Where has Michelle Pfeiffer been?
It turns out the answer is pretty simple. "I've never lost my love for acting. I feel really at home on the movie set. I'm a more balanced person honestly when I'm working," says Pfeiffer, who last appeared onscreen in 2013's The Family (opposite Robert De Niro). "But I was pretty careful about where I shot, how long I was away, whether or not it worked out with the kids' schedule. And I got so picky that I was unhirable. And then...I don't know, time just went on."
"When the student is ready," she adds, "the teacher appears."
The actress, who has three movies in post-production, marks her return to Hollywood by appearing on the cover of Interview's April issue. "I'm more open now, my frame of mind, because I really want to work now, because I can," she tells director Darren Aronfosky. "And these last few years I've had some really interesting opportunities. And I have this weird synchronicity with Annette Bening. I was supposed to do Bugsy; I fell out of that. She did it, so she met Warren [Beatty]. That wouldn't have happened. And then she was supposed to do Batman Returns; She fell out of that. I replaced her. So, we're always kind of tag-teaming."
Although Pfeiffer "disappeared" for a few years, she never lost her passion for movie making. "What's interesting is, there's always a lot of talk to young people about finding their passion, following their passion. But I remember reading somewhere that a lot of people don't have a passion. And there's this pressure to have one. It's perfectly fine not to have one," the actress explains. "But to be lucky enough to know what that is at such a young age is really a blessing."
Surprisingly, Pfeiffer didn't always see herself as an actress. "I'm from Orange County, Southern California, and couldn't have been more removed from the entertainment business," the actress says. "In fact, I didn't really even go to the movies much. My mother didn't drive. My father couldn't be bothered. So, I didn't really go anywhere. But what I did do is I would stay up really late watching old movies on television. I can't even tell you what they were because I was so young. But I remember watching what they were doing and saying to myself, 'I can do that.'"
After a stint in stenography school, Pfeiffer worked as a cashier at a supermarket. It didn't take long before the job made her "frustrated" and she searched for a career with more purpose. "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?'" the 58-year-old Scarface star recalls. "And it was acting."
But in the back of her mind, Pfeiffer must have known she was destined to be an actress—right? "I guess I did. I must have been a very dramatic child. Because my mother used to call me 'my little actress.' And maybe that's it," she concedes. "I'm discovering this for the first time."
Pfeiffer—who next appears in The Wizard of Lies, Mother! and Murder on the Orient Express—also took theater classes in high school, which gave her the assurance to pursue acting as a full-time profession years later. "To be lucky enough to know what that is at such a young age is really a blessing. I actually got some really positive feedback from my teacher in high school. She said that I should take it seriously. It gave me just that little bit of confidence that acting was something that I innately knew how to do," the Grease 2 star says in Interview. "It tapped into that part of me that somehow knew when I was watching those movies on television."
In the beginning of her career, Pfeiffer rarely felt ready. "I didn't have any formal training. I didn't come from Juilliard. I was just getting by and learning in front of the world," she admits. "I've always had this feeling that one day they're going to find out I'm really a fraud, that I really don't know what I'm doing. I've taken a lot of workshops, worked with some really masterful teachers, and I don't know that my method has actually changed from the beginning. I still work pretty instinctually—it's a little bit like hearing the rhythm of the character in your head."
What did those years of internal struggle teach Pfeiffer?
"It's OK to fail. You try different things. Like a designer with Post-it notes, you throw out bad idea after bad idea until you stumble upon the good one. It's by accident. And that's what I did," Pfeiffer says. "I was young enough to think, 'OK, well, I have this safe job at Vons, a good job I can make a living at, with benefits, but what I really want to do is be an actor. And I'm young enough that, if I fail, I can do something else.' Somehow I had the courage to do that."