After gaining notice as a tough surfer in "Point Break" (1991) and a feisty young baseball player in "A League of Their Own" (1992), actress Lori Petty was all but assured of a stardom befitting her talent. But as luck would have it, Petty often struggled throughout her career to build off her initial success. She immediately followed up these two hits with rather underwhelming fare like "Free Willy" (1993) and the Pauly Shore vehicle "In the Army Now" (1994), before gaining a degree of notoriety - both for good and ill - with a leading role in the frenetic, and all-too-confusing post-apocalyptic flick, "Tank Girl" (1995). Her polarizing performance, which earned a substantial cult following, wound up hurting Petty's feature career, which led her to accept more roles on the small screen. Following a failed attempt to create her own series with the short-lived "Lush Life" (Fox, 1996), she appeared as a guest star on episodes of popular shows like "Star Trek: Voyager" (UPN, 1995-2001), "ER" (NBC, 1994-2010) and "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005), while voicing the villainous Livewire on both "Superman: The Animated Series" (The WB, 1996-2000) and "The New Batman Adventures" (The WB, 1997-99). Her fortunes improved with her feature directing debut, "The Poker House" (2009), which allowed the talented performer to branch out into a refreshing new direction.
Born on Oct. 14, 1963 in Chattanooga, TN, Petty was raised by her Pentecostal minister father and later graduated from North High School in Sioux City, IA. Following her graduation, she worked for a while as a graphic artist in Omaha, NE, before moving to New York City and Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. After making her TV movie debut in the comedic thriller, "Bates Motel" (NBC, 1987), a rather limp knockoff of Alfred Hitchcock's classic "Psycho" (1960), Petty spent much of the late 1980s on unsuccessful series like "The Line" (NBC, 1987), "The Thornes" (ABC, 1988), "Monster Manor" (ABC, 1988), "Perry Mason: The Case of the Musical Murder" (NBC, 1989), and "San Berdoo" (ABC, 1989). But her career accelerated when she was cast as a smart-mouthed secretary opposite sex symbol Richard Grieco on the TV crime drama "Booker" (Fox, 1989-1090). Meanwhile, Petty made her feature debut with a small role in the comedy "Cadillac Man" (1990), starring Robin Williams and Tim Robbins, which opened the door a bit wider for the young actress with the distinctive voice.
After the demise of "Booker," Petty went on to land her breakthrough role, playing the tough-as-nails surfer girlfriend of an undercover rookie FBI agent (Keanu Reeves) infiltrating a gang of bank robbers headed by a charismatic leader (Patrick Swayze) in Kathryn Bigelow's action thriller "Point Break" (1991). She was next cast as Geena Davis' younger sister, who struggles to break out from under her sibling's shadow, in Penny Marshall's "A League of Their Own" (1992). Feisty and funny, Petty was one of the high points in the enjoyable ensemble film about the forming of the short-lived All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War II. Though the performance was widely noted by critics, Petty had difficulty landing another role to showcase her particular skill set. After a cameo in the film-within-a-film in John Singleton's "Poetic Justice" (1993), she played the sympathetic animal trainer in the children's hit "Free Willy" (1993), before taking the unfortunate step of co-starring with Pauly Shore in the dismal war comedy "In the Army Now" (1994).
In an attempt to become an action heroine, Petty was cast opposite Sylvester Stallone for the production of "Demolition Man" (1993), but conflicts with producer Joel Silver over the character's direction were resolved with her role being recast with Sandra Bullock. She did move on to play a female cop in the thriller "The Glass Shield" (1994), before receiving another career-boosting chance when she replaced Emily Lloyd as the "Mad Maxine" star of the post-apocalyptic action film, "Tank Girl" (1995), based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name. The bizarre, hyperkinetic film received mixed reviews, but Petty was certainly memorable in a performance that lived on in cult infamy. Briefly returning to television, she voiced athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias in the documentary "A Century of Women" (TBS, 1994), before co-creating and co-starring with Karyn Parsons on the short-lived sitcom "Lush Life" (Fox, 1996). Following an episode of "Star Trek: Voyager" (UPN, 1995-2001), Petty returned to features for a leading role in the direct-to-video thriller, "Serial Bomber" (1998), and a co-starring turn alongside Jennifer Tilly, Serena Scott Thomas and Cynda Williams in the gay-themed romantic comedy "Relax.It's Just Sex" (1999).
Petty continued struggling to find another role that would reboot her flagging career. She landed an episode on the short-lived supernatural procedural "Brimstone" (Fox, 1998-99), while providing the voice of supervillain Livewire on "Superman: The Animated Series" (The WB, 1996-2000) and "The New Batman Adventures" (The WB, 1997-99). After appearing off-Broadway in a production of "Killer Joe" (1999), the actress languished in features like "Route 666" (2001) and "Prey for Rock & Roll" (2003). Though she managed to score guest starring stints on episodes of top-rated series like "ER" (NBC, 1994-2010) and "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005), Petty fell into further ignominy on the movie side with a voiceover role for "The Karate Dog" (ABC Family, 2004). She next appeared on "Line of Fire" (ABC, 2003-04) and "Masters of Horror" (Showtime, 2005-07) while co-starring in the indie drama "Macarthur Park" (2003). Finding more challenges on the small screen, Petty appeared in episodes of "CSI: NY" (CBS, 2004-13), "House" (Fox, 2004-12) and "The Cleaner" (A&E, 2008-09), before returning to features for her directing debut, "The Poker House" (2009), an semiautobiographical drama about a young girl (Jennifer Lawrence) who struggles to deal with a junkie mother and pimp father while struggling to survive living in a home overrun by gamblers and thieves. Meanwhile, she played a small town sheriff in the limited release coming-of-age drama "Chasing 3000" (2010).
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Music (Feature Film)
Moved to New York
Moved to Los Angeles
Made TV movie debut in "Bates Motel" (NBC)
Appeared in first short film, "They Haven't Seen This"
Made TV series debut in Fox's "Booker"
Made feature film debut in "Cadillac Man"
Played Keanu Reeves' surfer girlfriend in the action thriller, "Point Break"
Cast as Kit, Geena Davis' younger sister in "A League of Their Own"; directed by Penny Marshall and co-starring Tom Hanks
Played an animal trainer in the family film, "Free Willy"
Feature debut as a lead, "Tank Girl"
Co-created and co-starred in (with Karyn Parsons) the short-lived FOX sitcom, "Lush Life"
Provided the voice of the supervillain Livewire for the WB's "Superman: The Animated Series" and "The New Batman Adventures"
Cast in the short-lived FOX television series, "Brimstone"
Featured as a lesbian in "Relax...It's Just Sex"
Made stage debut in the Off-Broadway production "Killer Joe"
Made directorial debut with "Horrible Accident"; also wrote
Once again was the voice of Livewire for the video game, "Superman: Shadow Of Apokolips"
Featured in the drama, "Prey For Rock & Roll"
Guest-starred as a patient with Huntington's Disease in "House" (FOX)
Appeared in the TV-movie, "Prison Break: The Final Break" (aired in Israel and the UK)
Wrote and directed second feature, "The Poker House"