With a rare beauty that has inspired countless platitudes and an almost-permanent place on People's Fifty Most Beautiful list, Michelle Pfeiffer had to work long and hard before getting respect for her talent, rather than mere adulation for her looks. Born April 29, 1957, in Santa Ana, CA, Pfeiffer got her first taste of fame in her late teens, when she won both the Miss Orange County beauty contest and then the title of Miss Los Angeles. After high school, Pfeiffer went to college for a year, deciding that she wanted to become a court reporter. It was while working in a supermarket that Pfeiffer realized that acting was her true calling and she auditioned for commercials and modeling assignments while she attended acting school.
Pfeiffer debuted before the cameras in a one-line role on the TV series Fantasy Island and went on to a string of bit parts on TV. She debuted on the big screen in a small part in Falling in Love Again (1980) and then had small roles in two more films before getting her big break with the role of Stephanie in Grease 2 (1982). This led to her portrayal of Al Pacino's wife in Brian De Palma's 1983 classic Scarface, for which the actress garnered favorable attention and greater opportunities. Her first starring role was in the comedy thriller Into the Night (1984) with Jeff Goldblum and was followed by a turn in Richard Donner's fantasy adventure Ladyhawke (1985). Over the next couple of years, Pfeiffer acted in films of varying quality, but it was with 1987's The Witches of Eastwick that her career turned in a truly positive direction. Starring alongside Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Jack Nicholson, Pfeiffer received much acclaim for her work, acclaim that continued with her turn in Dangerous Liaisons (1988), for which she received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. The same year, Pfeiffer took on an entirely different role as a Mafia wife in the 1988 hit comedy Married to the Mob. In 1990, she was rewarded with yet another Oscar nomination -- this time for Best Actress -- for her portrayal of a nightclub singer in The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989).
The 1990s proved to be a good decade for Pfeiffer, allowing her to branch out with a variety of roles that kept her from being pigeonholed and provided opportunities for her to showcase her versatility. Highlights from the first half of the decade included the 1991 romantic drama Frankie and Johnny, in which she played a frumpy, bitter waitress opposite Al Pacino; 1993's underrated Love Field, for which she received her second Best Actress nomination; Tim Burton's 1992 adventure Batman Returns, in which she co-starred with Michael Keaton and a lethally sexy cat suit; and the acclaimed 1993 Martin Scorsese adaptation of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence. That same year, Pfeiffer would finally realize her lifelong goal of motherhood when she adpoted a baby girl named Claudia just a few short months before walking down the aisle for a second time to wed Ally McBeal and Boston Legal creator David E. Kelley (the actress' previous marriage to actor Peter Horton had dissolved in 1988). In 1994, Pfeiffer and Kelly would complete their nuclear family when the ecstatic mother gave birth to young John Henry.
The second half of the decade saw Pfeiffer stick to dramas and romantic comedies, notably the 1996 hit One Fine Day with George Clooney, Jocelyn Moorhouse's 1997 adaptation of Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres, the star-studded 1999 adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the family drama The Deep End of the Ocean. Through it all, Pfeiffer maintained her siren status while increasing her bankability, no small feat in an industry where women over the age of 27 are often labeled as past their prime. Not that Pfeiffer would be in any danger of losing her looks in the near future; after perfectly meeting the rigorous standards of California plastic-surgeon Dr. Stephen Marquardt's complex "beauty formula" in 2001, the sultry actress was singled out as having the most beautiful face in all of Hollywood. Of course Pfeiffer's face alone couldn't be held accountable for her wild success, and the millennial turnover found the talented actress apprearing in such high-profile features as Rob Reiner's comedic marriage drama The Story of Us, Robert Zemeckis' supernatural thriller What Lies Beneath, and the Sean Penn drama I Am Sam. A supporting role in the 2002 literary adaptation White Oleander found Pfeiffer supporting an all-star cast of Hollywood up and comers, and a role as the voice of the goddess Eris in 2003's Sinbad: The Legend of the Seven Seas marked her first foray into animated feature territory. In 2006 Pfeiffer would continue to turn heads when she accepted the role of an older woman who falls for a younger man in director Amy Heckerling's I Could Never Be Your Woman. A small role in director Adam Shankman's phenominally successful remake of John Waters' Hairspray was quick to follow, and after enchanting fantasy fans in 2007's Stardust, the veteran actress was sexy as ever as an aging seductress in Stephen Frears' Cheri. And though her 2008 film Personal Effects only received a limited release, Pfeiffer would quickly returns to the screen in director Garry Marshall's episodic rom com New Years Eve, and Tim Burton's misguided feature adaptation of the popular supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi