Elisabeth Shue

Award-winning actress Elisabeth Shue has starred in ‘The Karate Kid,’ ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ and ‘CSI.’


Elisabeth Shue began acting in TV commercials as a teen. Her first film was 1984's The Karate Kid. She followed up that success with the lead role in Adventures in Babysitting (1987). Shue won an Academy Award for the 1995 drama Leaving Las Vegas. More recently, she starred in the TV crime drama CSI from 2011 to 2015.

Early Life

Born on October 6, 1963, actress Elisabeth Shue is best known for such films as The Karate Kid (1984), Adventures in Babysitting (1987) and Leaving Las Vegas (1995). She grew up with three brothers, William, Andrew and John, in South Orange, New Jersey. Shue was an athlete, competing with her brothers on the soccer field. She later became a gymnast.

While a student at Columbia High School, Shue started her acting career. Her first part was in a Burger King commercial when she was 16 years old, and she landed more advertising work soon after. She attended Wellesley College after graduating from high school in 1981.

Popular Film Star

In 1984, Shue made her film debut in the box office hit The Karate Kid. She played Ali, the love interest of the title character Daniel (played by Ralph Macchio), in the movie. With 1987's Adventures in Babysitting, Shue moved from a supporting to a starring role as the heroic babysitter in this popular comedy. The following year, she shared the screen with Tom Cruise in Cocktail. Shue suffered a tremendous personal loss around this time. Her older brother William died in an accident during a family vacation. Shue told Biography magazine that this tragedy changed her personal outlook. "What happened to Will taught me that human beings are fragile. His death taught me not to be afraid anymore of who I was."

Shue went on to appear in the two sequels of the hit sci-fi comedy Back to the Future in 1989 and 1990. Soon after her career slowed down until landing her breakthrough dramatic role in 1995's Leaving Las Vegas. She played a hooker named Sera who becomes involved with an alcoholic played by Nicolas Cage in the critically acclaimed drama. Shue told Entertainment Weekly that she "got lucky" when she landed this part. "If you're not a star, you usually don't even get to read for a role this complex and beautiful, let alone get it."

Her work in Leaving Las Vegas is perhaps her greatest work to date. Shue won several awards, including the Independent Spirit honor for best actress and also picked up her one and only Academy Award nomination thus far. Unfortunately, all of these accolades did not translate into more substantial film roles for Shue. She followed Leaving Las Vegas with less memorable films such as The Trigger Effect (1996) and The Saint (1997). Tackling a small part, Shue fared better with the 1997 Woody Allen film Deconstructing Harry.

Later Career

In 2007, Shue brought a personal story to the big screen. She and her brother Andrew, a former actor who found fame as a cast member of the popular 1990s TV drama Melrose Place, produced the independent film Gracie. The movie follows a young girl who loses her older brother in a car accident. She then sets her sights on taking his place on their school's soccer team. Both Elisabeth and Andrew also acted in the film, which was based in part on their late brother William. The director was Elisabeth's husband Davis Guggenheim, and her brother John was a co-producer.

After this deeply personal film, Shue chose an interesting mix of projects. She played a version of herself in the 2008 offbeat comedy Hamlet 2 and starred in the 2010 horror flick Piranha 3D. In 2011, Shue tried her luck on the small screen. She joined the cast of long-running TV crime drama CSI as Julie Finlay. She stayed with the crime drama until its cancellation in 2015.

Personal Life

Shue has been married to producer and director Davis Guggenheim since 1994. The couple has three children, Miles, Stella and Agnes. In addition to acting, Shue is a devoted tennis player. She is also a graduate of Harvard University, having studied there off and on again until she officially earned her bachelor's degree in political science in 2000.

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