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Elisabeth Shue on growing older in Hollywood and how to really embarrass your kids

You look fantastic in Battle Of The Sexes — if that’s not a sexist thing to say.

Oh, thank you! We had this amazing cinematographer, who had won an Academy Award for La La Land, and he really loves to use natural lighting. I remember being on set and thinking that there are just no lights here! And when you get older you need good lighting. But they did an amazing job. Though it was still hard for me to see myself. I haven’t been on screen for such a long time.

First film: Shue in The Karate Kid

Do you remember The Karate Kid fondly?

Yes, because that was my first movie and I was still pretty starry-eyed about it all. What was so extraordinary about The Karate Kid is that I don’t think anyone involved felt like we were making a culturally important 1980s movie. I remember thinking that the title felt pretty insubstantial and I wondered about Ralph Macchio’s karate skills…

What’s your health regime?

I got addicted to tennis when I was 37. I now play two hours every other day and it’s stopped me from being completely neurotic about getting older, which I think, as women, we are all going to be. In this business it sucks even more because you have to see yourself age dramatically in close-up.

How did you get into tennis?

I grew up with three brothers and my whole life was about sport. I went from soccer to gymnastics but then I ripped my Achilles when I was 37 in the middle of shooting Hollow Man. I was doing a back-tuck and they had just got a new exercise mat, so it was a bit too tight. I needed to pick another sport after that.

Did you remember the Battle Of The Sexes match in 1973?

I mainly remember the feeling in my house of how important it was because of sports being a primary focus of my family. I recall my three brothers sort of taunting me, saying that Billie Jean King was definitely going to lose to Bobby Riggs. And the fact she won was huge for me. I wish I had been older to fully appreciate it on an intellectual level and to understand that she was fighting for women’s rights. I just knew she had better win because she was a girl and he was a boy and I didn’t want my brothers to say they were better than me.

Women’s rights: Billie Jean King

Did you ever make a feminist stand on something that might have lost you a job?

Yes, I have taken a stand, but not really in the sense of saying ‘no’ to some creepy individual and then it having an effect on my career. I have never had anything like that. But I lost a role once because I was pregnant and that was painful and ridiculous. I am lucky that was the worst sort of moment of losing something because I was a woman.

What were your kids’ reactions when you first showed them Adventures In Babysitting?

Miles is now 19 but he was just three or four when I showed it to him. Afterwards he kept saying my line: ‘Don’t f*** with the babysitter!’ Since then they haven’t seen too many of my movies. Some of them are wildly inappropriate, as you know. I did show the older ones Leaving Las Vegas and they went: ‘You as a hooker? We really don’t buy it, Mom.’

What’s the role you fought the hardest to get?

Adventures In Babysitting. I wanted it badly. A part where the girl was the lead? My God! That was a pretty special thing at the time and it still is. Leaving Las Vegas was pretty much handed to me, which was extraordinary, because I would have fought and clawed my way towards that movie, but [director] Mike Figgis was incredible. He said he believed in me because of Adventures In Babysitting, which is so strange! He told me he saw me in that movie and realised I could play the part.

Do you have any regrets?

No, because I think that is silly. But whenever I want to go into that place of ‘why don’t I get better parts?’ my husband is great at reminding me that you make choices for a reason and you are in charge of your own life. I would never, ever have chosen to not have my three children and be obsessed with tennis just to have been more determined in my career. There are some moments where if I had been a little bit more ambitious then it might have helped, and it is so easy to compare ourselves, especially in this business. But it is such a dead end to do that, for obvious reasons. And I seem to care more about tennis than I do about acting, which is probably rather healthy.

Battle Of The Sexes is in cinemas now