Family & Companions
All her life, Elisabeth Shue consistently proved she was able to do the impossible, playing on all boys' soccer teams while growing up, and enrolling at Harvard University. The actress made her mark playing lovable goody-goodies in films such as the iconic underdog favorite, "The Karate Kid" (1984), "Adventures in Babysitting" (1987) and "Back to the Future 2" (1989) - all of which pigeon-holed her in girl-next-door roles for years. Perhaps Shue's most impressive feat was bouncing back after most critics and audiences had written her off as a 1980s relic, when she took on a role that was unlike anything else she had played before - a prostitute who falls in love with a depressed alcoholic - in "Leaving Las Vegas" (1995). Giving the performance of her life, Shue proved she was more than a clean-cut beauty who had grown up on camera. She was a true onscreen chameleon who would never go out of style, as long as she was given roles with substance and grit.
Elisabeth Judson Shue was born on born Oct. 6, 1963 in Wilmington, DE. Her mother, Anne Harms (née Wells), was the vice president of the private division of the Chemical Banking Corporation, and her father, James Shue, was a lawyer and real estate developer who was the president of the International Food and Beverage Corporation. James was active in Republican politics and ran (unsuccessfully) for the U.S. Senate in New Jersey. Raised with her three brothers - including Andrew, who would follow in his sister's later footsteps by starring as the lovelorn taxi driver Billy Campbell on "Melrose Place" (FOX, 1992-99) - Shue was a fourth grader when her parents divorced. She was very close to her siblings, and even worked with Andrew and John later in film projects. Another brother, William, died in 1988 from a swimming accident while on a family vacation. Shue attended Columbia High School in Maplewood, NJ, where she excelled in gymnastics. Several years later, both she and Andrew were inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 1994.
Wellesley College was Shue's next academic venture and it was while attending the all-woman institution that the future star focused on her studies instead of boys and partying. During her junior year, a friend inspired Shue to work as an actress in television commercials. She booked several jobs right away including an ad for a Florida theme park, DeBeers diamonds, Hellman's mayonnaise, and fast food giant Burger King where she earned the nickname "Burger King Girl," due to her appearance in over 20 spots. A role in the short-lived TV series "Call to Glory" (Paramount TV, 1984-85) gave Shue great acting exposure, but it was her first feature film that same year that jump-started her career.
"The Karate Kid" (1984) was a martial arts teen drama that starred Tiger Beat poster boy Ralph Macchio, fresh off his success in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Outsiders" (1983). As Macchio's understanding girlfriend who helps give him the courage to take on the school bully, Shue sparkled and found herself on every filmmaker's wish list virtually overnight. The actress, however, did not want to give up her education, so she transferred to Harvard University in 1985 to become an attorney. It was a noble effort, yet even Shue realized her passion for acting had truly taken over her life. She eventually dropped out of Harvard just one semester short of earning her degree.
While it could be argued that Shue made a risky choice to pursue acting instead of higher education, there was no denying her next big screen project truly defined her young acting career and made her an 1980s icon in her own right. "Adventures in Babysitting" (1987), directed by Chris Columbus, was a comedic romp about girl-next-door Chris Parker (Elizabeth Shue), who agrees to babysit for a teen girl and a young boy after her boyfriend cancels their date. "Adventures in Babysitting" was just the beginning of the actress' major 1980s film projects. A year later, she was cast opposite none other than the world's biggest male star at the time, Tom Cruise, in the romantic romp "Cocktail" (1988).
Shue's early blockbuster streak reached its peak when she was cast as Jennifer, Marty McFly's (Michael J. Fox) girlfriend in "Back to the Future 2" (1989) and "Back to the Future 3" (1990). Another actress, Claudia Wells, originally played Jennifer in the first installment of the time-traveling series, but Shue gave the character star power when she signed on for the final two films, delivering memorable lines such as "Marty, you're acting like you haven't seen me in a week," with natural comedic flair.
By the early 1990s, it seemed Shue's career was beginning to slow down. The actress kept busy with supporting roles in "The Marrying Man" (1991) and chewed the scenery with purpose in the over-the-top comedy "Soapdish" (1991). It was also around this time where she started to distance herself from girl-next-door roles which had put her on the map. At the same time, her handsome brother Andrew started getting more press attention than she, due to his role in the addictive nighttime soap "Melrose Place." In 1994, Shue married Davis Guggenheim, who directed "An Inconvenient Truth" (2006), and the couple had three children. While raising a family, Shue - who thought perhaps her best days as an actress were behind her - also waited for the perfect role to come her way. As it turned out, the wait was definitely worth it.
It took four years for Shue to finally shed the wholesome image she portrayed on film, with her most critically-praised performance to date in "Leaving Las Vegas" (1995), directed by Mike Figgis. Playing Sera, a masochistic prostitute involved in a tragic love affair opposite a suicidal alcoholic - played by Nicolas Cage, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his work - was a landmark role in Shue's career. Her compelling performance earned the actress multiple award nominations for Best Actress in 1996, including a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award. Shue later said that she owed much to an unlikely previous project for helping her nab the life-changing role. "Mike Figgis thought of me for 'Leaving Las Vegas' because of 'Babysitting," Shue said. "And I don't know why."
"Leaving Las Vegas" not only made Shue a household name once again, it also helped her nab more serious, in-depth roles. She played a scientist opposite super-spy Val Kilmer in the big budget sci-fi flick "The Saint" (1997) and worked with legendary filmmaker Woody Allen in the ensemble comedy "Deconstructing Harry" (1997). Versatile film projects followed, with a dual role in the crime drama "Palmetto" (1998) opposite Woody Harrelson, the period piece "Cousin Bette" (1998) with Jessica Lange, and as an autistic woman in 1999's "Molly."
The year 2000 marked another milestone in Shue's life when she returned to Harvard University to finish her studies. She received a degree in government that spring, 15 years after dropping out to pursue acting. The new millennium brought on supporting, albeit very strong and memorable roles for the actress in independent films. She was the narrator of the ethereal "Tuck Everlasting" (2002), co-starred with Joseph Fiennes in "Leo" (2002), and had a very convincing performance as a hustler's mother in Gregg Araki's "Mysterious Skin" (2004). Shue worked twice with rising star Dakota Fanning in 2005; first in the thriller "Hide and Seek" and in the heartwarming and inspirational family movie "Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story."
Shue's next project, 2007's "Gracie," truly was a family affair. She co-produced the film with her brothers Andrew and John, and it was directed by her husband. The story centered on a young woman who was the sole female member of a boys' soccer team, and was loosely based on Shue's own childhood experiences, in that she played on boys' soccer teams until she was 13 years old. In 2008, Shue had a small role in the offbeat comedy "Hamlet 2," where she played a completely fabricated version of herself. The role was compared to a "South Park celebrity cameo come to life," in the movie that also starred brilliantly versatile actors Steve Coogan, Amy Poehler, and Catherine Keener. That same year, the actress took on another complex role as a woman suffering from a multiple personality disorder in the psychological thriller "Waking Madison."
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Broke into TV at age 16 playing a chipper, uniformed spokesclerk in the first of a series of 20 national Burger King commercials
Played the regular role of the teenage daughter Jackie Sarnac on the ABC drama series "Call to Glory"
Made her screen debut in "The Karate Kid"
First TV-movie, "Double Switch" (ABC)
Starred in the hit film comedy "Adventures in Babysitting"
Played opposite Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly's girlfriend Jennifer in "Back to the Future II", replacing Claudia Wells, who'd essayed the role in "Back to the Future"; Shue reprised the role in "Back to the Future III" (1990)
Made her Broadway debut in "Some Americans Abroad"
Co-starred in the comedy "Soapdish," playing Sally Field's aspiring actress-daughter
Had her breakthrough screen role as the prostitute Sera in "Leaving Las Vegas"; received Oscar nomination for Best Actress
Appeared as Woody Allen's young lover in his star-studded "Deconstructing Harry"
Starred opposite Val Kilmer in "The Saint"
Played Jenny to Jessica Lange's "Cousin Bette," directed by Des McAnuff
Starred as "Molly", who becomes a genius after an experimental treatment cures her autism but maintains her childlike way of looking at the world; John Duigan directed the picture
Portrayed Linda McKay, a U.S. Government scientist assisting Kevin Bacon with his research project to unlock the secret of invisibility in Paul Verhoeven's "The Hollow Man"; during filming, Shue injured her Achilles tendon, causing a two-month delay in the shooting
Cast as the mother of a teenager in the ABC movie "Oprah Winfrey Presents: Amy and Isabelle"
Starred alongside Joseph Fiennes and Justin Chambers in "Leo"
Played the mother of a teenage hustler in "Mysterious Skin"
Starred in the thriller "Hide and Seek" with Robert De Niro and Dakota Fanning
Co-produced and starred in "Gracie," a film about a teenage girl with an interest in soccer; partly based on Elisabeth's own experience; produced with her brother Andrew Shue
Hilariously played herself as a retired actress in the comedy "Hamlet 2"
Starred in the action thriller "Piranha 3-D"
Was cast opposite Abigail Breslin in the drama "Janie Jones"
Co-starred with Jennifer Lawrence in horror thriller "House at the End of the Street"
Co-starred with Gerard Butler in surfing drama "Chasing Mavericks"
Was cast as a series regular on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," as a blood spatter expert
Appeared in a supporting role in the teen comedy "Behaving Badly"
Played Priscilla Riggs in sports biopic "Battle of the Sexes"
Co-starred with Bruce Willis and Vincent D'Onofrio in Eli Roth's crime drama "Death Wish"