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Michelle Pfeiffer: A Life in Film

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With 33 years worth of films under her belt, Michelle Pfeiffer has had an astonishingly prolific career. Determined to prove she was more than just a pretty face, the actress progressed from fluffy roles in Grease 2 to a breakout role in Scarface, critical acclaim in Dangerous Liasons and The Age of Innocence, and box office success in The Witches of Eastwick and Dangerous Minds. And who could forget that (much-parodied) piano singing scene in The Fabulous Baker Boys? Gaining a Hollywood star for her achievements in 2007, Michelle is still a success in an age-obsessed industry - starring in Tim Burton's Dark Shadows this year.

Take a look back at Michelle's impressive film career in our gallery below - and read our interview with Michelle here.

Picture credit: Rex Features

  • The Hollywood Knights (1980)

    Set in the 1960s and described by critics as a rip-off of American Graffiti, this film was Michelle's first big screen role. She plays Tony Danza's high school sweetheart, who, with a gaggle of Beverly Hills teenagers, make up the Hollywood Knights car club and gang. Enraged when their local hang out diner is threatened with closure, the group protest and try to spite local police authorities by performing pranks on Halloween night.

  • Falling in Love Again (1980)

    Elliott Gould and Susannah York star as the former high school sweethearts trapped in a stale marriage, travelling to their high school reunion in an effort to revive their romance. Michelle plays the younger Sue, the "most beautiful girl in school".

  • Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen (1981)

    An homage to the Charlie Chan detective dramas of the 1930s, Michelle played the fiance of the detective's bumbling son.

  • Grease 2 (1982)

    It may not have been as widely loved as the original, but Michelle was the stand-out star of this return to Rydell high. She played Pink Lady Stephanie Zinone, the object of new English pupil Michael Carrington's affections. Her agent later admitted that after the film "nobody wanted to hire her".

  • Scarface (1983)

    Michelle's performance as the cocaine-addicted trophy wife Elivira Hancock, married to Cuban drug cartel kingpin Tony Montana, was her breakout role. The film was a commercial success, gained a huge cult following, and Elivira's on-screen wardrobe of white suits and glamorous dresses made her a film style icon.

  • Into the Night (1985)

    This action comedy caper is famous for its cameos. Michelle played beautiful jewel smuggler Diana, who ropes depressed insomniac Ed Okin into a car chase at an airport.

  • Ladyhawke (1985)

    This medieval fantasy film also starred Matthew Broderick, and features some incredible landscape shots of Northern Italy. Michelle plays Isabeau, a woman cursed by the wicked bishop of Aquila to be a hawk by day, and a woman at night.

  • Sweet Liberty (1986)

    This comedy tells the tale of college history professor Michael Burgess who is tying to adapt his fact-based historical novel about The American Revolution into a Hollywood film. The book becomes a steamy tale of lust and betrayal - Michelle plays the sweet and innocent young actress in the starring role.

  • The Witches of Eastwick (1987)

    Based on the John Updike novel of the same name, Cher and Susan Sarandon join Michelle in the 'coven' of dissatisfied women in the town of Eastwick, New England, who don't know they're witches until a mysterious man named Daryl (Jack Nicholson) arrives. The film was a major box office hit.

  • Amazon Women on the Moon (1987)

    This comedy satirized low budget 1950s sci movies in a series of 21 sketches. Michelle plays a mother giving birth, and having trouble dealing with an eccentric Doctor.

  • Married to the Mob (1988)

    Looking almost unrecognisable in a brown curly wig and with a strong Brooklyn accent, Michelle received her first Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress for her role as Angela de Marco, a gangster's widowed 'moll' on the run, who falls in love with an undercover FBI agent. This was the first of a string of six Best Actress nominations at the Golden Globes.

  • Tequila Sunrise (1988)

    Michelle played chic restaurant owner Jo Ann Vallenari in this box office hit, a California crime thriller with Mel Gibson as a former drug dealer trying to go straight, and close friend Kurt Russell, a detective lieutenant.

  • Dangerous Liasons

    Michelle joined Glenn Close and John Malkovich in Dangerous Liasons, playing the virtuous Madame Marie de Tourvel, the victim of seduction. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and won a BAFTA for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

  • The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)

    Michelle underwent intensive vocal training for four months to play the call girl turned lounge singer Susie Diamond in The Fabulous Baker Boys. Her performance received huge critical acclaim, and won nearly every major Best Actress award for the role (save The Oscars and the BAFTA). That scene with her performing 'Makin' Whoopie' in a red dress on a piano became iconic.

  • The Russia House (1990)

    Michelle famously turned down Julia Robert's role in Pretty Woman, choosing to star in this adaptation of a John Le Carre novel instead. She had to adopt a Russian accent to play Soviet Book editor Katya Orlova, and was nominated for a Golden Globe.

  • Frankie and Johnny (1991)

    Michelle reunited with Al Pacino to play waitress Frankie in this adaptation of a Broadway play. She was seen as a controversial choice for the role, being called too beautiful to play an ordinary waitress. But despite the critics, Michelle was nominated for another Golden Globe for her performance. As well as turning down Pretty Woman, Michelle rejected roles in The Silence of the Lambs, Thelma & Louiseand Basic Instinct around this time.

  • Love Field (1992)

    This nostalgic independent film, which covers the Kennedy assassination and racial tensions in 1960s America, saw Michelle star as a Dallas housewife obsessed with Jackie Kennedy.

  • Batman Returns (1992)

    Tim Burton's second instalment of the Batman franchise saw Micheal Keaton star as Batman, Danny DeVito as the Penguin, and Michelle donned a catsuit to play Batman's love interest/adversary Catwoman.

  • The Age of Innocence (1993)

    This lavish Martin Scorsese adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel won an Oscar for Costume Design and co-starred Daniel Day Lewis and Winona Ryder. Michelle played the exotic and passionate Countess Ellen Olenska, who tempts Newland Archer (Day Lewis) away from his fiancee May (Ryder).

  • Wolf (1994)

    In this Werewolf horror film, Michelle starred as the daughter of a publishing tycoon who tries to help a man bitten by a wolf (played by Jack Nicholson) start a new life after he starts to display wolfish tendencies.

  • Dangerous Minds (1995)

    It may be remembered for the Coolio Gangster's Paradise soundtrack, but this film was a surprise Box Office hit when it was released. Based on the autobiography My Posse Don't Do Homework by LouAnne Johnson, Michelle plays a former US Marine who takes up a teaching position in a rough neighbourhood in California, and tries to engage with the kids by veering away from the curriculum.

  • Up Close and Personal (1996)

    Michelle is aspiring news reporter Sally 'Tally' Atwater in this romantic drama, discovered and guided to stardom by news channel director Warren Justice (Robert Redford) when she sends in an audition tape.

  • One Fine Day (1996)

    Michelle was also executive producer on this film, which stars herself and George Clooney as two single working parents who, after both failing to get their kids to school in time to attend a school trip, must team up to look after their children during a hectic working day.

  • A Thousand Acres

    This adaptation of Jane Smiley's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was also a reworking of Shakespeare's King Lear. Michelle plays Rose, the Regan character of the book/film. Larry Cook (played by Jason Robards) is Lear, a powerful Iowa farmer dividing up his land between his daughters. Colin Firth also made an appearance in this film as Jess, the local boy who is loyal to Larry.

  • The Prince of Egypt (1998)

    This non-Disney animated musical, which tells the story of Moses from the Book of Exodus, did incredibly well, grossing $218,613,188 and winning an Oscar for the song When You Believe. Michelle voiced Tzipporah, Jethro's oldest daughter and Moses' wife.

  • The Deep End of the Ocean (1999)

    This film was an adaptation of the bestselling novel of the same name, the very first selected by Oprah Winfrey to be discussed on Oprah's Book Club. Michelle plays Beth Cappadora, a woman whose son is kidnapped by a mentally ill woman at her high school reunion. She has a nervous breakdown, fearing her son is lost forever, until he turns up to mow her lawn as a teenager.

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)

    Michelle made an excellent Titania, the lovestruck queen of the fairies, in this whimsical adaptation of Shakespeare's play.

  • The Story of Us (1999)

    Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer play a husband and wife who been married for 15 years - and can no longer stand each other. Through a series of flashbacks and interviews, they try and remember why they fell in love in the first place.

  • What Lies Beneath (2000)

    Michelle played Claire Spencer, the wife of renowned scientist and lecturer Dr Norman Spencer, in this chilling supernatural thriller that grossed around $300 million worldwide. Claire begins witnessing strange occurrences in her house in Vermont, which soon reveal terrifying secrets about her and her husbands past.

  • I Am Sam (2001)

    In this film about a developmentally disabled adult trying to win back custody of his daughter, Michelle played the hard-nosed lawyer Rita Harrison, who agrees to help him fight his case pro bono.

  • White Oleander (2002)

    Another novel adapted for the big screen, White Oleander saw Michelle play a free-spirited artist sent to prison after murdering her boyfriend. The film then chronicles her daughter Astrid's journey through various foster and care homes, and her attempt to break away from her mother.

  • Sinbad: legend of the Seven Seas (2003)

    Michelle voiced Eris, keeper of the magical 'Book of Peace' in this second Dreamworks animated film. Brad Pitt was the voice of Sinbad.

  • Stardust (2007)

    After taking a few years off from the film industry, Michelle returned with this British fantasy film. She played Lamia, a witch-queen who attempts to cut out and steal a man's heart to gain youth and beauty.

  • Hairspray (2007)

    This highly successful take on the Broadway musical starred Michelle as Velma Von Tussle, the racist former beauty queen and manager of station WYZT, desperate to keep her daughter Amber in the spotlight.

  • I Could never Be Your Woman (2007)

    This straight-to-DVD release was written by Clueless creator Amy Heckerling, and based on her own experience of raising a young daughter whilst trying to date. Michelle plays a scriptwriter for a TV show, who falls for a younger man just as her own daughter experiences love for the first time.

  • Personal Effects (2009)

    Based on Rick Moody's story Mansion on the Hill , this film tells the tale of an affair between 24 year old wrestler Walter (Ashton Kutcher) and a widow with a deaf and mute son (Pfeiffer).

  • Cheri (2009)

    Stephen Frear's adaptation of the Colette novel is set in 1900s Belle Époque Paris,and tells the story of the end of a six-year affair between a retired courtesan, Léa (Michelle), and Fred, a flamboyant young man nicknamed "Chéri" (Rupert Friend).

  • New Year's Eve (2011)

    Similar in style to Valentine's Day, this fluffy romantic comedy depicts the lives of several New Yorkers in the run-up to New Years Eve. Michelle plays Ingrid, a record company secretary who quits her job and offers the deliveryman Paul (Zac Efron) tickets for a big work Ball if Paul helps her complete a series of New Year's resolutions before midnight.

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