Michelle Pfeiffer has been gearing up for her triumphant return to the big screen, starring in “Hairspray” as the vindictive Velma Von Tussle. And at 49, as she gets ready to celebrate her first feature film in five years, Michelle is still as beautiful as ever.
“Access Hollywood's” Tony Potts spoke with Pfeiffer about her return to the big screen, noting that her character in the film is a tad ... “ruthless.”
“I've played a lot of mean, ruthless (characters), I've played some pretty hateful characters,” Michelle told Tony. “This one really made me kind of take pause.”
“Hairspray” is a 1950's-set musical about an overweight teen, Tracy Turnblad (played by newcomer Nikki Blonsky) who defies her mother (a transformed John Travolta in drag!), and achieves her dream of getting a dance spot on a TV show. Pfeiffer plays the mother of the evil dance queen (Brittany Snow), and tries to destroy Tracy's dreams by taunting her for the way she looks. On top of that, the malicious woman makes it quite clear that she does not support the integration of African Americans in their town — a character trait that didn't really dawn on Michelle until after she accepted the role.
“I started to kind of inch my way toward this character, and I suddenly ... it dawned on me that I'm a big, fat racist,” recalled Michelle. “You know, I just, it kind of slipped right by me!”
And this is not the first time such a thing has happened to Pfeiffer, as she recalls. “You know, sometimes it's sort of the impact doesn't really dawn on you until later,” she remarked. “In fact, sometimes I'll read a script, and two months into shooting I'll say to the director, ‘Um, see this love scene here where I'm naked, that wasn't ... did you just write that?’ ‘No that's been there.’ ‘No, no, no, that wasn't here before.’ ”
As for this role, Michelle admitted that she had some trepidation when it came to her kids, both because of the character's racist overtones, as well as the fact that she'd have to sing again (as she used to do for them when they were younger). “Just when they were babies,” she told Tony, adding with a laugh: “They don't like me to sing now.”
Happily married for 13 years to “Boston Legal” and “Ally McBeal” creator David E. Kelley, Pfeiffer has relished the life of raising her two children — Claudia Rose (14) and John Henry (12) — away from Hollywood in the comforts of Northern California. So much so, in fact, that she decided to focus on her family rather than film work for the past five years.
But, knowing that her kids were “smart” enough to separate her from Velma Von Tussle, Michelle threw herself into the part.
“We had a great time (filming)” she said. “In fact, when we were shooting I thought, you know, we're just having too good a time, it's making me a little nervous here. Maybe I should stir up a little trouble. Because I really want this movie to be good, dammit!”
As far as Tony is concerned, the movie “couldn't be any better,” so there was no reason for Michelle to stir up any trouble. He couldn't help but noticing, though, that she had some rather striking dark-colored toenails during the interview. Was it a sign that Michelle hadn't fully abandoned her character's “evil” ways, perhaps?
Nah. “This is what happens when you go with your 14-year-old to get a pedicure,” laughed Michelle. “You come out with navy blue toenails.”
“Hairspray” opens in theaters on July 20, 2007.