Adrienne Shelly: Wikis


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Adrienne Shelly
Born Adrienne Levine
June 24, 1966(1966-06-24)
Queens, New York, USA
Died November 1, 2006 (aged 40)
Manhattan, New York, USA
Spouse(s) Andrew Ostroy

Adrienne Shelly (June 24, 1966 – November 1, 2006), sometimes credited as Adrienne Shelley, was an American actress, director and screenwriter. Making her name in independent films such as 1989's The Unbelievable Truth and 1990's Trust, Shelly transitioned to a writing and directing career in subsequent years. She wrote, co-starred in, and directed the 2007 film Waitress, which won five awards, including the Jury Prize at the Sarasota Film Festival for narrative feature, and the Audience and Feature Film awards at the Newport Beach Film Festival.


Early life

Of Russian Jewish descent,[1] Shelly was born Adrienne Levine in Queens, New York, to Sheldon M. Levine and Elaine Langbaum. She had two brothers, Jeff and Mark, and was raised on Long Island. She began performing when she was about 10[2] at Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center. She made her professional debut in a summer stock production of the musical Annie[1] while a student at Jericho High School[3] in Jericho, New York. She went on to Boston University, majoring in film production, but dropped out after her junior year and moved to Manhattan.[4]


Shelly's career breakthrough came when she was cast by independent filmmaker Hal Hartley as the lead in his films, The Unbelievable Truth (1989) and Trust (1990),[5][6] the latter of which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, where Hartley's script tied for the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.[7]

She appeared in a number of films during the 1990s, and as she segued toward a behind-the-camera career she wrote and directed others, including 1999's I'll Take You There, in which she appeared along with Ally Sheedy. She won a U.S. Comedy Arts Festival Film Discovery Jury Award in 2000 for direction of the film, and Prize of the City of Setúbal: Special Mention, at the Festróia (Tróia International Film Festival) held in Setúbal, Portugal for best director.[6][8]

She also guest-starred in a number of television series including Law & Order, Oz, and Homicide: Life on the Street. She played major roles in over two dozen off-Broadway plays, often at Manhattan's Workhouse Theater.[4] In 2005 she appeared in the film Factotum starring Matt Dillon. Her last known work was writing, directing and playing a supporting role in the film Waitress, starring Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion,[9] which premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.[10]

Personal life

Shelly, who took her professional surname after her late father's given name,[1] was married to Andrew Ostroy, the chairman and CEO of the marketing firm Belardi/Ostroy.[11] They had a daughter, Sophie (b. 2003), who was two years old at the time of Shelly's death.[12]


Shelly was found dead at about 5:45 p.m on November 1, 2006. She was 40 years old. Her husband found her hanging by a bedsheet[13] from a shower rod in the bathtub[11] of the Abingdon Square apartment in Manhattan's West Village that Shelly used as an office.[11] It initially appeared to be a suicide.[13] Ostroy had dropped her off at 9:30 a.m. that day, and as the building's doorman told journalists "He hadn't heard from her and he said it was odd not to hear from her, so he was nervous. And he asked me to go up to the apartment with him, so we went to the front door, and it was unlocked".[11]

An autopsy was performed the following day. The New York City Police Department was suspicious of sneaker prints in the bathtub that did not match Shelly's shoes (she was found wearing only socks). Shelly's husband also indicated that there was money missing from Shelly's wallet. He denied allegations that she would have committed suicide.[14]

Press reports on November 6, 2006 stated that police had arrested construction worker Diego Pillco, a 19-year-old Ecuadorian illegal immigrant[15] who confessed to killing Shelly after she complained about the noise he was making in the apartment below hers. Pillco said that he "was having a bad day".[15] Police said Pillco had made videos implicating himself in the murder, and as of November 7, 2006 was being held without bail for her murder.[16][17]

Diego Pillco entered his guilty plea February 14, 2008. He said that, contrary to his original story, Shelly had not complained about noise, but rather had caught him stealing money from her purse after he slipped into the apartment. When she tried to call the police, he grabbed the phone and covered her mouth as she began to scream. After she fell, he tied a bedsheet around her neck and decided to choke her. Originally, Pillco claimed he didn't know Shelly was still alive when he hanged her, but in court he admitted to choking her with a sheet, tying it around her neck, and stringing her up to make it look like she committed suicide.[18] The medical examiner determined that Shelly was still alive when hanged.[19] Pillco received 25 years in prison without parole when he was sentenced on March 6, 2008.[20]

At Pillco's sentencing on March 13, 2008, Shelly's husband, along with family members said that they would never forgive him.[21] Andy Ostroy had said of Pillco " are nothing more than a coldblooded killer" and that he hoped he would "rot in jail".[21]

In remembering Shelly, Ostroy said that "Adrienne was the kindest, warmest, most loving, generous person I knew. She was incredibly smart, funny and talented, a bright light with an infectious laugh and huge smile that radiated inner and outer beauty... she was my best friend, and the person with whom I was supposed to grow old".[21]

Suing construction company

Shelly's husband is now suing the contractor, Bradford General Contractors, who had hired Pillco.[22] He argued that Shelly would still be alive if the contracting firm had not hired Pillco.[22] He also seeks to hold the owners and management of the building liable for her murder.[22] The suit reads: "Pillco was an undocumented immigrant..." [22] The newspaper article further added: "as were his co-workers".[22] The story then went on to relate that "it was in Bradford General Contractors' interest not to have "police and immigration officials [called] to the job site" because that would have ground their work to a halt".[22]


Following his wife's death, Ostroy established the Adrienne Shelly Foundation,[23] a non-profit organization that awards scholarships, production grants, finishing funds and living stipends through its partnerships with academic and filmmaking institutions NYU, Columbia University, Women in Film, IFP, AFI, Sundance Institute, Tribeca Film Institute and the Nantucket Film Festival. One of its grant recipients, Cynthia Wade, won an Academy Award in 2008 for Freeheld, a short subject documentary which the Foundation helped fund. As part of its annual awards, the Women Film Critics' Circle gives the Adrienne Shelly Award to the film that "most passionately opposes violence against women".[24]

On February 16, 2007, the NBC crime drama series Law & Order broadcast an episode, "Melting Pot", that was a thinly-veiled dramatization of Shelly's murder.[25][26] Shelly herself had guest-starred on the show in the 2000 episode "High & Low."[27]

Shelly's film, Waitress, had been accepted into the 2007 Sundance Film Festival[28] before her murder. The film, starring Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Jeremy Sisto, Andy Griffith and Shelly herself, was bought during the festival by Fox Searchlight Pictures for an amount between $4 million and $5 million (news accounts on the actual amount vary), and the film realized a final box-office draw of over $19 million.[29] Waitress maintains an 89% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes[30]

Waitress and its cast have together won five film awards and received other nominations in various categories, including a Chlotrudis Award for best performance by an ensemble cast; Audience award for a feature film at the Newport Beach Film Festival, where cast member Nathan Fillion also received a Feature Film award for his role in the film; the Jury Prize at the Sarasota Film Festival for narrative feature; the Wyatt Award by the Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards; and nominations for a Humanitas Prize and an Independent Spirit Award for best screenplay.[31]

Ostroy has also produced Serious Moonlight, a film whose script was penned by Shelly. The film stars Meg Ryan, Timothy Hutton, Kristen Bell and Justin Long, and is directed by Cheryl Hines. It had its world premiere in April at the Tribeca Film Festival and will be released in select theatres nationally December 4th, 2009.[32]

Ostroy has also spearheaded a move to establish a memorial to his beloved wife. On August 3, 2009, the Adrienne Shelly Garden was dedicated on the Southeast side of Abingdon Square Park in NYC at 8th and 12th. It faces 15 Abingdon Square, the building where Shelly died.




Writing and directing

  • Urban Legend (1994) (26-minute short film)[34]
  • Lois Lives a Little (1997)
  • Sudden Manhattan (1997)
  • I'll Take You There (1999)
  • The Shadows of Bob and Zelda (2000)
  • Waitress (2007)


  1. ^ a b c AOL LLC (2006). AOL Moviefone biography. Retrieved November 6, 2006.
  2. ^ MovieMaker Magazine (2006). Moviemaker interview with Shelly: "Suddenly Adrienne Shelly" by Tim Rhys, August 1996. Retrieved November 6, 2006.
  3. ^ Newsday Inc. (2006)."Remembering Talents of a Local Star". By Steven Snyder, with contribution from Rocco Parascandol. Retrieved November 5, 2006.
  4. ^ a b Dennis Hevesi (November 4, 2006). "Adrienne Shelly, 40, an Actress, Film Director and Screenwriter, is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved October 7, 2007. 
  5. ^ "Actress Adrienne Shelly found dead in New York City office". The International Herald Tribune. November 3, 2006. Retrieved November 3, 2006. 
  6. ^ a b Internet Movie Database (1990-2006). Adrienne Shelly. Retrieved November 3, 2006.
  7. ^ Internet Movie Database (1990-2006). Awards for Trust. Retrieved November 5, 2006.
  8. ^ Awards for I'll Take You There at the Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 3, 2006.
  9. ^ "Actress Adrienne Shelly found dead". CBC. 2006-11-03. Retrieved November 3, 2006. 
  10. ^ Sundance Film Festival 07 (2006). Sundance Film Festival Announces Films in the Premiers, Spectrum, New Frontier, Park City at Midnight and From the Sundance Collection Series (pdf). Retrieved December 18, 2006.
  11. ^ a b c d Philip Messing; Mark Bulliet; Dan Mangan (November 3, 2006). "Indie-Film Star 'Suicide' Stunner". New York Post. 
  12. ^ Alison Gendar; John Lauinger; Barbara Ross; Corky Siemaszko (November 7, 2006). "Killer Staged Her 'Suicide'". New York: Daily News. 
  13. ^ a b Alison Gendar; Michael White (November 3, 2006). "Actress Found Hanged in Village Apartment". New York Daily News. 
  14. ^ ABC Inc., WABC-TV New York (2006). "Husband: Actress-wife's death suspicious". Retrieved November 5, 2006.
  15. ^ a b Larry Celona; Murray Weiss; Dan Mangan (November 7, 2006). "Star's Suicide was Killer Cover-up". New York Post. Retrieved November 13, 2006. 
  16. ^ Newsday (date n.a.): "NYPD questions a person in death of actress Adrienne Shelly"
  17. ^ CBS Broadcasting Inc. (2006). WCBS-TV/Associated Press. "Brooklyn Man Charged With Murder Of Actress". Retrieved November 7, 2006.
  18. ^ Anemona Hartocollis (February 15 2008). "In Guilty Plea, Actress’s Killer Changes Story to Robbery". The New York Times. 
  19. ^ ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS (December 14, 2006). "Murder Suspect Admitted Hanging Actress, Police Say". The New York Times. Retrieved October 17, 2008. 
  20. ^ Entertainment Weekly; February 29, 2008; Page 18.
  21. ^ a b c "'ROT,' BASTARD! Hubby damns Shelly Slayer in court". New York Post. March 14, 2008. p. Page 19. Retrieved March 14, 2008. 
  22. ^ a b c d e f "KIN SUES FIRM IN ACTRESS MURDER". New York Post. November 4, 2008. Retrieved November 4, 2008. 
  23. ^ "Adrienne Shelly Foundation". Retrieved March 14, 2008. 
  24. ^ "WFCC: 'Changeling' best movie about women". (United Press International). December 15, 2008. Retrieved December 22, 2008. 
  25. ^ John Freeman Gill (February 11, 2007). "Murder, They Wrote". The New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2007. 
  26. ^ TV Guide Online, Inc. (2007). Episode Detail: Melting Pot. Retrieved February 17, 2007.
  27. ^ CNET Networks, Inc. (2007). summary for Adrienne Shelly. Retrieved February 17, 2007.
  28. ^ David Carr (January 19, 2007). "Sundance Dream Most Notable for an Absence". The New York Times. 
  29. ^ "Waitress (2007)". IMDB. Retrieved June 16, 2009. 
  30. ^ "Waitress (2007)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 1, 2008. 
  31. ^ "Awards for Waitress". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 10, 2009. 
  32. ^ 'Moonlight' to get December release 28 July 2009. United Press International
  33. ^ Cooper, Chet. "Cheryl Hines Interview". Ability Magazine. Retrieved February 23, 2008. 
  34. ^ "Adrienne Shelly biography". Yahoo! Inc. Retrieved March 15, 2008. 

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