You might best know her as Nadia, the object of Jim Levenstein’s lust in American Pie. But besides that wonderfully awkward scene, Shannon Elizabeth has done plenty of work in Hollywood, perhaps not as memorable as Nadia, but work nevertheless. So, why is it we haven’t seen much of her lately? Wait until you hear why.
SHANNON ELIZABETH PRE-PIE
Before Shannon Elizabeth made a lasting impression in the raunchy comedy American Pie (as well as its sequels American Pie 2 and American Reunion) the actress was cutting her teeth with bit parts in movies such as Blast, Jack Frost, and Seamless while also starring in TV series like Arli$$, USA High, Step By Step, and Pacific Blue. Things really blew up though, when American Pie popped into her life.
American Pie made big names of its wonderful ensemble cast that included Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Alyson Hannigan, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Seann William Scott, and Eugene Levy, though Levy had been around and known for quite some time. It also made a star out of “Stifler’s mom” Jennifer Coolidge, as well as Shannon Elizabeth as Nadia. The film was raunchy, its first cut received an NC-17 rating. It was also fun, hilarious, and extremely quotable.
Apparently at least part of Shannon Elizabeth’s famous nude scene from American Pie wasn’t even in the script. It was improvised on the spot. Shannon explains, “We added some stuff that actually wasn’t in the script. So when I walk to the mirror, and I’m topless and I’m looking at myself, I kind of look at my stomach and think I’m not happy with the way I look, because that’s what girls do.“
Catch that scene in the homage that Shannon herself put together to commemorate her famous, star-making scene below…
As for Shannon Elizabeth, she acknowledges the fact that if she hadn’t gone topless in the movie, that perhaps she wouldn’t have had a Hollywood career. As part of the recent documentary, Skin: A History Of Nudity In The Movies, she reflected on just that fact, saying she has no regrets of taking it off in front of the camera. “If I hadn’t done American Pie and I hadn’t done the role of Nadia and the nudity that came along with it, I might not have a career today,” she said in the documentary. That may or may not be true.
Her role in two of the three sequels was brief, nothing as memorable as the original film, but it a nice added touch to the legacy of American Pie.
SHANNON ELIZABETH AFTER PIE
Shannon Elizabeth became a busy actress after American Pie. She went from one comedy in Pie to another in another franchise-starter Scary Movie. She was then seen in Evicted, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Thir13en Ghosts, and even a brief part in Love, Actually.
Elizabeth also found herself on the small screen appearing in Just Shoot Me!, Off Centre, and The Twilight Zone. Going topless in American Pie would continue to open doors for her.
Shannon Elizabeth’s popularity didn’t wane in the 2000s. She continued to nab roles both on the big and small screen, finding her way in Johnson Family Vacation, Cursed, and even a TV movie called Confessions of an American Bride.
On the small screen, Shannon Elizabeth had a recurring role on That ‘70’s Show. She also appeared in Cuts, a TV series in which she was the lead. It was her one and only lead role. In it she played Tiffany Sherwood, the spoiled daughter of a new barbershop owner. The series lasted two seasons.
For the next decade, it was pretty much cruise control for Shannon Elizabeth. Her main focus was feature films, mostly forgettable. She also appeared in a handful of TV movies, again though, fairly forgettable stuff. The American Pie high was beginning to wear off. Maybe that is why, in 2016, Shannon Elizabeth bid adieu to Hollywood.
SHANNON ELIZABETH QUITS ACTING
Back in 2001, Shannon Elizabeth founded the animal rescue organization, Animal Avengers, with her then-husband Joseph Reitman. Avengers was a non-profit firmly dedicated to rescuing and finding good homes for wayward pets. Fast forward to 2016 and Elizabeth’s sudden (or not so sudden) departure from Hollywood. She took her talents to Cape Town, Africa.
As she explained on her Animal Avengers/Shannon Elizabeth Foundation website, “It all started way back,” says Shannon. “All my life I have cared about animals and their well-being, and in 2001 I started a non-profit charity called Animal Avengers as a dog and cat rescue operation. It was both heartbreaking and heartwarming work saving, rehabilitating and re-homing strays and other city pets in need, but so worthwhile. And it remained the focus of my work with animals for more than a decade until I began to feel that I wanted to help more animals and on a much bigger scale.”
Her draw to Africa began a couple of years earlier when she started to become aware of the wildlife poaching and its ramifications. “I was determined to get involved, personally, and to make a practical contribution. But to do so, and to do it right, I felt I had to come to Africa to learn firsthand what was happening.”
So she did. Now 46-years-old Shannon Elizabeth lives in Cape Town in a home perched high on the slopes of Signal Hill, offering views out across Table Bay over to Robben Island.
Shannon Elizabeth continues to make a difference in Cape Town. Her foundation is thriving, helping save endangered animals. Her Cape Town story is a nice read, you can find part 1 here and part two here. Definitely recommended.
DEAL HER IN
Shannon Elizabeth’s talents don’t stop with acting or saving animals. She is also well known on the poker playing circuit. She was a top celebrity poker player, being highly active during the 2006 to 2010 timeframe.
Will we see Shannon Elizabeth in front of the camera again? Her last role came in the 2016 feature Swing Away and then she finally came back in 2019s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, reprising her role as Justice. For now, she seems content living the life she chose in Africa. You definitely can’t fault a girl for that. Kudos.