Vinessa Shaw

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Vinessa Shaw
BornVinessa Elizabeth Shaw
(1976-07-19) July 19, 1976 (age 38)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
OccupationActress, model
Years active1981–present
Partner(s)Kristopher Gifford
ParentsSusan Damante
Larry Shaw
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Vinessa Shaw
BornVinessa Elizabeth Shaw
(1976-07-19) July 19, 1976 (age 38)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
OccupationActress, model
Years active1981–present
Partner(s)Kristopher Gifford
ParentsSusan Damante
Larry Shaw

Vinessa Elizabeth Shaw (born July 19, 1976) is an American film actress and model. Shaw has starred in numerous motion pictures since the early 1990s and is currently a supporting cast member in the Showtime Drama Ray Donovan. Her breakout role was in Disney's 1993 Halloween-set film Hocus Pocus. She also was in Ladybugs (1992), Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999), the 2006 remake of Wes Craven's horror picture The Hills Have Eyes, as well as 40 Days and 40 Nights as Josh Hartnett's sadistic ex-girlfriend.

Childhood and early career[edit]

Shaw was born in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Larry Shaw and actress Susan Damante-Shaw (née Susan Jean Damante).[1][2] Her family's original surname was "Schwartz", and her ancestry includes Jewish (from her paternal grandfather), Italian (from her maternal grandfather), German, Irish, English, Mexican, and Swedish.[3][4][5] Her name, Vinessa, spelled with an "i" rather than the common "a", was a variation of her grandfather's name, Vincent.[5] Shaw made her first formal performance in a UCLA acting camp short at age 10, and subsequently toured with children's folk singer Peter Alsop at age 11. She also signed on with the Elite Models agency in 1989 at the age of 13 before beginning her acting career,[6] and did a few modeling jobs and commercial work throughout her earlier career.

Film career[edit]

Shaw made her film debut in a little-known-of 1981 slasher film called Home Sweet Home, which dealt with a serial killer at Thanksgiving time. She then landed parts in a handful of television roles. She played a considerably large role in Disney's 1993 Halloween family film Hocus Pocus alongside Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Omri Katz, and a young Thora Birch. Shaw completed roles in various independent films for the remainder of the 1990s.

In 1999, she was cast in a small yet significant role by legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick in his final film Eyes Wide Shut, playing an HIV-positive prostitute who is encountered by Tom Cruise's character. In a 2008 interview, Shaw stated that Kubrick was "very influential" to her and that he "was the first person who encouraged her to continue acting".[7] Following her role in Eyes Wide Shut, Vinessa played parts in a handful of films including the independent 2000 mystery-drama The Weight of Water with Sarah Polley and Sean Penn; the slapstick comedy Corky Romano alongside Chris Kattan; the romantic comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights, playing the feisty ex-girlfriend of Josh Hartnett; and a very small role in Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda.

More low budget and independent films consumed Shaw's time until 2006, where she returned to the big screen in Alexandre Aja's remake of Wes Craven's exploitation-horror film The Hills Have Eyes, playing a young mother on a camping trip with her family who is attacked by bloodthirsty mutants in the New Mexico desert. Director Aja had wanted to cast her in the film after seeing her performance in Eyes Wide Shut. Asked why she wanted to act in a horror film, Shaw responded "Well, I guess I could be good in it since I'm so frightened of those kinds of concepts. But this one in particular really attracted me because of the filmmakers. I really thought that they had a great stance on it. Like it's very different, very heartfelt, and heartbreaking because of the characters involved. So that's kind of what made the difference. It was more of an actor's piece, if you can believe that, in a horror movie."[8] Shaw was featured on the official one sheet promotion poster for the film,[9] which was a box-office success.

Vinessa was in the 2007 remake of the classic Western film 3:10 to Yuma with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, the indie drama film Garden Party, as well having a leading role in Two Lovers alongside Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow. That film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008 and was released theatrically in February 2009.

In 2013 she had a supporting role opposite Jude Law's character, playing his wife in Side Effects.

Personal life[edit]

Shaw attended Barnard College in New York, but dropped out to pursue acting. Shaw was attending the college when she was approached by Stanley Kubrick for her role in Eyes Wide Shut.

Shaw was raised a Buddhist.[4] She embraced the Nichiren Buddhist philosophy during her first year attending college in 1996: "I was lonely and depressed, and I had so many questions about life. I called my dad every night crying, saying that I wanted to go home."[10] As a core practice of Nichiren Buddhism, Shaw chants daimoku daily,[11] and is also a facilitator of the SGI-USA lay Buddhist Association for Peace, Culture, and Education.[12] Shaw mentioned her practicing of the religion in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in February 2009. Shaw has been engaged to behind-the-scenes film artist Kristopher Gifford since 2008.[5]


1981Home Sweet HomeAngel BradleyAlternative title: Slasher in the House
1992LadybugsKimberly Mullen
1993Hocus PocusAllison
1996Coyote SummerCallie Carpenter
1998L.A. Without a MapBarbara
1999Eyes Wide ShutDomino
Wayward SonCordelia
2000Weight of Water, TheThe Weight of WaterAnethe Christenson
2001Corky RomanoAgent Kate Russo
200240 Days and 40 NightsNicole
2004Melinda and MelindaStacey
2006Hills Have Eyes, TheThe Hills Have EyesLynn Carter
20073:10 to YumaEmmy
BadlandNora Rice
2008Two LoversSandra Cohen
Garden PartySally St. Claire
2009Stag NightBrita
2012Big MiracleKelly Meyers
Come Out And PlayBeth
2013Side EffectsDierdre Banks
Dark Around the StarsTerry
Electric Slide
2014Things People Do
Cold in JulyAnn Dane
1991Long Road HomeClara TarpinTelevision film
1992Torkelsons, TheThe TorkelsonsMeredith ReedEpisode: "Sweat Not by the Moon"
1992Great Scott!Carolyn Cole
1993Fallen AngelsJeannie StreeterEpisode: "The Quiet Room"
1993Country EstatesHeather CalhounPilot
1994McKennaCassidy McKennaEpisode: "Pilot"
1994Murder, She WroteGloria BryceEpisode: "Murder by Twos"
1995New York UndercoverTeen CovergirlEpisode: "Young, Beautiful and Dead"
2000'70s, TheThe '70sEileen WellsMiniseries
2004BereftMollyTelevision film
2005Fathers and SonsNellPilot
2005World of TroublePilot
2010House M.D.Doctor BenedictEpisode: "Massage Therapy"
2012CSI: NYJennifer WalshEpisode: "Clean Sweep"
2014Ray DonovanKate McPherson

Awards and nominations[edit]

Screen Actors Guild Awards

Young Artist Award


  1. ^ Vinessa Shaw Biography (1976-)
  2. ^ Vinessa Shaw Biography - Yahoo! Movies
  3. ^ "The Vanities Girls". Vanity Fair. 2009-01-12. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  4. ^ a b 1 Like0 Dislike0 Feb 17, 2009 by Julian Roman (2009-02-17). "EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Director James Gray and Vinessa Shaw Discuss Two Lovers!". Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  5. ^ a b c IMDB Bio- Vinessa Shaw
  6. ^ Yahoo! Movies Biography: Vinessa Shaw
  7. ^ Combustible Celluloid interview: Vinessa Shaw by Jeffrey M. Anderson. (retrieved 30 June 2009).
  8. ^ Radio interview with Vinessa Shaw and Dan Byrd of The Hills Have Eyes. 7 March 2006. (retrieved 29 June 2009)
  9. ^ IMP Awards Posters, 2006: The Hills Have Eyes
  10. ^ "Vinessa Shaw: Buddhism— My Favorite Gosho". SGI. Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  11. ^ Vinessa Shaw talks Two Lovers; originally posted 6 February 2009
  12. ^ SGI-USA Members Resources (retrieved 30 June 2009)

External links[edit]