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Why Michelle Pfeiffer Disappeared From Hollywood

Michelle Pfeiffer had an incredible résumé — Scarface, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Dangerous Liaisons, and our personal fave, Grease 2 (“Cool Rider”) — when she all but said goodbye to Hollywood, appearing in far fewer movies, with large droughts (two blocks of four years) in between.

“What the Hell Happened to Michelle Pfeiffer?” people wondered. (Really, that’s an actual headline.) Now, as she’s returning to the spotlight with four projects this year, she acknowledged, “I disappeared,” saying it had a little something to do with having a life — a personal life.

And the reason for her return? “The first thing that comes to mind is I’m an empty nester now,” Pfeiffer, 58, told director Darren Aronofsky (yes, J.Law’s boyfriend) in Interview mag. “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.”

Michelle with hubby David E. Kelley and their daughter, Claudia, at the L.A. premiere of “Dark Shadows” in 2012. (Photo: Lester Cohen/WireImage)

In January 1993, Pfeiffer went on a blind date with David E. Kelley, the man behind TV hits including Picket Fences, The Practice, and Ally McBeal. Two months later, the adoption she applied for went through and she had a newborn daughter, Claudia Rose. She married Kelley later that year, and they welcomed another son, John Henry, the following year.

With a new family, she became “pretty careful about where I shot, how long I was away, whether or not it worked out with the kids’ schedule,” she explained. “And I got so picky that I was unhirable. And then … I don’t know, time just went on.”

She still worked — Dangerous Minds, I Am Sam, What Lies Beneath, Hairspray, Dark Shadows — but there were blocks of time when she didn’t (between 2003 and 2007, 2013 and 2017). Now that her kids are out of the house, she’s logging more hours on sets of movies, including in Aronofsky’s Mother!, Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, and in the role of Ruth Madoff in the TV movie The Wizard of Lies.
 Michelle and her fam, including son John and daughter Claudia, when she got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007. (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

“And now, you know, when the student is ready, the teacher appears,” she said. “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.”

She also noted that she and Annette Bening have had a “weird synchronicity,” taking roles the other dropped out of for one reason or another. “I was supposed to do Bugsy [in 1991],” she said. “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 [in 1992]. She fell out of that. I replaced her. So, we’re always kind of tag-teaming.”

One thing that hasn’t changed is Pfeiffer’s beauty, which she likely has had some help with along the way.

 (“I’m all for a little something here and there — fine,” she told Elle in 2011, adding that it should be done in small doses.) In the Interview spread, the one-time Catwoman looks as radiant as ever, as she lounges in a leopard print and kicks back on a chaise longue flashing those perfect pearly whites.

Even though Pfeiffer has so much great experience under her belt, she told Aronofsky she still deals with insecurities when it comes to her career.

“I started working fairly quickly, and I wasn’t ready,” the three-time Oscar nominee said of going from a Vons grocery store checkout girl and a stint in stenography school to a movie star in her mid-20s. “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.”

A fraud? If only she knew how happy people are to have her back.

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