Vinessa Shaw

Vinessa Elizabeth Shaw (born July 19, 1976)[1] is an American film actress and model. She began her career as a child actor, and had her break-out role in Disney's 1993 Halloween comedy-fantasy film Hocus Pocus. Shaw also appeared in Ladybugs (1992) and L.A. Without a Map (1998).

Vinessa Shaw
Vinessa Shaw 2013.png
Shaw in 2013
Vinessa Elizabeth Shaw

(1976-07-19) July 19, 1976 (age 45)
  • Actress
  • model
Years active1981–present
Kristopher Gifford
(m. 2017)
RelativesNatalie Shaw (sister)

While attending Barnard College, Shaw was cast in a supporting role in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999), after which she decided to pursue acting into her adulthood. Subsequent roles include in the comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights (2002), and the 2006 remake of Wes Craven's horror film The Hills Have Eyes. She was a supporting cast member in the Showtime drama Ray Donovan, and stars as Dr. Jane Mathis in the 2017 horror thriller Clinical.

Early lifeEdit

Vinessa Elizabeth Shaw was born on July 19, 1976, in Los Angeles, California,[2] the daughter of Larry Shaw and actress Susan Damante.[3][4] Shaw's father, a native of Los Angeles, is a psychologist and former adjunct professor of psychology at Antioch University.[5] 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.[6][7] Her name, Vinessa, spelled with an "i" rather than the common "a", was a variation of her grandfather's name, Vincent.

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,[8] and did a few modeling jobs and commercial work throughout her earlier career.


Shaw had made her film debut in a little-known-of 1981 slasher film called Home Sweet Home, which dealt with a serial killer targeting a family 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 1998, she enrolled at Barnard College in New York City, but dropped out to continue pursuing acting.[9] Shaw was attending the college when she was approached by Stanley Kubrick for her role in Eyes Wide Shut, playing a prostitute who is encountered by Tom Cruise's character.[10] 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".[11] At the time of being cast, she was in college and considering alternate career options.[10] Following her role in Eyes Wide Shut, Shaw 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's character; 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."[12] Shaw was featured on the official one sheet promotion poster for the film,[13] which was a box-office success.

Shaw 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.[10]

Personal lifeEdit

Shaw was raised a Buddhist.[7] She embraced Nichiren Buddhist philosophy as a member of the Soka Gakkai International 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."[9] As a core practice of Nichiren Buddhism, Shaw chants daimoku daily,[14] and is also a facilitator of the SGI-USA lay Buddhist Association for Peace, Culture, and Education.[15]

In August 2017, Shaw announced that she is expecting her first child with her husband, Kristopher Gifford (who she first dated in 2007, got engaged to in 2008 and married in 2017).[16] Shaw gave birth to their son named Jack on February 20, 2018.[17]



Year Title Role Notes
1981 Home Sweet Home Angel Bradley Alternative title: Slasher in the House
1992 Ladybugs Kimberly Mullen
1993 Hocus Pocus Allison Watts
1996 Coyote Summer Callie Carpenter
1998 L.A. Without a Map Barbara
1999 Eyes Wide Shut Domino
Wayward Son Cordelia
2000 The Weight of Water Anethe Christenson
2001 Corky Romano Agent Kate Russo
2002 40 Days and 40 Nights Nicole
2004 Melinda and Melinda Stacey
2006 The Hills Have Eyes Lynn Carter
2007 3:10 to Yuma Emmy
Badland Nora Rice
2008 Two Lovers Sandra Cohen
Garden Party Sally St. Claire
2009 Stag Night Brita
2010 Leave Amy
2011 Puncture Vicky
2012 Big Miracle Kelly Meyers
Come Out and Play Beth
2013 Side Effects Dierdre Banks
Siren Leigh
Dark Around the Stars Terry
Electric Slide Unknown
2014 Cold in July Ann Dane
After the Fall Susan Scanlon
2017 Clinical Dr. Jane Mathis
2018 Family Blood Ellie
2021 The Blazing World Alice Winter
12 Mighty Orphans Juanita Russell Post-production
TBA We Need to Do Something Diane


Year Title Role Notes
1991 Long Road Home Clara Tarpin Television film
1992 The Torkelsons Meredith Reed Episode: "Sweat Not by the Moon"
1992 Great Scott! Carolyn Cole
1993 Fallen Angels Jeannie Streeter Episode: "The Quiet Room"
1993 Country Estates Heather Calhoun Pilot
1994 McKenna Cassidy McKenna Episode: Pilot (only)
1994 Murder, She Wrote Gloria Bryce Episode: "Murder by Twos"
1995 New York Undercover Teen Covergirl Episode: "Young, Beautiful and Dead"
2000 The '70s Eileen Wells Miniseries
2004 Bereft Molly Television film
2005 Fathers and Sons Nell Pilot
2005 World of Trouble Unknown Pilot
2010 House Dr. Kelly Benedict Episode: "Massage Therapy"
2012 CSI: NY Jennifer Walsh Episode: "Clean Sweep"
2014 Ray Donovan Kate McPherson 10 episodes


Screen Actors Guild Awards

  • 2008: Nominated, "Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture" – 3:10 to Yuma

Young Artist Award

  • 1993: Nominated, "Outstanding Young Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture" – Ladybugs
  • 1993: Nominated, "Best Young Actress Recurring in a Television Series" – Great Scott!
  • 1993: Nominated, "Best Young Actress Co-starring in a Motion Picture" – Ladybugs
  • 1994: Nominated, "Best Youth Actress Leading Role in a Motion Picture Comedy" – Hocus Pocus
  • 1995: Nominated, "Best Performance by a Youth Actress in a Drama Series" – McKenna
  • 1995: Nominated, "Best Performance By a Youth Actress as a Guest Star" – Murder, She Wrote


  1. ^ "Vinessa E. Shaw, Born 07/19/1976 in California". California Birth Index. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  2. ^ Buchanan, Jason. "Vinessa Shaw Biography". AllMovie. Archived from the original on December 15, 2018.
  3. ^ "Vinessa Shaw Biography (1976–)". Film Reference. Retrieved October 7, 2017.
  4. ^ "Vinessa Shaw Biography – Yahoo! Movies".
  5. ^ Who's Who in California (19th ed.). Los Angeles, California: Who's Who Historical Society. 1990. p. 1988. ISBN 978-0-960-31668-7.
  6. ^ "The Vanities Girls". Vanity Fair. January 12, 2009. Retrieved January 29, 2009.
  7. ^ a b 1 Like0 Dislike0 Feb 17, 2009 by Julian Roman (February 17, 2009). "EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Director James Gray and Vinessa Shaw Discuss Two Lovers!". Retrieved February 13, 2013.
  8. ^ "Yahoo! Movies Biography: Vinessa Shaw".
  9. ^ a b "Vinessa Shaw: Buddhism— My Favorite Gosho". SGI. Retrieved November 11, 2012.
  10. ^ a b c Weintraub, Steve (February 9, 2013). "Vinessa Shaw Talks SIDE EFFECTS, Stanley Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT, CBS' VEGAS, ELECTRIC SLIDE, and More". Collider. Archived from the original on October 2, 2015.
  11. ^ Anderson, Jeffrey M. "Combustible Celluloid interview: Vinessa Shaw". Archived from the original on May 10, 2017.
  12. ^ Radio interview with Vinessa Shaw and Dan Byrd of The Hills Have Eyes. 7 March 2006. (retrieved 29 June 2009)
  13. ^ "The Hills Have Eyes Movie Poster (#1 of 2)".
  14. ^ Vinessa Shaw talks Two Lovers; originally posted 6 February 2009
  15. ^ "SGI-USA Members Resources". Soka Gakkai International. Archived from the original on July 15, 2009.
  16. ^ "Vinessa Shaw Loves and Hookups". Ranker.
  17. ^ Juneau, Jen (August 15, 2017). "Vinessa Shaw Expecting First Child". People. Retrieved October 2, 2017.

External linksEdit