Thirty-four years ago, Michelle Pfeiffer delivered a breakout performance as a drug kingpin’s trophy wife in the gangster classic Scarface. But while the film set her on a path to commercial success (in films like Batman Returns and Dangerous Minds) and critical acclaim (Dangerous Liaisons, The Fabulous Baker Boys), it also took a personal toll.
In a new conversation with filmmaker Darren Aronofsky for Interview magazine, Pfeiffer reflected on the demanding production and the arc of her career.
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“How’d it happen?” she said of her Scarface performance. “I’m very willful, you know. I’m a survivor. It’s in my nature. I don’t look so tough, but I am. And I think I was able to hide behind the tough exterior of that character, who was just sort of tuned out and tuned off, drugged.”
She continued, “I can tell you that I was terrified. And it was a six-month shoot I think. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and I were really the only females. It was a boys’ club. And it was also the nature of the relationship, for Tony Montana to be very dismissive of my character. So I would go to sleep some nights crying.”
With Universal Pictures developing a Scarface reboot for release next year, it’s fitting that Pfeiffer is mounting her own return, with upcoming roles in Aronofsky’s Mother!, Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, and HBO’s The Wizard of Lies.
“I’ve never lost my love for acting,” she said. “I feel really at home on the movie set. I’m a more balanced person honestly when I’m working. But I was pretty careful about where I shot, how long I was away, whether or not it worked out with the kids’ schedule. I got so picky that I was unhirable.”
Ultimately, Pfeiffer said, “I don’t know, time just went on. And now, you know, when the student is ready, the teacher appears. I’m more open now, my frame of mind, because I really want to work now, because I can.”
Read Pfeiffer’s full conversation with Aronofsky at Interview.