The second youngest son of Cherie and David Bentley grew up in Mountain Home, Arkansas, on. During high school time at Sylvan Hills High School, he was co-captain of the football team, played in the theater group and the trumpet in the school band. His first acting steps cabarets in Little Rock before moving to the request of his mother to go to the renowned Juilliard drama school in New York. There he studied only for five months and earned the meantime his living as a waiter in a restaurant on Long Iceland. Coincidentally, the director Simon Aeby discovered him there for his first feature film, the psychological thriller Three Below Zero.
After his film debut with a minor role in the Toni Morrison adaptation of man he fell in 1999 to a wide audience through its multi-faceted role as a supposed paragon of virtue, the way dealt with drugs and with video recordings of neighbors pays homage to his voyeuristic tendencies, in Sam Mendes ' American Beauty on. For this role he received - in addition to various nominations - a Chicago Film Critics Association Award, NBR Award, the Online Film Critics Society Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
Another highlight of his career was the role of the young British officer Jack Durrance, a conformist war hero during the Mahdi uprising in 1885, Shekhar Kapur's The Four Feathers in. In the kingdom, and the glory, he was seen in another historic role - as a young, single-minded railway engineer during the Gold Rush in California in 1849 with the presentation of the demon Blackheart in the movie Ghost Rider, he embodied for the first time a villain. . In the film adaptation of the short story Dolan's Cadillac by Stephen King, he played an originally pacifist, an avenger becoming educators and thus returned to earlier roll sizes.
- His parents are clerics a Methodist church.
- After reading of Benjamin Hoff's The Tao of Pooh ( Tao Te Pooh: The Book of Tao and Pooh the Bear ), he was Taoist.
- Bentley married in 2001, the actress Jennifer Quanz. In 2006, she divorced again.