What the Hell Happened to Michelle Pfeiffer?

Michelle Pfeiffer was one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood.  She starred opposite Al Pacino, Harrison Ford, Sean Connery and Jack Nicholson.  The image of Pfeiffer cracking a whip as Catwoman is iconic.  And then, she disappeared for seveal years.  Recently, Pfeiffer has resurfaced.  But her days on the A-list appear to be behind her.

So, what the hell happened?


Pfeiffer started out as a pageant girl before moving into TV and movies.  Her first film was a 1980 comedy called Hollywood Knights.  But the first movie to really get her noticed was the 1982 musical sequel, Grease 2.  The original Grease had been a box office bonanza in 1978.  Expectations were sky high for the sequel.  The movie was expected to launch the careers of its stars as well as additional sequels.

Instead, Grease 2 bombed at the box office.  Critics compared it unfavorably to the original Grease – which they hated.  Future Grease sequels were abandoned and star Max Caufield’s career never recovered.  But Pfeiifer was singled out as the one good thing in Grease 2.


Having seen Grease 2, Brian DePalma refused to see Pfeiffer audition for Scarface.  However, he relented upon pressure from the film’s producer.  Pfeiffer was eventually cast in the role of Al Pacino’s cocaine-addicted trophy wife.

When Scarface opened, the reviews were largely negative.  Critics were put off by the film’s violence.  Although once again, Pfeiffer got mostly positive notices.  Scarface was a hit and has developed a large cult following over the years.

pfeiffer - into the night

Pfeiffer appeared in two movies in 1985.  The first was John Landis’ thriller/comedy Into The Night co-starring Jeff Goldblum.  Into the Night was loaded with cameo appearances from Landis’ Hollywood friends.  But the comedy was hit-and-miss.

Reviews were generally negative and the film didn’t do very well at the box office.  Once again, Pfeiffer was singled out for praise.


Pfeiffer also appeared in Richard Donner’s fantasy film, Ladyhawke.  Pfeiffer played a woman who had been cursed to transform into a hawk during the day.  Her lover, played by Rutger Hauer, was cursed to turn into a wolf at night.  Matther Broderick starred as a young theif tasked with breaking the curse and reuniting the couple.

Reviews were mostly positive.  Critics almost uniformly commented on Pfeiffer’s ethereal beauty.  But the movie was only modestly successful at the box office.


On TV, Pfeiffer appeared in an ABC Afterschool Special about the dangers of drunk driving titled One Too Many.

And yes, that is a young Val Kilmer as her co-star.  Kilmer was so taken with Pfieffer that he wrote a book of poems entitled My Eden After Burns that included poems inspired by the future Catwoman.  Pfeiffer was married to the director, Peter Horton at the time.

I believe a clip is in order.

pfeiffer  - sweet liberty

In 1986, Pfeiffer co-starred in Sweet Liberty.  Alan Alda wrote and directed the comedy about a Hollywood movie descending on a small town.   Critical reception was lukewarm.  And the box office performance was modest.  But once again, Pfeiffer got good reviews in a movie no one especially liked.


Pfeiffer’s big break finally came in 1987 with The Witches of Eastwick.  Pfeiffer played one of three women in a small New England town.  Their lives are turned upside down by the arrival of a mysterious stranger played by Jack Nicholson who may or may not be the devil.

The movie was a showcase for Nicholson who hams it up in every scene.  Pfeiffer was actually the least famous of the three women at the time.  Co-stars Susan Sarandon and Cher were already established stars.

Witches of Eastwick got mixed reviews.  But it was a bona fide hit.

The success of Witches of Eastwick helped put Pfeiffer on the map.  Ironically, it was the first movie in some time for which Pfeiffer was not singled out for praise.  It was Nicholson’s movie.  The Witches were just window dressing.  But Pfeiffer held her own against Jack, Sarandon and Cher.  That counted for a lot.

Next: Tequila Sunrise and The Fabulous Baker Boys

Posted on October 7, 2011, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actress and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 132 Comments.

  1. Sorry to be overly simplistic with this one, but I like the way she looks. You really can’t find a bad photograph of this woman, regardless of age or anything else.

    While I’d love to mention The Batman Curse (oops, just did), here’s a WTHHT entry where it really is just a huge success story. I think she’s been very fortunate, just by counting the number of successful movies that you’ve listed.

    I think here you have a combo of small factors. The 4-year hiatus is one thing, but she also will need some redefining. She took her hiatus as a 40-something year old and returned in her 50’s. Personally I think she will probably recover completely and be a solid film actress once again. I definitely don’t see her disappearing (that is, if she doesn’t decide to do that), or fading away to television.


    • I think Pfeiffer will always be able to work when she wants to. Yeah, her age was a factor. There just aren’t a lot of lead roles for actresses in their 50s. Even ones as beautiful and talented as she is. I get the impression that at a certain point she decided the rat race for those parts wasn’t worth it. She took some time off and now she’s down-shifted into taking supporting roles in films she wants to make.

      I could see her doing television. I read an interview with Glenn Close and she pointed out that unless you want to play grandmas, TV is where all the good parts are for women over 40. Can’t argue with her there. I would bet the biggest thing keeping Pfeiffer from doing TV is the hectic schedule. She seems to be taking it easy in terms of her workload these days. And you can’t do that as a regular on a TV show.

      I’ll be interested to see what kind of impact Dark Shadows has on Pfeiffer’s status. I wonder if it will lead to meatier movie roles.


      • Agree totally. I think she’ll always be able to work in movies, and for that reason I can’t see her going to tv. Maybe by choice only, anyway.


  2. pfeiffer was good in tequila sunrise, married to the mob, batman returns and scarface. never saw dangerous liaisons and fabulous baker boys. always wanted to see how good she was in that as well as malkovich. it was seeing her work with kurt russell and mel gibson in tequila sunrise. she is a good actress, better than jolie and basinger and julia roberts.


    • Michelle Pfeiffer was probably my favorite actress in the late 80s and early 90s. Though I was also pretty fond of Meg Ryan. Looking at the careers, Pfeiffer was more talented and had better range.

      I had forgotten all about Tequila Sunrise when I started this article. But when I saw she made a movie with Mel Gibson and Kurt Russell, I immediately thought of you so I know you’re a fan of them both.

      I haven’t watched Dangerous Liaisons in a long, long time. But you should definitely check it out. It’s wicked. I’m less of a fan of Fabulous Baker Boys. Great acting from the Bridges brothers and Pfeiffer. But it’s not then most gripping story ever told.

      I’ll agree Pfeiffer is more talented than Kim Basigner or Julia Roberts. However, Julia Roberts has more star power than any actress of her time including Pfeiffer. When Roberts turns on her 1,000 watt smile, it’s money in the bank. LA Confidential aside, Basinger is just a very beautiful face.

      Don’t make me choose between Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer. I can’t do it! They are pretty evenly matched. Jolie is the bigger star today – unquestionably. But I don’t think Pfeiffer was ever as big of a star as Jolie is today. Jolie can reliably open a movie on her own. Pfeiffer’s track record is a lot more spotty.


      • Agree. In terms of tabloid/cover mag etc Jolie is definitely bigger. But she doesnt guarantee box office success, mind you (Challenging was a good movie and she gave a strong perf in it but it still bomb) I think Hollywood stars r dead. And more, the legacy of Michelle’s career will always be bigger than Jolie’s. Michelle looks like making a comeback plan, though i hope she should choose smth along Mery Streep’s role in TDWP – smth instanly iconic.


        • I would argue that Jolie was/is a bigger star at the box office than Pfeiffer at her peak. Pfeiffer has always had a weakness in that she never headlined a big hit. Jolie has had several big action movies where she was the big name. No star is guaranteed box office. But then, no star ever was.

          I do agree with you that stars are getting smaller. High concept movies and pre-sold concepts are more important than the stars. And that will probably become more and more true as special effects allow for more and more fantastic movies and lower and lower cost. Why hire a big star when you can take an unkown like Chris Hemsworth and make him a star in Thor?

          I am looking forward to seeing what Pfeiffer does with her late career resurgence. She is always welcome.


  3. ladyhawke was also good too. i also forgot to mention.


  4. I’ve always felt like it would be much more fun to be a professional actor if you were well established as a supporting performer. Sure, you don’t get the huge paydays of the A-listers, but you also don’t have the headaches and expectations. Supporting roles are also often darker or more eccentric. You often see A-listers deliver their most natural and easy-going performances when the weight of the production is not on their shoulders. I’d love to have a career like Steve Buscemi or Dylan Baker or William H Macy’s. A natural supporting performer like Kevin Spacey actually had to recover from a stint as a lead actor.


    • Couldn’t agree more. The lead role in most movies is almost always the most bland. The supporting roles are so much more rewarding. Pfeiffer’s in a position where she can be choosy. I imagine she’s doing Dark Shadows because she has wanted to work with Burton again since Batman Returns. And possibly it’s a plum part as well. But you can see her having a blast in Hairspray and Stardust. Those roles looked like a lot more fun than playing the pretty girl in Wolf or Ladyhawke – roles that barely tapped into Pfeiffer’s sizeable talent.


  5. pfeiffer is just as good as jodie foster.


    • Little known fact: I have met Jodie Foster. I was an extra in Little Man Tate. I nearly ran over Ms. Foster on the way to the set. Didn’t relaize who it was until I arrived on the set and saw her directing.


    • No. Walking. Lol. We couldn’t get anywhere near her outside of the club where we were shooting.

      Basically, we’d been sitting around eating donuts and drinking coffee until it was time to shoot. So when they called us to the set, I made a quick pitstop. I was in a hurry for obvious reasons and wasn’t looking where I was going. I nearly knocked over a woman in the hall. She was small, slight, had glasses and was wearing sweats. Not remotely glamorous at all.

      So I apologized and went on my way. I remember she had a very odd expression. To me, it looked like she was thinking “Is that all you’re going to say?” After the entire encounter was over, I thought, “Hey, she kind of looked like Jodie Foster…”

      Then we got to the set and there was the woman setting up the shot. Yep, it was her.

      As extras, we were under very strict orders not to talk to her, discuss her or even make eye contact with her. So, I’m probably lucky I didn’t get tossed off the set. Anyway, an hour later I got $50 and took off. There was a line to get an autographed picture, but I didn’t wait in it.

      I can be spotted in the movie for about 1 second. Right after Harry Connick Jr. hits the kid in the head with a globe, there’s a wide shot. If I remember correctly, I’m in the upper right hand corner. I’m the skinny kid with glasses.

      It was a very short 15 minutes,


  6. It’s amazing how the construct of fame makes us all into idiots. When I lived in Chicago I worked downtown on the Magnificent Mile. We had famous people come in every once in a while. Simon LeBon. Mr T. Laura San Giancoma. Lots of atheletes. Those kind of people. We all tried really hard to act like we weren’t very impressed. One day a friend and I were coming back into the store from lunch and he said “Hey, Isn’t that that guy from ‘Friends?'” It was 1994 so not everybody knew the names of the actors yet. But I did. I continued walking with my friend toward this person. As we got closer, I raised my arm and said (louder than I had intended; the in-store music was typically deafening in this place) “HEY, YOU’RE RIGHT. THAT IS MATTHEW PERRY.” I simultaneously found that I was now standing right in front of the actor and was pointing directly at his face. He made a face like he was an escaped prisoner who had been recognized and pointed out on national TV. We were both clearly mortified. I mumbled something about how I could help him with anyhing he needed in the store and immediately walked away. Less than 30 seconds later I got the nerve to scan the store and he was long gone. I hope I didn’t contribute to his later perscription drug addiction. The face-pointer. That’s me. ugh.


    • lol – That’s hysterical.

      I recently reconnected with a friend of mine from middle school. I had dragged him out to see Ishtar way back when. So I see him on FB and he tells me that a few years ago he met Dustin Hoffman. He said Hoffman was extremely nice, but he just had to tell him that he had seen Ishtar in the theater. Apparently, Hoffman had a great sense of humor about it and offered to give him a refund.


  7. We’re obviously a similar age and have similar tastes because Michelle Pfeiffer has been my favourite actress ever since I saw her in Married To The Mob, although for a long time she had to share that position with Meg Ryan.
    Meg and Michelle vied for my affection throughout the late 80’s and the 1990’s and a comparison of their respective careers would definitely make for an interesting post. Although I think Meg had more range than she was given credit for, I’d have to agree with you that Michelle was the more talented of the two and it’s a tribute to that talent that Michelle has sustained her career for over 30 years in the face of mixed reviews and public indifference.
    I actually looked at her box office numbers recently and was surprised at how badly most of her films had fared and in an age obsessed and profit driven industry she’s probably lucky to keep getting decent work.
    My personal favourite Pfeiffer performances are The Fabulous Baker Boys and Frankie And Johnny, I tend to prefer slow moving character driven films, and thanks for not mentioning my least favourite Pfeiffer film I Could Never Be Your Woman, that straight to DVD turkey was definitely the low point of MP’s career.


    • Thanks for the kind words.

      Wow! I checked out your blog. You are a fan of Meg and Michelle. I compliment your taste in actresses.

      You’re right. Meg Ryan had more range than her career would suggest. Every time she tried to expand beyond “girl next door” audiences rejected it. But “When A Man Loves a Woman” showed she was capable of playing other roles even if audiences preferred to see her in romantic comedies. And while most people dismiss “Joe Vs. the Volcano”, I enjoyed her versatility playing 3 different roles to winning comic effect.

      Hmmmm… A Meg/Michelle comparison… wheels are turning…

      Pfeiffer was amazing in Fab Baker Boys. I’d say she WAS the movie, except the Bridges bros were also really great. I really need to rewatch that movie sometime soon. I’m torn on Frankie and Johnny. I thought the movie got unfairly beat up when compared to the play. And Pfeiffer is good in it even if she is kind of miscast. My problems with the movie really stem from director Gary Marshall’s Hollywood gloss. His version feels more like a sit-com whereas the play felt more real.

      I’d have a hard time picking a single favorite Pfeiffer role. The thing I liked best about her was her consistency. Regardless of the movie, you could count on her to be captivating.

      Yeah, I had to leave out I Could Never Be Your Woman.


      • A film as good as Joe Versus The Volcano should never be dismissed and I totally take your point on Frankie And Johnny. I’m often guilty of focusing on the performance of La Pfeiffer rather than the merits of her films as a whole.

        You’ve actually got my wheels turning now on a Meg/Michelle career comparison post. I’ll have to get around to that and who knows I might even present the case for Meg Ryan.


        • If you do a write-up, come back and let me know. I’m definitely interested!

          Joe Vs. the Volcano has been a pet cause of mine for years. To me, it’s criminally under-rated.

          If I were ranking them for star power, Meg Ryan would win hands down. And I think she had range she doesn’t get credit for. Whereas Pfeiffer had golden globe nominations thrown at her in an embarassment of riches. I think an argument could be made that critically, Ryan was under-rated and Pfeiffer was over-rated.

          What puts Pfeiffer over the top for me is that she generally steered clear of the banal romantic comedies that were Ryan’s bread and butter. It’s what made Ryan a bigger star. But it made Pfeiffer more interesting to watch.


      • I’ve just posted my Meg/Michelle write-up.
        I hope you get time to look at it because I’d appreciate your feedback.


      • Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys:


        Michelle Pfeiffer received her second Oscar nomination for playing Susie Diamond, a former call-girl and a singer with the Baker brothers in the movie The Fabulous Baker Boys. It’s almost 100% sure that the race in 1989 was between Tandy and Pfeiffer, they were pretty much neck and neck. Tandy had the sentimentality on her side and Pfeiffer was a huge star back then. I think she did not get much less votes than Tandy after all, but a lot of people are quite devastated because of this loss.

        The Fabulous Baker Boys is quite an average, but quite entertaining movie. I think that it’s pretty overrated, though I still liked it. I am very fond of Jeff Bridges in general, so he was an important draw for me. Although he was quite good here, I often felt that his acting was a bit forced and yet under-cooked. His brother Beau was equally good, but he did not blow my socks off, either. That’s it. One of my (actually two) favorite things about this movie is the brilliant music. First of all, the great songs, second the actual score by Dave Grusin. I could listen it on and on.

        And the other thing is Michelle Pfeiffer, who’s quite simply irresistible here, giving probably her best and most famous performance. It’s no wonder that people think that she should have won: her performance is a true standout of her pretty average movie. The whole screenplay is a bit flawed and not very accurate, but the part of Susie is brilliantly written. I felt that the film was just a reason to show Pfeiffer and let her shine, which is quite great.

        Her first scene itself makes quite an impression and really sets the tone of her whole performance: Susie is yelling and swearing because of her heels. Susie is quite weary, sarcastic, extremely impolite and a bit full of herself. But when she begins singing, my goodness, I don’t think that there’s anyone who’s not charmed by her instantly. The funny thing is that she doesn’t do that much, she simply relies on her presence and singing voice (both brilliant and extremely strong).

        Michelle mixes the comedy and the drama quite well. Actually, I don’t think that I could call it comedy, as her remarks are rather sarcastic and you can feel how weary and bitter this woman really is. Her experiences as an “escort” really made her tough and therefore wants to keep the distance. Her cold irony toward Beau Bridges’ character is quite hilarious and I love the way she delivers those lines (“It’s got more hair than you” and things like that). Susie is extremely outspoken, she doesn’t like beating around the bush and this just makes the audience love her more. She just says what everyone feels, but do not dare to say. She’s really the “what can I lose?” type.

        As I have already said, her singing is just magical. I’ve heard that Madonna was supposed to play Susie, but I don’t think that she could’ve made her as vibrant and brilliant as Michelle did. I mean it’s so natural and very lifelike when she lies down on the piano in a flaming red dress, which you really want to rip off her. There’s so much sexuality and attractiveness coming from her that it almost makes you speechless. She never shows anything, but lets you visualize everything perfectly. In short: who could resist her in the scene when she’s on the stage with Jeff Bridges (and there’s brilliant chemistry between the two)?

        The highlight of Michelle’s whole performance was a long monologue after the New Year’s Eve party at the hotel. She’s a bit drunk and opens up to Jack about her previous “escorting” experiences at other hotels. It was one of the most heartbreaking moments I have ever seen on-screen. I loved that Michelle did not work for the effect of it and rather held herself back and by this she created an incredibly realistic scene. She shows an unbelievable amount of emotions: bitterness, sadness, hope, passion, disappointment and after that the atmosphere is so damn sexual that it almost sets the screen on fire. And their kissing is so dazzling that you can feel that you’re a part of their “act”.

        But Michelle also showed how cheeky Susie becomes after success and wants to have much more part in picking places. She leaves the band eventually and leaves Jack. People love to praise her big monologue about emptiness and there’s a reason: she could have made it really theatrical and over-the-top to win the sympathy of the viewers, but she made a wisest decision to make it much more believable. She was really upsetting and devastating.

        Her strength in this movie becomes really obvious when she’s not there toward the end: I just missed her presence so much. Thankfully, she returns in the end and that short scene is just excellent: she acts embarrassed and she so brilliantly breaks the tension when starts to sing that funny little jingle. It’s so funny and sad at the same time.

        So after all I can say that I can understand what people see in this performance: it’s brilliant, strong, powerful, sexy, charming, vibrant, sad and lovable. She shows so many emotions and faces of this exciting character and created something very memorable, which continues to impress the viewers. She could have done it more easily, but it was brilliant the way it was. Easy rating.


  8. i guess you could say i’m also a big michelle pfeiffer fan as well because of the movies i liked seeing her in.


  9. Hey — nice run down of her career — but to answer the question you pose at the beginning and end of the article, and this applies to most of the people you’ve written ‘what the hell happened’ posts about, is simply that they got older. This is especially true for women.

    Hollywood, and audiences, are ageist — people want to see 25 to 35 year olds on screen. Once you hit the other side of 40, it’s either playing parents, retiring cops, or last-gasp-get-the-oldies-back-together-again-flicks.

    I think Pfeiffer is amazing, and has a lot to offer — and I’d love to see her tackling big and exciting roles, but unfortunately the privilege in this industry in terms of on screen talent lies with the younger generations.


    • You’re definitely right. Age was a major factor for just about every actress I’ve written about. Mena Suvari and Alicia Silverstone are probably the only two exceptions. For Sean Young, Winona Ryder and Elisabeth Shue, it was less of a factor. But I’m sure age contributed there as well.

      Age impacted some of the men. Kevin Costner comes to mind. But definitely less than Kathleen Turner, Meg Ryan or Michelle Pfeiffer.

      Thanks for reading!


  10. The quality of that picture of Michelle as Catwoman is amazing, it literally leaps out of the screen at me.
    I hope you don’t mind but I’ve taken the liberty of using it in my most recent post and I’ve also made a few other minor changes. Like you I always consider my posts “works in progress”.


  11. You left out that great film she did three or for years ago – co-starring Kathy Bates – about Parisienne courtesans in the Belle Epoque – I forget the name of the film, but Pfeiffer plays an aging but still beautiful courtesan in love with a young man-about-town… The film may be based on an Oscar Wilde short story??


    • That movie is Cheri and I did overlook it. I frequently skip over some movies I don’t think many readers will have heard of. Especially once the subject is off the A-List.

      What I didn’t realize is that Cheri reteams Pfeiffer with Dangerous Liaisons Director, Stephen Frears. I must now track it down and watch it.

      Thanks for the heads-up!


  12. Michelle’s Catwoman was the ONLY thing I loved about “Batman Returns” (making the Penguin a mutant freak was as bad a decision as Rob Zombie making Michael Myers white trash)-I sure hope Anne Hathaway does the role justice, as well.

    Despite its stars and director, “Wolf” is the worst werewolf film for me because it is so concerned with being more than just a horror film that it puts you to sleep rather than scares you.


    • As a Burton fan, I enjoyed a lot of his touches on Batman Returns. His take on the Penguin was not one of them. I am a big fan of Walken’s performance even if it feels out of place in the movie. I love the bit where he nonchalantly threatens to drop Selena out of a higher window. The movie is a mess, but there are a lot of highlights for me. There are an equal number of low points unfortunately.

      I remember enjoying Wolf. But I can’t bring myself to watch it again. I don’t expect I will enjoy nearly as much the second time around.

      Completely off topic, I checked out and enjoyed your blog. I need to add it to my blogroll.


      • The Dark Knight Rises Legacy: Do The Original Batman Films Still Hold Up?


        Batman Returns (1992)

        Sequels are always challenging for writers and directors to pull off. For evidence of that, you need only look at recent superhero flops like Spider-Man 3, Hellboy II: The Golden Army and Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer, all of which all-but-killed off their respective franchises. How does Tim Burton’s follow-up Batman Returns measure up, then, twenty years on from its release?

        The director and his script writer Daniel Waters wisely choose to expand the scale of the universe for their second piece, including both the fearsome Penguin (Dannie DeVito) and the elusive Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) in their storyline. Although the actual motivations behind the former villain’s fight against Gotham are shallow and undeveloped, it’s intriguing to see a character seep into the public eye of the city as a political figure, even if the sub-plot does get resolved in a rushed manner.

        Pfeiffer does a much better job than Halle Berry in her role as Batman’s feline adversary, maintaining an ambiguous stance on justice that’s refreshing in a franchise where things can too often seem black-and-white for right and wrong. Again, Keaton shares great chemistry with his co-star, working marvelously in his role as a character conflicted by duty and romance. It’ll be interesting to compare this on-screen relationship with Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway’s when The Dark Knight Rises arrives next Friday!

        There are pacing issues here and there (it astounds me that each of these films managed only to be cut down to two hour running times), but Returns boasts a refreshing confidence and vigour in its approach to the superhero genre. I would rank this as the best entry in the classic series of Batman movies- which is a good thing, because things only go downhill from here…


    • 10 “Failures” By Famous Directors (That Are Actually Better Than You Remember):


      3. Batman Returns

      Yes, Virginia, there was a time when Batman movies were made by someone other than Christopher Nolan. The popular consensus on the ’90s Batman franchise seems to break down thusly: there was the good one (the one with Jack Nicholson), there were the stupid ones (the ones where he had nipples)…and then there was the weird one, that one where Catwoman gets licked back to life by alley cats and Danny DeVito spits black gunk out of his mouth. The sequel to 1989′s monster hit Batman, Batman Returns opened just as Tim Burton — probably the most unlikely blockbuster director in Hollywood history — was becoming a brand, to the extent that Disney was able to market The Nightmare Before Christmas using his name. Batman Returns had big expectations, and a pretty big public fallout; the film opened huge but dropped fast, reviews were mixed, and a large portion of the audience was put off by the dark tone, the wild divergences from comic book continuity, and the generally macabre nature of the imagery. (Parent’s groups boycotted McDonald’s, who had done a tie in with the film.) Batman Returns was seen as enough of a disappointment that Warner Brothers performed the drastic measure of bringing in Joel Schumacher to “lighten up” the franchise (we all know how that worked out…), and until The Dark Knight “Bruce Wayne Retires” Rises was probably the most controversial film in the entire bat-canon.

      Might I suggest, at the risk of blasphemy, that Batman Returns is actually much better than the more culturally revered Batman? Batman has great performances, yes, and a kick ass Danny Elfman score and those beautiful Bo Welch designs (beautiful enough that they fundamentally changed the look of Gotham City in the comics — no, armchair comic book historians, Gotham City was not a particularly gothic place before Welch got his hands on it); but it also has a remarkably messy script, full of unnecessary characters (hello, Alexander Knox, you walking exposition machine!), under-cooked plot lines, terrible plot turns (I don’t care if nostalgia tells you otherwise, “You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” is an awful line and the lamest possible way for Batman to figure out Joker’s identity), and a main character who never really comes into focus. (Is Batman a hero? Is he a vigilante? Is he crazy? Who cares — let’s go watch Jack Nicholson!)

      Batman Returns takes even bigger leaps in logic (if your suspension of disbelief is hard to earn…then boy howdy, are you in for a rough ride…), and lets go of whatever tenuous grasp the franchise had up until now on comic book continuity, but taken on its own, as an adaptation of the character and a film unto itself, it’s far more cohesive — and satisfying — than its predecessor. The performances are fantastic: Michelle Pfeiffer gets (no kidding) the role of a lifetime as Selina Kyle, by turns seductive, vindictive, vulnerable, crazy and charming, Danny DeVito is actually ghoulishly great as Burton’s freaky sewer mutant version of The Penguin, and Christopher Walken is given the character that perhaps best showcases all of his “Christopher Walken-isms”, corrupt tycoon Max Schreck (“Selina Kyle — yer FIRED! And Bruce Wayne…why’re you dressed up like Batman?!”). But perhaps more than all that, Batman Returns represents a next step in the evolution of its director. Burton, who had essentially started out directing live action cartoons, had begun in Edward Scissorhands to introduce darker, sadder currents, more tragic ones. Batman Returns arguably gets the balance absolutely right — this is a movie where Danny DeVito comically threatens Christopher Walken with a severed appendage (“Hiya Max, remember me?! I’m Fred’s hand!”), but it also has perhaps the most beautifully acted scene in Burton’s filmography, the dance between Selina and Bruce at the masquerade ball, where identities and intentions begin to slip and slide messily away, revealing two broken and vulnerable people. Batman Returns might just be Burton’s best film: at times comic, at times tragic, always enthralling and strange and beautiful.

      …oh, and it’s got Batman in it, too.


      • I have always been a fan of Batman Returns in spite of its many flaws. You just have to give in to it and enjoy its many strengths.

        As a movie, I can see why people don’t like it. It doesn’t hold together. As a Batman movie, it’s even more disappointing. But as a Tim Burton fever dream, it’s pretty fascinating. I just wish we could edit out most of the stuff with the Penguin. His character never worked for me.


    • 10 Best Batman Film Casting Decisions:


      5. Michelle Pfeiffer – Catwoman

      Catwoman is a character I can confess to never being fond of in both comic book and animated adaptations – perhaps it’s the indecisive nature of her origin story; was she an amnesiac flight attendant, an abused wife, an African American prostitute or the daughter of mafia boss Carmine Falcone? Characters such as Robin/Dick Grayson, The Joker, Two Face and Mr Freeze have fantastic backstories – steeped in iconography – each explored by fantastic writers in such adaptations as ‘The Killing Joke’, ‘The Long Halloween’, ‘Dark Victory’ and for Freeze; the unforgettable Paul Dini-penned animated episode ‘Heart of Ice’. Catwoman on the other hand, is the only prominent figure in Batman’s rogues gallery that a fan might have trouble defining – even in the otherwise brilliant Jeph Loeb’s novels, I found the character’s cheesy, flirtatious quips lost amongst the fascinating overarching conflict of organised crime versus the criminally insane – generally speaking, Selina Kyle’s subplot just wasn’t very interesting.

      For me, personally, the only successful rendition of Catwoman’s origin is that presented in ‘Batman Returns’ – Selina Kyle; a bookish secretary – violently assaulted by her boss, Max Shrek; the character is mentally and physically ‘pushed over the edge’. Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal of the femme fatale is perhaps the most disturbing example of mental scarring in any film of the Batman series – the dramatic scene where Selina trashes her apartment after a plunge from her boss’s top-story office; the image of the crazed woman taking objects sacred to the ‘old’ Selina Kyle – for instance; the fluffy soft toys that represent her previous, girly-innocence and adherence to societal norms met by the unhinged Kyle’s kitchen knife, is one an audience cannot help but find disturbing. Much like Edward Norton’s conflicted character in ‘Fight Club’ – the dull, mild-mannered, office worker rebels against her capitalistic enslavement – tearing apart the consumerist items that constructed ‘Selina Kyle’ in a state of psychological breakdown; utilizing the remnants to construct a new persona – a concept that is presented on screen as she stitches together a costume from the remains of an old black raincoat.

      This outfit becomes a ‘second’ skin and with a new found sense of sexuality, violence, bound with nihilism – she becomes the very opposite of the formerly introverted Selina Kyle – a slinky creature of the night, known only as ‘Catwoman’. Pfieffer’s ability to convincingly play both Selina Kyle and Catwoman is extremely impressive; even her appearance as the post-transformation Selina is dramatically altered. With dark make-up under her eyes, that contrast her snow-white complexion, connote an illness brooding inside her – in this case, mental sickness; evident as her blue eyes flutter, or the manner in which her body swaggers uncontrollably through the streets of Gotham – the beast inside her has seized control. Her cat-suit complete with a whip, references ‘kinky’ sexual deviancies – violent sex – sadistic aspects of a personality everyday people hide from the public; further empathizing ‘the beast within’ – in many ways, this makes Pfieffer’s Catwoman a more threatening adversary than DeVito’s Penguin. With Gotham’s waddling bird of prey – what you see, is essentially, what you get – with Selina Kyle, her alluring appearance lulls men into underestimating her potential for violence; her insane unpredictability makes her one of Batman’s greatest onscreen enemies – thus Michelle Pfieffer earns her place as fifth best casting choice.


      • What if Tim Burton returned to direct a third ‘Batman’ film?


        After the first “Batman” film became a pop culture touchstone, Warner Bros. handed the keys of the franchise over completely to Tim Burton who followed up with a much darker “Batman Returns” in 1992. That film featured stunning production design and an awards worthy Michelle Pfeiffer as the best Catwoman ever (don’t even try to argue anyone else). Unfortunately, Burton went overboard in his vision of the classic Batman villain the Penguin. Danny DeVito was great casting, but the character was plain gross, scared children and dragged the entire film down whenever he appeared on screen. Happily, “Returns” was still a hit, but Warner Bros. was so concerned about the reaction that they insisted the third film be lighter and more commercially friendly (if not kid friendly). That meant Burton was out and he was relegated to an “executive producer” title as he moved on to other projects. Eventually Michael Keaton left the third film as well after director Joel Schumacher came on board and the role was recast with…blonde Val Kilmer. But, what if Warner Bros. and Burton came to an agreement on the proper tone for the third picture? History would have been much different as we ask:

        Three things we predict would have happened:

        2. The long rumored ‘Catwoman’ (Michelle Pfeiffer) spin-off movie would actually have happened. If Burton was back in the fold there was no way a solo “Catwoman” movie would have died in development. “Catwoman” would have hit theaters in 1996, a year after “Batman 3.” It isn’t a smash on the level of the “Batman” films, but it’s still makes back to back blockbusters for Pfeiffer after “Dangerous Minds” the year before. It also means she has to turn down “Up Close & Personal” (whew) and extends her A-list status to the end of the Century. Sadly, we can’t predict a reboot featuring Halle Berry doesn’t end up happening with the following decade (revisionist history isn’t always that rosy).

        Did history work out for the best?
        Aside from the potential train wreck of a “Superman Lives” movie and missing out on Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, absolutely not. You can argue not one of the major players in “Batman Returns” benefited from Burton not coming back for the third film. Burton himself had the successful “Sleepy Hollow,” but hasn’t made a good movie outside of the stop-motion animated “Corpse Bride” in 2006. Michael Keaton career tanked after he followed Burton out the door, Michelle Pfeiffer had two real hits (“Dangerous Minds,” “What Lies Beneath”) over 15 years until a supporting role in 2007’s hit “Hairspray” and you could argue Joel Schumacher dug his own grave following studio guidelines with “Batman Forever” and the insanely horrible “Batman and Robin.” So, yes, fans lost out as well. Plus, George Clooney would have also skipped over “Batman and Robin” (the worst decision of his illustrious career). Burton’s third “Batman” movie may not have been as blatantly commercial as what Schumacher delivered, but at least it would have had a vision behind it. The only person you can say truly benefited from Burton leaving the franchise was Seal. He had the biggest hit of his career with “Kiss From A Rose” off the “Forever” soundtrack. If Burton was on board? Probably wouldn’t have even made the album.


  13. I wonder if Michelle Pfeiffer is one of the biggest stars who really ever only succeeded with supporting roles or as parts of ensembles. I do think the big weakness in her star power resume is having no demonstrated ability to open a picture as the sole star. One could argue that Dangerous Minds which she starred in was no small success, but it still was an ensemble cast in its own way. She never really had that one breakout starring role like Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock where both critics, audiences and the awards circuit loved her all at the same time. Pfeiffer’s resume still looks less like a movie star’s resume and more like a “serious actress’s” resume. What I think she lacks is magnetism on a personality level. She’s got the looks and she’s got the talent, but she doesn’t have the infectious likability of a Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, etc. She is somehow colder and less emotionally accessible. One could say the same about Charlize Theron, which I think is why both her and Pfeiffer have had success at playing villains, something that those warm, cuddly, likable actresses would never be able to pull off.


    • I think you are right on the money here. I love Michelle Pfeiffer, but she doesn’t have the big audience-pleasing smile of Roberts or Bullock. Bullock, Ryan and Roberts were in a class by themselves.

      I never thought about the similarities between Pfeiffer and Theron, but I think you’re on to something there.


  14. If you switched their careers and had Michelle Pfeiffer play all of Meg Ryan’s parts, and vice-versa, who would have done a better job?

    Meg wouldn’t have nailed any of Michelle’s serious parts (“The Age Of Innocence,” “White Oleander,” “Dangerous Liaisons”), and I can’t imagine her pulling off the role of Susie Diamond in The Fabulous Baker Boys. She definitely would have taken Dangerous Minds and the role of Selina Kyle/Catwoman somewhere (maybe not to the same heights, but somewhere). And I think she matches anything else.

    But Pfeiffer with Meg Ryan’s parts? None of the comedy roles would have worked. “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail” wouldn’t have worked. She couldn’t have played the young Sally Albright. She probably could have handled the love interest parts and most of the fantasy/whimsy such as Prelude to a Kiss and Joe vs The Volcano, but the only movie she would have improved was “Proof of Life.” It just wouldn’t have worked as well as Meg with Michelle’s career.


    • First, I love your screen name! Now into the valcano with you!

      I have a hard time imagining Meg Ryan as Catwoman. But I would love to see it. I would also love to see Ryan in the Glenn Close role in Dangerous Liaisons. I don’t know why, but I think she could pull it off. Not as well as Close did, but better than most people would think.

      As soon as I get my time machine working, I’m going to go back and guide Meg through a more successful career. That would be the best use of a time machine, don’t you think?

      I think you might be selling Pfieffer a little short. I think she could pull off rom coms. They just would have had a different vibe. I definitely agree Meg is better suited though.

      In a weird way, Pfieffer may have been too gorgeous to be believable as a love interest for someone like Billy Crystal. Meg Ryan was certainly beautiful too. But she had a girl next door quality that allowed you to accept her being in love with a guy like Crystal. Pfeiffer, not so much.

      If you haven’t already, be sure to stop by Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies. You’ll love it.


      • You’re right, I wasn’t being fair to Michelle.
        For all the appeal of the rom-com sisterhood of Julia, Meg and Sandra if you’re talking about range it’s Pfeiffer in a walk, mainly because she could throw anything at you. Deadpan Pfeifer, Mobster Moll Pfeiffer, Quiet waitress Pfeiffer, Intense Pfeiffer, Crazy Catwoman Pfeiffer, Killer Pfeiffer, Sexy Pfeiffer and so on.
        There was never really Funny Pfeiffer. The closest she came was when Norah Ephron auditioned both Pfeiffer and Ryan for the part of Annie Reed when she was casting “Sleepless in Seattle”. Pfeiffer initially won out, but then got cold feet.
        Having said all that, trapped here on a desert island, if I had the chance to import all of Pfeiffer’s movies or all of Ryan’s movies, I reckon I’d still choose Meg. As much as I’d find it difficult to live without “Batman Returns” and “The Fabulous Baker Boys”, I’d find it even harder to live without that Ryan smile.
        Long live the Waiponee!


        • I am going to have to think about that desert island question…

          You’re right that Pfeiffer has always been the more versatile. That’s why I have always stated a preference for her as an actress. And yet, I don’t find myself watching very many of her movies today. On the other hand, I’m not sure I could go without When Harry Met Sally or Joe Vs. the Volcano indefinitely.

          I did not realize Pfeiffer had been cast in Sleepless over Ryan. Boggles the mind.


  15. When you do get your time machine working save me a seat, because I’m intrigued by your notion of Meg Ryan playing the Glenn Close role in Dangerous Liaisons.

    An unsympathetic role like that, a year before America found its sweetheart in When Harry Met Sally could have set Meg on a totally different career path, and a head-to-head between two of the then, hottest starlets in Hollywood could have been combustible.
    Although if I remember correctly the Close and Pfeiffer characters never share the screen.

    P.S. As always thanks for the link love,


    • I can’t think of a better co-pilot for Mission: Meg. We could make a stop by 1993 to see if we could bring more attention to Flesh and Bone too.

      Always happy to send folks to your site. In fact, I’ll be trying to do some more of that shortly…


      • I’ve been waiting for news of mission Meg, but it’s been awfully quite over here the past couple of weeks.
        Is everything all right?


        • Thanks for the concern.

          It’s a combination of things. Truth is, I did get some bad news recently. My dad is sick. His prognosis is good. But it has weighed on my mind. Mostly, I’ve been busy. Work has been unusually steady for this time of year (which is good in that it allows me to earn extra $, but bad in terms of blogging.) My computer is in the shop, so I am relying on my wife’s laptop being available. Also, and much more sunny, we had a weekend getaway for Josie’s last soccer tournament with her old team.

          I keep hoping things will slow down a little.


      • daffystardust

        Sorry to hear about your dad. Hope all goes as well as it can.
        Things are kind of goofy here, too, also resulting in very limited computer access. Hopefully that’ll get remedied soon.


        • Thanks. For now, we don’t know much. I don’t blog much about my personal life beyond Disney trips, etc. But I’ll definitely keep you guys updated as we get through this. The prognosis is good, so we’re all staying positive.

          A few weeks ago, my desk top blew up on me. This has left me with limited access as well. I can sometimes blog at work, but work has been too busy for that lately. I can use my wife’s lap top. But it has quirks of its own and isn’t always at my disposal. I have actually gone to the library to write an article or two.

          The guys who are working on my laptop aren’t in any hurry. I told them I was in no rush, so it’s not their fault. They are friends, so I went to them even though I knew they had a backlog. I’d rather go with someone who I can trust even if it takes a while.

          Hopefully, we can both get back into posting sooner rather than later.


  16. I actually think it’s VERY SIMPLE why Michelle’s career declined: Her 5 year hiatus (yes, FIVE YEARS) after White Oleander. She must have known it would harm her career. Michelle should have been capitalizing on the success of What Lies Beneath (the biggest hit of her career) at that time. But no, she decided to take 5 years off. That is not good for ANY actor/actress’s career, no matter what their age is. Had Michelle not taken 5 years off, she may possibly be in Sandra Bullock’s position right now.

    By the way, can you do a “What the hell happened to Demi Moore?” thread? Between 1990 and 1994 her movies grossed over $1.3 BILLION, and in 1995 she became the highest-paid actress of all time. Her 2 last major roles were Striptease and G.I. Jane. These movies were NOT box office flops like everyone says. They both made around $100 million. They underperformed considering all the hype, but they were not flops. So how did Demi go from being Hollywood’s highest-paid actress to having a virtually nonexistant film career? That’s what I’d like to see theorized in a page like this.


    • Where The FRACK Is Michelle Pfeiffer?


      It’s her own fault, Op, for taking time off at the peak of her career (I guess mid-late 90s?). You can’t take ten years off nowadays and expect everyone to remember you.
      Very true. That’s why I think Sigourney Weaver has made all the right choices. When she hit 40 she started doing independent films. Interesting parts, not always in good films, but she kept working. She chose projects made in NYC while she raised her kid. Young filmmakers now know that she is approachable and it’s a matter of time before someone writes a great part for her. She’s in a way doing what Deneuve does in France.

      Jessie Lange disappeared to raise kids and it’s not easy for her, I think.

      Streep seems to be above it all, working with young directors and all… But Nichols and Ephron are not going to be making films forever. She will always have Scott Rudin as her champion, though, which will help her in the ‘future future’.

      by: Anonymous reply 114 07/19/2010 @ 06:18PM


    • 20 Worst Trailers That Secretly Ruined The Movie:


      12. What Lies Beneath

      The Spoilers: Michelle Pfeiffer investigates what she thinks is the ghost of a neighbor. Lucky the trailer is here to explain that, really, it’s the woman that hubby Harrison Ford had an affair with.

      How They Should’ve Sold It: Robert Zemeckis sure didn’t give a monkey’s about spoiling his movies in 2000. Maybe he should’ve hired a more discreet trailer editor.


  17. Speaking of Pfeiffer, her latest film People Like Us bombed more than anyone expected, grossing $4.3 million on more than 2,000 screens on its opening week.
    That’s a very poor per-theater average, but it’s also a slight surprise given the extensive marketing for the film that led me to hope it could be a modest success amidst all the big-budget, big-star films.
    Sadly,I was wrong, as were Dreamworks, and the film was off the film world’s radar in a matter of two weeks.

    That must be a blow to Michelle, who’s been working extremely hard to re-invent herself as a supporting actress. I just hope she fairs better in her next project, playing a Mafia wife alongside De Niro and Tommy Lee Jones in Luc Besson’s Malavita.


  18. I agree. Pfeiffer works whenever she wants. She is happily married to a wealthy man and I think she’s just out enjoying life away from the screen.


  19. I love that you are adding these, it’s been a while since I was last on your blog and I was suprised!


    • I’m happy to surprise.

      It’s been a busy year and that kept me from taking on big articles. Instead, I was pushing out quick hits when I had time. But these are the most popular articles on the site by far. So eventually I decided my time would be better spent on the content everyone was demanding. I have gone back and updated/cleaned-up all the original articles. And now, I am working on new ones. The next one should be up sometime in the next week.


  20. Pfeiffer’s doing well. Yeah, she’s had a coupe straight-to-video’s, but that’s no longer the death sign it used to be. Even Halle Berry, an Oscar winner, had a film go straight to video recently and she’s still considered an A-list star. Natalie Portman, Bruce Willis, and Catherine Zeta-Jones also had straight-to-videos recently yet still have some major roles lined up.

    Pfeiffer made a few bad choices. Like A Thousand Acres – pointless. She probably did it just to work with the great Jessica Lange, and stars should never take roles that are beneath them just for the opportunity to “work with” whoever they admire.

    The 5 yr break hurt her, obviously, but she knew what she was doing. Frankly she didn’t miss out on much. The roles she turned down during her hiatus were the Meg Ryan role in “Against the Ropes”, the witch in The Chronicles of Narnia that Tilda Swinton played, Marcia Gay Harden’s role in Mystic River, and Virginia Madsen’s role in A Prairie Home Companion. None of these would have done anything for her career and she still would have ended up doing the straight-to-video’s – which aren’t even that bad, “I Could Never Be Your Woman” and “Personal Effects” were more enjoyable that some of her ‘big’ films.


  21. I want to single out “Wolf.” Though not her vehicle it is one of my favorite movies she’s been in.

    Did you notice that she was made up to look unusally plain and frumpy in The Witches of Eastwick? She was such a young beauty that the director must not have wanted her to distract the audience from the significantly older and less attractive Sarandon and Cher. There was miscasting somewhere in there.


    • Aside from What Lies Beneath, I think Wolf was the last Michelle Pfeiffer film I actually enjoyed watching.
      I certainly prefer it to the melodramas she churned out year after year in the latter part of the 90’s. so much so, I’ve actually disposed of several of those films from my DVD collection.
      I posted The Deep End of the Ocean to a Michelle pfan from Indonesia and I was so irritated by I am Sam when I tried to watch it recently, I threw the disc straight in the bin, never to be recovered!
      I’ve still got The Witches of Eastwick though, and after reading Keith’s comment I might have a look at it again. The only thing I remember about Michelle’s character Sukie Ridgemont was that she was a widow and had about six children.
      Maybe her blonde witch can put render me spellbound again?


      • Slowly but surely, you have been turning me into a Ryan fan. I never saw that coming.

        Witches is an extremely flawed movie. Especially the cartoonish ending. But I think it’s worth revisiting largely for Pfeiffer.


    • I have only seen Wolf once or twice. That was back when it was in theaters. I haven’t watched it again since. I remember enjoying it. But I have always been afraid to rewatch it. I’m not sure how it would hold up.

      On Witches of Eastwick, she was sick a lot of the time. I think frumping her up a bit was at least partially in keeping with her character. But there may have been other reasons as you pointed out. Cher and Sarandon were stars and Pfeiffer was not. I remember being very taken with Pfeiffer the first time I watched Witches.


  22. Pretty Woman
    Thelma and Louise
    The Silence of the Lambs
    Basic Instinct
    Double Jeopardy

    Some of the high profile films Michelle has turned down.

    Would love to have seen Michelle take on Silence of the Lambs but apparently she found the script too violent. Evita was supposed to be done with Oliver Stone but then Michelle was heavily pregnant. Michelle chose to film The Story of Us instead of Double Jeopardy which didnt turn out too well as TSOU bombed at the box office.

    Looking forward to seeing Michelle working with Luc Besson in Malavita.


  23. BabyfacedAssassin

    I thought she was headed toward supporting roles/ensemble territory as well but the fact that her next two upcoming films feature her as the female lead changed my mind…

    Was also surprised to discover that she recently bought the film rights to produce and star in the adaptation of the best-selling novel, The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus, according to author Sonia Sones’ official Twitter page.

    She’s said that now that her kids are in college, she wants to just focus her energy on work…the hiatus, the “limited release” films and the supporting ensemble parts have all been, by her own admission, the result of her wanting to only work part-time.

    Now that her son is college-bound, she’s ready to work more frequently… At least that’s what her slate of upcoming projects


    • I’ll be interested to see how successful her comeback turns out to be. I thought it was pretty amazing she was able to come back to the extent she did with the supporting roles. I don’t think she has much of a chance of recapturing her A-list status. But it will be good to see her in leading roles again.


  24. I would like to add to the white oleander part of pfeiffer career. The film was a small dramamade for 15 million dollars, It good good reviews. If you check on imdb pfeiffer was nominated and won a few critics awards for this including a screenactors guild nomination for best supporting actress and winning best supporting actress at the Kansas city film cticits circle awards and the dandiego film critics awards. She was also nominated for a Washington dc film critics awards.


  25. When I posted this article about Michelle Pfeiffer to the “Batman Returns” (among her movies, I posted it there first because I assumed that would guarantee immediate responses) IMDb message board as well as her own IMDb board, the general consensus from people who replied to me suggest that Michelle is still a major Hollywood player (despite not making herself available for half a decade to focus on her family), whose career hasn’t dwindled.

    Here are the links to give you a better idea:




    • Boy, they can be really uncivil over there!

      I think Pfeiffer still has some clout. Is she A-list? No way. Back in the day, her involvement could get a major motion picture greenlit. Those days are over.

      I do agree that there is nothing wrong with that. But “major player”? No.


      • The term A-list doesn’t mean what it used to, sure. But I wouldn’t say it is meaningless. There are still actresses who are A-list. Sandra Bullock is definitely one. Scarlett Johansson is debatable. Meryl Streep is A-list. Arguably Reese Witherspoon and Charlize Theron. Maybe Emma Stone.

        As for Pfeiffer, it’s not just a matter of what she turned down. If she had been actively working, it could have resulted in projects that never got made. Or some of those parts she did turn down could have been big hits with her name attached. It’s impossible to say what might have been. Ryan in Against the Ropes was a bomb. But Pfeiffer might have had a Dangerous Minds-sized hit. (I doubt it, but maybe).

        I’m not sure you can count WLB. It was marketed as a Harrison Ford picture even though Pfeiffer had the main role. Outside of that movie, her career was in a slide.


      • Streep’s definitely an exception. But she is currently an A-lister. I don’t expect she’ll hold on to that for all that long. But what a remarkable career she has had!

        I’d say Theron is on the cusp. She can get a project greenlit. Is she a box office draw on her own? Not really. Johannson’s about the same. There was a time when I would have considered actresses of their standing B-list. But today, they are as close to A-list as it gets. Movies just aren’t as star-driven as they used to be.

        WLB could have been the beginning of something for Pfeiffer. But she didn’t capitalize on it. Instead, she took a break and by the time she came back that momentum was lost.

        I’m not nearly as pessimistic as you are on the future of Hollywood. Movies have survived a lot. They thrived during the Great Depression. They survived the fall of the studio system and the invention of TV. The industry is definitely in a state of flux. And many of the changes aren’t ones I consider positive. But the sky isn’t falling. Hollywood will live on.

        There’s no denying that stars aren’t as impotant as they used to be. In the 80s and 90s, movies were primarily star driven. These days, movies are sold on concepts. Now that CGI lets you create The Hulk, it’s not so important who place Bruce Banner. Plus, there’s a new breed of celebrities who don’t do anything. Instead of obsessing about stars, fans follow the Real Housewives and Teen Moms of the world.

        But I don’t see the shrinking of stars as all that big of a problem for the industry. They need to be worried about how they can offer an experience that competes with the home theater experience. 3-D isn’t the answer.


      • Re: “Star-making” roles that backfired:


        There was a significant gap after “Scarface” for Pfeiffer; her next role wasn’t until “Into the Night” in 1985, which also flopped. She didn’t really come into contention as a serious actress until 1988, when she had 3 big roles: “Married to the Mob”, “Tequila Sunrise” and “Dangerous Liasons”. From there, she was A-list until 2001, when she did “I Am Sam”. Her career hit the doldrums again after that, with only “Hairspray” (an ensemble piece) and “Cheri” standouts. She’s currently filming Gary Marshall’s latest piece of schlock, but is coming up in “Dark Shadows”, re-uniting her with Tim Burton.

        by: Anonymous reply 64 03/22/2011 @ 08:31PM


    • To follow this up, I was also told that at Michelle’s age she unfortunately, can’t really play the lead love interest and be a huge box office draw (which is kind of the main point of this whole WTHHT discussion) anymore. To put things in proper perspective, a younger generation who weren’t as acquainted w/ Michelle Pfeiffer when compared to her 1980s-’90s prime. I think this is were the whole factor of Michelle taking a five year hiatus in the 2000s serves as a negative impact on her career as an A-list star.

      Another argument that I’ve since heard is that the type of movies that Michelle made when she was “in demand” or in her prime are no longer being made. Instead, studios are much more focused on big-budget franchises (which I think is a bit ironic, since Catwoman in the original, 1989-1997, tentpole Batman film franchise is one of her most iconic, best known roles). So in other words, why should Michelle work when she does not have to.


      • You’ve nailed the reasons for Michelle’s current predicament perfectly.
        I’ve come to realise the young people who make up the majority of today’s cinema going public barely know who Michelle Pfeiffer is. Or else they associate her with turkeys such as New Year’s Eve and Dark Shadows.

        Your second argument is equally valid. As one of the Pfeiffer obsessives who frequents my site put it:
        ” Batman Returns contains much more campy than realistically depicted violence. Max Shreck’s demise is jolting but wonderfully campy. Michelle played campy as another layer of Selina Kyle’s angry complexity. I find Michelle’s treatment of the complicated Catwoman in Burton’s movie to be on another level from the Selina Kyle who whispers into Bruce Wayne’s ear the prediction of the hyperkinetic action that follows. The times have changed even further and non-stop violence and action is what is required to gain the attention of the moviegoer and the awards judges. Michelle plays characters whose depth can’t be revealed while banking a futuristic motorcycle around a sharp bend while the machine guns are concomitantly blazing.”


      • Whatever happened to Michelle Pfeiffer?


        And not to sound like some old fart pining for the golden days of Hollywood – I mean, yawn – but what happened to Michelle Pfeiffer, Harrison Ford, Debra Winger, Julia Roberts? They used to make lots of good movies, and do good box office. Sure some of the movies are duds (that’s you, Mary Reilly), and some are really good. Are they too old? Julia Roberts is my age. Is the entertainment world really revolving around Miley Cyrus and those Twilight kids? Holy crap, shoot me now.


      • 20 Actors Who Need To Make A Comeback:


        14. Michelle Pfeiffer

        Pfeiffer had a mini-comeback with Hairspray and Stardust (which she was the best thing about), but aside from being underused in Tim Burton’s desecration of Dark Shadows, Pfeiffer’s second career passed her by. This is probably because almost all of the “woman of a certain age” roles are going to Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver and Barbra Streisand (who was designed to play a Jewish mother). Nicole Kidman gets everything else. In a perfect world where leprechauns dance in the sky and all the Kardashians are infertile, Pfeiffer would have reprised her role as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. Tell me Catwoman as a cougar wouldn’t have been awesome.


  26. Am I the only one who feels compelled to check the year on my calendar every time I see a “Bullet to the Head” commercial? I bet you could send that movie 20 years back in time without anyone blinking.


    • I think that is the appeal. Stallone’s fans would turn back the clock in a heartbeat. A lot of them are still living in the Cold War.

      I’ll be surprised if the movie does half as well as The Expendables. But fortunately for Stallone, Swcharzenegger set a very low bar with The Last Stand. No matter what happens, Stallone should come out okay.

      I suspect I’ll be writing up my What the Hell Happened to Slyvster article sooner rather than later.


  27. Hey lebeau, did you know that Val Kilmer once had a relationship with Michelle Pfeiffer?

    They actually appeared together onscreen in an 1985 ABC Afterschool Special called “One Too Many” which was directed by Michelle’s husband at the time, Peter Horton, “Gary” from Thirtysomething.
    If you’re thinking ‘why the hell were they doing a TV special?’ you’ll have to remember at the time they both were mere beginners. Pfeiffer had only Scarface (1983) as a true calling card and Kilmer had made but one movie, the spoof Top Secret. Ladyhawke (1985) and Top Gun (1986) would speed up their careers soon after.
    Anyway…That’s not the point. Not only did Val date Michelle but he also wrote a poem about her, featured in his self-published book My Edens After Burns (1987),the poem was called ‘The Pfeiffer Howls at the Moon’.
    His relationship with La Pfeiffer pre-dated her stint in Wolf by ten years, meaning Val Kilmer is psychic!
    I’d love to read his poem but guess what? The book has been known to sell for as much $1200!!



    • Hey Paul! Thanks for dropping in.

      I actually added this info to the Kilmer article earlier this year. I’m planning to include it in this article as soon as I get around to updating it. I remember watching that TV movie back in the day. The Kilmer article includes a clip if you’re interested.

      Great stuff.


    • It’s surreal that Michelle Pfeiffer played Catwoman and also during her career, appeared on screen w/ three different actors who played Bruce Wayne/Batman (four if you count “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” w/ Christian Bale). She was also in “Wolf” and “The Witches of Eastwick” w/ Jack Nicholson, which meant that Catwoman and the Joker were on screen together but not in an actual Batman movie.


  28. Enjoyed this writeup of a talented actress. Have to be up front, I am a huge fan both of Michelle’s, and Heather Locklear. Partly, I relate to the age group, younger than Baby boom but older than Gen X. Partly they are just again, talented and light up the screen in whatever project they are in. And also the whole, slinky gown-or-washcloth sized skirt wearing, piano singing, stomp-all-over-the-men-but-they-love-it attitude. This may not resonate well with some… but I mean it in a very positive way, that women don’t have to be victims, in life or on screen. It’s like, a sex symbol with guts and intelligence. Even if every movie Michelle made is not a hit, it is always fun to watch her and I would argue she is permanent A-list. NYE was not a great movie, AGREED, but she was one of the few bright spots. I’d like to see Heather get back onscreen doing more movies like “The Perfect Man.”


  29. From Comic To Pfeiffer’s Cat:



    Putting it simply, you could say the Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman is essentially a combination of the Golden Age and Pre-Zero Hour versions from the comics. Her origin/revenge narrative is adapted from Catwoman: Her Sister’s Keeper, but her personality displays many traits of the Pre-Crisis Catwoman.


  30. I wonder if Michelle’s career as LeBeau argued started to cool in the early 2000s, in part because she kept doing as LeBeau pointed out all of these melodramatic, Lifetime Channel or “Oprah’s Book Club” type of films. In other words, much of her films seemed to be targeted heavily to female audiences and not stuff w/ more mass appeal like “Batman Returns” or “What Lies Beneath”. I think something like “Dangerous Minds” worked or was successful was because it was more youth oriented (people saw Michelle, who played the “cool teacher” in “Dangerous Minds”, in the Coolio video on MTV, which in itself was a big hit song) rather than something that you’re mom would generally be more interested.


    • I think that was a big, big part of it. Early in her career, Pfeiffer was beautiful, quirky, exotic and cool. But later, she gravitated towards movies that were supposed to be “important” but looked like homework. Eventually, she became beautiful but boring.


    • it’s an interesting point you guys are making, there are definitely different audiences. Case in point, you were probably bored by “One Fine Day” but for those of us who wear Mom jeans, it was a enjoyable, well-acted movie with the excellent pairing of Clooney with Pfeiffer.


      • I have to admit I STILL haven’t watched One Fine Day. Although I don’t think that was a part of the problem as much as movies like White Oleander. One Fine Day was a chick flic, but it was also a piece of mainstream entertainment. A lot of Pfeiffer’s dramas in the early 2000’s felt like a chore. A lot of actresses at the time were churning out book adaptations no one wanted to see. They flooded the boring movie market.

        Interestingly enough, Pfeiffer never really went the rom com route. She did comedies. She did romantic movies. But One Fine Day was her only “rom com”. I don’t think the genre suited her as much as it did Meg Ryan. Pfeiffer was too exotic (some say cold) for a genre that prefers the “girl next door” type.


    • They Threw It Away – Self-Destruction and Acting Careers:


      Michelle Pfeiffer. After Wolf (which admittedly wasn’t a great film, but was Mike Nichols directed) she only starred in crappy Lifetime-esque mommy dramas.

      She had all the makings of a great american actress, but threw it away with horrible script choices after ’94 and then literally disappeared from Hollywood from 2002 to 2006.

      by: Anonymous reply 311 01/10/2014 @ 04:04AM


      • Michelle Pfeiffer : What Happened to her career?


        I somewhat disagree with the explanation that was given in the reply here. Yes, she obviously walked away from Hollywood on her own accord to raise her kids. But if you look at her career closer you’ll notice that her career was losing momentum even before she took a break. In the early 90’s she was A-list top of the line, comparable to Angelina Jolie’s status these days. But look at the movies she was in from about ’94 to when she took a break. They were with top of the line actors (Jack Nicholson ; Robert Redford ; George Clooney ; Bruce Willis) but none of the films really did anything at the box office.

        She took a break to raise her kids, but my guess is that she also felt she just needed to step back from her career anyway. But since coming back it’s essentially been the same story. She’s starred with top of line actors, but the movies just haven’t done anything at the box office.

        Her days as a sexy actress are obviously past her. There’s too many hot young actresses out there who will get the role before her. My guess is she’s also losing roles to the likes of Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts these days. However, if she were to get the right role she certainly has the talent to get an Oscar nomination, which would go a long way in reviving her career.


  31. Whatever Happened to Michelle Pfeiffer’s Career?


    By Edward Margulies from Mr Showbiz

    Remember Michelle Pfeiffer? Lanky blond goddess, equally capable of nailing roles virginal (Dangerous Liaisons), wifely (Married to the Mob), and seductive (The Fabulous Baker Boys)? Her long rise to the top, which began with a forgotten TV series in the late ’70s (Delta House), reached its peak in 1992 with her world-class performance as a frustrated frump whose alter ego is the comic, dangerous, and sensual Catwoman in Batman Returns. It’s hard to believe that Pfeiffer wasn’t first choice for that part, so perfectly did she bring it roaring to life. It makes me wonder: if initial selection Annette Bening had portrayed Catwoman as orginally planned, would Pfeiffer today be starring in edgy work like American Beauty?

    In any event, since Batman Returns, Pfeiffer’s been making terrible career choices. OK, I can see how The Age of Innocence might have looked good on paper — and after all, actors jump through hoops to work with Martin Scorsese — but Pfeiffer lost round one to her scene-stealing coiffure, and never recovered. What was she thinking when reading awful-scripts-destined-to-be-awful-movies like Wolf, Dangerous Minds, Up Close and Personal, or To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday? Sure, some box-office loot came in, but every one of these flicks offered her a less likely role than the previous one had. She tried harder in One Fine Day, but the movie only served to show that she and George Clooney were no Doris Day and Rock Hudson or, for that matter, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.

    Then came A Thousand Acres, a fetid farmland retelling of King Lear, which was at best unintentionally uproarious, as when Pfeiffer and Jessica Lange, two of the screen’s great, complicated beauties, made like heartland hicks, dishing heavy exposition while folding sheets — no doubt they were Method folding, having long observed their housekeepers doing same. Of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the less said the better, and the same goes for Pfeiffer’s recent foray into such blubbering, sudsy sagas as The Deep End of the Ocean and The Story of Us. The latter underwhelms those I’ve spoken to. “I can’t blame them for wanting to make a Two for the Road movie about the difficulty of staying married,” says one veteran producer. “But Rob Reiner, Bruce Willis, and Michelle Pfeiffer aren’t exactly Stanley Donen, Albert Finney, and Audrey Hepburn. Reiner’s recent movies, like those of Ron Howard and Penny Marshall, suffer from sitcom mentality — to distract from plots that don’t hold together, there’s always a cutesy humorous touch waiting around every corner.”

    One entertainment analyst offers, “The Story of Us makes it obvious that Michelle Pfeiffer is in desperate need of better scripts. What good is it being married to David Kelley if you can’t get your pick of his scripts?” However, since To Gillian was a Kelley project, perhaps he’s not the solution to Pfeiffer’s career problems. There are other solutions, as one longtime casting director indicates when she says, “It’s difficult to see Pfeiffer on Kelley’s arm at every major TV awards show without thinking that perhaps she’s ready to pull a Jane Fonda and just retire from acting altogether.” After all, what’s ahead? Co-starring with Harrison Ford in the upcoming Amityville Horror-esque thriller What Lies Beneath, I’m afraid. Sadly, the time is long past for Pfeiffer to cash in her Catwoman chip and grab movie audiences back with her most alluring creation (just as Sharon Stone has similarly waited too long with Basic Instinct 2). There’s still TV to consider but the trick, Michelle, is in knowing when to get off. Say what you will about Candice Bergen and Cybill Shepherd, but both knew to when to quit movies — and both reinvented themselves on hit TV comedies.


      • Re: Where The F*** Is Michelle Pfeiffer?


        Michelle at one time in her career was out there taking all kinds of chances… a Monroe/Jackie wanna be hooks up with a black man and his daughter on their way to Kennedy’s funeral in the 1960s; come on. That was a pretty brave career choice. AOI was probably her best performance with DL a slight second. Her comedy work, her singing actual material with her own voice…. then she had children and became uninteresting as an actress and probably more interesting as a person. Her script choices have been pretty lame ever since.

        by: Anonymous reply 74 07/17/2010 @ 10:19PM

        Personally, I always wished she had done more stuff that was similar(in a very generalized way) to her Catwoman character, where she could be more imaginative, colorful, and larger than life(rather than just straight dramas). I guess something kind of like Sharon Stone’s Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct (admittedly a very cheesy and badly written movie), but just something a bit more stylish and fantastical (but in a more serious/darker/mature movie than Basic Instinct or Batman Returns)

        You don’t stick a face and talent like that in just dramas. Perhaps she didn’t use the clout she had in the late eighties/early nineties too well and made some bad decisions.

        But I agree that she’s a great actress.

        by: Anonymous reply 91 07/18/2010 @ 04:17PM

        It’s her own fault, Op, for taking time off at the peak of her career (I guess mid-late 90s?). You can’t take ten years off nowadays and expect everyone to remember you. Even Queen Julia’s attempts to reclaim her throne have been spotty. Luckily for her we’ve already forgotten how badly Duplicity flopped.

        by: Anonymous reply 102 07/19/2010 @ 01:10AM

        Very true. That’s why I think Sigourney Weaver has made all the right choices. When she hit 40 she started doing independent films. Interesting parts, not always in good films, but she kept working. She chose projects made in NYC while she raised her kid. Young filmmakers now know that she is approachable and it’s a matter of time before someone writes a great part for her. She’s in a way doing what Deneuve does in France.

        Jessie Lange disappeared to raise kids and it’s not easy for her, I think.

        Streep seems to be above it all, working with young directors and all… But Nichols and Ephron are not going to be making films forever. She will always have Scott Rudin as her champion, though, which will help her in the ‘future future’.

        by: Anonymous reply 114 07/19/2010 @ 06:18PM

        I read a quote attributed to her which went something like, ‘I don’t want the money to do the work, I want all the money to live my life this way’. She’s always been shy and didn’t really like the trappings of fame. She was on her way to being one of the greats, but seems to have lost her drive around the mid-90s. Her movies became Lifetime TV fodder: ONE FINE DAY, UP CLOSE & PERSONAL, DANGEROUS MINDS. They may have been hits, but they weren’t the reason I liked Pfeiffer. Oh, and another great early performance: INTO THE NIGHT.

        by: Anonymous reply 130 07/20/2010 @ 01:37PM


    • That’s it in a nutshell. When she made a movie like Dangerous Minds, Wolf or What Lies Beneath, audiences were interested and they were hits. But she kept making movies like White Oleander and The Story of Us.


  32. Pfeiffer is often criticised for having made unwise choice and for turning down roles in successful movies (Pretty Woman; Basic Instinct; Sleepless in Seattle; Thelma & Louise), however reading this post makes you wonder how many other actress in the last 30 years have done what Pfeiffer has done. Really, she had a very remarkable carreer. Very few actress of her generation have done what she has done, and her carreer spawned for something like almost 20 years, which is very rare. Probabily only Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman had a more sucessful carreer than Pfeiffer among actress of her generation.


    • And let’s not forget, Baker Boys was really more of an iconic role for her than Catwoman. She should have won the Oscar for Best Actress…IMO….. but Driving Miss Daisy was formidable competition. I remember an interview from the time where she talked about taking voice lessons for her role as Susie Diamond. Pfeiffer put a lot of work into it, not under any illusions about being a gifted singer but about learning enough to sing in the movie, which was impressive since voice dubs were so commonly used, and that she was eventually able to “relax and interpret the song” (her words, which I still remember).


    • I don’t put much stock in criticizing actors and actresses for the roles they turned down. Part of what made those films successful was who starred in them. Those movies may not have been successful with Pfeiffer in the roles she turned down.

      It’s fun to wonder what might have been. But it’s also kind of pointless.


  33. Excellent point, Lebeau. Hindsight is 20/20 and in retrospect we can say an actor made a mistake turning down such-and-such movie that became a big hit, but over time I’ve realized that a film turns out the way it does (and people respond to it) based on exactly how it turned out with that exact cast and crew involved. Change the actors around, for example, and even if all the other components stay the same you do have a different film in most cases.

    As you mentioned before in her write-up, Molly Ringwald was offered Pretty Woman but turned it down. Now I like Molly Ringwald, but I just cannot imagine her and Richard Gere having anywhere near that same magic chemistry that Gere had with Julia Roberts onscreen, and that was the key ingredient that made Pretty Woman not just a hit, but a blockbuster. Onscreen chemistry is something elusive, I think Gere and Roberts’ follow-up collaboration a decade later, Runaway Bride, even shows that, because they just didn’t have that same magical chemistry together again, they couldn’t duplicate it, it’s sort of lightning in a bottle in a way. But my point is, someone could say “Molly Ringwald made a mistake turning that movie down, it was huge!”, but I don’t think it would’ve hit any other way than the way it turned out. That’s maybe not an absolute rule, I’m sure there’s some examples of films that also would’ve been hits or even blockbusters with different actors involved, but I think this holds true for a majority of hit films.


    • The Ringwald/Pretty Woman case is the one I always think of. She gets a lot of grief for turning PW down. But the movie would have tanked if she had starred in it. And that’s not a criticism of her. I’m sure she would have turned in a fine performance. But 1, audiences wouldn’t have accepted her in the role. And 2, as you pointed out, the onscreen chemistry was key to that movie. It’s also worth noting that very few actresses have managed chemistry on screen with Gere. Roberts is one of those few.

      Another example that springs to mind if Silence of the Lambs. Every actress in Hollywood was approached about playing Clarice Starling including Pfeiffer. I have no doubt Pfeiffer would have made a great Clarice. But chemistry is a delicate thing and I can’t imagine anyone having better chemistry with Hopkins than Foster did. Look and Julianne Moore in the sequel. She’s a great actress, but the chemistry just isn’t there.


      • Tally Atwater's Tresses

        Pretty Woman turned out so well because of Julia, not because of the script. She elevated it.
        I do often wonder what the world would be like today had Annette Bening played the role of Catwoman in Batman Returns as was originally intended.
        Add to that if Meg Ryan had been offered the chance to work with Jonathan Demme, why would she have passed on The Silence of the Lambs? Demme was on record as loving working with Pfeiffer in Married to the Mob so the smart money would say he’d have been begging her for a reunion.
        I could’ve totally seen Michelle winning The Academy Award for The Silence of the Lambs or The Fabulous Baker Boys or maybe something else back then, but not any more sadly.


        • Agreed on PW. It was basically Julia Roberts’ cooronation as the new Rom com queen. Few actresses had what it takes to sell a fairy tale about a call girl.

          Just about every actress in Hollywood turned Demme down for Silence of the Lambs including Meg Ryan. Why? It was perceived as to violent. And much of the violence was against women. It was seen as a dirty little exploitation movie. No one had any idea it would turn out like it did. Demme did NOT want Foster and kept trying to cast someone else. But no one else was both interested and available.


      • 8 Actor Replacements In Movie Sequels That Totally Sucked:


        8. Jodie Foster/Julianne Moore – Clarice Starling

        You have to hand it to Julianne Moore: she has some serious balls. When you consider the fact that she agreed to step into the role that won Jodie Foster some of the highest praise of her career (not to mention an Oscar), you can’t help but admire the actress for her gusto. But Foster owned Clarice Starling in the same way that Anthony Hopkins owned Hannibal Lecter. Comparisons were inevitable, but Moore doesn’t quite pull it off.

        That’s not to say she’s terrible, or even bad. But secure in the knowledge that Hannibal is an official sequel to Silence of the Lambs (Hopkins reprised his role, presumably because it was so much fun), you don’t really get the sense that Moore is supposed to be playing the same character. And maybe that’s not her fault, exactly: both the script and the movie are far weaker here, so she was going to suffer. Still, Jodie made Clarice feel like a real FBI agent, whereas Moore feels more like an actress pretending to be one.


        • I blame the script and directing for Hannibal. I won’t say it was horrible. But the movie was very different in tone from Silence of the Lambs. I have heard people argue that the movie is taken from Hannibal’s warped point of view and shouldn’t be taken literally. So this is how he sees Clarice as opposed to how she really is (as we saw her in Silence).

          Personally, I choose to pretend Hannibal doesn’t exist.


          • The Cinefiles: THE HANNIBAL LECTER SAGA!

            Yo, man! How about some Chianti? How about some fava beans? Yo, yo, yo. Jeff returns to the discussion table as the boys wax on about MANHUNTER, HANNIBAL, RED DRAGON and HANNIBAL RISING. Word.


          • Try reading the book…if you have enough balls. If they had followed the book it would have been equal to the first movie. I suspect the reason some of these people passed on these movies was because the books are so…terrifying. I mean very well written stories about twisted minds that most most people never knew existed. Sensitive, introspective people don’t want to have anything to do with this level of psychopathy. I was shocked and horrified with all the books. Read them all in just a few days. And could not sleep for months afterward. It’s like looking into the sun.

            The beautiful and talented Julian Moore had a tough row to hoe trying to follow up to Jodie Foster. Where the first movie had the shock value, the sequels seemed to “chicken out” for fear of chasing the audience away.

            I would never judge anyone for distancing theirselves from this subject matter. It’s not healthy.

            Brad Deal

            PS. We cannot have a complete discussion of the Hannibal series without including Michael Mann’s original, Man Hunter.


            • jeffthewildman

              Manhunter is my favorite of the Hannibal films, slightly ahead of Silence. After those two, there’s a huge drop-off in quality.

              Hannibal changed a lot from the book and I suspect that the reason for it may have been that the filmmakers and the studio feared that audience members who hadn’t read it would not accept the ending of the book in film form.

              Manhunter is a very effective thriller although those who are going into it for the first time should be aware that Lecter isn’t the focal point, In essence, he’s in it for an extended cameo. In Red Dragon (the remake), they added more scenes with Lecter including a few that weren’t in Harris’s novel. The prime focus of Manhunter is Will Graham and the toll his hunt for the Tooth Fairy takes on him. Brian Cox’s Lecter isn’t as iconic as Hopkins. But he plays him in a way that builds a higher level of unease. He gives him a sort of understated menace that in some ways makes him more terrifying.

              Of course, most of the post Silence Lecter films pushed the character into cartoon territory.


        • Julianne Moore: 5 Awesome Performances And 5 That Sucked:


          1. Clarice Starling – Hannibal

          Hannibal is such a weird clash of genres and crew that it really has no business actually being a film. Directed by Ridley Scott, written by David Mamet and produced by Dino De Laurentiis, it’s a cinematic Frankenstein’s monster and by god, it shows. The Silence of the Lambs was like lightning in a bottle – it came from nowhere, scared the hell out of everybody and cleaned up at the Oscars. Hannibal, however, was a lot more disappointing and heralded the start of the demise of the Hannibal Lecter films. The main problem stems from Julianne Moore, though, who just can’t grasp the character of Clarice Starling and comes off looking like a Jodie Foster imitator.

          We never really believe that Moore is in any danger from Lecter because she doesn’t have Foster’s naive innocence, instead plays Starling as more of a badass. It’s a jolting contrast from the meek individual who cried after letting off her gun in The Silence of the Lambs, and it’s ever-so-slightly jarring. It also doesn’t help that her accent is all over the place as she tries to imitate Foster and bring her own things to the character. It’s a noble effort, but unfortunately just doesn’t work. She’s at her best when she’s taking on Lecter face-to-face and relishes her scenes with Ray Liotta and Anthony Hopkins, but these scenes are few and far between.

          Again, this is just a case of her being the wrong person for the role. We appreciate what they were trying to do with the character but it just came off phoney and resulted in a disappointing film.


  34. Pfeiffer is another actress who married pretty well- David E Kelley produced a ton of TV shows The Practice, Boston Public, Chicago Hope- and she can spend time with her family if she doesn’t like the roles being offered.

    Oh- my brother has her as a client/customer- I don’t know the ethics involved so I will keep the details to myself.

    I’m sure I can say he really likes her- thinks she is smart and down to earth.


    • Always good to hear positive feedback about one of my favorites. She strikes me as being pretty down to earth. But you just never know when someone will pop up with a diva story.


  35. Re-watched Baker Boys during this Christmas break. Really, just amazing, it’s one iconic movie that stands up well to the passage of time. The use of light and general cinematography from beginning to end about makes me hyperventilate and then we have the slamdunk acting chops trio of Bridges brothers plus Michelle. So glad to have this in my permanent collection!


  36. I sense that Michelle has incurred real damage from “The Family.” Also, at one the movie’s premiers Michelle stated that she intends to be very busy in her career now that her son has entered college. Nonetheless, “Whatever Makes You Happy” and “Man Under” appear to be stuck on the launching pad. Michelle has gone eerily silent once more. The graph of her stock value on HSX has gone steadily downward. She has long been one of my favorite actresses and I miss seeing her with activity. LeBeau, what the hell is happening?


    • I think you’re right. The Family looked like it had potential to bring Pfeiffer back into the spotlight. Not A-list, but starring roles in mainstream movies. When it flopped, it too a lot of the wind out of the sails of her comeback. Which is a shame. But, I think we’ll see her again soon. Maybe the next movie will connect.


  37. I’m now wondering if Annette Bening, the woman whom Michelle replaced as Catwoman in “Batman Returns” deserves a WTHHT:


    Except for The Grifters, in which she was great, the rest of Bening’s career consists of scenery chewing which would make you think she had just escaped from a North Korean internment camp.

    by: Anonymous reply 5 01/06/2014 @ 03:01PM

    Bening has given some memorable performances but also some pretty terrible ones. She is a talented but uneven actress who needs very firm direction, and lots of it. As far as her marriage, how many wonderful performances has Beatty given in the past 20 years?

    All told, I think she’s had a good run of it. We can’t all be Meryl.

    by: Anonymous reply 8 01/06/2014 @ 03:04PM

    Yeah, Bening is rather inconsistent. But she never hit the top, regardless. That’s the point. But maybe the lack of consistency/discipline or whatever was as much the issue with her career as Beatty was.

    by: OP reply 44 01/06/2014 @ 04:23PM

    Annette Bening made the choice early on to stay away from commercial films without what she considered to be high artistic merit. She came close to doing FREAKY FRIDAY and dropped out anyway and that script was about as good as family friendly studio movies get.

    by: Anonymous reply 84 01/06/2014 @ 05:40PM

    And speaking of Michelle Pfeiffer….:
    I’d put Michelle Pfeiffer on the list – not just because of motherhood, but due to her dedication to big screen “Lifetime” movies from the mid 90s onwards.

    by: Anonymous reply 48 01/06/2014 @ 04:27PM


  38. I’ve always had a high regard for Michelle Pfeiffer’s ability, and and her natural beauty is a real bonus. I’m a sucker for 1980’s films and atmosphere, so I’ve always liked “Tequilla Sunrise”, but I’ve also viewed “Into The Night” numerous times (I enjoy the quirkiness of it all).


    • I have watched Into the Night quite a few times as well. It’s not a great movie. But for me, Pfeiffer really makes the movie. Probably my favorite from that era was Married to the Mob. If you like the quirkiness of Into the Night, you should love MttM.


  39. Didn’t Pfeiffer voice Eris in the 2004 Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas?


  40. Michelle is so hot that any mere mortal man would burst into flames if she were to make casual eye contact. Most beautiful women are nut jobs. They never aspire to their full potential because their beauty makes everything so easy for them. Michelle however, after 30-35 years is still here, still naturally beautiful, and competent. Is a career a sprint or a marathon?

    There is no telling what goes through the mind of a woman like this when picking a movie.

    “Dear, have you seen that script that came in the other day from Martin?” “I put it on the pile with the other ones in the study…”


    “Dear, Gary called and said he was sending over a new script. Make sure you don’t lose it, I need this one to keep up with Meg!”

    Who knows the minds of women.

    But,,,Oh, but the catnip, the catnip. I want to luxuriate in the catnip.

    A brief departure from reality and back to real life…off to work.

    Thanks for the article. I think I enjoyed the comments more than the article, which is a testament to the subject matter and the provocation the article evokes from the readers.

    Brad Deal


  41. Interesting video podcast from Grantland.com (Michelle is a major topic):


    (it would not let me embed the link to make it clickable for some reason)

    This whole podcast is about actresses and rom-coms/careers. I would recommend you skip ahead to the Michelle part at about 1:01:50 or so.


  42. michelle i feel has potential. i think she work with tim burton again he bring out the best in her even though dark shadows sucked. He can give her a dark gritty role


  43. i noticed how alot of the actors in the site had a role in batman films. Such as kilmer,keaton,michelle,carrey, kidman ,chris o donnell, silverstone and arnold lol maybe there should be an article how batman movies hurt actors career lol


  44. i could of sworn i saw o donnell there well u have an idea for next article.it seems like bale clooney are the only actors that played batman and had a successful career


  45. uma thurman i forget another actress who appeared in batman


  46. i think richard gere should be on the list he has had a lot of flops hasn’t had a hit since Chicago that was 12 years ago. the only hits he had were days of heaven american gigglo officer and genrlte runaway bride pretty women and chicago five hits out of so many movies he had more flops then hits like mothmen and autem in new york. He needs one


  47. 1989’s Best Actress-winning performance highlighted a film many would rather forget:


    by Mike D’Angelo

    Truly great acting is seldom recognized in its own time—at least officially, with trophies and such. Performance Review takes a retrospective, highly opinionated look at past award-winners. Each entry focuses on a specific category in a given year, in several different awards ceremonies, in an effort to determine the year’s most criminally overlooked performance.
    Best Actress, 1989

    • Academy Award: Jessica Tandy, Driving Miss Daisy

    Driving Miss Daisy wasn’t exactly considered progressive even at the time of its release, and it had the further misfortune of coming out the same year as Spike Lee’s incendiary Do The Right Thing, which made writer Alfred Uhry seem even more irrelevant with his warm, nostalgic memories of dignified African-American subservience. The most charitable way to look at the film (or the play, since it’s still being produced these days) is not as social commentary, or even as a reminiscence, but as a vehicle (literally, much of the time) for two actors to have fun with an odd-couple bonding narrative. Tandy’s age (she was 80 when she won) and rich Hollywood history (dating back to 1932) made her the sentimental favorite that year; she didn’t pick up any of the major critics’ awards, and her performance as Miss Daisy hasn’t really endured. All the same, she’s a pleasure to watch in the role, finding just the right balance of imperiousness and vulnerability.

    Driving Miss Daisy works best as a droll comedy—when Uhry strives for gravity, it risks seeming patronizing—and Tandy’s nervous energy bounces beautifully off Morgan Freeman’s unflappability, particularly during the early scenes in which Miss Daisy is critical of every single thing Hoke does, as well as things she’s merely concerned that he might do. At no point does she telegraph her awareness that the character is faintly ridiculous, which is always a strong temptation for an actor playing a potentially unsympathetic person. Tandy was a class act for her entire career—she kept working right up until her death five years later—and while this wasn’t necessarily the best performance by an actress that year, it’s hard to begrudge her the belated recognition, arriving four decades after she won a Tony as the original Blanche Du Bois (opposite Brando) in A Streetcar Named Desire. Not a bad legacy at all.

    • New York Film Critics Circle: Michelle Pfeiffer, The Fabulous Baker Boys

    Many iconic performances are embodied in the cultural consciousness by key lines of dialogue. “You talkin’ to me?” “You know how to whistle, don’t you?” “Get to the choppa!” But Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys lives on for most people as a slinky red dress sliding over a grand piano. It’s easy to forget, if you haven’t seen it in a long time, that there was more to the movie—and to Pfeiffer’s terrific work therein—than that one intensely erotic scene. For one thing, the character’s name is Susie Diamond, and she’s written like a woman named Susie Diamond, and Pfeiffer plays her, to the hilt, like a woman named Susie Diamond. For an actress embarrassed that she got her big break in Grease 2, it must have seemed like an opportunity to demonstrate that she could pull off Sandy and Rizzo at the same time; she’s pure lusciousness behind the microphone, sarcastic and world-weary offstage. Her best scenes are the ones in which Susie talks candidly about her former life as an “escort,” and while she’s given valuable assistance by Jeff Bridges (one of the best silent listeners in the business), it’s remarkable how she can make a lengthy, here’s-my-psyche-in-a-nutshell monologue and sound natural and impromptu, while still coming across as delectably movie-star glamorous. She also did her own singing, and while her versions of “Makin’ Whoopee” and “My Funny Valentine” won’t make anyone forget Ella Fitzgerald, she’s good enough to make it credible that Susie’s presence would resuscitate the Baker Boys’ floundering act. All three of the critics’ groups named her Best Actress (though the L.A. critics ended up with a tie; see below), and she won the dramatic Golden Globe as well, with Tandy taking Comedy/Musical. Does anybody remember much more than the piano-as-mattress moment, though, 25 years later? I wonder.

    • Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Andie MacDowell, Sex, Lies, And Videotape and Michelle Pfeiffer, The Fabulous Baker Boys

    LAFCA went with Pfeiffer as well, but also found room for the year’s most unexpected triumph. When Steven Soderbergh cast Andie MacDowell in his debut feature, he was well aware that she wasn’t highly regarded; writing in his journal at the time, he described the reaction from his casting agent as “Uh-oh, Steven fell for the model.” And the truth is that MacDowell has rarely distinguished herself elsewhere. She tends to lean hard on the same faintly irritating mannerisms in various rom-coms and second-tier dramas. (Her appearance in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts verges on awful; thankfully, it’s a huge ensemble film.) Apparently, though, Soderbergh is some kind of wizard who can coax great performances from actors who can’t really act (including, on the actress side, Gina Carano, Debbie Doebereiner, Sasha Grey, and arguably Jennifer Lopez).

    MacDowell is sublime as Ann Mullany in Sex, Lies, And Videotape, right from the opening scene, in which she blushes and stammers and can’t keep from laughing when Ann’s therapist asks her whether she masturbates. It’s a gorgeously realized portrait of sexual repression, deftly avoiding the usual pitfalls involved in playing bottled-up types; Ann comes across not as a withered husk but merely as someone whose libido has never quite been fully charged, until now. As Soderbergh himself noted (during shooting, no less), MacDowell needed to walk a fine line between a lack of self-awareness and outright stupidity, and she almost never falters. She only strains for effect when she’s required to be angry, though it probably also helps that Soderbergh opted to ditch most of the dialogue he wrote for Ann and Graham (James Spader) in their final scenes together. In any case, this performance seems even more like a miracle in hindsight.

    • National Society of Film Critics: Michelle Pfeiffer, The Fabulous Baker Boys

    Pfeiffer must have known it was her year when even the NSFC couldn’t come up with some relatively obscure pick instead of her. The year’s other Oscar nominees besides Tandy and Pfeiffer fall squarely in the “solid” category, though it’s significant that one of them was in a foreign language—still rare to this day, even though subtitles have become much more commonplace on television. Isabelle Adjani does ferocious work in the title role of Camille Claudel, despite being stuck in a standard biopic that requires her to skip from one emotion to another as the historical record dictates; she’s frequently mesmerizing to watch, but director Bruno Nuytten (then Adjani’s offscreen partner) clearly believes that tempestuous behavior is a magical cure-all for narrative torpor, and leans on her energy a bit too hard.

    The category was rounded out by one perennial and one newcomer. Jessica Lange gives good anxiety in Music Box, as an attorney defending her father from charges of Holocaust-related war crimes. The role (written by Joe Eszterhas, a few years before he turned into a punchline) is one-dimensional, and the film (directed by Costa-Gavras) has largely been forgotten, but Lange manages to dig in and find a few gut-wrenching moments as her character struggles to come to terms with a grim family history. And then there was Pauline Collins, reprising her award-winning (Tony, Drama Desk, etc.) stage performance in Shirley Valentine, a pleasant bit of fluff about a British housewife emotionally liberated by a vacation in Greece. It’s fair to say that Collins owns the role, but it’s also fair to say that she’s playing a dotty wish-fulfillment fantasy figure with no rough edges or hidden substance. Amusing, but nothing more.

    • Performance Review’s Most Overlooked: Winona Ryder, Heathers

    [Full disclosure: I know Daniel Waters, who wrote Heathers, very slightly. He participates in an annual survey I conduct, I’ve been to a couple of parties at his house, and he read a screenplay I wrote. We’re in touch maybe twice a year. Had no bearing on my choice here, I firmly believe, but I note it for the record anyway.]

    Though Winona Ryder made a bit of a splash in 1988 in Beetlejuice, in which she’s hilariously deadpan (befitting a character who starts out more interested in death than life), she truly became a star when she landed the lead role in one of the most demented high-school comedies ever made. “My teen-angst bullshit has a body count,” Veronica Sawyer scribbles into her diary at one point. Ryder, playing the sardonic nucleus of Heathers’ over-the-top orbital mayhem, introduced a new variety of adolescent heroine—Molly Ringwald crossed with a mean girl. The movie’s deck is admittedly stacked in Veronica’s favor, as she’s surrounded by broad caricatures who are at best merely horrible, at worst lethally dangerous. Still, Heathers asks viewers to identify with someone who’d be the token weirdo in a normal teen movie, à la Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club, and Ryder succeeds in making her simultaneously abrasive and likable, mostly by carefully modulating her performance relative to the other actors. In scenes involving the Heathers, she places herself at a phlegmatic remove, channeling Barbara Bel Geddes in Vertigo; when Veronica is alone in her room, narrating her thoughts, the intensity meter goes into the red. And she finds the happy medium opposite Christian Slater’s J.D., reveling in “harmless” bad behavior until self-awareness of her naïveté transforms her into an avenging Fury. In fact, the role pretty much exhausted her range, which she’s spent the rest of her career struggling to expand, taking wildly un-Veronica roles in films like Edward Scissorhands and The Age Of Innocence. Apart from the Chicago Film Critics Association and the fledgling Indie Spirit awards, however, nobody paid much attention at the time. “The extreme always seems to make an impression,” J.D. tells Veronica. Not in this case, for whatever reason.


  48. she is strong actress she will make a comeback she still has appeal and bar non is probaly the most sucessful actress on the list


  49. Derailed Film Stars: Retracing Michelle Pfeiffer:


    Michelle Pfeiffer recently starred alongside Robert De Niro in Luc Besson’s latest crime drama The Family. This is proof that, well, it ain’t over, till it’s over. The film may not have achieved massive box office success, nor was it a critically-acclaimed masterpiece, but it’s not like she’s headed for Dancing with the Stars or something equally horrifying. Michelle Pfeiffer is a true Hollywood talent. The three-time Oscar nominee got her early start as a beauty pageant queen, but it wasn’t that pretty face that won over movie audiences around the globe. Pfeiffer has always commanded a stage, and a scene, which is why many of us are still rooting for her Daryl Hannah/Kill Bill-style comeback. As we patiently await a casting announcement in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming The Hateful Eight, let’s take a look back at some of her most memorable performances.

    The Birth of an Icon

    Even a fearless, ruthless drug kingpin like Tony Montana had his weakness, and Elvira Hancock was it. In 1983, Al Pacino stunned movie-goers in Scarface, and Michelle Pfeiffer stunned everyone with her ability to be the seemingly vapid, fierce, unattainable, and unforgettable Elvira. Celebrity women everywhere are still requesting that iconic Michelle Pfeiffer elevator look, but to no avail. There can only be one.

    Big Hair, Big Dreams

    Married to the Mob was such a huge deal — as was the Angela de Marco style — women in jumpsuits with big hair actually looked cool… if only for a moment. Pfeiffer had traded in the heroin chic look from Scarface to play a mob widow who ended up developing an unlikely relationship with the detective on her trail. Now, more than twenty years later, there’s a collection of VH1 Mob Wives who have Pfeiffer to thank for their 15-20 minutes of fame. Jonathan Demme would go on to direct major cinematic achievements, with Philadelphia and Silence of the Lambs. Let’s hope he hits up an old friend for his next project.

    Tic, Tac, Toe

    It’s interesting to look back at one of the most beloved Catwomen, now that the new FOX series, Gotham, is underway, and we’ve met Camren Bicondova (who is, at least in terms of physical makeup, an eerie Pfeiffer clone). Years from now, superfans will continue to debate about who was the greatest — Eartha Kitt? Pfeiffer? Anne Hathaway? (Yes, someone will name Hathaway… and maybe Halle Berry.) This version of Selina Kyle/Catwoman was unique because she instantly became a favorite among comic book nerds, feminists, and pretty much everyone else. This role is hugely important for Pfeiffer — and for understanding her fascinating career — because audiences learned that she could get weird, dark, and twisted beyond belief. Batman Returns introduced us to a new brand of Pfeiffer, of which we saw far too little as the years passed.

    Southern Comfort

    Earning one of her three Oscar nominations, Pfeiffer proved that she could fuse the slightly deranged with the dramatic in Love Field. Her performance as Lurene Hallett put a brilliant spin on the historical context of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and the celebrity status of his widow Jackie Kennedy. Hallett was an obsessed housewife whose compulsions resulted in a great story where race, politics, crime, family, and fame in 1960s America all gathered under one plot.

    Armed and Dangerous

    Coolio may have become the breakout star of Dangerous Minds, thanks to his hit song, “Gangster’s Paradise,” but Pfeiffer delivered a powerful performance as ex-marine-turned-inner-city-teacher, LouAnne Johnson. She was tough as nails, and she delivered a mean monologue.


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