Previous to that, Van Dien appeared in a recurring capacity on "Beverly Hills, 90210" (Fox, 1990-2000) before landing his first prominent feature role in "Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus" (1995). He essayed a solid leading performance in "James Dean: Race with Destiny" (1997), which when coupled with his "Starship Troopers" role cemented him as a rising star to watch. Unfortunately, most Van Dien watchers were disappointed with his string of subsequent B-movie projects like "Tarzan and the Lost City" (1998), "Modern Vampires" (1999) and "Shark Attack" (HBO, 1999). Following a supporting role in the studio release, "Sleepy Hollow" (1999), Van Dien again returned to the shadows with below-the-radar fare and even tried to recapture old glory in the straight-to-DVD release "Starship Troopers 3: Marauder" (2008). Despite numerous disappointments following his promising breakthrough, Van Dien nonetheless remained a performer worthy of his fans' affection.
Born on Dec. 18, 1968 in Ridgefield, NJ, Van Dien was raised by his father, Casper Sr., a former fighter pilot and naval commander, and his mother, Diane, a retired nursery school teacher. Because of his father's career in the U.S. Navy, Van Dien's family moved around quite a bit, making stops in such far flung locales as Okinawa, Japan and Florida before finally settling in Ridgewood, NJ when he was four years old. When he was 16, Van Dien attended the Admiral Farragut Military Academy in St. Petersburg, FL, before moving on to Florida State University, only to drop out after two years. Van Dien soon made the move to Los Angeles with the intention of pursing an acting career and began landing parts on shows like "Saved by the Bell" (NBC, 1989-1993) and in features like "The Color of Evening" (1994). Following roles in the syndicated series "Dangerous Women" (1991) and the short-lived drama "Freshman Dorm" (CBS, 1992), he moved to New York City and landed a role as Ty Moody on the daytime soap opera, "One Life to Live" (ABC,1968- ), which he played for a year.
Returning to Hollywood in 1994, Van Dien graduated to primetime soaps and scored his first big notice playing the recurring role of Griffin Stone, who dated Donna (Tori Spelling) with unfulfilling results on "Beverly Hills, 90210" (Fox, 1990-2000). He next had his first prominent feature role, playing King Tal in "Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus" (1995), before returning to television for the small screen movies "The Colony" (ABC, 1996) and "Nightscreen" (NBC, 1997). Van Dien delivered a convincing turn as 1950s icon James Dean opposite real-life wife Carrie Mitchum - granddaughter of Robert Mitchum - in the indie biopic "James Dean: Race With Destiny" (1997). That same year, Van Dien separated from Mitchum at a time when he finally earned his breakout role playing Johnny Rico, the unwitting soldier who unearths the ability to lead a group of soldiers against an army of large insects trying to destroy Earth in "Starship Troopers" (1997), directed by Paul Verhoeven. Polarizing due to its satirical use of fascist imagery, "Starship Troopers" was nonetheless a surprise hit that spawned direct-to-video sequels. Meanwhile, Van Dien solidified his status as a rising star and went on to swing from a vine as Lord Greystoke in the little seen "Tarzan and the Lost City" (1998) before portraying a hip vampire in the horror/dark comedy hybrid "Modern Vampires" (1999).
In the made-for-cable "Shark Attack" (HBO, 1999), Van Dien played a marine biologist who travels to South Africa to investigate a series of attacks, only to discover something more sinister. He next starred in the panned and long-forgotten biblical thriller "The Omega Code" (1999), which also starred future second wife Catherine Oxenberg, before making a supporting appearance opposite Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci in Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" (1999). Van Dien returned to regular series work on the short-lived primetime soap, "Titans" (NBC, 2000-01), which was canceled after only 13 episodes, but he did keep busy appearing in features like the skydiving action thriller "Cutaway" (2000) and the straight-to-video horror flick "Python"(2001). Returning to military-themed roles, Van Dien was a Navy commander in the straight-to-video release "Danger Beneath the Sea" (2002) and an Army captain fighting in Vietnam in "Under Heavy Fire" (HBO, 2003). Following roles in television movies like "Skeleton Man" (Syfy, 2005), "Officer Down" (Lifetime, 2005) and "Slayer" (Syfy, 2006), he starred on the limited serial "Watch Over Me" (MyNetwork TV, 2006-07) before returning to his breakthrough role of Johnny Rico for the straight-to-video "Starship Troopers 3: Marauder" (2008). Following a recurring role as a detective on "Monk" (USA, 2002-09), Van Dien went against type to appear in the holiday comedy "The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation" (ABC Family, 2010).