She'll return to Tufts this fall, but not before giving the movies another shot. In October she'll star alongside James Van Der Beek, Shannyn Sossamon, and Kip Pardue in The Rules of Attraction. Based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel, it's a satiric look at a sexual triangle among friends at a New England liberal-arts college. Biel passed on a nude scene, but still manages to play against type—just like she's always wanted.

The trailer for Rules of Attraction

"What's most impressive about Jess is that she's really brave when the camera rolls," says Van Der Beek. "There was this one scene where she had to break down and cry, and she nailed it on the first take. She absolutely grabbed the scene by the balls. The girl knows her shit."

Biel admits that returning to the cineplex after her public comeuppance is a bit nerve-racking, but she's ready to put the controversy behind her.

"You do crazy things when you're 17, and I've changed a lot since then," the 20-year-old says with a smile. "I'm finally ready to show people that there is a very different side of me."