Pfeiffer began her career with walk-on parts in TV series like Chips and Fantasy Island, appearing in TV movies until her big break in Grease 2, a film that has recovered a steady, if not undeserved cult reputation (it’s shit). But her true arrival came in Brian De Palma’s mob epic, Scarface, in which she was the only person with enough steel to stand up to Al Pacino’s crazed mobster, Tony Montana. It’s a ‘directed’ performance, but nevertheless, one that adds a great deal to the picture. She’s a coke-snorting heroine, of sorts, with her ice-cool veneer and slinky attire – she owns the screen. Scarface wasn’t followed up with anything similar, though Pfeiffer does carry that veneer through a lot of her performances. She’s the girl you can’t have. In a sense, she’s unwelcoming and a little cold. She gained warmth as she aged, but in her younger years, she made the men suffer. It’s part of what made her so appealing. She’s an ice-cool blonde with all the cards, but she ain’t playing.
She’s interviewed by Barbara Walters in the late 1980’s, and that standoffish side of her is a prominent aspect of her real-world character. She doesn’t like interviews and seems uncomfortable discussing herself and her life. Walters perseveres and gets to know her a little, but Pfeiffer isn’t fond of the fuss around her and craves her privacy more than anything. This bleeds into many of her performances – Scarface, Frankie and Johnny, The Fabulous Baker Boys. She doesn’t do many sex scenes, and if she does, they’re softcore and there’s no frontal nudity. Pffeiffer seems like a woman of high standards and morals. She’s a tease. She’s sexy, but she’s bored of that media pidgeon-holing and it seems to hold little value to her. She’s tough talking and smart. As an actress, she developed well over the years from someone who was initially hired as the dumb blonde (her words), to an actress able to hold her own on screen with legends like Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson.
Pfieffer’s Top 5 Performances
1. The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) – Wrapped in figure-hugging red velvet, crooning ‘Makin’ Whoopee‘ while sliding atop a grand piano, Michelle Pfeiffer turns a fine performance into something truly memorable.
2. Batman Returns
4. Married to the Mob
5. Tequila Sunrise