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The star of ‘Cocktail’ and ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ has never been as famous as she could have been. We examine why.
For anyone who grew up in the Eighties, there are four pivotal Elisabeth Shue moments: one cool, one icky, one pervy and one confusing.
The cool was during 1987’s ‘Adventures in Babysitting’, when the gorgeous, straw-blonde actress stands up, foul-mouthedly, for her on-screen charges.
The icky is in ‘The Karate Kid’, when Daniel LaRusso snogs Shue by attempting to eat her face.
Pervy? ‘Cocktail’ obviously. In the era before internet porn, when a tween boy’s access to celebrity sex was hoping Sarah Greene had rolled her sleeves up on ‘Blue Peter’, the moment when Jordan sheds her top in a waterfall and there’s a glimpse of sideboob was seismic.
As for confusing, well, that isn’t Jennifer, Marty, why are you calling her Jennifer?
Born in Delaware in 1963, raised in New Jersey (and known to her friends and family as Lisa), she’s not the only Shue in showbiz. Remember the boring one with the almost-mullet in ‘Melrose Place’? Yep, that’s her younger brother Andrew.
Both were talented soccer players, Andrew playing briefly for LA Galaxy, while as a tween, she was the only girl in her local football league.
But after breaking onto the scene in TV show ‘Call To Glory’ – about a US Air Force pilot and his family – and then 1984’s ‘Karate Kid’ as a fresh-faced girl-next-door type, her career didn’t seem to take off immediately. Rather she returned to college, transferring to Harvard in 1985 to study political science (having taken several breaks she finally got her degree in 2000).
Her second role proved how unforgiving Hollywood could be despite previous success. In ‘Link’, she played a young intern alongside Terence Stamp in a movie about a hyper-intelligent and bloodthirsty monkey. ‘Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’ it ain’t.
Luckily, it didn’t derail her and once she got a foothold, cult favourite ‘Babysitting’ followed, as did ‘Cocktail’.
Still, performing was clearly never the centre of her universe. She married documentarian Davis Guggenheim (‘An Inconvenient Truth’) in 1994 and the pair have three kids.
It was only a year after marrying that she played perhaps her most famous role, as the prostitute hired by alcoholic Nicolas Cage as his companion while he goes on one final binge in ‘Leaving Las Vegas’. Her sympathetic yet steely performance got her an Oscar nomination.
So why didn’t she kick on? Some might argue it’s because of a lack of good roles for women, others might suggest she was more interested in raising her family. Home life has always mattered to her – particularly after the 1988 death of older brother Will aged 26 in a swimming accident while on holiday.
Frankly, there were also some questionable career decisions. Two of her blockbuster choices ‘Hollow Man’ and The Saint’, ended up flopping. Meanwhile indies like ‘Palmetto’ and ‘Molly’ failed to cause much of a ripple.
Now aged 51, she’s segued into mum roles, playing parent to Dakota Fanning in 2005’s ‘Dreamer’ and Jennifer Lawrence in 2012 horror flick ‘House at the End of the Street’.
“I’m amazed they talk to me about all of those movies in the ‘80s,” she told Moviefone that same year. “I’m glad that they’re still on TV and there’s another generation of kids that have seen ‘Adventures in Babysitting’.”
In 2012, she also joined ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’ as blood spatter specialist Julie Findlay, aka Finn, the replacement for long-serving cast member Marg Helgenberger. The show is scheduled to finish on 27 September and she’s already lined up a guest spot on Patrick Stewart’s new sitcom ‘Blunt Talk’.
“I love the camaraderie of the girls on the show and I always feel like I want it to be more competitive, like girls against guys,” she told The Killing Times of ‘CSI’ in 2014. “Coming from my family background, I like when things get competitive, so I am excited about that.”
Competition is not something she’s lacking in her life. Since 2007, away from the day job of being a fake scientist, she’s been trying to get on the pro tennis circuit, playing in pro-am tournaments and training with top coaches.
“It’s always been a dream of mine,” she said in 2009. “I don’t think I’ll be playing at the US Open, but…I’d like to be competing professionally, even at the lowest level. I’ve been training so hard, now I feel like more of a tennis player than an actress.”
And she’s on her way. In April 2014, she made her United States Tennis Association tournament debut in the qualifying draw of the Ojai Valley Open, one of the most prestigious amateur events in America. She returned this year.
Okay, so it would have been a whole lot funnier if she’d chosen karate over tennis, but you can’t have everything.
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