My daughter Sophie just turned 20. She’s a sweet, smart, funny, strong, beautiful kid who for the last 18 years has navigated through this often cold, cruel, confusing, challenging world without the love and nurturing of her mother. That’s because her mother was brutally murdered in 2006.
Sophie’s mom is Adrienne Shelly. Adrienne died at 40 just as every wish she’d ever had was coming true. She was deeply in love, relishing motherhood, and about to experience the level of career success she worked hard to achieve and knew would someday come.
Adrienne had written a script called WAITRESS. On a shoestring budget, and championed by her producer Michael Roiff, she shot the film in about 20 days. At the time of her death she was waiting to learn if the movie would earn a coveted spot at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.
Sadly, she’d never know. She was killed five days before the call came.
WAITRESS became the darling of the festival, was snapped up by Fox Searchlight for almost $4-million, and went on to earn $20-million at the box-office several months later. It was tied with BUG for 4th highest-grossing film over its Memorial Day weekend release behind the big-budget studio blockbusters PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END, SHREK THE THIRD and SPIDERMAN-3.
This beloved little gem would’ve likely soared to $100-million (following in the footsteps of other incredible little indies like JUNO) had it not been edged out of multiplex screens by these giant films, and by another blockbuster, KNOCKED UP, which was released a week later. Timing is everything.
But the WAITRESS story didn’t stop there. A decade later it became a smash Tony-nominated Broadway musical which ran for an historic four years.
Adrienne never lived to see any of it.
And she never lived to see her other creation, Sophie, grow into an amazing young woman.
And Sophie never got to spend these past 18 years of her life with the woman who she is constantly told was one of the nicest, kindest, smartest, funniest, most talented, most generous human beings they’d ever met.
And I continue to mourn for Sophie, who despite being dealt the shittiest hand a child could be dealt, bravely plows her way through this world carrying the weight and burden of tragedy and grief like a true champion.
And I continue to marvel at the incredible human being she’s become. Just like her mom, who lives on through her. What a gift to us all.