Elisabeth Shue and Andrew Shue bring events from their lives to the big screen in Gracie, an inspirational drama set in 1978 and starring the Shues, Dermot Mulroney, and Carly Schroeder. The Shue siblings pay tribute to their older brother William, a soccer star who died in 1988, with the very personal film. The story is based on their childhood growing up in a soccer-crazed family and follows Gracie (based on Elisabeth) as she helps her family deal with the loss of the older brother by playing on her high school’s boys’ varsity soccer team in his place.
Truth Versus Fiction: Asked how much of the character Gracie is actually based on her personal experiences, Elisabeth Shue replied, “Well we really wanted to tell a fictional story. That was really our intent. We definitely didn’t want to tell an autobiographical story. However, I think Davis [Guggenheim], my husband, was the one who said I’m not really interested in doing this movie unless it’s as authentic as can be. He said let’s tell the story of what it was like to grow up in a family of three brothers, which I did, what it was like for me to get my father’s attention - which was sort of the theme of my life - and having played soccer on all boy’s teams when I was younger for about 4 years, a little younger than the character in the film. I did [soccer] at about 13 and then I had an acting out kind of rebellious period, which you see in the movie, but didn’t last that long in the movie. However, in my life, it lasted very long.”
Andrew Shue interjected, “She did like boys.” “I did like boys very much,” admitted Elisabeth Shue. “I gave away my power to most of them and cared too much of what they thought of me. And so the heart and spirit, a lot of the details are all true. And obviously we lost our oldest brother so the theme of that and what it means to you and how you grow from that or not, is part of our lives. So there is so much that is true but obviously, there’s a lot that’s just a movie.”
Elisabeth Shue’s real soccer experiences differed from Gracie’s but she did experience some of the same kind of treatment as Gracie does in the film. “When I first started, I was 9. But the first day I showed up on the field, a mean little boy came up and stole my ball saying girls can’t play soccer. I, of course, did not have the fighting spirit of Gracie so I cried and ran off the field. My father was there and he marched me back out into the middle of the field. Coach C stopped the game and said, ‘Boys and girls will play soccer and that’s enough of this silliness.’ So I was lucky that that moment sort of established my right to play and he was the head of the soccer league.
The reality of what it’s like to be the only girl on a soccer team is very intense. You have a lot to live up to and I was always really nervous. I fought really hard. I was actually kind of more aggressive than the boys because I wanted to prove that I belonged there. I was proud of every slide tackle and kicked them in certain places they don’t like to be kicked (laughing). But yeah, I definitely felt the tension of it every game for four years.”
The Family Dynamics on the Set of Gracie: “I think that we were really blessed that Davis Guggenheim, my husband, was the director because that changed everything, because we completely and utterly trusted him and his talent and also his love of our family,” said Elisabeth Shue. “And because he was the one who wanted it to be so real and so authentic, we just pretty much said, ‘You’re our leader.’ At the same time, we’re all very opinionated and have very strong views of what we wanted to accomplish in the movie as well, so on the best days, it was just great, great, great creative conflict and all of us giving our views and communicating really well and fighting for what we believed in all in the spirit of love. On the worst days? (Laughing) We were back in our home and fighting it out on the side yard.”
Wearing Multiple Hats on Gracie: Andrew Shue not only played a supporting role in the movie but also worked on the screen story and produced the film. “It was hard to do everything because one of the things that got lost was just trying to enjoy it,” explained Andrew Shue. “This is once in a lifetime opportunity where you’re telling a story you care so much about, working with people who you love, you’re in your hometown and doing all these things, that you want to step back and take it all in and just have fun. It’s hard work making a movie; it’s hard work making a movie without your family. It’s really hard work making a movie with your family because we’re all very strong-willed people. We all have great ideas and the decision-making process became an interesting thing to navigate.”
Elizabeth Shue on Playing Her Mother: “I was really excited actually to play the part of the mother. I thought she was going to be an interesting character, just knowing my mother, and, at the same time, knowing how important that character really was to the film. She represents a generation before, a generation of moms who really didn’t get to follow their dreams the way I got the opportunity to. [They] didn’t have the same opportunities in their way. So I was really excited about the part of the mom, to be honest. I really was.”
Andrew Shue added, “I think one of the interesting things was the very odd dynamic of having my sister being able to help develop a story that would, in a sense, would give advise to young girls of this generation of how she wished her mom would have given her advice in that generation. So I thought the end result was very powerful and would create conversations between mothers and daughters about how far things have come, what it was like for girls both in the workplace and also on the playing fields in the ‘70s, and how it is today and how girls have really come a long way.”