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Michelle Pfeiffer

Michelle Pfeiffer Biography | Filmography | Gallery


Michelle Pfeiffer was born in Midway City, Orange County, California, near Huntingdon Beach, on the 29th of April, 1958. Her father, Richard, was a heating and air-conditioning contractor. Her mother, Donna, was a housewife, looking after Michelle, her elder brother Rick, and two younger sisters, Dedee and Lori.

Richard and Donna had moved to California from North Dakota to escape the fall-out of post-WW2 depression. Their heritage makes Michelle a mix of Swedish, German, Dutch, Irish and Swiss ("I'm kind of a mutt", she's said).

At Fountain Valley High School, Michelle was known as "Michelle Mudturtle" for having big lips and walking like a duck, and she became the school bully there. She bashed everybody, including the boys. "I was a rotten kid," she said later "just rotten. If anyone needed anyone beaten up they would come and get me".

Michelle lied about her age to get paid work and started as a check-out girl in a supermarket age 14.

During her time as student, Michelle mostly hung out with the surfers on Huntingdon Beach - she was a Beach Bunny, into drugs and wrecking her first car, a red '65 Mustang, before she was 16.

Her hairdresser had told her that one route to getting an agent was through Beauty Pageants. She didn't want to play on her looks - after all, she had big lips and walked like a duck - but took his advice, had some model shots done, and entered and won the Miss Orange County competition.

She moved to Hollywood, attended all the cattle-call auditions and finally scored a debut in Fantasy Island ("Eet's the plehn, boss!") as a pretty, dumb blonde with one line - "Who is he, Naomi?"
Trouble was, Pretty Dumb Blonde was all she ever got, this terrible period culminating in the TV series Delta House, which sprang from the hit movie Animal House. Michelle, credited as Bombshell, got very few lines, at one point weeping down the phone to her agent - "They're putting me in hot-pants again!"

Work was beginning to come with small roles, but her personal life was down the pan. Michelle had turned to a cult for guidance. Dealing in metaphysics and demanding vegetarianism, they'd certainly helped clean her up - she no longer drank, smoked or did drugs. But she was also handing over control of her life and prospects to them. "I was brainwashed," she said later "I gave them an enormous amount of money" - though she did add that she'd rather have depended on a cult than on drugs or "some lecherous man". She wanted to leave but, having no confidence in her ability to live without them, she couldn't.

Michelle found help in director Peter Horton. They started dating and he wanted to help her. Coincidentally, he was to appear in a movie called Split Image, where a kid is enrolled in Peter Fonda's cult then ruthlessly de-programmed by James Woods. Researching the part, he travelled to San Francisco, taking Michelle with him to meet some real-life de-programmers. Recognising what they told her to be the truth, she found the strength to leave the cult. But she did cling to Horton, marrying him in 1981 at the Santa Monica court house. She was 22, he was 26. Due to dad Richard's strict regime, Michelle said Peter was "practically my first proper boyfriend".

Now work really began to pick up, some of it good. In a remake of Splendour In The Grass, she played Ginny, bad-girl sister of Bud Stamper (originally played by Warren Beatty), the object of Melissa Gilbert's affections. Then came her first stand-out performance, in The Children Nobody Wanted. Here she played the helpful girlfriend of Tom Butterford, a fellow who keeps adopting kids to save them from the perils of the orphanage.

Next, Michelle got the leading role in Grease 2, but it turned out to be not the great success that was expected, and Michelle was once again typecast as a sassy blonde.

Then she played Elvira in Brian de Palma's Scarface with Al Pacino, Into The Night by John Landis with Jeff Goldblum and Ladyhawke with Rutger Hauer and Matthew Broderick - where she was mostly required to be beautiful - something she actively loathes. "Just standing around looking beautiful is so boring," she's complained "really boring, so boring".

And then came her big breakthrough - with Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon and Cher in The Witches Of Eastwick. During that time, her marriage with Peter Horton was breaking up.

Then came Married to the Mob which brought her a Golden Globe nomination, and Dangerous Liaisons an Oscar nomination. Another Golden Globe and Oscar nomination followed for The Fabulous Baker Boys.

Keen for yet more of a challenge, Michelle now took to the stage. Despite having only done it once, in a small role in a 1981 production of Playground In The Fall, she appeared as Countess Olivia in Twelfth Night, alongside her former co-stars Jeff Goldblum (Into The Night) and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Scarface). There were crowds of 2000, scathing reviews, and she kept on till she was excellent.

Michelle also found anew love with actor Fisher Stevens. They'd remain a couple for some three years.

Another Golden Globe nomination followed for The Russia House, but Michelle Pfeiffer also turned down a lot of successful movies: Bugsy, Thelma and Louise, Lorenzo's Oil, Silence Of The Lambs, Basic Instinct, Sleepless in Seattle and Evita.

Instead she made Love Field and got another Oscar nomination, and another Golden Globe nomination for Frankie and Johnny, again with Al Pacino. And then came Batman Returns with Michelle Pfeiffer grabbing the much-wanted role of Catwoman, and another Golden Globe nomination for Scorcese's The Age Of Innocence.

In November 1993, Michelle adopted a baby girl, married David Kelley, and soon got pregnant herself. Wolf with Jack Nicholson and Dangerous Minds were her next films.

Michelle takes her children on set with her, finishing work early to ensure she can make their dinner. She works on her family life, recognising that it is the most important thing to her. Having had a niece who suffered leukemia for ten years (and having smoked herself for many years), she supports the American Cancer Society, as well as the Humane Society.


Michelle Pfeiffer Biography | Filmography | Gallery


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