Michelle Pfeiffer is one of those actresses whose career you look back on and just marvel at. For an industry that supposedly disposes of actors as soon as they start to show their age, she has endured, racking up countless unforgettable performances with a whole host of amazing directors (to name a few: Jonathan Demme, Tim Burton, Robert Zemeckis, Matthew Vaughn, George Miller, and Brian De Palma). Not only has she not slowed down as the years have gone on, she’s gotten better.
Next up for her is writer/director Luc Besson’s “The Family,” playing a mob wife forced to relocate to a rural French village after her husband (Robert De Niro) squeals on his mafia cohorts. In the movie Pfeiffer gets to curse, scream, and blow up a small French supermarket. In other words: everything you dream about while attending drama school.
We got to sit down with the radiant (and, it should also be noted, sassy) Pfeiffer and we talked about whether or not she had any problems with the film’s extremely violent content, what it was like working with De Niro after costarring in two films together without actually sharing any screen time, and whether or not she’d be interested in ever doing a show with her husband, the acclaimed television producer David E. Kelly.
You’ve sort of starred with Robert De Niro a couple of times…
Yes. In theory…
Was it exciting to finally work with him for real?
Yes, third time is a charm, I guess. What actor doesn’t want to work with him?
What’s interesting is that you have almost as much mob history as he does…
Not quite as much as him.
Well, “Married to the Mob” is a super important film. And “Scarface,” obviously.
Yeah, I’ve never considered that a mob movie. It’s more like the drug cartels or whatever.
You’re pretty iconic in that movie, too. Do people come up to you and talk about “Scarface?”
And how do you feel about that?
You’ve also worked with so many amazing directors. Have you always wanted to work with Luc?
Yes, I love Luc and I was so excited about him, particularly for this piece, because he has the right sensibilities. He’s really good with performances, he’s really good with action, and he’s funny. And he has that weird kind of French/American hybrid person. He’s so interesting. I think his personality is really captured in the tone of the film because it’s this weird European/American hybrid.
Did anything surprise you about it when you finally saw it?
I was just really happy with how well it turned out. That surprised me. Just because I’m really critical and you have a vision of how things are going to turn out but ultimately it’s the director’s vision and very rarely is it the same. If it was going to be my vision I would have directed it. I was really happy with it.
There’s currently a big uproar about violence in movies. Was that ever a concern for you?
I was a little concerned until I saw it with an audience. And ultimately the audience really got it and really understood it and really went with it. They weren’t upset by it and they got the humor and ultimately they came away with the fact that it’s really about family, it’s about that strong family bond. So I’m really happy with that.
And it must be nice to be in an R-rated movie…
Because there are so few of them?
Well, yeah. Every movie has to be marketed to a 13-year-old boy these days.
Everybody wants that PG-13!
Even something like “Dark Shadows” could have probably benefited from an R.
Yeah, maybe. I loved “Dark Shadows.”
What was it like re-teaming with Tim Burton?
Oh, I love Tim. Every day I’d show up to work and I’d be like, Oh I remember why I love him so much! He is so fun. SO FUN.
I’m not sure what happened with that movie. I don’t know why it didn’t connect.
I don’t either. Honestly… I don’t know. I thought it would be a huge hit. I’m not sure what happened there.
"Stardust" was another movie that I thought would be bigger than it ended up being…
It was bigger in Europe than it was here.
How long do you give yourself to reflect on things like that?
I don’t. It’s why I stopped producing. I don’t want to reflect on that. I don’t want to think about it. I just want to go act and have that experience. I don’t want to think about box office.
"The Family" will do well.
I think so. I think so. Because I saw it with an audience and they really loved it. It’s just the question of whether or not it’s marketed right and it’s opened at the right time. I mean I’ve had other films where audiences loved it and it just didn’t open because it was the wrong weekend.
Like what happened with “I Could Never Be Your Woman?”
That was… really tragic. That was, basically, it was one of those financial things where, if I understand it correctly, in order to raise the money (I’m probably going to get this wrong) to get the movie made they sold off some of the distribution rights so when it came to get the distribution deal here, it didn’t make sense for anybody to put up the money to distribute it. So we couldn’t get the distribution, and so that’s what happened. So they kind of played it in a country… I would hear, “Oh it made $1 million in Argentina.” And then they’d play it in Peru or something. It made a couple million here or there and then disappeared on DVD.
Going back to “The Family,” did you give your co-star Dianna Agron, any tips?
Dianna doesn’t need any advice from me. Trust me.
Did she ask?
But you’ve had this amazing career.
Yeah, but she doesn’t need any advice. She’s a young adult, doing great work and making great work. Trust me.
Speaking of younger actresses, I’m assuming you saw “Dark Knight Rises.” What did you think of Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman?
Oh, I did. I thought she did a great job. I’m a big Anne Hathaway fan. I like her a lot. I really do.
And you liked her interpretation?
I did. Yeah.
You’ve done so many types of movies, is there one that you still want to do or want to revisit?
I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’d like to do an action movie.
You got to do some action here.
Yeah, but I want to be like the Kiefer Sutherland character in “24.” Jack Bauer? I want to be like him!
Could you do a TV show, you think?
I think so. There’s really great work being done on TV right now. That’s where a lot of the really work is being done. Actors just want to do good work. It doesn’t matter where it is.
David’s never said, “Let’s do a show together?”
I don’t know if we want to risk any kind of friction. I like the way things are between us. Not that we won’t do it one day but I like the way things are and I’m not looking to do something and I don’t think he is either.
But you want to do an all-out action movie?
Yeah I want to kick butt.
Luc produces all these really profitable action movies in Europe. Have you seen those?
Yeah, I love them.
You could be “Taken”!
Or I could be the taker!
Yes! Now you’re talking!