Vinessa Shaw is an American model–turned-actress famous for her role in Disney’s Halloween movie ‘Hocus Pocus.’ Shaw started her acting career at an early age, and has appeared in several films and TV series. While in college, she was cast in ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (1999) in a supporting role. This experience encouraged her to take up acting as a career. She has subsequently appeared in films, such as '40 Days and 40 Nights' (2002), 'The Hills Have Eyes' (2006), and 'Clinical' (2017), and the crime drama series ‘Ray Donovan.’
Childhood & Early Life
Vinessa was born on July 19, 1976, in Los Angeles, California, to Larry Shaw and Susan Damante. Her father was a psychologist and also served as an adjunct professor at ‘Antioch University.’ Her mother was the first runners-up at the ‘Miss America’ pageant.
Her paternal grandfather was of Jewish-Russian descent and his original family name was ‘Schwartz,’ which was later shortened to ‘Shaw.’ Her name ‘Vinessa’ was adopted from her grandfather, ‘Vincent.’ She grew up with her sister, Natalie Shaw, who is also an actress.
She was only 10-years-old when she gave her first formal performance at the ‘UCLA’ acting camp and toured with folk singer Peter Alsop at the age of 11.
She made her silver screen debut in a holiday thriller ‘Home Sweet Home’ (1981), which was about a serial killer ruining a family’s ‘Thanksgiving’ celebrations.
In 1989, she signed on with the ‘Elite Models agency’ and began her modeling career.
She used to hide her acting or modeling projects from her friends, so that they did not look at her in a different light.
In 1998, she enrolled at Barnard College (New York City), but dropped out after a year to pursue acting.
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She made her small-screen debut in the in the TV film ‘Long Road Home’ in 1991. Thereafter she appeared in the Disney comedy series ‘The Torkelsons’(renamed ‘Almost Home’ after the first season). It was aired on the ‘NBC’ television, from September 1991 to June 1993
Her big break, as a child-actor, came in the Disneys horror fantasy ‘Hocus Pocus’ (1993). She was cast in the role of ‘Allison.’The movie saw unprecedented success. Though the movie was originally targeted at children, it quickly gained huge popularity among adults.
During the early 90s, she appeared in several television shows, including ‘Great Scott!’ (1992), ‘Fallen Angels’ (1993), ‘Country Estates’ (1993), ‘McKenna’ (1994), ‘Murder, She Wrote’ (1994), and ‘New York Undercover’ (1995).
She was studying at the ‘Barnard College,’ when she was offered a small but significant role in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (1999). Though she had a small role, but she shared screen space with Tom Cruise.
During the early 2000s, she worked in a number of movies like ‘The Weight of Water’ (2000), where she shared the screen with Canadian-actor Sarah Polley and Hollywood star Sean Penn; slapstick comedy ‘Corky Romano’ (2001); romantic comedy ‘ ‘40 Days and 40 Nights’ (2002); and a part in Woody Allen’s ‘Melinda and Melinda’ (2004).
In 2006, she got the lead in Alexandre Aja’s remake of Wes Craven’s ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ (1977). Initially, the movie was rated inappropriate for children, but later an abridged version was released with R-rating. Over the years it has acquired the reputation of a cult-horror movie.
The years 2007 and 2008 proved really good for Vinessa, as she appeared alongside Russel Crowe and Christian Bale in James Mangold’s Western ‘3:10 to Yuma’ (2007). The movie received the 2008 ‘Screen Actors Guild Awards’ nomination for ‘Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.’
She also appeared in a low-budget independent film ‘Garden Party’ (2008). The same year, she appeared in the lead role in James Gray’s ‘Two Lovers,’ alongside Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow. Vinessa’s performance in the movie received a lot of appreciation.
In 2013, she was cast in Steven Soderbergh’s psychological thriller ‘Side Effects’ and shared the screen with Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rooney Mara, and Channing Tatum.
She appeared in 10 episodes of the Showtime drama series ‘Ray Donovan’ in which she played a a reporter trying to dig-out information about the Donovans.
Family & Personal Life
She dated graphic designer Kristopher Gifford for a long time, before marrying him in 2017.
She gave birth to a baby boy, Jack Hiroki Gifford, after some complications and a delayed delivery on February 20, 2018.
Vinessa was supposed to act opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the Disney fantasy movie ‘Hocus Pocus’ (1993), but Leonardo did not appear on the second day of auditions, so the role went to Omri Katz.
Vinessa has never seen her movie ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ as she is terrified of horror movies.