Friends, family and colleagues were mourning Friday the
death of Long Islander and independent film personality Adrienne Shelly, who
one former co-star described as director Hal Hartley's "strongest muse."
Shelly, 40, who was born Adrienne Levine, was found hanging from a shower
rod Wednesday evening by her husband in the couple's West Village apartment,
according to police sources. The medical examiner has not disclosed the results
of an autopsy.
A somber Hartley, reached in Germany, declined comment, but acknowledged he
had heard the news of Shelly's death. "I know, I know, I know," he said
quietly over the telephone.
Shelly, who was born in Queens and grew up on Long Island, often spoke
proudly of her Long Island roots, where she started acting at an early age,
appearing in musicals while attending Jericho High School.
She was last seen by New York audiences on the big screen in September
Shelly was perhaps best known for her work with Hartley, the quirky cult movie
icon, in such titles as 1989's "The Unbelievable Truth" and 1990's "Trust,"
which won acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival.
"She was one of those committed people in the independent film world who
saw what she was doing as a cause," Newsday film critic Gene Seymour said.
Bill Sage, an actor who appeared with her in "The Unbelievable Truth,"
"Trust" and several other projects, said Shelly's acting style was a perfect
match for Hartley's comic sensibilities.
"Her inclination toward understated humor greatly inspired what became
Hal's trademark," Sage said. "She never stopped being creative, intelligent and
Shelly returned to the stage later in life. The former Boston University
film student performed in several productions with Manhattan's Workhouse
Theatre Ltd. and the New Group. She also wrote and directed a number of plays
and most recently performed public readings locally with Sasha Eden and
Many have pointed to the actress' 1993 little-known comedy "Hold Me, Thrill
Me, Kiss Me" as her best work.
She moved to behind the camera in 1994 with the short film "Urban Legend."
She completed her first full-length feature, "Sudden Manhattan," in 1997.
In 2000, she was honored by the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival for "I'll Take
You There," a film that Newsday hailed as a "playfully arch romantic comedy"
through which Shelly "came into her own as a filmmaker."
Her latest film, "Waitress," starring Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion, is
in post-production, according to the Internet Movie Database.
Shelly is survived by her husband and 3-year-old daughter, Sophie. Funeral
arrangements have not been completed.
Staff writer Rocco Parascandola contributed to this report.