Elisabeth Shue began acting in commercials at an early age then landed major movie roles in The Karate Kid and Adventures in Babysitting. She graduated to grown up material in Cocktail, Soapdish, and The Marrying Man. The movie Leaving Las Vegas brought her many awards and nominations leading to parts in Deconstructing Harry, The Saint, and Hollow Man.
Her latest movie is Battle of the Sexes, playing opposite Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs' wife, Priscilla Wheelan. The biographical sports comedy is based on the 1973 tennis match between Bille Jean King and Bobby Riggs. It has a lot to say about living one's life in the closet and struggling for equal rights.
Windy City Times: Hi, Elisabeth. I loved Battle of the Sexes.
Elisabeth Shue: It's good, right? There are certain movies that deserve criticism, but this one has so much goodness in it. It happens to be true but it is also incredibly entertaining, thought provoking, and inspiring. That is rare, so shouldn't we support that in our culture?
WCT: How did get involved with the movie?
ES: I know Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who directed it. Our kids went to school together. They were talking about a tennis movie. I am a tennis fanatic so our first conversations were all about tennis. I wanted to make sure the tennis is good.
Lo and behold, there was a part I could play. I was thrilled, shocked and so happy to be a part of it creatively.
WCT: Did you have a favorite Steve Carell moment?
ES: One thing that meant a lot to me was our first drive to the set. I felt pressure because I wanted to do well for a film that I cared about so much. I have always looked up to Steve, so I wanted to make sure I was up to the challenge.
I told him I felt nervous and he said, "Me, too!" That is what is so wonderful about him, his humility. There is not one part of him that has an ego. He's an exceptional person.
WCT: How much fun was wearing the clothing and hair of that time period?
ES: That was fun, but the bras were not fun. The bras were structured and it reminded me of my grandma when she would get into her bra and underwear. It was literally like armor!
Your boobs just shoot straight out. That was funny getting used to that.
It helped me with the part because I had to keep my back straight. If not, those things are not going to point straight but go different directions.
WCT: Do you have a self-portrait in your house, like in the movie?
ES: That was horrifying. I had no idea that was going to happen. I knew they were going to make a portrait but I thought it would be in the background as set dressing. The first day I walked in and saw it I said, "Oh my God." It was not very attractive, but it was perfect for the character and the time.
WCT: You had one of the nicest breakup scenes ever filmed.
ES: I felt fortunate to have that scene because sometimes when you are playing the supporting wife you don't get to dig into complicated emotions. I was grateful that existed and meant a lot to me. To say goodbye but really love a person was challenging.
WCT: I read you played in an all-boys soccer team so you must have related to this movie.
ES: Yes. Title IX had a huge effect on my life. It was a little late for me. I played on an all boys soccer team and I quit. I heard the boys talking about me playing on the boys varsity team if I didn't develop. I was so horrified that they were talking about me that way.
I took up gymnastics immediately after I quit. Then girls soccer started and it was the same season so I would have to quit gymnastics. The timing didn't work out for me but it did for my daughters. Title IX has a huge influence on them. One is a high-level gymnast and the other is a budding tennis player at 11 years old.
WCT: I was shocked while watching Battle of the Sexes that men talked like that.
ES: I think the difference is we can laugh at those moments in the movie because they seem so absurd. Now, the way women are denigrated is more subtle, and not as easily called out. People now are trying to be so politically correct, but yes they may have the same feelings. I hope not, but it is now more shocking when you see that kind of behavior.
WCT: Adventures in Babysitting was made in Chicago 30 years ago now.
ES: Yes, "Babysitting Blues" was shot in Chicago. That was my favorite scene of all time in any movie I have ever done. I don't get back there enough and have not shot a film there since.
WCT: Did they are try to do a sequel to Babysitting?
ES: Not a sequel but they reinvented it for the Disney Channel in a one time movie. They did ask if I wanted to do a cameo and I thought it was best to leave the past behind. [Laughs]
WCT: What advice do you give to actors to sustain a lengthy career like yours?
ES: The ego has to be pummeled to the ground. It is very up and down. You have to have a thick skin. You must have a sense of endurance in a long game. You have to pace yourself and not take it personally when you can't get in the game. A lot of faith and distraction is good. Not putting all of of your eggs in one basket and having a full life outside of the business is very healthy.
Getting married showed my relationship was more important than my career and having children made me have deep appreciation of being a mom.
WCT: Are you ever starstruck with celebrities?
ES: Oh, yes. I was starstruck meeting Emma, Steve, Billie Jean, Sarah Silvermanespecially with people whose work I admire. There is a real depth to each person in this cast.
I think John and Val are good at working with people that they respect as far as humanity.
WCT: You are reuniting with Vincent D'Onofrio again in the movie Death Wish.
ES: We talked about the day we worked together when he was Thor!
WCT: This is a remake, with Bruce Willis?
ES: It is a very loose remake.
WCT: Any secrets to looking young?
ES: Try your best not to obsess about it. I have been in bad lighting situations and [stared] down ever little wrinkle. Talk about going down the rabbit hole. I feel that is the lifelong commitment of a woman to not do that. Just look in your eyes and not analyze everything you see.
A lot of exercise is good and a lot of night cream. When I was 25, I was doing Oil of Olay waiting for the impending moment where I would be 60 years old!
WCT: How is your brother Andrew doing?
ES: He's doing great. He's happily married and living in New York. Our kids are in college now so that is a great change. Right now my daughter is best friends with a girl that has two moms. It is beautiful to see them together. I have always been a gay supporter.
WCT: Did you meet the person you portrayed in Battle of the Sexes?
ES: She passed away. There were no videos and only one picture. There was a little discussion with the tennis coach of Bobby Riggs. There is not much out there really.
Riggs gave an interview with 60 Minutes where he talked about how much he loved her. It proved to me there was real depth and respect. The male-chauvinist pig thing was more of an act.
WCT: Would you ever want to do a musical, like Emma Stone?
ES: I could sing "Babysitting Blues," but that is the extent of my talent. I definitely couldn't dance like her!