Woman of Interest: Elisabeth Shue

Elisabeth Shue on finding her passion, ditching "the girl next door" and playing an immature mother in 'House at the End of the Street'

by Margy Rochlin
elisabeth shue image
Photograph: David Needleman

She stars as Jennifer Lawrence’s mother in House at the End of the Street (opening September 21). I love playing mothers who are immature and need the kid to be the  parent. My character acts more childish than her daughter.  The brainy blood expert she portrays on CSI also rocks. Finn is confident, annoys people and makes mistakes. I want her to get into even more trouble!

 

Ditching “the girl next door”
When I took the role of a prostitute in Leaving Las Vegas, I was desperate to play someone more complicated—and more like me. Not that I was a prostitute, but I was more than just good and warm and engaging and sweet.
 
Finding a passion
Part of my midlife crisis involved becoming an insane tennis player. It kept me in shape, it kept my competitive juices alive—and it was a place to focus all that energy that could have gone negative. When you fully hit a tennis ball and let it go, there’s a freedom that’s so pure. I’m searching for that in life as well.
 
Her Harvard degree
It will pay off if my career ends and I need to get a real job. Believe me, I have had many moments when I thought, I would be happier becoming a teacher.
 
Life happens
I wish I were a little more ambitious. But I have three spectacular kids and I don’t like missing out  on watching them grow up, so I’ve probably erred on the side of being a mom at the expense of my career. 
 
Her harshest critics
My kids have all seen Adventures in Babysitting. They’re very unimpressed. It’s always, “Mom! Your hair looks ridiculous!”
 
Personal growth
I accept myself more now than in my twenties. Back then I was caught in a cycle of pleasing people and basing my personality on whether people liked me or not. Now I channel that in my CSI character—part of Finn is that she loves attention and really cares what people think about her. It’s fun to play a person who is defined by what others think, but I don’t want to be that person anymore. 
 

Want MORE? Check out another fascinating Woman of Interest, Emily Mortimer.

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First published in the September 2012 issue

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