North Dakota-bred Duhamel attends local college, Minot State University, with hopes of playing pro football. "Two different coaches told me I didn't have it, and even today it still bothers me," Duhamel tells the Chicago Tribune in 2003. "As much as I hated them at the time, it made me a better person..." Hoping to become a dentist, Duhamel switches gears to biology, but drops out just one-and-a-half credits shy of earning his degree.
Duhamel moves to California to pursue modeling and wins Male Model of the Year at a New York modeling convention, beating Ashton Kutcher. Soon after, he's spotted by an agent. "An agent asked me if I was an actor, and that was the deciding factor for me," Duhamel tells USA Today. "I became obsessed with learning from good actors, like Alec Baldwin, and started taking classes."
While on a photo shoot, Duhamel meets model Kristy Pierce. In 2004, the pair gets engaged, but call it quits months shy of their wedding. "When you're working all the time, it becomes very difficult," he tells Cosmopolitan. "She really taught me about how important it is to be present. I've learned to try to turn off what I do at work and focus on who I'm with."
Duhamel plays the scheming Leo du Pres on ABC's All My Children. After his last season in 2002, he wins a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor. "To be honest, I worked my butt off," he tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Duhamel is cast in NBC's Las Vegas, a primetime drama about casino surveillance experts. He plays Danny McCoy, protégé of top surveillance master Ed Deline played by James Caan. "Say what you want. The show is fun eye candy," Duhamel tells the Chicago Sun-Times. "People like Vegas. They like girls in tight dresses. That's why the series continues to go on." The show is canceled after five seasons in 2008.
DreamWorks studio head Steven Spielberg casts Duhamel as the title character in Win a Date with Tad Hamilton opposite Kate Bosworth and Topher Grace. "When I first auditioned, they wanted the biggest of the big super movie star names to play this part," he tells WWD. "But then they either had to go with a big name, or they had to go with a nobody...And thank God they did that because I got to do it."
Shortly after telling In Style that he has recurring dreams about Black Eyed Peas songstress Fergie, Duhamel meets the singer when she makes an appearance on Las Vegas. While on the set, Fergie asks Duhamel if his dream was good. The pair begins dating and gets engaged in late 2007.
Duhamel stars as a tourist in Brazil who falls prey to organ harvesters in the lackluster thriller Turistas. The bikini-clad film opens at No. 8 at the box office, earning a disappointing $3.5 million during its opening weekend.
Duhamel appears on the cover of men's fitness magazine, Best Life, where he discusses his connection to girlfriend Fergie: "She's a real total star. I'm more subdued than that...But that's what makes us work. We have similar fundamental values. We both grew up in similar families. She's just got a great soul."
Duhamel plays Capt. Lennox, a special-ops officer who comes across deadly robots, in Transformers opposite Shia LaBeouf. "I watched the show as a kid and loved the dark, evil ones," Duhamel tells the Chicago Sun-Times. After the film takes in $152.6 million in its first week, Duhamel reprises his role for a 2009 sequel.
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Mark J. Terrill/AP; Jeff Christensen/Landov; Everett Collection; Dreamworks; Devan/INF; Twentieth Century FOX; Andrew Macpherson; Everett Collection