Date of Birth: October 6, 1963
Elisabeth Shue's career was going nowhere fast as she played the charming, comely, easy-on-the-eyes girlfriend role in a number of films, each more or less forgettable than the other. Then the mailman (or woman) intervened. "I've tried never to look at my career and say, 'Okay, what do I need to do to change my image?'," Shue says. "But I did feel a desperate need to play somebody more complex, and at a time when I was really unhappy and unsure of my career, the Leaving Las Vegas script just came in the mail."
Sure, the Vegas movie had her playing yet another girlfriend (sort of) and as hoary an old cliché as Hollywood has—the hooker with the heart of gold. But like so many before her who've used that hooker role to Oscar nomination effect—Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8, Jane Fonda in Klute, Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite, Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver—Shue took the role and ran with it. Many accolades and one Oscar nomination later, Shue suddenly found herself on the A-List of Hollywood actresses.
The road to fame began when the Wellesley College student followed a friend's example and pursued work as a actress in television commercials. Her ability to do cartwheels and flips impressed the first producers she auditioned for who hired her to plug a Florida theme park. Other commercials followed until she bagged her first feature film role, as Ralph Macchio's girlfriend in The Karate Kid, and her first television role in Call to Glory.
An acting coach and a transfer to Harvard later, Shue continued getting nominal roles in so-so films as she watched her kid brother Andrew's fame eclipse her own as he landed a studly starring role on TV's Melrose Place, and quickly eclipsed Elisabeth's fame. But then director Mike Figgis came calling via the mail with the Vegas script. Shue took a risk on the low-budget film and was rewarded for her courage with a suddenly very hot career. Before filming began, Shue did some research by strolling through the red light districts in various cities and remembers, "I had a hard time letting go of Leaving Las Vegas. I still visit red-light districts in every city I go to."
Since then, she has graduated from Harvard University with a degree in political science, and continues to work in a variety of films, including Leo (2002) with Joseph Fiennes, Hide and Seek (2005) with Robert DeNiro and Dakota Fanning, and Dreamer (2005), with Kurt Russell and Fanning. In the 2008 comedy Hamlet 2, she played a character based on herself—an actress named Elisabeth Shue who had retired from acting. She has since continued to land roles in popular films alongside A-list stars. Some of her 2012 titles included Hope Springs with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, House at the End of the Street with Jennifer Lawrence and Chasing Mavericks opposite Gerard Butler.
Since then, she's had roles in films such as Behaving Badly (2014), Battle of the Sexes (2017) and Death Wish (2018).
Shue has been married to director Davis Guggenheim since 1994, and they have a son, Miles (b. 1997) and two daughters, Stella (b. 2001) and Agnes (b. 2006).
Death Wish (2018)
Battle of the Sexes (2017)
Behaving Badly (2014)
Chasing Mavericks (2012)
Hope Springs (2012)
House at the End of the Street (2012)
Janie Jones (2011)
Hamlet 2 (2008)
Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story (2005)
Hide and Seek (2005) (2005)
Mysterious Skin (2005)
Hollow Man (2000)
Cousin Bette (1998)
Back to the Future: Part III (1990)
Back to the Future: Part II (1989)
Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
The Karate Kid (1984)