Michelle Pfeiffer’s resurgence: ‘80s icon goes from ‘unhirable’ to ‘most beautiful woman on planet’

Michelle Pfieffer recently went viral after sharing a makeup-free selfie to celebrate hitting three million followers on Instagram.

The 65-year-old actress posted the fresh-faced photo last Thursday in which she was seen smiling while wearing a gray sweatshirt and relaxing on a couch.

“3M followers. Thank you all for hanging out with me here!!” the California native wrote in the caption, adding a white heart emoji. 

Michelle Pfeiffer went viral recently after posting a makeup-free selfie. (Noam Galai/Getty Images)

Pfieffer’s post was quickly flooded with comments from fans who praised her ageless beauty.  

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“I love when celebs do true makeup free selfies. Michelle is gorgeous – and lovely – at every age,” one follower gushed.

“Still beautiful ‘till the end of time AND with no makeup,” a fan wrote while another added, “I love how natural and YOU you are! Absolutely refreshing and warm and beautiful.”

“You truly are one of the most beautiful women on the planet,” one commenter proclaimed.

“You really don’t age,” another social media user marveled.

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In addition to complimenting the star’s appearance, fans also posted GIFs of scenes from some of Pfieffer’s most famous roles including “Scarface,” “Batman Returns” and “Grease 2.”

Pfieffer, who hails from Santa Ana, California, launched her career at the age of 20 and landed her first major role as Stephanie Zinone in the sequel to the classic musical movie “Grease.”

However, it was Pfieffer’s turn as the cocaine-addicted drug lord’s wife Elvira Hancock in 1983 crime drama “Scarface” that skyrocketed her to fame. In addition to becoming one of the biggest sex symbols of the 1980s and 1990s, the “Witches of Eastwick” star earned critical acclaim and numerous accolades for her performances.

Pfieffer was nominated for a best supporting actress Academy Award for her role in the 1988 period romance “Dangerous Liasions.” She received a best actress Oscar nomination the following year for her performance in the 1989 rom-com musical “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” which earned her a Golden Globe Award.

Michelle Pfeiffer wearing leis over a grey sweatshirt, with a gold-coloured grass skirt over a pair of jeans, holding a model of a red parrot while standing beside a thatched hut, on the set of Grease 2

Pfeiffer landed her first starring role in 1982’s “Grease 2.” (Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

In 1990, Pfieffer and business partner Kate Guinzburg founded Via Rosa Productions, the production company behind some of Pfieffer’s starring vehicles including “Dangerous Minds,” “One Fine Day,” “The Deep End of the Ocean,” “A Thousand Acres,” and “Love Field,” the latter of which earned her a third Academy Award nomination.

By the end of the 90s, Pfieffer was one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood. However, the former beauty pageant queen embarked on a career hiatus in the 2000s though she continued to take on occasional roles. In 2003, Pfieffer and Guinzberg disbanded Via Rosa Productions.

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Pfieffer has previously explained that she chose to semi-retire from the entertainment industry, so she would be able to focus on her family. Pfieffer married TV producer and writer David E. Kelley in 1993 and adopted daughter Claudia Rose that same year. In 1994, the couple welcomed son John Henry Kelley II. 

“I’m always feeling that my best performance is still in me,” Pfieffer told Zap2It in 2012. “And I think all artists feel that whether you’re a painter, actor, a musician — I hope so. I think it’s what keeps me going.”

michelle pfeiffer with her husband david e. kelley, son John Henry and daughter Claudia Rose

The actress semi-retired in order to focus on raising her daughter Claudia Rose and son John Henry. (Barry King/WireImage)

She explained that she had only been working sporadically since she selected roles based on her children’s schedules. However, Pfieffer told the outlet that she planned to ramp up her workload once she became an “empty-nester.”

“My daughter left for college last year; it was a big deal, not for her, for me,” she says. “And I adjusted and I worked a lot. I think that was part of coping. I was avoiding the whole thing.”

“Now I have one more year left with my son. I’m looking ahead … I’m sort of good at looking ahead for disaster. I have like a radar for that — meaning big empty nest syndrome for me. I think I’m preparing myself and I’m sort of slowly easing my way back into being in the work force.”

In 2012, Pfieffer appeared in three films including “Dark Shadows,” “People Like Us,” and “The Family” before taking a four-year break from acting. 

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However, Pfieffer launched a full-scale career resurgence in 2017, starring in four projects back to back. She made her return to the screen with the drama “Where Is Kyra,” which she followed up with roles in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic 1934 novel, “Murder on the Orient Express,” and in Darren Aronofsky’s “Mother!” That year, she earned a Primetime Emmy Award for her role in the HBO television biopic “Wizard of Lies.”

Pfieffer reflected on the reason behind her absence from the screen and her career revival in a conversation with Aronofsky for Interview magazine. 

“The first thing that comes to mind is I’m an empty nester now,” she said in 2017.  “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.” 

She went on to describe herself as becoming “unhirable” due to prioritizing her children’s schedules when it came to taking on roles.

michelle pfieffer at emmys

Pfieffer mounted her career resurgence in 2017. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

“I was pretty careful about where I shot, how long I was away, whether or not it worked out with the kids’ schedule,” Pfieffer said. “And I got so picky that I was unhirable. And then … I don’t know, time just went on. And now, you know, when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

She continued, “I’m more open now, my frame of mind, because I really want to work now, because I can. And these last few years I’ve had some really interesting opportunities.” 

“And I have this weird synchronicity with Annette Bening,” she added. “I was supposed to do “Bugsy” [1991]. 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” [1992]. She fell out of that. I replaced her. So, we’re always kind of tag-teaming.”

“It wasn’t because of that history that I thought of you; it just made so much sense,” Aronofsky said. “We just haven’t seen enough of you.”

“Because I disappeared, yeah,” Pfieffer replied.

Michelle Pfeiffer at Paramount+ event

During her hiatuses, Pfieffer said she stayed busy with parenting, painting and preparing to launch her clean fragrance company, Henry Rose.  (Joe Maher/Getty Images for Paramount+)

Since then, Pfieffer has continued to work steadily. In 2018, Pfieffer made her debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the original Wasp, Janet van Dyne, in “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” the sequel to 2015’s “Ant-Man.” She went on to reprise her role in 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” and 2023’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.”

Pfieffer’s other recent projects include 2019’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” 2020’s “French Exit” and the short-lived 2022 television series “The First Lady.”

“I’ve always had this very love-hate relationship with acting,” Pfieffer told the Hollywood Reporter in 2022. She revealed that she almost quit acting between filming “Scarface” and “Batman Returns,” a time when she was one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars.

She also shared her thoughts about her eventual decision to step away from the spotlight for long periods at a time, explaining that she found it too difficult to uproot her children once they became older.

michelle pfeiffer at ant-man and the wasp: quatumania premiere

Pfieffer joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe in “Ant-man and the Wasp.” She went on the reprise her role in “Avengers: Endgame” and “Ant-man and the Wasp: Quatumania.” (Jon Kopaloff/WireImage)

“Well, I’ll only shoot in the summer, and I’ll only shoot here, and I’ll only blah, blah, blah, blah,’ and finally it was just too much trouble to hire me,” she recalled.

During her hiatuses, Pfieffer said she stayed busy with parenting, painting and preparing to launch her clean fragrance company, Henry Rose. During that time, Pfieffer said she was also preoccupied with settling in after her family’s move to the Bay Area. 

“I would start to hear that I had retired,” she told THR. “And I’d be like, ‘Wait, no.'”

After her children entered adulthood, Pfieffer said she has turned her focus back to her acting career and running Henry Rose with a staff of eight employees. She described her fragrance company to the outlet as “equal parts passion project and brain suck.”

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In addition, Pfieffer said she is embracing the roles that she is taking on after making her career comeback.

“The kinds of roles you’re offered change as you get older and, in many ways, they’re a lot more interesting now,” she noted. 

“Like, I’m in Marvel world, who would have thought?” Pfieffer added.

Pfieffer also hinted that she might be open to reprising her iconic role as Catwoman. “It would depend on the context but, yeah, I’d consider it,” she said. 

Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in "Batman Returns"

In a past interview, Pfeiffer indicated she would be open to reprising her iconic role as Catwoman. (Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

In her interview with Aronofsky, Pfeiffer admitted that she often felt like a “phony” when acting since she was never formally trained. She recalled telling “Murder on the Orient Express” writer Steve Kloves that she feared she was “ruining” the movie.

“I think it may be that I have this constant fear that I’m a fraud and that I’m going to be found out,” Pfeiffer told Aronofsky. “But I think that’s because I started working fairly quickly and I wasn’t ready.”

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She continued, “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. So I’ve always had this feeling that one day they’re going to find out that I’m really a fraud, that I really don’t know what I’m doing.”

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The actress told THR that this fear led her to obsess over her roles. She explained that she used to become extremely anxious at the start of a new project and inevitably try to back out.

“I’ll be like, ‘Oh, I can’t possibly do this for some crazy reason,'” she admitted. “Some insurmountable thing that’s really not insurmountable, and my agents always see it coming.”

However, Pfieffer said that her fear has decreased as she has aged.

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“I guess I feel like I have less to prove,” she said. “And I’m always sort of one foot in, one foot out.” 

Pfieffer told THR that all of her free time was now devoted to Henry Rose, which made its debut at Sephora in June. She admitted that running the company was more overwhelming than she had anticipated, but she was determined to forge ahead.

“I jump in feet first and then I realize what I’ve gotten myself into, but I refuse, refuse, to allow myself to sink,” she said.

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