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Overview for Michelle Pfeiffer
Michelle Pfeiffer

Michelle Pfeiffer


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Also Known As: Michelle Marie Pfeiffer Died:
Born: April 29, 1958 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Santa Ana, California, USA Profession: Cast ... actor model supermarket cashier court reporter


While fame had certainly been good to her, actress Michelle Pfeiffer rarely went out of her way to revel in her celebrity. Aside from her film and television roles, Pfeiffer was famously known for guarding her privacy, much like many of the characters she had portrayed on screen, most notably the icy Elvira, mistress to a Cuban drug smuggler, in the iconic "Scarface" (1983). Even her desire to subvert her timeless, ethereal beauty by often appearing in public dressed in jeans, T-shirt and baseball cap failed in the face of twice making People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" list. Luckily for Pfeiffer, she possessed acting talent to match her stunning looks, giving Oscar-nominated performances in "Dangerous Liaisons" (1988), "The Fabulous Baker Boys" (1989) and "Love Field" (1992). But it was her offbeat turn as Catwoman in "Batman Returns" (1992) that firmly established Pfeiffer as a bona fide star. From there, she starred in the hit inner city drama "Dangerous Minds" (1995) and had a strong turn in the Hitchcockian thriller "What Lies Beneath" (1999). After starring in "I Am Sam" (2001) and earning acclaim for "White Oleander" (2002), Pfeiffer took a hiatus from acting to focus on raising her children with husband, television producer David E. Kelley. Though she returned to the screen with lower key roles in "Hairspray" (2007), "Stardust" (2007) and "Cheri" (2009), Pfeiffer never lost the radiance and chops that made her a star.

Born on Apr. 29, 1958 in Santa Ana, CA, Pfeiffer was raised by her demanding father, Richard, a heating-and-air conditioning contractor, and her mother, Donna, a homemaker. Pfeiffer often described herself as being "out of control" in her youth, wrecking her first car (a '65 Mustang), skipping classes from Fountain Valley High School (though she maintained a solid B average) to hang out with surfers at Huntington Beach, and failing at bagging groceries for a local supermarket. After high school, Pfeiffer studied to be a courtroom stenographer and entered a beauty pageant, emerging as Miss Orange County in 1978. As a result, she landed a bit part on the hit 1970s show, "Fantasy Island" (ABC, 1977-1984), then at 20 years old, she landed her first regular series role, playing a buxom college undergrad named Bombshell on the short-lived "Animal House" rip-off, "Delta House" (ABC, 1978-79). Without really trying, Pfeiffer had launched her acting career.

After a couple more small roles on television and in film - notably the police drama "B.A.D. Cats" (ABC, 1980-81) and the teen comedy "Falling in Love Again" (1980) - Pfeiffer began taking her newfound career seriously. Her personal life, however, remained as chaotic as ever. While taking acting classes in Los Angeles, the insecure actress was lured by a seemingly friendly couple that operated a vegetarian cult where, according to Pfeiffer, some brainwashing did occur. She was rescued by fellow actor and classmate Peter Horton, whom she married in 1981. Even decades after her induction in the veggie cult, Pfeiffer refused to elaborate on the details of what happened. Meanwhile, she pursued her career in earnest, landing roles in long-forgotten features like "Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen" (1981) and the ill-advised "Grease 2" (1982). But Pfeiffer's fortunes turned when she was cast opposite Al Pacino in Brian De Palma's giddily violent "Scarface," making a memorable impression as Elvira Hancock, the jaded, cokehead mistress of a Cuban refugee-turned-drug lord. Though not onscreen for long, Pfeiffer made a memorable mark with critics and audiences, giving the still-fledgling actress the opportunity to land bigger and better parts.

Pfeiffer continued her upward trajectory in the early 1980s, landing starring roles as a female jewelry smuggler on the lam in "Into the Night" (1985) and as the female lead in a film about the American Revolution that suffers the Hollywood treatment, much to the dismay of the author of the source material (Alan Alda), in "Sweet Liberty" (1986). Her next career milestone turned out to be "The Witches of Eastwick" (1987), a fantastical black comedy about three women (Cher, Susan Sarandon and Pfeiffer) whose friendship is almost torn apart when they are seduced one-by-one by Satan himself (Jack Nicholson). She next found herself between two lifelong friends - one, a supposedly retired drug dealer (Mel Gibson) and the other a celebrity cop (Kurt Russell) - in Robert Towne's underrated crime drama "Tequila Sunrise" (1988). Also that year, Pfeiffer received her first Academy Award nomination for "Dangerous Liaisons" in which she portrayed the highly moral married woman who is the romantic target of the Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich). Around this time, Pfeiffer became separated from husband Peter Horton. They later divorced in 1990.

In "Married to the Mob" (1988), a nearly-unrecognizable Pfeiffer - thanks to her brunette hair and thick New York accent - displayed considerable comic flair as the concerned wife of a mob hit man (Alec Baldwin). She earned considerable praise - not to mention a number of critics' awards - for her performance as a songstress who helps to prodigious twin pianist brothers (Beau and Jeff Bridges) get back on top in "The Fabulous Baker Boys" (1989). Pfeiffer's sultry rendition of "Makin' Whoopie" while rolling around atop a grand piano was more than enough for her to earn a nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the Academy Awards. Starring opposite Pacino once again, Pfeiffer delivered an amiable performance as a frumpy diner waitress with a haunted past who gets involved with an ex-con (Pacino) trying to live the straight life in "Frankie and Johnny" (1991), Garry Marshall's lighthearted treatment of Terrence McNally's gritty stage play. In her personal life, Pfeiffer became romantically linked to John Malkovich and Val Kilmer, but ended up in a three-year relationship with actor Fisher Stevens.

In 1992, Pfeiffer gave one of her more unusual performances, playing an insulated Texas woman determined to comfort Jacqueline Kennedy after her husband's assassination, in "Love Field." The actress earned her third all-time Academy Award nomination and her second for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Also that year, Pfeiffer reached superstardom with her amusingly over-the-top performance as the feline Catwoman in "Batman Returns." With her relationship with Stevens ending in 1991, Pfeiffer began to feel that maybe her chances for a lifelong partnership, complete with children, was becoming an impossibility, so Pfeiffer adopted a biracial baby in 1993. Back on the big screen, Pfeiffer gave a fine turn as a scandalous woman who reacquaints herself with an upper-class gentleman (Daniel Day-Lewis) who is marrying her bland and genteel cousin (Winona Ryder) in Martin Scorsese's deft adaptation of Edith Wharton's "The Age of Innocence" (1993). Things were looking up in her personal life as well. On Nov. 13, 1993, Pfeiffer married screenwriter and TV producer David E. Kelley, with the twosome maintaining one of the more long-term, stable Hollywood relationships.

Back on the big screen, Pfeiffer was opposite Nicholson again in the bizarrely comic-horror flick, "Wolf" (1994), playing the daughter of a publishing firm executive (Christopher Plummer) who strikes up a relationship with a fired book editor (Nicholson) bitten by a wolf and transformed into a supernatural creature. She was unconvincing as an inner city schoolteacher in "Dangerous Minds" (1995), then starred as the titular character in "To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday" (1996), a misty tale written by husband David E. Kelley about a mourning husband (Peter Gallagher) still coping with the death of his wife (Pfeiffer) despite the damage being done to his relationship with his teenage daughter (Claire Danes). Pfeiffer spent the remainder of the 1990s out of the limelight, even declaring in the latter part of the decade that she would take a break from acting. In "One Fine Day" (1996), she was a career-minded single mom who falls in love with a hard-driving newspaper columnist (George Clooney); then in "A Thousand Acres" (1997), based on Jane Smiley's update of King Lear, Pfeiffer played Rose, one of three sisters sexually abused by their farmer father (Jason Robards).

Like most established stars wanting to try something new, as well as earn a nice paycheck, Pfeiffer lent her voice to "The Prince of Egypt" (1998), DreamWorks' animated take on the life of Moses (Val Kilmer), as told in the Book of Exodus. By this time, Pfeiffer had stepped into the role of producer (her first credit as such being "One Fine Day") and had formed her own company, Via Rosa Productions. After a turn as Titania in "William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1999), she starred opposite Bruce Willis in "The Story of Us" (1999), a romantic comedy about a couple with everything who discover that they no longer love each other and wonder if it is enough to save their marriage. Following an emotional turn as a mother trying to re-bond with her abducted son (Ryan Merriman) in "The Deep End of the Ocean" (1999), she played the beautiful wife of a genetic scientist (Harrison Ford) finally getting over his past extramarital affair, only to be haunted, literally, by his mistakes anew in Robert Zemeckis' taut thriller, "What Lies Beneath" (2000).

Though she continued acting once the 1990s segued into the new century, Pfeiffer's output decreased significantly, appearing in only a handful of films in seven years. She gave perhaps her best performance in years in "I Am Sam" (2002), playing an obsessive, hard-driving attorney who takes the pro bono case of a mentally-challenged father (Sean Penn) fighting to retain custody of his seven-year-old daughter (Dakota Fanning). For "White Oleander" (2002), Pfeiffer was nominated for Best Supporting Actress by the Screen Actor's Guild for her performance as an artist mother sent to prison for murder. After trying her hand again with animation in "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" (2003), Pfeiffer took four years off from filmmaking, returning in 2007 with "Hairspray," the fun and lighthearted adaptation of the Tony Award-winning play - itself an adaptation of John Waters' 1988 feature. Pfeiffer played a diabolical television station manager out to squash the dreams of a plus-sized dancer (Nicole Blonsky), and earned another Best Supporting Actress nod from SAG for her villainous turn.

Enjoying a second hit in 2007, Pfeiffer starred in "Stardust," an adaptation of the fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman in which she played the evil leader of a team of witches set on devouring the heart of a lively young woman (Claire Danes). Pfeiffer next starred in a pair of direct-to-video releases: the romantic comedy "I Could Never Be Your Woman" (2008) and the character-based drama "Personal Effects" (2008). She returned to theaters with a starring role in Stephen Frears' and Christopher Hampton's "Cheri" (2009), based on the famous Belle Epoque novel by French author, Colette. In the period romance, Pfeiffer essayed an experienced older courtesan who becomes involved with a spoiled youth (Rupert Friend), though a lack of chemistry between the two disappointed film critics. Following another brief hiatus from the screen, Pfeiffer returned as part of the ensemble cast of "New Year's Eve" (2011), a romantic comedy from director Garry Marshall that featured a series of vignettes following numerous characters all in various states of romantic entanglements. Pfeiffer played a record company secretary who quits her job and asks a deliveryman (Zac Efron) to help her with a series of New Year's resolutions before the clock strikes midnight. She next joined Johnny Depp, Eva Green and Helena Bonham Carter to in Tim Burton's gothic fantasy "Dark Shadows" (2012).

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