The Complete Evolution Of Michelle Pfeiffer

Ever since the '80s, Michelle Pfeiffer has been a household name. After shooting to fame in the "Grease" sequel, she quickly landed roles in "Scarface," "The Witches of Eastwick," "Dangerous Liaisons," and "The Age of Innocence." By 1992, she had already picked up three Oscar nominations, becoming one of the most sought-after leading actresses of her generation.

After a brief hiatus from Hollywood in the 2010s, Pfeiffer returned to the big screen in 2017 with roles in "Deceit," "Mother!," and "Murder on the Orient Express." She also joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a role in the "Ant-Man" films and, in 2022, played Betty Ford in Showtime's "The First Lady."

It's safe to say that Pfeiffer's career has simply gone from strength to strength over the past four decades. If you are curious about her personal and professional journey so far, read on to learn more about the evolution of Michelle Pfeiffer.

Michelle Pfeiffer was a self-proclaimed rotten kid

Michelle Pfeiffer was born on April 29, 1958, and grew up in Orange County, California. Although she would one day become one of the most glamorous actresses in Hollywood, as a child, she wasn't exactly glamorous. In fact, she was a self-proclaimed "rotten kid." As she told The Hollywood Reporter, "I was like the Mafia don of my elementary school." 

In another interview with Interview Magazine, she shared, "When I was very young I never thought I was attractive, because I was a tomboy and I was always the biggest girl in the class. I had a pixie and was always beating up the boys–if anybody ever needed someone to be beaten up they would come and get me to do it." By the sounds of things, Pfeiffer could not have been more different as a child — though it is clear she has always been tough — and that has never changed.

Michelle Pfeiffer learned a lot from her father

Like many of us, Michelle Pfeiffer learned a lot from her parents growing up. As the actor explained to The Times, one of her biggest influences as a child was her father, Richard, who worked in an air conditioning and heating business. 

According to Pfeiffer, she took after her father was something of a perfectionist. "He used to say to me, 'No matter what you do, do it to the best of your ability,'" she said. "He would give me little projects around the house." Sometimes, her father would purchase broken refrigerators to fix and sell as a side hustle. "My job was to clean them. They were nasty," she recalled. As a perfectionist, her father was never happy with her work. "And so typically I had to redo it."

It sounds like Pfeiffer carried this perfectionism into her adult life and acting career — it might just explain why all of her work is practically, well, perfect.

Michelle Pfeiffer started working at 14

Michelle Pfeiffer got her start in the world of work when she was still young. At just 14 years old, she began working as a cashier in a supermarket. Being employed at that young age taught her about the value of money. "I've been working since I was 14, and my father, being very conservative, has always been strict about my having a savings account," she told Interview Magazine.

But even then, she wanted more from her work. "I remember distinctly standing in the check stand in a fit of desperation and wanting to tell one of these customers where they could shove this cantaloupe. I thought to myself, 'What do you want to do with the rest of your life?'" she told E! News. "And it was acting." 

So, she left behind the cashier job and took part in a beauty pageant — and from there, she got her first agent. As she shared in a 2022 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, "I really owe my career to that woman who was upset about her cantaloupes."

Michelle Pfeiffer found fame with Grease 2

After plenty of small roles throughout the late '70s and early '80s, Michelle Pfeiffer finally got her big break with the leading role in 1982's "Grease 2," the long-awaited sequel to the famous musical, which went on to become a cult classic.

For Pfeiffer, the role was life-changing. "This project is and has always been so special to me and my history," she told James Cordon years later. However, as she went on to explain, landing such a big role was a grueling process. "It was a total fluke that I got that part," she said. "I went on a lark. My agent just said, 'Go.'" She recalled how the dance audition was "literally like 'A Chorus Line'" — a little intimidating for someone who wasn't even a dancer. And yet, somehow, she landed the part. 

Even though Pfeiffer was a newcomer, her co-stars could tell she was going to go far. "All I can tell you is my first day of working in the makeup chair sits down the most natural beauty I've ever seen. And that was Michelle Pfeiffer," recalled Didi Conn, who played Frenchy, to Entertainment Weekly. "I looked at her, and then I watched her work, and I thought, 'She's gonna be a big star. She's something special.'" Of course, she was right.

Michelle Pfeiffer's first marriage was difficult

In 1981, Michelle Pfeiffer married fellow actor Peter Horton, best known for starring in the series "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and "Thirtysomething." The marriage came to an end after seven years. As Pfeiffer later explained, she thinks that she and Horton hadn't been ready for marriage.

"I was 22," she told Interview Magazine. "I think my husband and I were both too young, and as we started growing up, our needs changed." She and Horton remained friends, which, as Pfeiffer said, made the divorce even harder. Interestingly, he actually helped her move out. "It wasn't bitter, and we talked every day on the phone. It was, in that sense, really difficult because we didn't have the anger to hide behind, the anger that covers up all the pain."

While the divorce may have been hard on Pfeiffer, she eventually moved on. "I forget I was even married before," she told Parade years later. In fact, the actor even forgot to tell her children about her first marriage for years.

Throughout the '80s, Michelle Pfeiffer's fame grew

After appearing in "Grease 2," Michelle Pfeiffer's career took off. The next year, she starred in Brian De Palma's "Scarface" opposite Al Pacino. Though Pacino didn't initially want Pfeiffer in the film, she received rave reviews and proved to the industry that she was capable of more than just musical sequels. Soon after, she landed roles in "Into the Night" with Jeff Goldblum, "Ladyhawke" with Matthew Broderick, the now cult classic "The Witches of Eastwick," and the acclaimed "Dangerous Liaisons."

As her fame grew, Pfeiffer had to adjust to life in the spotlight. She developed a reputation of being press-shy after one reporter claimed she was rude. However, as Pfeiffer explained to the Los Angeles Times in 1990, she simply wasn't used to being in the press. Plus, she still felt like the same small-town girl she was as a child. "On the one hand, I'm the same girl I was in Orange County and, on the other hand, I lead a very different life," she said. "So there is a discrepancy and there will always be a discrepancy. As a result of that, I think I'll always feel somewhat homeless . . . no matter where I am."

Michelle Pfeiffer landed another career-defining role in Batman Returns

Michelle Pfeiffer's career hit yet another high in 1992 when she starred in "Batman Returns" as Catwoman. The role ended up becoming one of her most iconic and best-known performances. However, there was a time when the part might have gone to someone else. As the actor explained on "The Tonight Show," the part initially went to Annette Bening, who dropped out when she became pregnant.

Luckily for Pfeiffer, the role was one she had always dreamed of playing — so Bening's pregnancy could not have come at a better time. As she told Jimmy Fallon, "I was obsessed with Catwoman since I was a little girl." She ended up being perfect for the role. As her co-star Michael Keaton gushed to The Hollywood Reporter, "She pulled off the almost impossible combo of sexy, ironic, tragic, dangerous and just plain good."

As it turns out, Pfeiffer loved playing Catwoman so much, she would potentially step back into the iconic role one day. "It would depend on the context but, yeah, I'd consider it," she said. Here's hoping!

Michelle Pfeiffer married David E. Kelley in 1993

In 1993, Michelle Pfeiffer married for a second time, this time to David E. Kelley, a writer and producer known for his work on projects like "The Practice," "Ally McBeal," and "Big Little Lies." The pair met on a blind date and quickly hit it off. Their relationship moved extra fast because Pfeiffer was in the middle of adopting a daughter when they met. "We had this child with us right away, and most people don't have that," she later told Good Housekeeping (via People). "But I really got to see [Kelley] in a situation that certainly would separate the boys from the men... It was sort of perfectly timed."

Nine years after tying the knot, Pfeiffer spoke about their healthy relationship. "We don't really shut the world out. We just get along," she told ABC News. "I think we want the same things for our children, want the same things out of our relationship, and we have a similar work ethic, you know, that we both love our work and we love to be challenged." 

As of 2023, the couple is still going just as strong as ever. In an adorable selfie posted on Valentine's Day 2023, the actor wrote simply, "We go together. My Valentine."

Michelle Pfeiffer's early career took place in a difficult era for women

As a woman in Hollywood working in the '80s and '90s, Michelle Pfeiffer experienced her fair share of misogyny and discrimination. "It was challenging for women of my generation to find their voices," she later told The Times. "And even though slowly, over time, we have been given more permission to speak up, if you grow up not really having your voice valued or heard or encouraged, the way you view yourself and your place, it's pretty set." 

Apparently, one male director was even shocked to find that she was intelligent, saying, "Wow, you're really smart." As a result of the sexism in Hollywood during her early career, Pfeiffer is still wary of the press. Looking back, Pfeiffer now realises that she was often treated poorly by high-powered men in the industry. Luckily, she sees a change in how women are becoming more supportive which, as she put it, wasn't always the case back then.

Michelle Pfeiffer's children changed her

Parenthood is life-changing for all of us — even for Michelle Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer became a mother in 1993 when she adopted Claudia Rose. She and her husband David E. Kelley had another child, John, one year later. 

The actor later told The Times that motherhood changed everything. For one thing, she quickly learned that perfectionism was impossible, "because there is nothing perfect about raising children, is there?" Motherhood also helped Pfeiffer think more about her family and less about herself. "Well, one thing that's great about having kids, especially given my career, is that it forces you out of your narcissism," she told Good Housekeeping (via People). "I mean, I'm in a career where my product is me. So it was nice to have something, someone, come along and take the focus off me. I really needed to give myself some distractions from myself."

By the sounds of things, motherhood really did bring a lot of change for Pfeiffer — but it was all change for the better.

Michelle Pfeiffer has taken some breaks from acting

Michelle Pfeiffer has been working in Hollywood for over four decades, but over the years, she has taken a few breaks. Most notably, she took a hiatus from 2003, when she voiced a character in "Sinbad," to 2007, when she returned, starring in not one but three films. Pfeiffer also stepped back from films between 2009 and 2011 and between 2013 and 2017.

Pfeiffer explained on "The Skinny Confidential Him & Her Podcast" that during her most recent break, she felt the need to step away because she wasn't sure which roles she should take. "I was also sort of in this in-between place," she said. "I sort of didn't feel like I was really a leading lady. I wasn't a grandma yet, but I, I wasn't also like an ingenue."

But figuring out her casting type wasn't the only reason why she took some breaks from her career. As the actor told Interview Magazine, she also chose to take time off because of her children. "I was pretty careful about where I shot, how long I was away, whether or not it worked out with the kids' schedule," she said. "And I got so picky that I was unhireable." Once her kids grew up, however, Pfeiffer slowly made a return to the screen.

Michelle Pfeiffer launched her own perfume line

In 2019, Michelle Pfeiffer decided to try something new, launching her own line of gender-neutral perfumes called Henry Rose, named after her children. It was her first major step in as an entrepreneur. 

As Pfeiffer later told The New York Times, she was initially cautioned against creating the line, but she persevered. "I was cautioned at the start that celebrity fragrances were not doing well, that people were not trusting them," she recalled. "It was important to me, because this isn't a licensing deal, that the brand would be able to stand on its own, that all the ingredients would be listed on the label. I didn't want to develop something that relied on my face or celebrity."

And that's exactly what she did with Henry Rose. In fact, take a quick glance at the brand's website and social media, and you'll see that Pfeiffer rarely uses her name or face to promote her perfumes. Fortunately, the technique has worked. In 2023, the brand even landed a series A investment, so it's sure to keep growing.

Michelle Pfeiffer became a vegan, then switched to paleo as she got older

Over the years, Michelle Pfeiffer has experimented with a variety of different diets. First, she tried out a vegan diet. When asked by Urbanette Magazine about her skincare routine, she explained that becoming a vegan had made a huge difference. "Eating a vegan diet — it's just so much healthier — and you avoid a lot of toxins that could age your skin and your body," she said. "I really noticed a difference in my skin not too long after switching to fully vegan." 

However, Pfeiffer later revealed to The Times that she eventually switched to a far less strict paleo diet — or, as she called it, a "paleoish" diet. The paleo diet consists of eating foods that humans are thought to have eating during the Paleolithic Era. Essentially, this means a lot of grains, legumes, and dairy, and no ultra processed foods. But by the sounds of things, Pfeiffer's approach to the diet isn't too intense. 

Michelle Pfeiffer finally feels confident on set

Michelle Pfeiffer has had a career that most actors could only dream of. However, it's only recently that she's actually felt confident. 

In her early career, Pfeiffer often felt insecure and unsure about her work. "I've always had this very love-hate relationship with acting," she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2022. "I've been yelled at more than once. Other times I'd just go off and cry." But finally, Pfeiffer feels like she's earned her spot in Hollywood's upper echelons. "I guess I feel like I have less to prove."

Now, Pfeiffer is no longer a bundle of nerves on set. As she explained, she used to spend the first day on set literally shaking — but not anymore. She told The Times that her newfound confidence came with age. "It's just getting older and more experienced," she said. Well, we're optimistic that this newly confident Pfeiffer will give us many more iconic roles in the years to come.