Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Transformation Of Talia Shire From Rocky To Now

With classic roles in the "Godfather" trilogy and the "Rocky" series, Talia Shire has easily earned the mantle of film icon. Anyone who has seen Shire's performances know that they are filled with complexities from the very start, yet Shire demonstrates her ability to grow the characters and take them to new and sometimes unexpected places.

Born Talia Rose Coppola on April 26, 1946, in Long Island, New York, the actor throughout the bulk of her career has been known by the surname of her first husband, composer David Shire. After Talia and David Shire's marriage ended in divorce, the actor retained the Shire moniker professionally, even after she married her second husband, Jack Schwartzman, on August 23, 1980. Shire and Schwartzman's union ended tragically on June 15, 1994, when Schwartzman died of pancreatic cancer.

Much like "The Godfather," Shire and the closest people in her life have always been involved in a family business. David was a film and television composer, while Jack was a film producer. Talia Shire's son with David, Matt, is a writer and producer, while her sons with Schwartzman — Jason and Robert — have taken up their mother's acting craft.

As far the Coppola side of Shire's family is concerned, the impact that they've had on the movie industry is wide and far-reaching. Shire's father, Carmine, was a composer, while her niece, Sofia Coppola, is a writer and director. Her nephew, Nicholas, broke with tradition by changing his surname to Cage.

Perhaps the most important Coppola in Shire's life is her brother, Francis, the legendary writer and director whose offer for his sister to star in "The Godfather" was one that she simply couldn't refuse. Playing the youngest of the Corleone siblings, the film begins and ends with scenes involving Connie Corleone, first in her wedding to Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo) and last with Carlo's execution. She earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her efforts in the sequel. In all likelihood, the visibility Shire earned for playing Connie helped her in landing another legendary role, with an actor famous for shouting out, "Yo, Adrian!"

Talia Shire played Adrian Balboa in five Rocky films

While 1976's "Rocky" is predominantly known as a sports drama, layered within is a heartfelt story of romance between scrappy Philadelphia boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and his girlfriend-turned-wife, Adrianna "Adrian" Pennino (Shire). A wallflower who worked part time in a pet store, Adrian became smitten with the tender-hearted fighter and was in the arena as Rocky was battered but went the distance of his match with world champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). 

While Balboa lost the match via a split decision, his only care was to be with Adrian, shouting her name out loudly until they embraced in the ring — demonstrating that love conquered all. "Rocky" earned both Shire and Stallone Oscar nominations in the lead acting categories, while the film went on to win in the Best Picture and Best Director (John G. Avildsen) categories.

Playing Rocky's bedrock of inspiration throughout the film series, Shire's last turn as Adrian came in "Rocky V," and she appeared in archive footage in the film's follow-up, "Rocky Balboa." Adrian's death is part of the film's storyline, but she lives in Rocky's memory as the retired boxer names his new restaurant after his late wife. Ultimately, Stallone told USA Today in 2006 that he decided to cut the role of Adrian out of "Rocky Balboa" to give the story more weight.

"In the original script (for 'Rocky Balboa'), she was alive," Stallone said. "But it just didn't have the same dramatic punch. I thought, 'What if she's gone?' That would cut Rocky's heart out and drop him down to ground zero."

Talia Shire starred in the BMX cult classic Rad

Apart from "Rocky," Shire dabbled in another sports-themed film with "Rad" in 1986, a cult film classic that examined the world of BMX racing. Shire starred as Mrs. Jones, the mother of Cru Jones (Bill Allen), a teen BMX biker who defies the matriarch's wishes for him to take the college SAT in favor of his desire to qualify for the Helltrack race — a win of which will bring him fortune and fame. Directed by stunt legend-turned-director Hal Needham ("Smokey and the Bandit," "The Cannonball Run"), "Rad" also starred Lori Laughlin as Cru's girlfriend, Christian, two years before she was cast in "Full House."

The film has remained close to Shire's heart in that it was produced by Jack Schwartzman, who she honored in promoting the film's 4K release in 2020.

"'Rad' was, I think something Jack had found and was very excited about. And all of those three movies were really about young people and empowerment," Shire told Coming Soon in an interview. "So, this was something Jack was very interested in. How do you inspire young people so that they have a feeling that they could do something in their world? 'Rad' is pretty much about a kid who can do something, you know?"

The family came calling for Talia Shire once again in The Godfather, Part III

Sixteen years after the release of "The Godfather: Part II," Francis Ford Coppola got the family back together — including sister Talia — for one final Corleone family go-round with "The Godfather: Part III" in 1990. Given the immense footprints the first two "Godfather" films left (both won Best Picture Oscars), the pressure was on for the third chapter in the saga, which found the godfather, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), striving to finally make the Corleone family business legitimate after spending decades in the organized crime world.

Hardened by the death of her husband, Carlo, at the conclusion of the first "Godfather" film, Shire's turn as Connie Corleone Rizzi in "The Godfather: Part III" is decidedly different than the passive nature of the character that audiences first met 18 years before the trilogy's end. In fact, Shire said in an exclusive interview with Looper for the 2020 update and restoration of the third film — retitled "Coda: The Godfather, The Death of Michael Corleone" — Connie has essentially assumed the persona of her late father, Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), as she aids her nephew, Vincent Manini (Andy Garcia), when he takes over the godfather mantle.

"I think for Connie, in many ways her evolution [in the third Godfather film] is addressed as the matriarch or the mother, but she assumes [Don Vito's role instead], because I think there's a lot of victimization in her life, and tragedy," Shire told us. "She does not want to see this family end ... I think Connie assumes a lot of the father. So, in a way, Brando's essence was in my heart as an actor. I missed my father. When you miss your father, you reenact your father. So, Brando was very much with me."

Talia Shire played Jason Schwartzman's mother in I (Heart) Huckabees

Even though her appearance was brief, Shire appeared, appropriately, as the mother of her real-life son, Jason Schwartzman, in writer-director David O. Russell's "I (Heart) Huckabees," described as an "existential comedy" in the film's marketing materials. The film stars Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin as a husband and wife detective team that is hired to investigate the meaning of life of their clients, including environmental activist Albert Markovski (Schwarzman).

While "I (Heart) Huckabees" was stacked with talent — the cast also included Mark Wahlberg, Naomi Watts, Isabelle Huppert, Jude Law, Isla Fisher and Jonah Hill — the film made more noise over leaked video of behind-the-scenes squabbles between Russell and Tomlin than it did at the box office, where it made a paltry $20 million worldwide. At least it gave Shire and Schwarzman a chance to walk down the red carpet together for the same movie.

Working Man demonstrates Talia Shire's love for independent filmmaking

In more recent years, Shire has been turning up in guest roles, including an appearance opposite Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in streaming series "Grace & Frankie," and starring in more independent films. Among the productions is the critically lauded drama "Working Man," a hit on the film festival circuit in 2019. Shire stars in the film as Iola Parkes, whose career factory worker husband, Allery (Peter Gerety), takes a stand against the system after the last facility in their small Rust Belt town shuts down.

In an interview with Gold Derby in 2020, Shire said the theme of the film was especially resonant because of all the havoc wreaked on the American workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"What attracted me [to the role] was the beauty and the audacity of the piece and the importance of it. So many people, especially because we're in a pandemic, people are losing their jobs. They can't get up in the morning," Shire said. "That sense of purpose and humanity is all up for grabs right now as we try to define this particular moment."