Family & Companions
Playing the lust object in a raunchy teen sex comedy might have a restrictive effect on an acting career, but Shannon Elizabeth seemed to avoid that pitfall after her sexy debut in 1999's "American Pie." After baring all for the hit feature, Elizabeth's easygoing personality was the focus in a string of screen comedies, including "Scary Movie" (2000) and "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (2001). TV also afforded her some choice appearances, most notably in a recurring role on "That '70s Show" (Fox, 1998-2006) and her own sitcom, "Cuts" (UPN, 2005-06). Between acting gigs, Elizabeth excelled as a prominent and successful figure at celebrity poker tournaments, as well as founded her own non-profit animal rescue organization - putting two of her greatest passions to good use by way of her "American Pie" celebrity.
Born Shannon Elizabeth Fadal in Houston, TX on Sept. 7, 1973, her exotic looks were the result of her mixed heritage; father Gerald Edward Fadal was of Syrian and Lebanese ancestry, while mother Patricia Dianne Abbott was of German, Irish, Cherokee and English descent. An only child, Elizabeth enjoyed a popular and active childhood in Waco, TX, where her family moved while she was very young. She took ballet and tap lessons as a child, which segued into cheerleading and volleyball while in high school. Tennis was her favorite sport during her school years, and Elizabeth reportedly considered pursuing it as a career before a chance encounter with a video producer got her interested in modeling.
After graduating from high school in 1991, Elizabeth relocated to New York City and began modeling in the United States and abroad. The extensive travel required for the job eventually proved too wearying for her, so she settled in Los Angeles with the intention of finding an inroad into acting. Signing with the Ford Modeling Agency (and later Elite Model Management) helped expose her to casting agents, and landed her first on-screen appearance in a Taco Bell commercial. Supporting roles in teen-oriented television like "Hang Time" (NBC, 1995-200) and "USA High" (syndicated, 1997-99) soon followed, as did appearances in several low budget features - most notably the campy horror film "Jack Frost" (1996), for which she was billed under her full name. The film also marked her first on-camera nude scene.
In 1999, Elizabeth was tapped for the small but pivotal role of Nadia, a sexually precocious exchange student in "American Pie;" Elizabeth's key scene, which required her to appeal fully nude and simulate masturbation, helped make the film a massive hit among teen male audiences that year. Elizabeth capitalized on the film's career boost by appearing nude in a layout for Playboy that same year, and signed a three-picture deal with Miramax Films, which yielded another breakout hit, the Wayans Brothers' horror parody "Scary Movie" (2000). Elizabeth proved herself a capable broad comic with her appearance as a popular high school girl unable to reign in her obnoxious nature, even after her head is removed from her body. Elizabeth was also featured prominently as Enrique Iglesias' love in the 2000 music video for his single "Be with You."
Though Elizabeth was named Star of Tomorrow at the ShoWest convention in 2001, her subsequent film efforts failed to match the popularity of her initial run of hits. She returned as Nadia for the inevitable and inferior "American Pie 2" (2001), and starred in relatively straight roles as a terrified teen in the effects-heavy remake of "Thir13een Ghosts" (2001) and as a police officer in the dreary sex comedy "Tomcats" (2001). The latter film featured actor Joseph D. Reitman in a bit part as a john who propositions Elizabeth; the couple had been co-habiting since 1997, and were married in 2002, with Reitman appearing in small roles in several of Elizabeth's projects, including "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (2001). Elizabeth also served as executive producer and co-star for Reitman's short film "Survivin' the Island" (2002), which imagined former "Survivor" (CBS, 2000- ) contestants struggling to re-adjust to civilized life. The couple also co-founded the non-profit animal rescue organization, Animal Avengers, which helped rescue and adopt abandoned pets and raise awareness for numerous animal issues.
A role as the fiancée of real-life whistle blower Brian Cruver in the TV movie "The Crooked E: The Unshredded Truth about Enron" (2003) preceded a period which saw Elizabeth devoting more time to television appearances than feature films. She began the first of nine guest appearances as Brooke, who allegedly carried Kelso's (Ashton Kutcher) child on "That '70s Show," and showed off some considerable skill with cards on "Celebrity Poker Showdown" (Bravo, 2003-06) and "Celebrity Blackjack" (Game Show Network, 2004). The latter appearances marked the beginning of what Elizabeth called her "second career" as a professional poker player, though there still were a few film appearances, most notably as a fantasy woman in "Love Actually" (2003), a sexy hitchhiker in the comedy "Johnson Family Vacation" (2004), and a bit part in Wes Craven's trouble-plagued werewolf thriller "Cursed" (2005).
In 2005, Elizabeth separated from Reitman, who subsequently filed an extensive lawsuit that sought half of the property and assets they accumulated during their brief marriage. Elizabeth filed for divorce in 2005, and a settlement with Reitman was reached in 2006. Elizabeth consoled herself by diving into several projects - most notably a starring role on the sitcom "Cuts" as the spoiled daughter of a much-loved barbershop's new owner. The series did not survive UPN's transformation into the CW, but Elizabeth remained exceptionally busy with the lighthearted TV movie "Confessions of an American Bride" (2005) and a supporting role as Tom Arnold's unsympathetic wife in Penelope Spheeris' comedy, "The Kid and I" (2005).
Elizabeth's poker career also flourished during this period; she competed successfully in the World Series of Poker tourneys from 2005 through 2007, advancing to the semi-finals of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship in 2007, defeating several former World Series of Poker winners. Elizabeth even found a way to translate her passion for cards into her film career; she appeared in Zak Penn's improvisational comedy "The Grand" (2007), which was set against a high-stakes poker competition in Las Vegas, and co-starred opposite Burt Reynolds in the gambling drama "Deal" (2008). Elizabeth also signed a sponsorship deal with the online game, Full Tilt Poker. A fan of the ABC series "Dancing with the Stars" (2005- ), Elizabeth returned to television as one of the celebrity competitors for the popular show's sixth season.
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Moved from Houston to Waco in the third grade
Feature debut in the campy horror film "Jack Frost"
Made a guest appearance on the CBS sitcom "Step by Step"
Co-starred with Sean Astin and Matthew Lillard in the independent comedy "Dish Dogs"
Appeared in the Fox TV-movie "Blade Squad"
Played a teenaged psychopath in the UPN TV-movie "Dying to Live"
Breakthrough screen role as Czech exchange student Nadia in "American Pie"
Featured in the horror spoof "Scary Movie"
Co-starred in the teen horror film "Thirteen Ghosts"
Reprised her role as Nadia in "American Pie 2"
Appeared in "Tomcats" with Jerry O'Connell and Jake Busey
Landed a small role in Richard Curtis' romantic comedy "Love Actually"
Appeared opposite Cedric the Entertainer in the comedy "Johnson Family Vacation"
Provided the likeness and voice for Serena St. Germaine in the video game "James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing"
Cast in Tom Arnold's feature screenwriting debut "The Kid and I"
Starred in the Wes Craven thriller "Cursed"
Joined the ABC reality show "Dancing with the Stars" as a contestant
Cast in the drama "Deal" opposite Burt Reynolds
Reprised role of Nadia along with original cast in "American Reunion"