It's a rare lead performance for the mother of two last seen in 2007's 'Hairspray' and 'Stardust.' In an exclusive interview, the 51-year-old Pfeiffer told us about reuniting with her 'Dangerous Liaisons' director and screenwriter for 'Cheri,' playing Catwoman again and aging gracefully. (Just don't call her a cougar...) Michelle Pfeiffer makes a welcome return to the big screen as a retired courtesan in 'Cheri,' a costume drama set in Belle Epoque Paris. After a lifetime of sex as purely a business transaction, her character, Lea de Lonval, finally falls head over heels -- unfortunately, her love is a man 30 years her junior (Rupert Friend) and the son of a former rival prostitute (Kathy Bates).
It's a rare lead performance for the mother of two last seen in 2007's 'Hairspray' and 'Stardust.' In an exclusive interview, the 51-year-old Pfeiffer told us about reuniting with her 'Dangerous Liaisons' director and screenwriter for 'Cheri,' playing Catwoman again and aging gracefully. (Just don't call her a cougar...) -- By Kevin Polowy
What appealed to you about your 'Cheri' character?
Well, she's full of contradictions in a way, and not your stereotypical prostitute. And I think when one says "courtesan," one has certain images and qualities that come to mind. She was elegant and incredibly sophisticated and a shrewd businesswoman, and above all else, she was really a moral person. And I'd never seen a prostitute portrayed in that way. And then, of course, I was beyond thrilled to be working with [director Stephen Frears] and [screenwriter Christopher Hampton] again. So there was no reason not to do it, basically.
Is this 'Liaisons' reunion something that was planned?
No, it was out of the blue. I hadn't even heard of it before Stephen called. He somehow tracked me down through my hairdresser. I was working on another film and her cell phone rang and it was Stephen, looking for me. And then it happened really quickly. Within months we were shooting.
Do you think these two films you three have worked on together share much in common?
No, I don't actually. I mean, other than they're both set in France and they're both period pieces ... other than that they're really totally different films.
"Cougar" is such a buzz word right now, and 'Cheri' is centered around an older woman-younger man relationship. Think that will help business?
I can't wait for that word to go out of fashion, I just think it's ... I'm so over it. Not that I was ever really into it. Where did that start, anyway? How did that evolve? Well, it's not really what the movie's about. But if it brings people into the theater, I'm all for that.
I hate to get all Cosmo on you, but the people want to know: What's your secret to aging so well?
Well, the truth is that when I'm doing press and when I'm making movies, I am super disciplined. I eat really well, I make sure I get enough sleep, I exercise religiously -- and all of that really matters ... And I have a whole team, so it's not really fair. It's not real [laughs]. I couldn't keep this up everyday of my life, nor would I want to, because life would be really boring. But, ultimately it's you are what you eat and you have to exercise. It's really simple stuff, and it's stuff that people don't really want to know about ... It's not about the newest, latest diet, the newest fad. It's not about some cream you put on your face. It's really about what you eat. I'm a big believer in that. And I'm a really happy person, I enjoy life. I think you see that on people. I think there's nothing more aging than misery.
You seem to choose roles pretty carefully these days. We're lucky if we see you in one movie a year.
I'm always just looking for good material, and sometimes it takes a while to find. And if it's something that's going to take me away from home during a time that my family can't come with me because it's during the school year, it has to be something that's really exceptional. My agent and I call those "dead of winter" scripts, and those are really rare. And, for me, 'Cheri' was a dead of winter script. So that's pretty much my criteria.
Do you think opportunities for women in Hollywood have improved over the course of your career?
Yes and no. For a while it seemed as if it were improving. It doesn't seem like that lately, not just for myself, but when I look around and see the kinds of roles other actresses are taking. But I think that's because there are just fewer movies being made. There's always an imbalance with actors and actresses in the industry. And I think because there are just fewer movies overall being made, it's that trickle down effect ... There's this movie I want to make, and the director came to me and he said, "Nobody wants to make a drama." He just simply said to me, "You don't know how scary it is out there." It's really an interesting time in our industry.
Batman movies are back. Would you ever consider playing Catwoman again?
Oh yeah, it would be really fun. I don't think that's going to happen. I think they like to get a new face for the different characters, and I understand it. But yeah, that was really fun. I had a good time.
Are there any other characters you've played that you'd like to revisit?
I'd really like to revisit Susie Diamond [from 'The Fabulous Baker Boys'] today, where she is today, and where those brothers are. I think there's an opportunity there. That's one that comes to mind.
What's your fondest memory of making 'Scarface'?
That was really a hard, hard movie. I'm trying to think of a fond memory [laughs]. I think it was actually before I started ... It was three months of auditioning and it was incredibly stressful, and at one point I was completely out of the running, and then was called back to screen test. Anyway, I was on my way to the airport and I found out that I got the part. So one of my close friends and I picked up a bottle of champagne and two coffee mugs and drank champagne in the parking lot at LAX to celebrate.
You do a good job of staying out of the public eye when you're not working, and you've complained about paparazzi in the past. What is your view on the current state of celebrity journalism?
I don't know how these young actors live with it, honestly. Because it used to be -- which was already sort of intolerable for me -- that they kind of left you alone unless you had some sort of heat on you, whether it was a film coming out, or you had something going on in your life that was kind of newsworthy. Now they just literally camp outside, they just follow them everywhere all the time, 24/7. I couldn't live that way, I couldn't. And it's so dumbfounding to me that there are no laws to protect them. There's no recourse. It's really something.
So what's next for you? What do you have upcoming?
A drama that nobody wants to make [laughs].