Tenacious Facts About Melanie Griffith, A Bona Fide Working Girl

Leigh Trudel

In Hollywood, few people have Melanie Griffith’s pedigree…or her tragedy. A shy child model turned teenage vixen, Griffith’s life was rife with drama—good, bad, and ugly. From her various high-profile marriages to her battle with a deadly addiction, Melanie Griffith has proven herself as one of the most enduring ladies in Hollywood, but at a price.


1. She Had A Famous Mother

Born in Manhattan, NY in 1957, Melanie Griffith had a charmed life from the very start. Her mother was none other than acclaimed actress Tippi Hedren, who worked most famously with director Alfred Hitchcock in The Birds, while her father was advertising executive Peter Griffith. Still, this beautiful childhood soon came to a crashing halt.

2. She Had A Wild Upbringing

Before the 1960s hit, Melanie’s parents had separated, and she spent most of her time with her mother. That’s when things got alarming. Tippi ended up founding the Shambala Animal Preserve—which mostly housed a variety of big cats—with her next husband Noah Marshall, and she took young Melanie with her. If that sounds dangerous for a young girl to be around…it really was.

Melanie Griffith FactsFlickr

3. She Almost Met A Violent Fate

Soon after moving into Shambala, Melanie’s life took a bizarre turn. Her stepfather Marshall decided to direct the action-comedy film Roar on the preserve, with Melanie and her mother making cameo appearances. It was anything but fiction: During one scene, a lion actually mauled Melanie so violently, she had to have facial reconstruction surgery.

The thing is, this wasn’t even the wildest part of Melanie’s childhood.

4. A Director Targeted Her

When Melanie’s mother Tippi was working with Alfred Hitchcock, the famous director had an unrequited crush on her—and he took it out on poor Melanie. After Hedren refused yet another of his advances, Hitchcock decided to send little Melanie, who was only four years old at the time, a little birthday “present” to remember him by. Its contents were utterly disturbing.

5. She Received A Terrifying Gift

When the innocent, unsuspecting Melanie opened her shiny new birthday present, she probably couldn’t help being freaked out. It was a wooden coffin, and inside was a wax doll…that looked exactly like her mother. Thanks for that, Mr. Hitchcock. Melanie’s life was downright disturbing before she was even a tween, so you can imagine what happened when she became a frisky teenager…

6. She Fell For Her Co-Star

With a heritage like hers, it’s no surprise Griffith started getting into acting, and by 1972 she was working as an extra in The Harrad Experiment. It would lead to one of the most scandalous relationships of her life. While on set, the barely teenaged Griffith fell for her co-star, Don Johnson, who was 22 years old at the time and much more mature than the naive Griffith.

Still, this gross fact didn’t stop the two young actors from falling deep into lust with each other, never mind the consequences. Oh, and there were consequences.

7. Her Own Mother Was Scared For Her

For one thing, Griffith’s mother Tippi Hedren was beside herself when she saw how loopy her daughter was acting around the suave Johnson; as Hedren later put it about watching Melanie get together with him “There was just sheer panic.” As it happened, though, Hedren wasn’t just being an overprotective mother. She very much had a right to panic.

8. She Had An Adult Awakening

Griffith and Johnson had an intense and passionate love—much too intense. Johnson introduced Griffith into adulthood in more ways than one, and when they weren’t on set together, the two lovebirds partied hard across Hollywood. It wasn’t long before they both burned out, which is maybe why Griffith made a hasty, harebrained suggestion.

9. She Made An Indecent Proposal

Griffith’s love for Johnson might have been fierce and fiery, but she still knew when they were falling out of touch. Besides the two of them constantly nursing hangovers, Johnson also admitted to seeing other women while they were together. Griffith’s response was eyebrow-raising. In order to save the relationship, Griffith suggested that they…tie the knot. Yep. And the way she did it was beyond heartbreaking.

10. Her Lover Was Cruel

When Griffith got the idea that only marriage would save her relationship, she called up Johnson in the early morning hours to tell him her plan. Only, there was a cruel truth she didn’t know: Johnson wasn’t exactly alone. As he admitted later, “I had been with [ex-Miss World] Marjorie Wallace most of the night.” Did this stop him from taking his girlfriend up on the offer? Heck no.

Despite his sins, Johnson said, “We professed undying love and flew to Las Vegas and got married.” Well, the damage was done…but the hurt wasn’t over.

11. She Married For The Wrong Reasons

While Johnson was sleeping with beauty pageant queens just before their marriage, Griffith wasn’t exactly in it for the right reasons, either. She later made a gut-wrenching confession. Even at the time, she knew they would never work, but she also couldn’t seem to shake Johnson. As she said, “I got married in order to end the relationship.”

The couple didn’t even last six months before divorcing. Suddenly Griffith was single…and making some more horrific choices.

12. She Rebounded Hard

Griffith’s rebound from her one true love Johnson really couldn’t have gone any worse. She took up with notorious Hollywood bad boy Ryan O’Neal, whose temper and abusive behavior would soon be splashed all over the tabloids. Griffith, however, likely had to find that out the hard way, and it wasn’t long before O’Neal drove her to an incredibly disturbing act.

13. She Pimped Out A Young Girl

According to Ryan’s daughter Tatum O’Neal, Griffith forced her into a harrowing ordeal. Perhaps hoping to impress Ryan with how cool and adult she was, Tatum claims that one night, Melanie actually pushed her into an orgy with French actress Maria Schneider and a male hairdresser. Thank God, that relationship fizzled out, but Griffith’s controversy only grew.

14. She Bared It All

In 1975, Griffith played a runaway in Night Moves, appearing nude in several scenes despite still being a teenager. It caused an uproar in the media, not to mention confusion: As one publication stated, “She has the body of a sensuous woman, the pouting, chipmunk face of a teenager, and the voice of a child.” But little did anyone know, behind the scenes Griffith was becoming too much of a woman, and too quickly.

15. She Had Demons

As Griffith started to become a sensation, she was hiding a dark secret. Even as a teenager, she was already addicted to alcohol, and had started drinking at the tender age of 10. Now in Hollywood, she started to take comfort in the bottle—or cocaine, or whatever else was on hand—whenever she could, from packed parties to her empty apartment. One day, it came to a disturbing climax.

16. She Got Into A Terrifying Accident

In 1980, Griffith was living it up as Hollywood’s newest ingenue when she found herself intoxicated and driving down the iconic Sunset Boulevard. The next terrifying moments were a blur. She got into a messy car crash and had to go into the hospital for treatment. When she eventually recovered, she swore she would do better for herself. It didn’t exactly work.

17. She Found Love

In 1981, on the set of She’s In The Army Now, Griffith met actor Steven Bauer. The two hit it off, and Bauer reportedly made Griffith want to lead a better life—a life, that is, without alcohol. For a time, it seemed to be going well, and the couple had a child, Alexander, a few years later. But if Griffith thought a child could cure her issues, she was so, so wrong.

18. She Slipped Up

Griffith still struggled with alcoholism throughout her marriage, and it didn’t help that she and Bauer weren’t compatible in the long term. Although they kept it together for their son, Griffith soon found herself utterly depressed and drinking herself to sleep. When they finally split for good, Griffith’s loneliness drove her even nearer to the brink. As she put it, “If I wasn’t with someone, I was an unhappy girl.”

Though she was spiraling out of control, her next opportunity would change her life forever.

19. She Hit It Big

When Griffith heard about auditions for Mike Nichols’ upcoming office rom-com Working Girl, she was eager to get the part of the crafty secretary Tess McGill. It was an uphill battle: The studio execs wanted a big name like Demi Moore, but Griffith fought tooth and nail and eventually won the part. It was the role of a lifetime…and it almost derailed her entire career.

20. She Was Hugely Unprofessional

When Griffith got onto the Working Girl set, she went absolutely wild. As Griffith admits, “It was the late ‘80s. There was a lot going on party-wise in New York,” and it was pretty much exactly what she didn’t need. It unraveled so quickly. Before long, she earned a reputation for showing up to work drunk or heavily hungover. And then the crew made a chilling discovery.

21. She Snuck Around On Set

Although everyone knew Griffith was a hard-partying loose cannon, it took until the shoot was fully underway to realize just how rogue she had gone. One day, director Mike Nichols called up his aide and informed him that “Melanie was clearly high.” Soon after, the crew learned that Griffith was actually having her drugs delivered to her trailer while she was working. Oof. And then it went from bad to worse.

22. She Almost Lost Everything

During the production, Griffith went out to play pool with co-star Alec Baldwin. She proceeded to drink herself silly and then topped her hangover off with a bit of vodka. The result was disastrous. Griffith showed up to set so out of it that Mike Nichols shut down production for the day, and would barely even talk to her. If embarrassment wasn’t enough to set Griffith straight, Nichols had a plan that would certainly make her think twice about drinking on his set ever again.

23. She Had To Atone

The day after Nichols shut down production, he met with Griffith for breakfast. In the meeting, Nichols told Griffith that she would have to pay a whopping $80,000 for the time she had cost the cast and crew in the lost shooting hours. Griffith remembered, “They wanted to get my attention and they really did.” She tried her best to mend her ways (again), yet temptation was just around the corner.

24. She Became A Star Overnight

In the end, all of Griffith’s partying somehow paid off, and her performance in Working Girl earned her both a Golden Globe and a nomination for an Academy Award. Suddenly, Griffith went from “Hollywood daughter” to a genuine A-list actress, and she started getting plum roles left, right, and center. But with these accolades came ever more parties and access to substances…so, wanting to avoid those old bad habits, Griffith fell into another one.

25. She Had To Go To Rehab

Shortly after wrapping Working Girl, Griffith checked herself into rehab. A surprise met her on the way out. Her ex-husband and long-lost love Don Johnson. He, too, had gotten himself clean, and the pair were now more in touch than ever, with Johnson offering her advice for her recovery. One thing led to another, and soon they had reignited their flame. This time, it would be different…or so they told themselves.

26. She Rekindled An Old Romance

Griffith and Johnson picked up where they had left off, and after a very brief courtship, they married in 1989, right after her divorce from Steve Bauer officially went through. With Johnson, Griffith had her second child, now-famed actress Dakota Johnson. Now, Griffith had everything she could have ever wanted. Which meant it could never last.

27. She Couldn’t Make It Work

After four years of marriage, Griffith and Johnson met another heartbreaking end. Although they tried as hard as they could to make it work and deeply loved each other, Johnson simply couldn’t keep his addictions at bay, while Griffith struggled to stay sober beside him. In 1996, they divorced for the second and final time. Then again, there might have been one more reason for the split…

28. She Had A Not-So-Secret Admirer

Hollywood’s a small world, so it is no surprise that heartthrob Antonio Banderas ran into Griffith in 1989 at the Academy Awards. As Griffith remembered, “The first thing he asked me was my age. I said, ‘That’s the rudest thing anyone has asked me first.’ But there was something about him.” Meanwhile, Griffith must have made an impression herself, because Banderas remained completely enamored with her well into the 90s.

The pair met once again on the set of Two Much in 1995 and this time, they both fell for each other. Uh, except there were two big problems.

Melanie Griffith FactsTwo Much (1995), MGM

29. She Was A Homewrecker

When Griffith reconnected with Banderas on Two Much, they were both married, she to Johnson and Banderas to Ana Leza. Well, for long; they both jumped with both feet into the tryst, eventually leaving their spouses. And while Griffith split from Johnson mostly amicably, Banderas’s wife had a much crueler response. She accused Griffith of “stealing” her husband.

30. She Found Stability

Griffith and Banderas powered through the controversy and tied the knot in 1996, again right after both their divorces went through. Together with Banderas, Griffith had her third child, daughter Stella Banderas. Though she had already raised two children, Griffith later admitted that she never could have managed her career and personal life without Banderas’s unwavering love. Despite this, the two made an odd decision.

31. She Loved Her Money

After marrying Johnson (twice) and Bauer, Griffith was a married woman of wisdom. Even though her relationship with Banderas was thriving, the two decided to keep their finances separate for the first eight years of their marriage. I suppose one can never be too careful, but there was another problem that would cost Griffith a lot more than money.

32. She Fell Back On A Vice

In 2000, Griffith’s world turned upside down again.  Admitting that she had “an addictive personality,” Griffith now found herself at the mercy of prescription pain medications after taking them following a neck injury. She once more grew dependent on the substances and had to go through rehab again. Still, Griffith did not struggle alone.

33. She Had A Good Support System

Throughout her trials with pain medication, Melanie Griffith had a steadfast partner in Antonio Banderas. The actor stood by Griffith and supported her when she was at her worst and, with Banderas’s help, she overcame one of the toughest times in her life. Still, during this time, it came out just how precarious their marriage already was.

34. Her Husband Nearly Left Her

When an interviewer asked him about any possible ultimatums in his and Griffith’s marriage during this time, Banderas admitted that he would have left Griffith had she not tried to come clean. As he said, “Without seeing the will in her to repair, you know, yeah.” Nonetheless, he added, “It’s a tough thing and she confronted it…she spent time [at rehab] and things became much better.” But despite his devotion, more problems popped up.

35. She Had A Change Of Heart

Griffith’s battle with addiction undoubtedly took a toll on her relationship with Banderas, but by 2004 the couple thought they were better than ever. Love must have trumped over reason because the two decided to change their financial agreement. They no longer worked for themselves but instead pooled their collective incomes together. Unfortunately, as we’ll see, this was a death knell. 

36. She Used Her Experience

In 1998, Griffith starred in Another Day in Paradise, where she played a carefree addict. Griffith drew from her own personal experiences for the film, which led to a performance so accurate it even impressed legendary film critic Robert Ebert. But even though she had delivered one of the best performances of her career, Griffith’s track record wasn’t perfect.

37. She Got A Lot Of Backlash

Giffith’s career took a downward turn toward the late 90s. Roles in films like Lolita, which was a complete box office flop, did little to further her career, while the flick Cecil B. Demented earned her a Golden Razzie nomination for Worst Actress and decimated her reputation. Well, you can’t win ’em all, Mel. Luckily, Griffith has a talent few people know about…

38. She Discovered A Hidden Talent

Some people have nightmares about going on stage, but not Melanie Griffith. In 2003, she rivaled Renee Zellweger when she performed on Broadway as Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago following the 2002 film release. Not only did Griffith’s performance receive rave reviews, but she revealed an untapped talent for singing. Take that, Golden Raspberry Awards.

Melanie Griffith FactsGetty Images

39. Madonna Wanted To Take Her Man

It may be a fact of life that when two people are happy, there’s always someone hoping to bring them down. As it happened, Banderas and Griffith had been fighting off a formidable love interest for years: None other than Madonna herself. Ever since Banderas and Madonna starred together in 1996’s Evita, the Queen of Pop had nursed an enormous crush on Banderas. And this being Madonna, she made that very clear.

40. She Had To Watch Her Back

Reportedly, Madonna told Banderas upfront about her designs on him, and rumors started flying on set about whether or not Banderas was going to betray Griffith and take Madonna up on it. The press had an absolute field day with the gossip, especially since Griffith was pregnant with their daughter Stella at the time. In the end, it was Griffith who felt the consequences.

Melanie Griffith FactsGetty Images

41. Producers Banned Her From Set

The producers on Evita surely didn’t want to take sides, but they also had a movie to make, and they could sense there was huge tension brewing between Madonna and Griffith over Banderas. It led to one shocking decision. Eventually, they banned Griffith from even visiting Banderas on set, which probably didn’t help matters at home.

42. She Struck Out…Again

Although Griffith and Banderas made it through Madonna’s advances, they couldn’t weather their other problems, and in 2014, they split. To the public, they claimed it was amicable, but they nonetheless cited “irreconcilable differences” on the divorce papers and have remained eerily silent or else vague about what led to their breakup. Once again, Griffith found herself alone…and she never made the best choices alone.

43. She Struggled With Her Image

Aging can be difficult for everyone, but Melanie Griffith found the process particularly challenging. It pushed her into a mistake she could never undo. When she reached middle age, she decided to have plastic surgery, opting for a facelift to get rid of her “unsightly” wrinkles. But when she woke up in the hospital room, she had to confront a horrible reality.

44. She Had A Botched Surgery

Simply put, Griffith’s face was no longer her own, and there was no denying that the doctor had botched the procedure. Griffith was heartbroken and insecure, and when news of her failed facelift hit the media, the press made it even worse. Rather than turn a blind eye, tabloid journalists openly criticized Griffith’s appearance, further shattering her self-image.

45. She Was Stuck

After her divorce from Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith confessed that she had felt stuck in a life she had no control over. With three (or actually four) failed marriages, three children, and the pressures of Hollywood, Griffith knew that she had to stop looking for happiness in others and find it in herself instead. This led her to an unconventional conclusion.

46. She Wants To Be Single Forever

The actress recently confessed that she hasn’t been in a serious relationship since Banderas, and has no plans to be in one. When someone asked about the potential for a marriage in the future, the actress stated, “I really don’t think it’s relevant for anyone anymore.” Griffith had a career and kids, but her past relationships stripped her of her confidence. Instead, she focused on a relationship no one saw coming.

47. She Found An Unexpected Friend

Determined to live life to the fullest, Griffith made it a habit to go out regularly, and one day met Khloe Kardashian through their mutual gym trainer. Kardashian then took it upon herself to introduce Griffith to her mother, Kris Jenner, thinking the two shared similar interests. It was serendipity, and Griffith and Jenner have been close friends ever since. Jenner even reportedly tries to set Griffith up on dates!

48. She Snubbed Her Daughter

In 2015, Dakota Johnson and Melanie Griffith attended the Oscars together and sparked an infamous red carpet moment. Johnson had just released the racy Fifty Shades of Grey, and though Griffith was clearly supportive of her daughter, she may not have been entirely pleased with the work itself. When the reporter asked if she would see the movie, Griffith answered that it would be “too weird” for her.

Perhaps Griffith should have opted for a white lie, because Dakota’s reaction was not pretty.

49. She Had An Awkward Interview

After Griffith rebuffed the idea of watching her daughter in the buff, Johnson insisted that it would be okay for her mother to see the film. The two then had an unpleasant and very public argument right there on the red carpet, with Johnson having a mild tantrum and Griffith finally conceding that she would see the film. Have your mom watch you get down and dirty? Sorry Dakota, but I’m team Griffith on this one.

50. She Remains An Inspiration

After over 50 years of experience, countless hardships, and a merciless illness, Melanie Griffith definitely earned her spot in Hollywood history. The Working Girl actress continues to inspire as she navigates a life free of addiction and full of opportunity. Though she may not always be in the spotlight, it’s undeniable that Griffith will go down as one of the most persistent and determined actors in Hollywood.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

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