Michelle Pfeiffer is a fan favorite; she is beautiful, talented, and has starred in some of the most iconic roles of the last three decades. From her beginnings as the distant and brooding gangster moll in Scarface, to her famous turn as the slinky, sexy Catwoman in Batman Returns, and her recent menacing role in Mother!, she is a Hollywood mainstay. Known for her acting abilities as much as her beauty, Pfeiffer has been called "a character actress in a screen siren's body," and is noted for her ability to depict strong emotions and deep moods through the simplest of gestures. She is also a deeply private person and a dedicated family woman, known to take time out of acting to tend to her family and relationship. Find out more about this amazing actress in the following fantastic facts.
Michelle Pfeiffer Facts
44. A Varied Artist
Pfeiffer has practiced oil painting all her life and admits that if it wasn’t for painting, she may have made more movies.
43. Big Time
One of the most successful actors of the ‘90s, Pfeiffer joined Meg Ryan and Jodie Foster in the $12-million club in 1999, when she first received that much for a film.
42. Sports Slang
One weird fact about Michelle Pfeiffer is that her name has inspired a cricket term. When cricket players in Australia take all five wickets in an inning, they refer to it as “getting a Michelle.” Originally, they called it a “five for”—this sounded like “Pfeiffer” and thus became a “Michelle.”
41. Conscious Living
Michelle Pfeiffer is a dedicated vegan. She credits Bill Clinton and her father’s death from cancer as her inspiration to remove animal products from her diet, and she says it is also the key to her healthy aging.
40. Humble Beginnings
Before acting, Pfeiffer had jobs as a cashier in a grocery store and as a court stenographer.
39. Mustang Sally
Pfeiffer’s first car was a 1965 Mustang, which she remembers crashing as an “out of control” teen.
38. A Fan of the Classics
When it comes to watching films, Pfeiffer prefers the classics. Her favorite film is The Wizard of Oz.
37. Beauty Queen
She was encouraged to go into acting after winning the Miss Orange County beauty pageant and coming in sixth at the Miss California pageant. After the pageant experience she decided to get an agent and try her hand at acting.
35. In the Great Tradition
34. Musical Misses
Despite her talent and love of musicals, Pfeiffer has not gotten all the musical roles she has wanted. Although she was considered for both, two of the most notable roles she didn’t get were Eva Peron in Evita, which went to Madonna, and the lead role in Mamma Mia!, which eventually went to Meryl Streep.
33. Poetry Muse
Pfeiffer has dated some of Hollywood’s finest, but perhaps only one of her relationships resulted in published poetry. In 1987, Val Kilmer published a poetry collection called My Edens After Burns, which contains a poem inspired by their relationship. Amazingly, it is called “The Pfeiffer Howls at the Moon” and unfortunately, the book is now a collector’s item that sells for between $1,000 and $1,500.
32. High Achiever
For five consecutive years, from 1988 to 1993, Pfeiffer was nominated for Golden Globes. During her career, she has won the Best Actress Golden Globe as well as been nominated for a Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.
31. Activist and Philanthropist
Pfeiffer is well known also for her activism and philanthropy. She has participated in fundraising and the support of many causes, including cancer, children’s health, and the environment. In 2016, she joined the board of directors at Environmental Working Group, which focuses on farm subsidies, the use of toxic chemicals and their health effects, as well as fossil fuels.
30. Production Credits
From 1990 to 2000, Pfeiffer and her friends Kate Guinzburg and Mary Kohnert ran a production company called Via Rosa Productions. The name of the company is a play on Pfeiffer’s and Guinzburgs’s daughter’s names, Claudia Rose and Olivia. The company was very successful, producing many of Pfeiffer’s biggest hits, including Dangerous Minds and One Fine Day. Via Rosa focused on stories about strong women and developed scripts about women like Marianne Faithful, Georgia O’Keefe, and Heidi Landgraf.
29. Musically Talented
Pfeiffer loves doing musicals and has starred in several, including Grease 2, Hairspray, and The Fabulous Baker Boys. She has also performed musical numbers in many of her other movies.
28. Almost Working Girls
Pfeiffer was considered for a role alongside Meryl Streep in Working Girl, but the two roles eventually went to Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver.
27. Lost Romance
Years before working together on set as Batman and Catwoman, Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer had a brief affair. As they are both professionals, they had no trouble getting down to business and translating their past connection into onscreen chemistry for the film.
26. Hello Clarice
Before Jodie Foster was cast, Pfeiffer was the original choice for the role of Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. She finally turned it down because she thought the movie was too violent.
25. Cat Fight
Pfeiffer’s Catwoman in Batman Returns is now iconic but surprisingly, she wasn’t the original choice for the film. Pfeiffer auditioned and was greatly disappointed when she didn’t get the role. Annette Benning was set to star in the feline role but had to eventually back out because she became pregnant; at this point, Pfeiffer got the role that she wanted so badly. Other famous actors who were in the running for the role included Madonna, Cher, Raquel Welch, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Bridget Fonda.
24. Catwoman 2
Shortly before Batman Returns opened, Pfeiffer was signed on to star in a Catwoman spin-off film. The plans for the sequel meant that Warner Bros needed an ending where Catwoman was featured alive and well, so the studio had director Tim Burton shoot an extra final scene. In the scene, the shadow of Catwoman—actually a Pfeiffer body double—runs across an alley wall. Later, the back of Catwoman’s head is seen gazing up at the bat signal. Despite this awesome and expensive (it reportedly cost $250,000 to be made at the last minute) scene, the Catwoman sequel with Pfeiffer didn’t pan out, and family and work commitments kept her from continuing the role.
23. Early Days
Pfeiffer was born in Santa Ana, California and grew up Midway City, the second daughter in a traditional blue-collar family.
22. Which Witch
Despite Scarface now being considered as one of her greatest performances, Pfeiffer didn’t reach box office success until 1987, when she worked with Jack Nicholson, Cher, and Susan Sarandon in The Witches of Eastwick.
21. This Witch
Pfeiffer was able to reprise her role as a witch in the 2007 blockbuster Stardust, where she played the ancient witch Lamia.
20. Not That Witch
During the early 2000s, there was a period of time where Pfeiffer focused on her family and painting and didn’t make films. At this time, she turned down the role of the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The role went to Tilda Swinton.
19. Whip it Good
During her training for the role of Catwoman in Batman Returns, Pfeiffer learned kickboxing and martial arts. She also learned how to use a whip; however, in a training mishap, she accidentally cut her trainer’s face.
18. 2014 Pop Music Muse
In a strange coincidence, two pop songs on the charts in 2014 mentioned Michelle Pfeiffer: “Riptide” by Vance Joy and “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars.
17. What’s Going on in the Kitchen?
In a tie-in to her movie Dangerous Minds, Pfeiffer appears as a sultry and tough concerned teacher listening to Coolio’s gangster life confessions in his video for the song “Gangsta’s Paradise.” Shots of Pfeiffer are layered over other images from the movie, images of Coolio, and images of what might be considered a “young Coolio.” Dangerous Minds opened to mixed reviews but was ultimately a box office success.
16. Passed on Passion
Originally the film Passion of Mind was written with Pfeiffer in mind for the lead role, but due to scheduling conflicts, Pfeiffer had to pass. The role then went to Demi Moore.
In the mid-1970s, before her acting career took off, Pfeiffer performed as Alice from Alice in Wonderland in the daily parade at Disneyland.
14. Modern Family
Pfeiffer has two children: one adopted daughter, Claudia Rose, and one biological son, John Henry, with her husband David E. Kelley. Pfeiffer adopted her daughter Claudia Rose soon after her divorce from her first husband. She met her current husband, David E. Kelley, shortly after, who later also adopted little Claudia Rose. When asked about dating Kelley while also in the adoption process, Pfeiffer has said it really helped to “separate the boys from the men.” Pfeiffer also admits that they saw each other as parents from the very beginning, and it ultimately helped cement their bond.
13. Bad Cop
Pfeiffer, seemingly all sweet and smiling, claims that when it comes to child rearing she is actually the disciplinarian in the family and that Kelley is the good cop.
12. Personal Space
Pfeiffer is a very private person, and although she loves acting she openly dreads publicity work and living in the public eye. She thinks of herself as the “worst interviewee that ever was.” According to her, she gets very agitated and nervous during film promotion and ultimately doesn’t believe it is the actor’s responsibility to sell a film.
11. Date Nights
Known for her amazing marriage, a rarity in Hollywood, Pfeiffer gives the advice of always have respect for your partner, hold hands a lot, and be sure to have a date night once a week.
Pfeiffer gets her good looks from her mixed European background; she is the descendant of German, British, Irish, French, and Dutch family lines.
9. All the World’s a Stage
Pfeiffer is not limited to the silver screen; in 1989 she made her stage debut at the New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park. She played the role of Olivia in Twelfth Night.
8. Strange Practices
During her early days as an actor starting out in Hollywood, Pfeiffer fell prey to a manipulative couple who promised her training but in actual fact ran a cult. The couple taught the practice of breatharianism, which insists that one can survive without food or water, just by air and sun. Under their influence, Pfeiffer gave up much of her money to them but was later helped out of it by her first husband.
7. Grease Lightning
After a few television appearances, Pfeiffer got her first film role as the female lead in Grease 2, the sequel to the hit Grease, which starred Olivia Newton-John in the female role. Critics were receptive to Pfeiffer’s newcomer performance but unfortunately, the film flopped.
6. Highly Recommended
One of her more recent hits was her role as the villainess in the musical Hairspray. She starred alongside John Travolta, who requested she play the role.
5. Fake Racist
As she plays the role of a bigot in the film Hairspray, she had to deal with the ugly nature of the character. Pfeiffer sat down with her mixed-race family to help them understand the role’s bigger import and to be sure they were comfortable with her portrayal.
4. Lucky Strike
Pfeiffer met her second and current husband, David E. Kelly, on a blind date set up by her friend in 1993. Despite not being a very romantic evening—they went bowling!—something clicked. They have now been married for 24 years.
3. Second Thoughts
Pfeiffer recently admitted that during her and Kelley’s first date she thought he might be better for her sister, but her friend insisted they go out again.
2. Stage Fright
Although it may be the role that made her career, Pfeiffer has said that filming Scarface was an extremely hard experience and that she often felt terrified and would go to sleep crying.
1. Dangerous Liaisons
One of Pfeiffer’s earliest roles was playing the innocent and ill-treated Madame Marie de Tourvel in Dangerous Liaisons. She played opposite John Malkovich, who had the infamous role of the unprincipled Valmont. As might be expected on the set of a film about scandal, it was soon reported that the married Malkovich had begun an affair with Pfeiffer. The affair did not last, but neither did Malkovich’s marriage.