Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
Scarface, Batman Returns, Dangerous Liaisons
Currently Known For:
Ant-Man and the Wasp
1978 - Present
Scarface, Batman Returns, Dangerous Liaisons
“I’ve always had this feeling that one day they’re going to find out that I’m really a fraud, that I really don’t know what I’m doing.” Making her debut into the world on April 29, 1958, Michelle Marie Pfeiffer didn’t grow up in show business and, in fact, had very little inkling of what Hollywood was as she grew up in Santa Ana, California where her mother stayed home with Pfeiffer and her three siblings while her father worked as a contractor. It wasn’t until Pfeiffer won the 1978 Miss Orange County crown and went on to compete in the Miss California pageant that she thought a career in the spotlight might not be so far-fetched after all. Hiring an agent, Pfeiffer jumped into Hollywood feet first mimicking the actors she saw in films as a child.
“I’m from Orange County, Southern California, and couldn’t have been more removed from the entertainment business,” Pfeiffer admitted. “In fact, I didn’t really even go to the movies much. My mother didn’t drive. My father couldn’t be bothered. So, I didn’t really go anywhere. But what I did do is I would stay up really late watching old movies on television. I can’t even tell you what they were because I was so young. But I remember watching what they were doing and saying to myself, ‘I can do that.’”
Despite that first desire to act, Pfeiffer put the inkling aside and enrolled in stenography school before taking a job at the local supermarket. “I didn’t know what else to do,” Pfeiffer said. “So, then I was working at Vons supermarket. I was a checker. And I got kind of frustrated there. I remember distinctly standing in the check stand in a fit of desperation and wanting to tell one of these customers where they could shove this cantaloupe. I thought to myself, ‘What do you want to do with the rest of your life?’ And it was acting.”
Pfeiffer approached acting without any training and knew the reality that she could ultimately fail; however, she didn’t let that stop her as she entered and won the Miss Orange County beauty pageant in 1978 and went on to compete in the Miss California pageant. Finishing in sixth place, she signed on with an agent and auditioned for any part she could find with her first credits coming in Fantasy Island and Delta House as she faced her first failure when she lost a starring role in Charlie’s Angels to Shelley Hack. “I was young enough to think, ‘Okay, well, I have this safe job at Vons, a good job I can make a living at, with benefits, but what I really want to do is be an actor. And I’m young enough that, if I fail, I can do something else,’” Pfeiffer recalled. “And somehow I had the courage to do that.”
Pfeiffer pushed forward and enrolled in acting lessons at the Beverly Hills Playhouse where, by 1982, her determination finally paid off and she starred in Grease 2. She followed up her first major film role as Elvira Hancock in Scarface in 1983 and was praised for her performance as one of Hollywood’s rising stars with Vanity Fair writing, “She is on the verge of stardom… In the parlance of the industry, she is hot.” Building her reputation with stellar performances in flicks like Into the Night, The Witches of Eastwick, Married to the Mob, and Dangerous Liaisons. She turned down the starring role opposite Richard Gere in Pretty Woman and, instead, focused on building her brand by opening her production company, Visa Rosa Productions. However, even with her company and widespread praise from critics, Pfeiffer still felt like she wasn’t good enough.
“I think that because I started working fairly quickly and I wasn’t ready,” Pfeiffer admitted. “I didn’t have any formal training. I didn’t come from Juilliard. I was just getting by and learning in front of the world. So, I’ve always had this feeling that one day they’re going to find out that I’m really a fraud, that I really don’t know what I’m doing.”
Undeniably the furthest thing from a fraud, Pfeiffer continued to prove she belonged in Hollywood with jaw-dropping performances in flicks like Batman Returns where her performance as Catwoman is still praised as one of the most authentic in the comic’s history. From there, she starred in The Age of Innocence, Wolf, Dangerous Minds, One Fine Day and The Deep End of the Ocean before taking a four-year hiatus from 2003 to 2007 to focus on her two children with her husband, television writer and producer David E. Kelley, whom she married in November 1993. With both her daughter and son off to college and making Pfeiffer an empty-nester, Pfeiffer felt the freedom to return to the spotlight in 2007 and marked her return with appearances in Hairspray and Stardust.
“I’ve never lost my love for acting,” she said of her return. “I feel really at home on the movie set. I’m a more balanced person, honestly, when I’m working. But I was pretty careful about where I shot, how long I was away, whether or not it worked out with the kids’ schedule. And I got so picky that I was un-hirable. And then… I don’t know, time just went on. And now, you know, when the student is ready, the teacher appears. I’m more open now, my frame of mind, because I really want to work now, because I can. And these last few years I’ve had some really interesting opportunities.”
Interesting doesn’t even begin to cover some of Pfeiffer’s most recent projects as she’s enjoyed a huge resurgence in her career especially when she returned to television after over two decades to star as Ruth Madoff in the HBO television film, The Wizard of Lies. With critics arguing that Pfeiffer once again steals the show, the 59-year-old even earned her first Primetime Emmy Award nomination for her performance. Beyond television, she’s also hit it big on the silver screen with starring roles in flicks like Where Is Kyra?, Mother! And Murder on the Orient Express, the latter of which puts his alongside Tom Bateman, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp and others!
Recognized as the greatest Catwoman of all time after joining Michael Keaton in Tim Burton’s 1992 blockbuster Batman Returns, Michelle Pfeiffer stunned her fans when she returned to the superhero realm after 26 years to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Janet Van Dyne / The Wasp in Ant-Man and the Wasp in 2018. For Pfeiffer, the opportunity was one she couldn’t resist especially since her kids are huge Marvel fans!
“My first exposure to Marvel would have been Spider-Man and then Iron Man, both of which I really loved,” Pfeiffer said. “I guess I discovered Marvel through my children. Then I saw Ant-Man, and I really loved it. At first, I thought, Ant-Man? I was not familiar with the superhero Ant-Man. By the sound of it, I was a little skeptical, but I was really pleasantly surprised.”
Although Pfeiffer was pleasantly surprised with the film, getting her to commit to the project was the first hurdle for director Peyton Reed who knew Pfeiffer would take some convincing. “I had no idea if she would even be remotely interested in doing this kind of a movie again or how she’d feel about it,” he admitted. “She came over and sat in one of the conference rooms, just the two of us at Marvel and kind of talked through who Janet Van Dyne was in the comics and who she might be in this movie. She was really funny, because one of the first things she said to me, she was like, ‘You know. I’m going to tell you up front. My process on every single movie I have ever done in my career, I’ve tried to back out of the movie at the last minute. That’s just my M.O.’”
Pfeiffer stayed true to her M.O. but Reed ultimately won over and saw his dream come true when Pfeiffer officially signed on for the project. “We talked about what it could be, and I wanted her input throughout in terms of the character, without giving too much away,” Reed said. “But for me it was a thrill to be working with her because she is incredible.”
That thrill shone through on the silver screen as Ant-Man and the Wasp became the eighth highest grossing film of 2018 after earning over $622 million worldwide. For Pfeiffer, the experience was incredible. “The movie was really smart and funny and also grounded in reality in a way that it had this very unusual tone to it that I think set it apart from a lot of the other superhero movies that I had seen,” she said.
With Pfeiffer set to reprise her role in the upcoming and untitled 2019 Avengers film, it seems like The Wasp is enough to woo Pfeiffer back to the silver screen… at least for now!