Elisabeth Shue on ‘Hamlet 2,’ Making Out With Old Co-Stars

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Photo: Getty Images

This week's issue of the magazine features a Q&A with Oscar nominee and eighties stalwart Elisabeth Shue, who plays herself in the comedy Hamlet 2, out this Friday. As usual, the confines of print journalism left choice tidbits on the cutting-room floor: Elisabeth's love of make-out scenes, her first commercial, and even an impromptu rendition of "Babysittin' Blues."

With this meta-convention of playing yourself onscreen, you must have asked "How do other people perceive me?" … right?
No.

Why not?
I don't know. I guess I'm not smart enough. [Laughs.] Maybe that's my downfall. I don't really care what people think of me, to be honest. Maybe if I cared more, I could create a persona and be more successful.

In the film, "Elisabeth Shue" says that what she misses most about being an actress is making out with her cute co-stars — and that, as a nurse, she can't make out with her patients.
That was definitely my contribution to the script.

Oh yeah? How'd you come up with that?
It was the truth. I thought long and hard about it. That was great that Andy [the director] let me make it my own that way.

Did you do drama club like the kids in the film?
I didn't. I was terrified of performing in front of people. I auditioned for You're a Good Man Charlie Brown in seventh grade. I got up onstage and sang Cat Stevens's "I'm Being Followed by a Moonshadow" very quietly. I clapped and sang. [whisper-singing] "I'm being followed by a moooonshadow …" I don't think anyone could hear me. I was not cast. Not even in the chorus. That was one of the most humiliating experiences. And I remember that very vividly. Even when I [transferred] to Harvard, I did not audition for anything. I wasn't even comfortable there acting. I had The Karate Kid and a few films at that time, but I didn't have the confidence to put myself out there.

Were you ever recognized on campus?
Not really. Everyone there had a pretty healthy ego. I don't think they were very impressed.

There's a hilarious scene in the film where Steve Coogan's failed-actor character performs in a herpes commercial. You got your start as a teen doing commercials, right?
Me and Lea Thompson did commercials together. We were the Burger King Girls. I was a gymnast and remember flipping on the bars for Chewells gum. Remember Chewells?

The gum with the goo inside?
Exactly! Why don't they have that anymore? That was one of my first lines in a commercial: "Chewells taste better!" after flipping off the bars.

You were a competitive gymnast in your teens. Which world is more cutthroat: gymnastics or Hollywood?
Hollywood. What I like about sports is that you have a control over your talent, complete and utter control over your performance. If you work really, really hard, day after day, you will get better, you will see the results of your hard work. What's hard about being an actress is that, no matter how hard you work, there is so much you can't control.

What would you do if I asked you to sing "Babysittin' Blues" for me?
I would sing for you, of course.

Really?! Please do.
Well, I don't know. I can sing the beginning. Hi, I'm Chris Parker … [bluesy strum] na na na na na … That's all I know. Oh wait: "I've got the babysittin' blues. Baby baby!" That was really great. Every once in a while, when you're an actress, you get to have these surreal moments that you realize in real life you'd never get to have. That was one of my ultimate fantasies and experiences — for two days — having to sing that [in a blues club]. And every single time having so much fun.

Related: To Be or Not to Be: Elisabeth Shue [NYM]