Elisabeth Shue: Back on the case

From early fame in Leaving Las Vegas, Elisabeth Shue has had a varied career. Now, as the Blood Queen on CSI, she has entered the TV phase – and she's come to accept her choices, she tells Sarah Hughes

Elisabeth Shue's career can be divided into two stages: the early years when she was America's favourite girl-next- door and the post-Leaving Las Vegas era when she turned up in quirky films such as Mysterious Skin, Dreamer and, most recently last year's House at the End of the Street, playing mum to rising stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dakota Fanning and Jennifer Lawrence respectively. Now, at 49, Shue has entered a third stage: television.

"There's definitely been a shift in our culture towards TV," she says of her decision to join CSI, which returns to Channel Five on 26 February. "As an actor it's harder to find stimulating material when you get older – I spent 10 or 15 years playing mums because in film those are the parts people in their thirties and forties end up playing – but television offers choice. The nice thing about CSI is they sign people for a year so you have freedom. I was petrified about committing six or seven years to one show."

Sitting in a hotel room in Los Angeles the relaxed, thoughtful Shue, casually dressed in a fitted black top and black trousers, remains beautiful in an understated way. Not for her the nips and tucks of contemporaries, the shots of Botox and quick-fix fillers: "Every time I've seen anyone who has kind of overdone the treatments I don't think they look younger I think they look like they've done something to their face," she says. "So even if I was tempted to go that route what would stop me is that other people saying 'what did she have done to her face?' Who cares if you have a few more wrinkles?"

There was a time, Shue admits, when she might not have been quite so relaxed. "I did have fears," she admits. "You can't help it when you turn 40 because it's the first time you really notice your face has changed. You look at yourself in one lighting situation and think you look pretty good, and then all of a sudden you're in another lighting situation and think 'oh God I look terrible'. But I realised every time I was looking in the mirror I was looking with fear and that's really psychotic. I started to see how neurotic I'd become and how ugly that is." She pauses then adds with a smile. "You know in some ways there's a relief when you get older that you don't have to look young anymore. You just have to look good for your age."

While Shue sounds remarkably serene, she admits it has been a long, and at times difficult, journey.

"There were times when I was not as wise, when setbacks would make me feel emotional," she says. "I used to sit there and think 'I'm better than this, I can do better, why has this happened to me?' But life isn't like that, it's about continuing the road you're on and blessing the journey."

That sounds suspiciously like therapy-speak. She laughs. "I know the English attitude is to say 'suck it up, don't tell everyone your problems' but honestly therapy really helped me." In what way? "I no longer overthink everything. As long as a project involves people I respect or there's something that will be fun and challenging about the experience then I'm good. I know the hit-and-miss part of my career is firmly established so it's not an issue if I have a few misses. It doesn't affect me now as much as it used to."

She admits she's made plenty of mistakes – "I tried to be picky but I don't know I did such a great job about choosing," she says with a rueful smile – but adds that her career was never as important as her three children with documentary maker Davis Guggenheim. "Whenever I get down Davis always reminds me that our family has always been my major choice and that you have to accept you're not going to be as successful as you might have been when that's your focus," she says. "I look at my son who's three years off going to college and I'm glad I spent so much time with him because right now if I'd done that movie that sucked and wasn't with him when he was growing up I'd be regretting it."

She originally signed on to play assistant night-shift supervisor Julie Finlay aka CSI's "Blood Queen" because "my youngest daughter is now at school" and the show "doesn't try to pretend to be something it's not – it was created specifically and authentically as a procedural."

The search for authenticity is something of a theme. Shue grew up with three brothers in a wealthy family in suburban New Jersey and started acting in commercials as a teenager. After dropping out of Harvard (she returned in 1997, completing a political science degree in 2000) she established herself as a sunny, warm-hearted presence in Eighties hits The Karate Kid, Adventures in Babysitting and Cocktail. She then confounded expectations as a beaten-down prostitute in 1995's Leaving Las Vegas, receiving an Oscar-nomination for the role. It should have marked the moment her career became stratospheric, instead she chose a quieter path.

"I think I was always a bit unnerved by the idea of being an actress," she says. "I don't think I ever embraced it fully. In retrospect I probably hid from it. Yet where I hid [with her family] was the most important part of my life. If I'd done otherwise I'd have regretted it."

That's not to say she's entirely without regrets. "Nobody sets out to make a mediocre film so you can't really second guess but yeah I would definitely make some different choices were I making them now," she admits. Such as? Shue laughs, too wily to name names. "I think I was seduced by the pressure to try and do something that would help my career. I felt the pressure to be in big films, I would never feel that now," she says of the period immediately post-Leaving Las Vegas when she took roles in notable flops such as the big-budget The Saint remake.

No longer concerned about how she's perceived, she no longer worries about whether she made the right moves. "I used to look at Julianne Moore, for example, and think 'Oh I would have loved to play that part' but now I don't really lust after other people's careers," she says. "I think maybe when you've had a Leaving Las Vegas you learn not to be jealous of other people's success and anyway there's no point… I can't have my life and their career".

Instead she appears at peace with what she has and hasn't achieved. "I feel like when I was younger I kept myself back in so many ways because I wanted everyone to like me," she says. "Now I know any career is a long haul, there are always ups and downs." What's the best thing about it? She smiles. "I'm no longer afraid."

'CSI' returns to Channel Five at 9pm on Tuesday 26 February

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls


The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7


Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary


Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence