Pfeiffer: The New Greta Garbo?
By Ahmad Rafat
She’s been described as “the Greta Garbo of the year 2000” but for most people she’s simply an icon of beauty. At 41 years old, Michelle Pfeiffer continues to be one of the most desirable women in the world. Out of choice though, she’d rather see herself in the role of mother to Claudia, her eight year old adopted daughter and John, the natural son of her marriage with the producer David Kelley. WNL conducted an interview with the star in Venice, where along with her co-star Harrison Ford, she was presenting her latest movie, What Lies Beneath.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Q: This is the first time we’ve seen you in a psychological drama.
What made you accept such a difficult role?
A: When I first started acting, I played small parts in films like this and I always wanted the opportunity to play the leading role. I’ve also wanted to work with Bob Zemeckis for a long time so when the two things came together I naturally jumped at it. Then when I read the screenplay, I really liked the part.
Q: You play the part of a betrayed wife bordering on madness, what is it you like about that?
A: She’s a very complex and interesting character. I liked the idea of playing the part of a woman who tries to appear calm and normal when she knows her husband ‘s being unfaithful. She knows she’s living with a lie but can’t face up to it, and I find that intriguing.
Q: Many people say that Bob Zemeckis demands a lot from his actors…
A: When I arrived on the set, I was told that every shot that Bob took would be difficult. And that’s exactly what it was like. He pestered me with the movie camera which I didn’t like at first, but I put up with it because I had to. I ended up enjoying it because although he’s demanding, he also knows how to relate to and get the best out of his actors. And also if I’m honest, I like being told what to do on set. I try to explore every aspect of the character I’m portraying, but ultimately it’s up to the director to impose his or her will.
Q: In the scene where you play a woman who’s been terrorized, were you influenced by anyone there?
A: I based it on the film Scream, but I needed to go beyond that as Bob wanted to portray an extremely terrified character.
Q: What’s going through your mind at moments like that?
A: The same thing that goes through any woman’s mind when she thinks about living in a house with a ghost. I convince myself that ghosts don’t exist even though I’d be terrified if they did appear. In this kind of situation, I find it helpful to read of similar cases in the newspapers. As an actor you have to react just like the ordinary person in the street, otherwise you lose all credibility.
Q: Do you believe in ghosts?
A: I can certainly say I’m prepared to believe in them. Right now I don’t, but I’d never just refuse to believe that they exist.
Q: Why would you want to believe in them?
A: Because it allows me to hope that I might meet up with people who have died.
Q: Wouldn’t it be more logical to believe in reincarnation?
A: If I wasn’t American, I might have believed in it.
Q: Is there anything that terrifies you?
A: Water and aeroplanes. When we were filming underwater for this movie, I suffered horrendously. When I go swimming, all I can think about is when can I get out of the water. I’ve managed to overcome my claustrophobia thanks to the patience and understanding of the rest of the film crew.
Q: How do you manage to travel by plane if you have a fear of flying?
A: I go by plane simply because I don’t have any other choice. I start to feel bad the week before leaving and I count every minute during the flight.
The problem is that a fear like this takes away the pleasure of traveling.
When I go on holiday, I’m always ill the week before and once I’m there I start worrying about the return flight.
Q: How do you cope with being famous? Are you happy about it or does it worry you?
A: Both. At the beginning it was really hard. I cope with it better now because I’ve had to accept that it’s part of my job and I’m learning to live with it.
Q: How do you manage to combine being an actress and a mother?
A: As time goes on I realize that being an actress or doing any type of work helps me to be a better mother. When you work, you’re better balanced and so more able and ready to spend time with your children. I also try not to be away from home for long periods when the children are at school and the rest of the time I take them with me. And to be honest they enjoy being on set. It’s like an exciting adventure for them.
Q: Does it worry you that when you get to a certain age, as so often?
happens to actresses in Hollywood, you won’t be offered anymore parts?
A: Well, fortunately I’ve not reached that age yet. And anyway this doesn’t just happen in Hollywood, it happens in movies everywhere. Things are beginning to change though and the role of women in movies is improving. It’s now an accepted thing that a woman can make a movie. There are also a greater variety of female roles and we’re even competing now in terms of salary.
Q: How and when did you decide to become an actress?
A: When I was nineteen I was very confused and full of anxieties and I kept wondering what to do with my life. And it was then that I realized I liked acting; I’d done it at high school and loved it but I didn’t dare tell anyone because I thought they’d try and make me do something else. I then started to look for work in the movie industry.
Q: Did you think at that stage you’d become famous?
A: I was too busy trying to find work to think of being famous.
Q: Which of your movies do you like most?
A: I’d nearly always say the last one I made.
Q: Are there any you wish you hadn’t made?
A: Some, but I’m not going to tell you which ones!
Q: What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
A: I’d say that my greatest strength and my weakness is that I’m too
demanding; I ask too much of myself and of other people both in terms of work and in my private life.
Q: And your worst fear?
A: That something might happen to my two children – Ahmad Rafat (WNL, Venice).
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)