Michelle Pfeiffer has gone from selling melons in a supermarket to launching an acting career that spans several decades – and is still going strong. She talks to Gabrielle Donnelly about adoption, respect and life in her 50s.
Not long ago, Michelle Pfeiffer sat down with her 14-year-old daughter, Claudia, for a talk about friendships. “She was talking about the people in her life,” says Michelle today, smiling at the memory. “What they meant to her, and why certain friends she had were more important to her than others and certain friendships were stronger. And then we narrowed it down to this one particular friend she feels closest to of all, and we realised that one reason for that is this particular friend is also the one she has the most respect for. And I think we really hit on something there, because – whether it’s your friend or your spouse of whatever the relationship is – if you have respect for someone, and they have respect for you, then everything else sort of falls into place.”
If anyone has earned respect in an industry not noted for giving it, it is Michelle. The blonde California girl with the soaring cheekbones who first came to public attention wearing a pink baseball jacket and shaking her booty in the resounding critical flop Grease 2 seemed set for a career specialising in sunny-haired bimbos, until she showed the world – and very efficiently, too – that there was more to her than just a pretty face. Just a year after the film came out, she surprised everyone playing the cocaine-addicted wife of a mobster in Brian De Palma’s cult hit, Scarface. Five years later, in 1988, she was heartbreaking as the innocent victim of Glenn Close and John Malkovich in Dangerous Liaisons; in the 20-plus years since then, roles as different as a seductive lounge singer in The Fabulous Baker Boys, a lithe Catwoman in Batman Returns, a former Marine schoolteacher in Dangerous Minds, a put-upon wife in What Lies Beneath and, most lately, an older woman falling in love despite herself in Chéri, have left no doubt in anyone’s mind that here is an actress who has earned every square inch of her place at the very top of Hollywood’s A-list.