Michelle Pfeiffer is celebrating a milestone birthday.
The critically acclaimed actress turned 65 on Saturday. Having starred in many memorable films, including “The Witches of Eastwick,” “I Am Sam,” “Hairspray” and “Dark Shadows,” Pfeiffer has cemented her status as a Hollywood legend.
Here is a look back at some of Pfeiffer’s most iconic moments throughout her long career in Hollywood.
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In 1992, Pfeiffer starred as Catwoman in “Batman Returns,” Tim Burton’s screen adaptation of the popular comic book superhero’s story. Many consider her portrayal of the antiheroine to be the most iconic out of the nine actresses who have taken on the challenge of playing the character.
Pfeiffer has spoken about how much she loved playing Catwoman, telling Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” in December 2022 that the only time she didn’t have performance anxiety was while she was playing the character.
“I was obsessed with Catwoman since I was a little girl,” Pfeiffer explained. “And actually, someone was cast before me: Anette Bening, who is wonderful. And then she got pregnant, awesome. And then I got the part!”
While making the film, Pfeiffer proved she was the right choice with her dedication to getting every shot just right, including learning how to properly use a whip and committing to putting a live bird in her mouth. There is a scene in the movie in which Catwoman threatens to eat Penguin’s pet bird by putting it in her mouth, and Pfeiffer actually did it.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so impressed. She had a live bird in her mouth while the camera was rolling,” Burton told The Hollywood Reporter in June 2017. “It was four or five seconds, and then she let it fly out. It was before CG, it was before digital. It was so quick, it seems like it was an effect.”
“I look back and say, ‘What was I thinking? I could’ve gotten a disease or something from having a live bird in my mouth,'” Pfeiffer added. “It seemed fine at the time. I don’t think the bird was drugged or anything. We did that scene in one take. I think Tim likes to torture me a bit, it’s like a little brother [or] brat kind of thing.”
To prepare to play the comic book character, Pfeiffer trained in both kickboxing and using the whip, explaining she “trained for months with the whip master.”
“On our first day together, I caught his face with the whip, and it drew blood. It completely shattered me,” she shared.
One of the most recognizable moments in the movie is when Pfeiffer as Catwoman knocks the heads off four mannequins with her whip and jump ropes off-camera. In a behind-the-scenes clip from the film, she can be seen performing the stunt on her own, which she did in one take.
“It was fun, just because I love playing that character, and I got really good at that whip. I was very pleased with myself, because it was something that my stuntwoman actually couldn’t do that I could do,” she told Indiewire in February 2021. “I worked really hard on it, but it was a lot of rehearsal and getting the timing right. I especially liked the jump roping at the end. I had forgotten about that!”
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Pfeiffer got so attached to her whip, she took it home with her once filming was completed. She told Fallon in April 2022 she’s “a little rusty” nowadays, and that she didn’t steal her “hero whip” from the set, but rather kept her “practice whip.” In March 2019, she posted a video with the whip, and can be heard saying, “Look what I found. Needs a little TLC.”
The “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” actress was mentioned in two of the biggest songs of 2013 and 2014, “Riptide” by Vance Joy and “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars, respectively.
During an appearance on “The Graham Norton Show” in 2017, Pfeiffer told the host she was confused when she first heard the songs, saying, “First it was that ‘Riptide’ song, and then the Bruno Mars one came out,” leading her to ask herself, “What’s going on?”
“I was incredibly flattered. It was very cool. It was a little embarrassing at times,” she told Norton. “You know, carpool with the kids and the song comes on and my son’s like… [imitates him shrinking back into his seat]. Or I’m in exercise class, and the song comes on and [sighs with annoyance]. But yeah, I love the song [‘Uptown Funk’].”
Pfeiffer is mentioned in the first 20 seconds of “Uptown Funk,” as Mars can be heard singing, “This is that white gold, Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold.” However, her mention in “Riptide” comes towards the end of the song at the two-minute 15-second mark when Joy sings, “I swear she’s destined for the screen. Closest thing to Michelle Pfeiffer that you’ve ever seen.”
While it’s not clear what prompted Ronson to include her in his song, Joy admitted in a 2017 interview with “CTV Your Morning” that he included Pfeiffer sort of as an homage to his fascination with the actress during his childhood.
“I’m a fan of her, and I think the movies that must have made an impression on me were hers,” Joy told the outlet. “She was Catwoman in the second ‘Batman,’ and she was kind of crazy and mesmerizing in that, and also in ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys,’ and she’s so good and so, so striking and amazing. I was writing the song, and it was like a stream of consciousness, and it honestly just came out.”
Three Oscar nominations
After making her big-screen debut in “Grease 2” in 1982, Pfeiffer was nominated for her first Academy Award for her portrayal of Madame Marie de Tourvel in 1988’s “Dangerous Liaisons.” Her character was an engaged woman with a spotless reputation and impeccable morals who finds herself being the next target for the lustful viscount Valmont. Pfeiffer lost out on the Oscar to Geena Davis.
Just one year later, Pfeiffer was nominated for another Academy Award, this time in the lead actress category for playing lounge singer Susie Diamond in “The Fabulous Baker Boys.” She lost out on that Oscar to Jessica Tandy.
The movie follows two brothers who after 15 years of performing together hire Diamond to sing with them to revive their act.
While preparing for the role, Pfeiffer explained she had to take a lot of voice lessons.
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“It was all happening quickly, and I accepted to do it and I got together with [pianist] Dave Grusin, and so he wanted to hear what key I sang in, and I opened up my mouth to sing, and it was this horrifying squawk that came out, and it was no key at all,” the actress told Bobbie Wygant in 1989. “I just thought, ‘that’s it, you’ve really screwed yourself this time. You know, Pfeiffer, you think you can do anything — well, you’ve really done it this time.'”
When speaking about one scene in which she sings on top of a piano, Pfeiffer explained to Wygant it was “the hardest number because I had a lot of physicality,” and that her “basic motivation for the scene, was to get the lip sync right and not flash the audience.”
Pfeiffer’s third Academy Award nomination came when she starred in 1992’s “Love Field” as Louise Irene “Lurene” Hallett, a woman who travels to Washington to attend the funeral of President John F. Kennedy. While on a bus to D.C., she befriends a young Black child named Jonell.
Through a series of circumstances, Pfeiffer’s character meets Jonell’s dad, and they fall in love as she helps him run away from law enforcement. Pfeiffer lost out on the Oscar to Emma Thompson.
Pfeiffer broke out in her first-ever leading role in 1982, playing Stephanie Zinone in “Grease 2,” the sequel to the mega-successful 1978 musical “Grease” starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
In the followup, the roles are reversed and Pfeiffer played the bad-girl role, similar to Travolta’s Danny Zuko, and Maxwell Caulfield played the goody two-shoes character, a new take on Newton-John’s character Sandy Olsson.
During an appearance on “The Late Late Show with James Corden” in October 2019, Pfeiffer revealed “Grease 2” is one of the movies that fans approach her about the most. She noted to Corden that “it is a total fluke that (she) got that part.”
“My agent said, ‘Go, just go.’ I wasn’t a dancer, I wasn’t a singer, and I was in this little short purple skirt with go-go boots. We had the dancing audition, it’s literally like a chorus line. This line goes, and the next line goes, and I kept sneaking in the back, and finally it was only me and the director is like, ‘c’mon’… I got the part shockingly enough,” she explained.
A year after making her big-screen debut, Pfeiffer starred alongside Al Pacino as Elvira in what is universally considered to be one of the greatest gangster movies ever made, 1983’s “Scarface.”
While Pfeiffer proved herself in the end, Pacino was initially hesitant to cast her, with the actress telling Jimmy Fallon in a 2017 interview on “The Tonight Show”: “My last credit before that was ‘Grease 2.’ Can you blame him?” She, however, managed to change Pacino’s mind during the audition process.
“It was a very long and drawn out auditioning process and there were a number of women auditioning, and it went over a period of, I don’t know, it seemed like forever, but I think it was about two or three months,” she told Fallon. “I was terrified, and I was really young, and I knew he didn’t want me, and as it went on, the worse I got because I just got so afraid. By the end of it, [director] Brian de Palma was very sweet, he was really rooting for me… and he said, ‘I’m sorry, but you’re just bad now, what’s going on?'”
After her conversation with de Palma, he essentially told her she didn’t get the part, and she recalled feeling “relieved to have the torture end,” only to be called back in a month for a screen test.
“I kind of drag myself, and I have, you know, just no feeling at all that I have any shot at getting this. So it kind of freed me up, you know, and sort of, I wasn’t afraid,” Pfeiffer said. “We do the restaurant scene at the end where I kind of freak out at the end. I threw dishes, and everything went flying, and I broke things, I was in it. There was blood everywhere. Everyone comes running over to me, checking me out for blood, where am I cut, they’re not finding anything… I look over and Al is bleeding. I cut Al Pacino! And that’s how I got the part.”
The terror she felt during the audition process carried over into the making of the film. Pfeiffer told Interview magazine that over the course of the six-month shoot she “would go to sleep some nights crying.” The actress called the set “a boy’s club,” as she was one of two female characters.
“I remember when I did ‘Scarface,’ I was so young, I had no idea who this person [I was playing] was,” she told The Guardian in 2009. “I really relied on the women around me, my makeup artist and my hairdresser, people who had more life experience, to tell me who she was. I was clueless.”
In 2018, Pfeiffer made her debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, when she took on the role of Janet Van Dyne in “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” For a majority of the film, Pfeiffer’s character is stuck in the quantum realm and therefore isn’t featured very much, but the actress was subsequently able to show off her fighting skills in “Avengers Endgame” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantamania.”
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When she was first approached for the role, Pfeiffer was hesitant to say yes because Marvel is “very secretive” and “very mysterious” when it comes to their projects and “you have to commit without actually having read anything,” she explained.
“It wouldn’t have mattered, because it all changes anyway,” Pfeiffer told Jimmy Fallon during an April 2022 episode of “The Tonight Show.” “You don’t really know what you’re getting into, and then you get a script sort of right before you start shooting, and then it changes every day, and then you shoot the movie, and you wrap, and then it changes again.”
After taking on the role, Pfeiffer was able to connect with her character and with the story she would be able to tell through playing her.
“I loved that she’s such a seminal character in the Marvel comic book world and that she was one of the founding members of the Avengers. I would have lots of conversations with [director] Peyton [Reed] that Janet was a warrior, and she is a very important and brilliant scientist unto herself, which was exciting to me,” the actress said in a behind-the-scenes feature.
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“I love that this phase, let’s say, in my life that I’m playing a superhero,” she continued. “I think it’s incredible, and I think the message that it sends to women of all ages and of all demographics that we are still kicking a– and that we’re strong, and we’re independent, and we’re fierce and capable.”