Adrienne Shelly


Adrienne Levine (June 24, 1966 – November 1, 2006), better known by the stage name Adrienne Shelly (sometimes credited as Adrienne Shelley), was an American actress, director, and screenwriter. She became known for roles in independent films such as Hal Hartley’s The Unbelievable Truth (1989), with Robert Burke; and Trust (1990), with Martin Donovan and Edie Falco.

Shelley also wrote, directed, and acted in the films Sudden Manhattan (1996), with Tim Guinee, Roger Rees, Louise Lasser, Hynden Walch, and Kevin Cahoon; I’ll Take You There (1999), with Ally Sheedy, Reg Rogers, Pamela Gray, Lara Harris, Alice Drummond, Alan North, Ben Vereen, and Michael Emerson; and Waitress (2007), with Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Eddie Jemison, Jeremy Sisto, Lew Temple, and Andy Griffith; the latter being a posthumous release. Hines directed a film based on her last script, Serious Moonlight (2009), with Meg Ryan, Timothy Hutton, Kristen Bell, and Justin Long.

Other films include Joan Micklin Silver’s Big Girls Don’t Cry… They Get Even (1991), with Hillary Wolf, Griffin Dunne, Patricia Kalember, Jenny Lewis, Ben Savage, Dan Futterman, Margaret Whitton, and David Strathairn; Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me (1992), with Max Parrish, Andrea Naschak, Diane Ladd, Sean Young, and Timothy Leary; Hexed (1993), with Arye Gross, Claudia Christian, and R. Lee Ermey; Teresa’s Tattoo (1994), with C. Thomas Howell, Nancy McKeon, Lou Diamond Phillips, Melissa Etheridge, Casey Siemaszko, and Majel Barrett; The Road Killers (1994), with Christopher Lambert, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Arquette, Josh Brolin, Christopher McDonald, and John Pyper-Ferguson; Sleep With Me (1994), with Craig Sheffer, Eric Stoltz, Meg Tilly, Dean Cameron, Todd Field, Thomas Gibson, Parker Posey, Susan Traylor, Tegan West, June Lockhart, and Quentin Tarantino; Sleeping with Strangers (1994), with Alastair Duncan, Kim Huffman, Shawn Thompson, and Scott McNeil.

Later films include Grind (1997), with Billy Crudup, Paul Schulze, Frank Vincent, and Amanda Peet; Wrestling with Alligators (1998), with Joely Richardson, Clair Bloom, and Aleksa Palladino; Revolution #9 (2001), with Michael Risley, Spalding Gray, and Callie Thorne; Dead Dog (2001), with Jeremy Sisto, Paige Turco, David Thornton, Christopher Cousins, and Julianne Nicholson; TV movie The Atlantis Conspiracy (2001), with Amanda Donohoe, Jeremy Davies, and Bill Sage; and Factotum (2005), with Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor, Marisa Tomei, Fisher Stevens, Karen Young, and Didier Flamand.

On November 1, 2006, Shelly was found dead, hanging in the shower of her West Village work studio apartment. The initial examination of the scene did not reveal any suspicious circumstances, and police apparently believed it to be a suicide. Her husband, Andy Ostroy, insisted she would never have taken her own life, and brought about a re-examination of the bathroom that disclosed a suspect shoe print. Police arrested Diego Pillco, a 19-year-old construction worker from Ecuador, who confessed to killing Shelly and making it look as if she had committed suicide.

Ostroy established the Adrienne Shelly Foundation, which awards scholarships, production grants, finishing funds, and living stipends to artists. In her honor, the Women Film Critics Circle gives an annual Adrienne Shelly Award to the film that it finds “most passionately opposes violence against women.”

Each review will be linked to the title below.

(*seen originally in theaters)

(**seen rereleased in theaters)

  • The Unbelievable Truth (1989) – directed by Hal Hartley
  • Trust (1990) – directed by Hal Hartley
  • Lonely in America (1990) – directed by Barry Alexander Brown
  • Big Girls Don’t Cry… They Get Even (1991) – directed by Joan Micklin Silver
  • Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me (1992) – directed by Joel Hershman
  • Hexed (1993) – directed by Alan Spencer
  • Teresa’s Tattoo (1994) – directed by Julie Cypher
  • Urban Legend (1994) – director, writer only – short
  • Kalamazoo (1994) – directed by Claudia Silver – short
  • The Road Killers (1994) – directed by Deran Sarafian
  • Sleep with Me (1994) – directed by Rory Kelly
  • Sleeping with Strangers (1994) – directed by William T. Bolson
  • Opera No. 1 (1994) – directed by Hal Hartley – short
  • Sudden Manhattan (1996) – also director, writer
  • Lois Lives a Little (1997) – director, writer only – short
  • Grind (1997) – directed by Chris Kentis
  • The Regulars (1997) – directed by Sarah Chumsky – short
  • Wrestling with Alligators (1998) – directed by Laurie Weltz
  • I’ll Take You There (1999) – also director, writer
  • The Shadows of Bob and Zelda (2000) – also director, writer – short
  • Revolution #9 (2001) – directed by Tim McCann
  • Dead Dog (2001) – directed by Christopher Goode
  • The Atlantis Conspiracy (2001) – directed by Dean Silvers – TV movie
  • Tiger: His Fall & Rise (2004) – directed by Reid Rosefelt – short
  • Factotum (2005) – directed by Bent Hamer
  • Waitress (2007)* – also director, writer – posthumous release
  • The Vibrator (2007) – directed by Richard Caliban – short – posthumous release
  • Serious Moonlight (2009) – directed by Cheryl Hines – writer only – posthumous release