This weekend Jennifer Lawrence stars in the teen horror film "House at the End of the Street." Lawrence is on the cusp of superstardom with hit movie after hit movie. It's an interesting position for a young actress, but someone who can relate is J-Law's on-screen mother, Elisabeth Shue. She made her mark in movies by stealing the hearts of the Karate Kid, Marty McFly and Tom Cruise, becoming one of the biggest Hollywood crushes for young men growing up in the '80s. Along the way, she snagged an Oscar nomination for her dark departure in "Leaving Las Vegas."
Even after racking up a career of crowd-pleasing favorites, she has continued to take on a variety of roles, whether it's joining the cast of a long-running TV show like "CSI" or lampooning her own image in "Hamlet 2." Moviefone spoke with Shue -- who hails from Delaware -- about how different Hollywood is today for Lawrence than it was for her, and the surprising movies she's made that audiences still remember.
First off, I am also from Wilmington, Delaware, so growing up, you and your brother Andrew were "it." You were our Delaware celebrities.
Oh, that’s so funny. My grandfather lived his whole life there so I think he was always kind of publicizing me a little bit.
Well it was effective. Between this and "Piranha 3D," you're starting to build up a catalog of horror roles.
Yeah, I have a few now.
What is so fun about those kinds of characters?
Well, what attracted me to this one was that there was a character there to begin with. It's this story of a mother who needs to find a way to take care of her daughter for the first time. These two people, alone in the world, who’ve just come to this new town, and are awkwardly trying fit in and figure things out. If it didn’t have all of those elements and character traits, I probably wouldn’t be as interested in doing a movie like this. I knew that I was working with a great actress -- Jennifer is such a strong actress -- and I hoped that it would still be scary and tense and all that it needed to be to fit into this genre, but that it would still be a character study.
Jennifer is about the same age that you were when "Karate Kid" came out, which was your break-out moment. What kind of perspective did you have watching her perform at this point in her career?
The one thing that I think we both share is that she’s lived a very long life just being Jennifer. She was never a child actress, but she grew up down south and came into this with a really strong sense of herself. She’s definitely more confident and more sure of herself than I was, which is inspiring to see, but I think we both share those long years of just being a normal person before getting into this business and I think that’s helpful. She never seemed insecure or needy or someone who wasn’t just very, very confident in herself. At that age, I wasn’t that way.
How do you think the business has changed for a young actress coming up today?
Well, I think that there is so much more pressure to have to be a “movie star.” I did "The Karate Kid" then I just went back to college. I didn’t know how much money it made and I didn’t have a publicist. I didn’t have any sense of the business part of it. So I think there’s a lot more pressure, especially with her being in "The Hunger Games" and "X-Men" so quickly. For me, it took many, many years to slowly, slowly build up a career, but she’s going from zero to ten in a pretty quick way, so I think it feels a lot different to her. I think there is a little more pressure these days to play a game that can be comfortable to you if you enjoy it, or can be really difficult.
It’s funny to me that you were able to just go back to school after "The Karate Kid" came out. What were those days like, having the freedom to live a low-key life while there’s this movie out there that’s going to end up becoming a classic?
When it came out, I don’t think everyone knew it was a classic. I think that happened over many, many years and four sequels later. I remember when I saw "Rocky," there’s a similar mythic quality to it. I did go see it six times in the theater and I just thought What a great movie, I have to go see it over and over again. And "Grease" too. I was like Oh my god, I love this movie, I have to see it over and over again. I didn’t know they were iconic when I was going to pay for my tickets. So there was no feeling like Oh my god, I’m in an iconic movie. When"Cocktail" came out, I was back at school again. I kept doing these films and going back to finish up my college, so I never had that sense of being a big deal.
How did fellow students act around you? Because if I was going to school with you, I’d be fumbling all of the time, never making full eye-contact.
Oh, no you wouldn’t. Harvard is a great place to go in terms of fitting in because all of the people that go there are all so extraordinary. I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal that there happens to be an actress there, and it does seem like every year there is an actress there. When I was there [in 2000], Natalie Portman was there and I was looking around to see if I could see her. So it’s a pretty anonymous place filled with very, very smart, capable people.
Switching gears to a different part of your filmography, "Leaving Las Vegas" is probably the darkest performance of your career. Do you think it would be easy for you to get back to that kind of emotional place for a future performance?
No, I would love to do a part like that. There hasn’t been a part like that, that has come as close to that in terms of depth and complexity that I have been able to find. There’s definitely been some dark parts that I’ve loved that maybe people haven’t seen. There’s one thing I did for Oprah Winfrey ["Amy & Isabelle"], when she was doing those television movies for ABC; it happened to come out the same night as the premiere of "The Sopranos," so nobody really saw it. But I remember it being equal to the feeling of doing "Leaving Las Vegas." It felt really challenging, really difficult, really emotional and very intense. They’re just so hard to come by, to find complicated characters. I’d be ready and willing in a second, and you know, I’ve lived so much life since then that I think that I could even go deeper.
Is there a movie from your career that you’re surprised to see the following that it has?
"Cocktail" surprises me, and even "The Saint." I’m very surprised by a lot of people saying that that is one of their favorite movies. I have a lot of affection for that film but I feel that is it incredibly flawed. But people love it. I don’t think "Cocktail" was a perfect critical success but it touched a vein in our culture. Look at "Karate Kid" and all of those movies, they’re not critical successes, but they’re movies that audiences really responded to and then over time because you’d see them over and over again on cable. They became what they became. But at the time, I was slightly disappointed by some of them.
Well "Cocktail" is a quintessential ‘80s movie to me.
It is, it is. And it’s the kind of movie that they would never make today. People love to talk about how the ‘70s are the only time they made movie about characters, and adult movies, and complicated people. But in the ‘80s, they got away with some of those too. They probably weren’t as deep or Academy nominees; I don’t think "Cocktail" is "Midnight Cowboy," however, it is still dark and it’s about characters and it is for adults and they don't make those movies today. It’s sad.
What performance do you find to be the one that most people identify with you?
I’m amazed they talk to me about all of those movies in the ‘80s. I’m glad that they’re still on TV and there’s another generation of kids that have seen "Adventures in Babysitting" and feel like it’s a new movie for them. When I’m trying to find a movie for my kids, I want them to see "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." I’m searching for those iconic movies that I loved when I was a kid and I’m sure if my kids met Matthew Broderick that they’d say “Oh my god, you were in 'Ferris Bueller’s Day Off'” and he would be like “Why do you just see me for that movie?” Well that’s because it’s a great movie. And sometimes "Leaving Las Vegas," people talk about that.
I know some people that would want to talk to you about "Heart and Souls."
Oh really? I completely forgot I was in that movie. I haven’t heard about that movie for so long. I really love "Soapdish." I wish "Soapdish" had more of a moment because I felt that that is a really strong, funny movie. Kevin Kline is hilarious in that movie.