Elisabeth Shue: From Soccer Star To Hollywood Fame

Actor Elisabeth Shue has been in the public eye for decades. Acting in small commercial parts during her high school years was all it took for the beautiful, charismatic Shue to know in her heart that performing would be a massive part of her future. When she landed her big break in a film called "The Karate Kid," her career was set afire, and she would not only continue acting, but take Hollywood by storm and become the face of a generation. It didn't take long for the stunning talent to become synonymous with '80s movie culture, headlining flicks like "Adventures in Babysitting" and "Cocktail" before going on to score a coveted Oscar nomination for her work as sex worker Sara in "Leaving Las Vegas." Though Shue did not win the Academy Award in 1996, it sure sounds like she was happy just to be nominated alongside living Hollywood legends. As she told The Virginian-Pilot at the time, "I knew what the outcome would be. I wasn't surprised. I was glad for Susan (Sarandon). I felt she deserved it." 

In addition to being an Oscar-nominated actor, she is a mother, a wife, an accomplished athlete, and a college graduate. Lace up those cleats, because we're about to get into how Elisabeth Shue went from soccer player to movie star.

Her real-life soccer experience inspired a movie

Elisabeth Shue's parents divorced when she was nine, but she didn't hurt for company as she grew up with the camaraderie of her three brothers. She also had sports, and she was so good at soccer that she became the only female on an all-boys soccer team. "There was no other choice back then. There was no girls team to play on," Shue shared with The Chicago Tribune while promoting her feature film "Gracie."

2007's "Gracie" is near and dear to Shue's heart. It tells the story of a 15-year-old girl coping with her brother's death by sliding into his place on the high school soccer team. Elisabeth and her brother actor Andrew Shue both acted in the film. Elisabeth's husband, Davis Guggenheim, directed, and her other brother John Shue was a producer. The movie was a family affair for good reason: It was partly done to honor the memory of Elisabeth's late brother, Will Shue. It combines the family's passion for soccer along with a raw vulnerability a loss like this creates in a person. "That was such a big part of the story — showing what it's like to lose the person who protected you in your life. And what it's like to carry on after something like that happened," Elisabeth shared with The South Florida Sun Sentinel, "I wanted to make sure that was very sensitively and respectfully done."

She isn't the only Shue to make it to Hollywood

Elisabeth Shue has been a Hollywood mainstay for years, lighting up the screen with her million-dollar smile. Of all the Shue siblings, she is the most recognizable, but she isn't the only one involved in the film industry. Her brother John Shue works in production.  Elisabeth's other living brother, Andrew Shue, is best known as Billy Campbell on the hit television show "Melrose Place." Funny enough, Andrew did not always want to become a Hollywood hottie. "I never intended to become an actor. My goal was to play in a World Cup," the actor and former pro soccer player once revealed to The Washington Post

Evidently, fate had other plans for him. As Andrew shared on "The Morning Show," he got into acting and ended up auditioning for a little primetime soap called "Melrose Place," but didn't get the part. However, after the original actor picked to play Billy Campbell parted ways with the series, Andrew ended up reading for a role that would change his life. Thirty years after becoming Billy Campbell, Andrew recalled on "The Morning Show," "It was a fantasy world for sure. ... It was a campy show, but at that time, it was a real conversation at the water cooler every day. It was fun to be part of it."

She didn't think she'd get Adventures in Babysitting

Anyone who has followed Elisabeth Shue's career knows that her performance in "Adventure in Babysitting," which just so happened to be Chris Columbus' directorial debut, really helped make the movie what it is. Decades later, it is nearly impossible to think of anyone else taking on the role of Chris Parker, but truth be told, Shue herself thought it a long shot she even landed the part in the first place. The actor told Vulture, "I made a Disney TV movie called 'Double Switch' and played the girlfriend. The next thing I knew, I was screen-testing for 'Adventures in Babysitting.' There was zero pressure on me because I didn't think I was going to get it." Shue was up against some big-name stars, too. Looking back at the audition process, her "Adventures In Babysitting" co-star Keith Coogan told Fan Fest, "I got to watch many of the leading actresses of the time. ... It was really fun to watch Valerie Bertinelli and Phoebe Cates do the scenes and dialogue." But at the end of the day, he noted Shue was the right fit for Chris Parker. 

All these years later, and Shue believes landing the lead in "Adventures in Babysitting" paved the way for her to land her Oscar-worthy role in "Leaving Las Vegas." As she said on Today, "['Leaving Las Vegas' director] Mike Figgis said that that was one of his favorite movies, oddly enough. So, I'm grateful for that." 

Elisabeth Shue ended up dating a co-star

Elisabeth Shue's work in "Adventures in Babysitting" threw her into the limelight in a major way. Her work in the film opened endless doors for her, career-wise. What fans of the actor and the film may not know is that it also established key friendships and even a short-lived romance for Shue. When asked in an interview with Vulture if Shue was close with her former "Adventures in Babysitting" co-stars, she couldn't help but gush over the people she worked with. "Oh my God, how lucky were we that they were such sweet and funny actors. I just adored them," she said. "I think Keith (Coogan) would pretend to have a crush on me, just like his character." 

Shue also grew tight with actor and co-star Bradley Whitford, telling Vulture, "Brad and I became very good friends after 'Adventures in Babysitting,' and I actually ended up going out with him!" The energy, opportunities, and personal connections that sprung from the film helped solidify "Adventures in Babysitting" in Shue's heart as she shared with Today, "'Adventures in Babysitting' has definitely always been, for me, one of the most special films that I was given the opportunity to be a part of."

Elisabeth Shue's Playboy Bunny moment

Elisabeth Shue has done some pretty interesting things in her life, and many of those things came to be by happenstance. She never expected to land the lead role in "Adventures in Babysitting," nor did she think she could be a female soccer player in a male-dominated sport. We bet she also never thought she would find herself posing for photos at the Playboy Mansion, but alas, she once did.

In "Adventures in Babysitting," the character Chris, played by Shue, is mistaken for a Playboy centerfold. Shue herself posed for the magazine cover, but it wasn't as risqué as one might think. She told the Los Angeles Times, "Please emphasize I did not take off my clothes for the shoot." The actor went on to reveal, "[The shoot] was the toughest thing I've ever done."

When it came time for Shue to shed her layers and smolder for the camera, she had to head to Bunny Mecca: the Playboy Mansion. When Vulture asked her why this aspect of the movie couldn't be done in Toronto (where the rest of the scenes were filmed), Shue said, "I think they wanted it to be authentic. Maybe it was a requirement from Hugh Hefner that if it was going to be a Playboy, then the pictures had to be there. I'm trying to remember whether I met him. I think I might have. But it was totally surreal to be there."

One of her brothers died in an accident

Many celebrities know the profound loss of losing a loved one, Elisabeth Shue included. Shue grew up the only girl in the family, surrounded by three brothers. She told The South Florida Sun Sentinel that her brother Will Shue especially was protective of her as they were growing up. 

In 1988, tragedy struck the Shue family. Per The Morning Call, Will was swinging from a rope attached to a tree when the rope snapped, and the fall killed him. He was 26.  A loss like this never leaves a person, but years of therapy and honoring Will via the film "Gracie" have helped the remaining Shues heal. Elisabeth explained to The Morning Call that what she experienced with her brother's death fueled her visible, raw grief in "Leaving Las Vegas." "Will's death taught me not to be afraid to express my vulnerability, that rawness inside myself that I tried so long to protect," she said. "'Leaving Las Vegas' proved to me that strength comes from vulnerability. And that's something I always have to remember." 

Andrew Shue, who also worked on the movie "Gracie," explained to the South Florida Sun Sentinel that making "Gracie" was "cathartic in a weird way. Like an official end to our mourning of almost 20 years."

She took a hiatus and went to Harvard

Both of Elisabeth Shue's parents went to school and pursued full-time careers. As per The New York Times, her father was a lawyer and real estate developer, and her mother was an executive at a bank. As she told The Seattle Times, she considered becoming a lawyer like her father, and even attended Wellesley College for a few years in the '80s. And then, she took a page out of her father's book and headed to Harvard University. "My career wasn't going well, so I went back to Harvard and did a full year there before I realized that if I didn't go back to Hollywood, I'd probably lose my career entirely because that's how quickly they forget about you," she recalled to Vulture

Shue's path to degree completion wasn't as cut and dried as her father's, however. As she told Desert News, she left Harvard just a few credits shy of a degree to follow her silver-screen dreams. About a decade after her departure from the prestigious university, she returned to finish what she started at Harvard. It took the actor a long time to reach that initial goal of having it all, a film career and a higher education, but Shue proved that hard work, patience, and perseverance pay off. 

Elisabeth Shue has a loving family in her corner

Nothing in this world is worth doing if you don't have loved ones in your life to share the joys and successes with. Elisabeth Shue is a blessed beauty as she has an extensive, lucrative film career as part of her life's legacy and an adoring husband, and children to spend her days with. Shue is married to Davis Guggenheim. Guggenheim is known for his documentary film work in projects like Academy Award-winning feature "An Inconvenient Truth." In Guggenheim, Shue found a true partner who would support her and champion her as she grew as an actor and honed her craft. As she once told Interview Magazine (via Talent Development Resources), "I was afraid to want [an acting career] for fear that it would never happen, and [Davis] challenged me and encouraged me to start studying and growing as an actor. He just loved me into taking acting seriously. So I went and studied – and that was the moment that everything changed."

The married duo has pushed each other and worked together, but their greatest accomplishment is their kids. They have three children, Miles, Stella, and Agnes, and their family is a greater award than any film accolade that sits atop their home's shelves.

Her decades-long career continues to thrive

In the '80s, Elisabeth Shue became widely known for her Brat Pack-y films and good girl persona thanks to hit flicks like "Adventures in Babysitting," "The Karate Kid," "Cocktail," and "Back to the Future." She later pivoted in a major way with "Leaving Las Vegas."

And from there, she only continued to make interesting career moves. She's popped up in shows like "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "The Boys," as well as movies like "House at the End of the Street," "Hamlet 2," and "Battle of the Sexes." Having new life breathed into one's career causes Shue to be gracious to Hollywood for continuing to make a space for her. She explained to The Columbus Dispatch in 2012, "I'm very grateful to be working. I'm always grateful. And the older you get, you get more grateful and appreciative. It has definitely complicated my life in a way that sometimes is difficult with my three children I'm still trying to raise properly."

As complicated as balancing being a working actor with motherhood might be, Shue kept finding time for both. "The Karate Kid" remake "Cobra Kai" came calling in 2021, and Shue answered that call and reunited with Ralph Macchio. And as she told Entertainment Weekly, it was as if no time had passed. So what is next for the actor now? No telling, but all signs indicate that there is no stopping Shue.