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 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.
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.