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Helen Shaver

Helen Shaverb. February 24, 1951, St. Thomas, Ontario


Helen Shaver has said that acting is “a willingness to be naked, whether you have your clothes on or not, to strip away those parts of you that stand in the way of the truth of any individual.” Never one to shy away from controversial films or roles, Shaver has appeared in nearly one hundred films and television series. Though she has been handed more than her share of colourless and thankless parts, it has been her gutsy, potent portrayals in several Canadian films that have won her awards and brought her much respect.

A chronic case of rheumatic fever between the ages of five and twelve forced Shaver to spend a great deal of her childhood in bed and in hospitals, an experience she has credited with triggering her imagination and her desire to become an actress. She attended the Banff School of Fine Arts as a teenager and later studied acting at the University of Victoria. After a number of character roles in several Canadian features – Outrageous! (1977), Starship Invasions (1977), Who Has Seen the Wind (1977) and High Ballin’ (1978) – she landed her breakthrough role in the controversial In Praise of Older Women (1978), for which she won a Canadian Film Award for Best Lead Actress.

She continued to work in several short-lived television series (such as “Jessica Novak” and Larry Gelbart’s “United States,” with Beau Bridges) and a number of feature films (The Amityville Horror, 1979, Sam Peckinpah’s The Osterman Weekend, 1983) before she gained attention in 1985 as the repressed teacher who makes a wary but liberating foray into lesbianism in Donna Deitch’s moving Desert Hearts. She then appeared as Paul Newman’s long-suffering girlfriend in Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money (1986) and starred opposite Donald Sutherland in Philip Borsos’s ill-fated Bethune: The Making of a Hero (1990).

Encouraged by Martin Scorsese to try directing, Shaver finally got her chance on the television series “The Outer Limits” and “Poltergeist: The Legacy,” which she also starred in. She has since directed episodes for numerous television series, including “Joan of Arcadia” and “The O.C.,” and won an Emmy Award for Best Children’s Feature for Summer’s End (1998), starring James Earl Jones. She won a Genie Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of a drug addicted prostitute in Martin Cummins’s We All Fall Down (2000) and received a Best Director Gemini for “Just Cause” in 2003. She was inducted into “Canada’s Walk of Fame” in 2004.

By Andrew McIntosh

Film and video work includes

King of Kensington series, 1976 (actor; TV, one episode)
Shoot, 1976 (actor)
The Supreme Kid, 1976 (actor)
Outrageous!, 1977 (actor)
Search and Rescue series, a.k.a. Search and Rescue: The Alpha Team, 1977 (actor; TV)
Starship Invasions, a.k.a. Alien Encounter; Project Genocide; War of the Aliens, 1977 (actor)
Who Has Seen the Wind, 1977 (actor)
High-Ballin’, 1978 (actor)
In Praise of Older Women, 1978 (actor)
Lovey: A Circle of Children, Part II, 1978 (actor; TV)
The Amityville Horror, 1979 (actor)
United States series, 1980 (actor; TV)
Gas, 1981 (actor)
Jessica Novak series, 1981 (actor; TV)
Between Two Brothers, 1982 (actor; TV)
Harry Tracy, Desperado, a.k.a. Harry Tracy; Harry Tracy: Dead or Alive, 1982 (actor)
Hill Street Blues series, 1982 (actor; TV, four episodes)
Off Your Rocker, 1982 (actor; TV)
The Osterman Weekend, 1983 (actor)
T.J. Hooker series, 1983 (actor; TV, one episode)
Best Defense, a.k.a. Best Defence, 1984 (actor)
Coming Out Alive, 1984 (actor)
Countdown to Looking Glass, 1984 (actor; TV)
Desert Hearts, 1985 (actor)
The War Boy, 1985 (actor) A
Amazing Stories series, 1986 (actor; TV, one episode)
The Color of Money, 1986 (actor)
Lost!, 1986 (actor)
Many Happy Returns, 1986 (actor; TV)
The Men’s Club, 1986 (actor)
The Park Is Mine, 1985 (actor; TV)
Philip Marlowe, Private Eye series, 1986 (actor; TV, one episode)
Walking After Midnight, 1986 (appears as herself)
The Believers, 1987 (actor)
No Blame, 1988 (actor; TV)
The Land Before Time, 1988 (voice)
The Ray Bradbury Theatre series, 1988 (actor; TV, one episode)
B.L. Stryker: The Dancer’s Touch, 1989 (actor; TV)
Tree of Hands, a.k.a. Innocent Victim, 1989 (actor)
Mothers, Daughters and Lovers, a.k.a. American River, 1989 (actor; TV)
Bethune: The Making of a Hero, a.k.a. Dr. Bethune, 1990 (actor)
Columbo: Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo, 1990 (actor; TV)
Pair of Aces, 1990 (actor; TV)
WIOU series, 1990 (actor; TV)
A Smile in the Dark, a.k.a. California 405; Jungle of Love, 1991 (actor)
Amazing Stories: Book Four, 1991 (actor)
Fatal Memories, a.k.a. The Eileen Franklin Story, 1992 (actor; TV)
That Night, a.k.a. One Hot Summer, 1992 (actor)
Zebrahead, a.k.a. The Colour of Love, 1992 (actor)
Morning Glory, 1993 (actor; TV)
Poisoned by Love: The Kern County Murders, a.k.a. Murder So Sweet, 1993 (actor; TV)
Survive the Night, a.k.a. Night Hunt, 1993 (actor; TV)
The Forget-Me-Not Murders, a.k.a. Janek: Forget-Me-Not Murders, 1994 (actor; TV)
Janek: The Silent Betrayal, 1994 (actor; TV)
Ride with the Wind, 1994 (actor; TV)
Without Consent, a.k.a. Tell Laura I love Her: Trapped and Deceived, 1994 (actor; TV)
Born to Be Wild, a.k.a. Katie, 1995 (actor)
Falling for You, 1995 (actor; TV)
The Outer Limits series, a.k.a. The New Outer Limits, 1995 (actor; TV, two episodes)
The Outer Limits series, a.k.a. The New Outer Limits, 1995 (director; TV, six episodes)
The Craft, 1996 (actor)
Egg Salad, 1996 (actor)
Poltergeist: The Legacy series, 1996 – 1999 (actor; TV)
Poltergeist: The Legacy series, 1996 (director; TV, one episode)
Open Season, 1996 (actor)
Rowing Through, 1996 (actor)
Tremors II: Aftershocks, a.k.a. Tremors 2: Aftershocks, 1996 (actor)
Dead Man’s Gun series, 1997 (actor; TV, one episode)
Trial & Error, 1997 (actor; TV)
FAME L.A. series, 1998 (director; TV one episode)
The Net series, 1998 (director; TV, one episode)
The Sweetest Gift, 1998 (actor; TV)
Summer’s End, a.k.a. Walk on Water, 1998 (director; TV)
Beggars and Choosers series, 1999 (director; TV, one episode)
Judging Amy series, 1999 (director; producer; TV, nine episodes)
Poltergeist: The Legacy series, 1999 (director; TV, one episode)
The Wishing Tree, 1999 (actor)
Bear With Me, 2000 (actor)
The District series, 2000 (director; TV, one episode)
On Common Ground, 2000 (actor; TV)
Soul Food series, 2000 (director; TV, one episode)
We All Fall Down, 2000 (actor; executive producer)
The Education of Max Bickford series, 2001 (actor; TV, one episode)
Just Cause series, 2002 (director; TV, one episode)
Due East, 2002 (director; producer; TV)
Dead Like Me series, 2003 (director; TV, one episode)
D.C. Sniper: 23 Days of Fear, 2003 (actor; TV)
Joan of Arcadia series, 2003 (director; TV, one episode)
The O.C. series, 2003 (director; TV, one episode)
The Risen, 2003 (actor; TV)
The 4400 series, 2004 (actor; TV, two episodes)
The Keeper, 2004 (actor)
The L. Word series, 2004 (actor; TV, two episodes)

Note: Updated to June 30, 2005


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