July 27, 2005 06:00 AM

Age: 23
Hometown: Boulder, Colo.
Current gig: Playing a fighter pilot alongside Jamie Foxx and Josh Lucas in the action movie Stealth

She knows how to handle men
To train for her role as military fighter pilot Kara Wade in Stealth, Jessica Biel went behind the scenes with a female Navy pilot. “I observed her with her squadron mates and watched how she wrapped them around her finger,” she says. And she took the flyer’s advice on how to deal with her male costars: Become one of the guys. “They would give me crap and I would give it right back,” she says of Foxx and Lucas.

So how did Biel stack up against them when they had to sit in a 100-ton machine that simulated the flying experience? Says director Rob Cohen, “Jamie turned green. Josh got two concussions banging his head in the crash landing sequence, and Jessica came out smelling like a rose.”

She works hard for her body
Biel is known for her toned physique, which she showed off in 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and 2004’s Blade: Trinity. But her figure is not just a result of good genes. “I usually work out with a trainer three or four times a week,” she says. “I like to mix in ballet or Tae Bo with running on the beach.” Another of her passions: surfing.

The actress, who dates Fantastic Four star Chris Evans, didn’t always feel confident about her curves. “I remember growing up thinking sometimes, ‘I have a weird body. I don’t look like these girls in Seventeen – they have no butts, and I do,’ ” she told InStyle.

She has a devilish streak
In 2000, when she was 17 and starring as minister’s daughter Mary Camden on the WB’s 7th Heaven, Biel caused a stir by posing topless on the cover of men’s magazine Gear. Rebellion was nothing new for the actress: As a young teen, she’d wear jean shorts with bright tights and yellow plastic boots. “I wanted to make my mother mad,” she told InStyle. “Like, ‘How much would she hate this outfit? Then that’s what I’m wearing!’ ”

She believes in academics
After moving to California in 1996, Biel scored her breakout role on 7th Heaven that same year (she quit the show in 2001 though she’s returned for guest appearances). But her parents – Jonathan, an international business consultant, and Kimberly, a spiritual healer – had always stressed the importance of education, and in 2000, she left Hollywood to attend Tufts University in Medford, Mass.

Although she got star treatment at first, “after a few months I wasn’t so special anymore,” she told PEOPLE. “I was just another freshman with bed-head and zits.” Though Biel didn’t graduate (she completed the first semester of her sophomore year), she plans to someday return to college to get her degree.

She’s got that sinking feeling
Biel costars with Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom in the Cameron Crowe-directed romantic comedy Elizabethtown (due in October) and has two other films on the way – the drama London and the adventure movie The Illusionist. But she’d really like to do something deeper: “I have a weird obsession with sunken ships,” Biel told Teen People. “I want to get certified for wreck diving. I would love to do that.”