Michelle Pfeiffer on ‘French Exit,’ Her New Business, and What She Hated About the Catwoman Costume
Michelle Pfeiffer has been weathering through the pandemic and lockdown primarily focusing on her fine fragrance line, Henry Rose. “We’ve all just sort of pivoted,” the Oscar-nominated actress says. “We somehow are making that all work. It’s just one big improvisation, isn’t it?”
In this bonus episode of the Variety Awards Circuit Podcast, Pfeiffer joins Artisans editor Jazz Tangcay to talk about her latest movie, “French Exit,” and playing a New York socialite. She also talks about her business venture and her hopes for expanding the demographic. And she reveals the fitting process for her iconic Catwoman costume. Listen to the podcast below:
After taking a lengthy hiatus from acting, Pfeiffer finally returned to the screen a mere four years ago. Her body of work includes a wealth of films: “Scarface,” “Dangerous Liaisons,” “What Lies Beneath,” “Mother!” and “Tequila Sunrise.”
Next year, she stars in “French Exit” as Frances, a widowed New York socialite who takes her son (played by Lucas Hedges) and moves with him to Paris to spend the last of her inheritance.
“French Exit” is based on the book by Patrick deWitt. Pfeiffer says she found deWitt’s voice so unusual, which is what attracted her to the script. “His use of these disparate tones of comedy and tragedy,” she says. “He says he uses comedy as a coping tool for a lot of his characters and it just was so unusual.”
In the film, Frances has exhausted the funds left behind by her husband and at one point says, “My plan was to die before the money ran out.” Now that her cash is about to dry up, she decides that packing her son, cat and belongings to move to Paris is her only viable option. The alternative is humiliation. “This world was a world I had never really entered into. It was a world I never saw,” Pfeiffer says of the wealthy elite.
“I love Frances. She’s curt and rude at times, but she also possesses this underlying fragility,” she says of her character. She later explains her process: “My job – and particularly with a character like this, is to try to find the humanity in them and to try to find what I have in common with her.”
As for getting to play mom to Hedges in the film, Pfeiffer calls him “so delightful. He has this poetic soul. He’s like an old soul.” Since Frances and Malcolm have a complex relationship, she explains, “They’re both kind of obsessed with each other in different ways.”
Pfeiffer admits playing the character Frances was daunting, calling her “bigger than life… it was about how to make her three-dimensional and a real person.”
Pfeiffer, who filmed “French Exit” after wrapping work on “Avengers: End Game,” has been receiving critical acclaim for the role and buzz around a potential Best Actress Oscar nomination. If she were to win, the thrice-nominated actress would be the fourth oldest Best Actress winner of all time. “Boy, that makes me feel old,” Pfeiffer says with a chuckle. But she has seen a huge shift for women getting great parts and says there is great material out there. “There’s an audience appetite for these kinds of movies, so people are still interested in seeing us,” she says.
Pfeiffer has spent much of the pandemic focusing on promoting her fragrance line, Henry Rose, which she says was born out of her interest in what “products were putting on our bodies. I couldn’t find ‘natural fragrance,’ that smelled like a premium fragrance, and I got frustrated.”
The line has been out for over a year and a half and is certified for its pure ingredients. She hopes to expand the line’s demographic to teenagers: As a mother of two, she’s concerned about what adolescents put on her body.
Maybe “Ant-Man and the Wasp” might be a good way for her to segue into that audience and demographic. “That would be my hope and might be a good opportunity,” she says.
And, having played one of the most iconic superheroes of all time — Catwoman in “Batman Returns” — Pfeiffer reveals that was the hardest costume to wear. “It was like an assembly line to get into,” she teases. From powdering inside her costume to oiling the costume to give it sheen, Pfeiffer says it wasn’t easy. “I remember walking up to my trailer in the morning and [there was] this line of people to waiting to help me get ready.”
By the time she was doing “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” she had learned about designing these questions, and her first question was, “How do we do this so that I can get in and out of this quickly so that if I need to use the restroom, it’s not going to be a big ordeal.”
“Variety’s Awards Circuit Podcast,” hosted by Clayton Davis, Jenelle Riley, Jazz Tangcay and Michael Schneider (who produces), is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday.
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