Michelle Pfeiffer Interview – HAIRSPRAY

     July 6, 2007

I’ll admit that of all the people who were going to be participating in the roundtable interviews for the movie “Hairspray,” there was only one I couldn’t wait to meet. And that was Michelle.

Since her work in “Grease 2” I’ve followed her career. Yes, partly because she unbelievable to look at… after all, have you seen her in “Batman Returns?” But while her beauty is obvious, I’m also a fan of the choices she’s made throughout her career – “Ladyhawke,” “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” “Scarface,” and “CHiPs!” (she was on one episode).

But enough of my reasons for wanting to meet her… Michelle was there to promote her work in the upcoming movie “Hairpsray.” In the movie she plays Velma – the woman who runs the TV station where almost the entire movie takes place. Here is the synopsis:

Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, has only one passion – dancing. Her dream is to appear on “The Corny Collins Show,” Baltimore’s hippest dance party on TV. Tracy (Nikki Blonsky) seems a natural fit for the show except for one not-so-little problem – she doesn’t fit in. Her plus-sized figure has always set her apart from the cool crowd, which she is reminded of by her loving but overly protective plus-sized mother, Edna (John Travolta). That doesn’t stop Tracy because if there is one thing that this girl knows, it’s that she was born to dance. As her father Wilbur (Christopher Walken) tells her, “Go for it! You’ve got to think big to be big.”

After wowing Corny Collins (James Marsden) at her high school dance, Tracy wins a spot on his show and becomes an instant on-air sensation, much to the chagrin of the show’s reigning princess, Amber Von Tussle (Brittany Snow), and her scheming mother, Velma (Michelle Pfeiffer), who runs television station WYZT. Even worse for Amber is the fact that it’s not just the audience who loves the new girl in town; Amber’s sweetheart, Link Larkin (Zac Efron), seems to be smitten with Tracy’s charms as well. This dance party gets personal as a bitter feud erupts between the girls as they compete for the coveted “Miss Teenage Hairspray” crown.

At school, however, a short stint in detention and raised-eyebrows caused by the budding relationship between her best friend Penny Pingleton (Amanda Bynes) and Seaweed (Elijah Kelley) opens Tracy’s eyes to a bigger issue than the latest dance craze or the coolest hairdo – racial inequality. Throwing caution to the wind, she leads a march with Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah) to fight for integration and winds up with an arrest warrant instead. Tracy is on the lam now and goes underground – literally – to her best friend Penny’s basement.

Has Tracy’s luck finally run out? Will she miss the final dance-off against Amber and forfeit the title of “Miss Hairspray,” or will she sing and dance her way out of trouble again?

When big hair meets big dreams anything can happen – and does – in this high-energy comedy that proves you don’t have to fit in to win.

During the interview Michelle was incredibly friendly and seemed really happy to be there. We got her to talk about making the movie, working with the huge cast, and I asked a few questions about her role inanother summer movie -“Stardust.”

As always, you can either read the transcript below or download the audio of the roundtable interview by clicking here. It’s an MP3 and easily placed on a portable player.

“Hairspray” opens on July 20th.

Question: You haven’t seen each other since the filming?

Michelle Pfeiffer: We saw each other on the “Oprah” show. But you know we didn’t really have time to hug and kiss and do all that.

You seem to have a whole lot of fun with this. It is obviously a musical but did the comedy side of it appeal to you too?

I sure had fun. You know Adam Shankman is … there is nobody more perfect to be doing this movie with. He was there to help me push the envelop when I was afraid. And there to tell me dial it back a little.
I had a blast doing this.

What were you afraid of?

I’m …. I’m .. afraid of falling into doing a character like this which is chewing up the scenery. Which I think I probably failed at. He would say ‘Is that a piece of the chair leg in between your teeth.’ He is funny (she laughs). It is finding that balance. It is not reality but you also have to stay rooted in some kind of reality. I was constantly walking that tightrope. I am not necessarily really comfortable in this area. It is not sort of my strength. It is not something that comes as naturally to me as drama.

What about the music part? Would you be open to doing another musical after this?

Yeah! I love it. I loved it. I loved singing in the recording studio. I am not sure I would like to do like a Broadway musical. I don’t my instrument is strong enough and not sure I want to put the work into making it strong enough. There is a lot of work keeping your voice trained. Getting it trained, keeping it there. But I loved it. Also, but you know, I was working with the best people. They couldn’t have made it any easier. They let me, as many times as I want to go back in and – I am kind of tireless and exhausting like the Every Ready Bunny. But, as many times, I would say I could do that one better. Fine anytime up until the end, up until they locked – “we’re shooting and you can’t make anymore changes.”

How much fun was that to do things with Chris Walken?

It was so much fun.

A lot of laughter going on?

Yeah, a lot of laughter. Also because we were so tired. It was the middle of the night, probably 4 in the morning. And, we were just punchy already and he is being so ridiculous. It was kind of where am I .. where have I landed?

This younger cast, you are a veteran. Did anyone come up to you for advice? Did you go up to them and give advice?

God, I would never, ever do that. That would be so irritating. (in a Mae West kind of voice) Honey. Listen. You have got to (laughter obscures next word). I .. no .. and also.. these are really not kids. Compared to me, they are kids. They are all so together and grounded. Who knows what went on when I wasn’t around. But they were so professional. They were never late. They had the greatest spirit and joy about the work. That’s really what you were hit with them by them. Not like they were big pains in the asses. None of that was going on. There was this infectious enthusiasm that was so refreshing to be around. There are so many of them it just hits you and it energizes you.

Less than a month after this you have another film in “Stardust.” Can you talk about your character in that? And also are you going to be part of the big promotional thing at Comic Con if they do something?

I don’t .. First, I don’t know what that is. That doesn’t mean I’m not going. And I think I filmed and introduction for that.

Did you say “Welcome visitors” or something like that?

I don’t know. I will be involved in promoting the movie. It is fantastic. It is totally different from this. It is one of those movies you can’t really define in a sentence … which makes it really hard to do press junkets. It is so good and that is the beauty of it. It is not the kind of film where you go it is this genre, this genre. It is kind of really special. It is a special little jewel. It is a little bit of this, a little bit of that and some how all works together. It is kind of action/adventure, magical romance, mythological epic.

Could you tell me about your character?

My character? Evil. I am about 5,000 years old. I go from my age to 5,000 years old, back to my age, back to 5,000 years old. It is a prosthetic nightmare. I am after eternal youth and I would do anything to get it. I am the bad guy. One of them. There are a number of them, actually a lot of them. There are two good guys and everyone else is bad now that I think about it. (she laughs). Claire and Charlie are the the only good guys in it.

Did you have any scenes with Robert De Nero?

I didn’t. I didn’t even see him. Have you seen it? Some people at the junket have seen it and some have read the book. There are different worlds going on and he is in a different world.

I was about to say, the prosthetics, you shot “Stardust” before you shot ‘Hairspray.”

I was not allowed to talk to John about the prosthetics….

Continued on the next page ——->


That was my question.

Because it is Hell. I don’t like to be a whiner, but – and I could go on about it, but I won’t – and so…

Who said you weren’t allowed?

The producers. They didn’t want me to scare him. They didn’t want me stirring up trouble. As it turns out, John had done his research – which I did not. And he spoke with other actors who had worn prosthetics – I did not. And when they were working out the schedule he made it so it was as comfortable as possible for himself.

Michelle, when you see a script, how soon do you know you are going to do it?

It is different. Sometimes I will read something and half way through it my heart just starts going (makes a patting motion on her chest) and I am on the phone. That is quite rare. I am on the phone and sign me up. I don’t care how badly this ends, I know I want to do the first half of the script. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer. Mostly that’s the case. Mostly I do take a little time, I read it a couple of times. In the case of “Stardust” I really wasn’t sure and I didn’t quite know. I loved the script a lot. I thought it was going to be real interesting. But I wasn’t really sure what to do with the part. And if I don’t know what to do with the part, then I don’t know what to do with the part. So I met with Matthew Vaughn. And it was kind of the same thing with “Hairspray.” I did not know what to do with Velma and it scared me on the page. I just thought she was just so awful all the time and that’s all she is. But Adam, hearing his vision and hearing how he wanted to modulate it and where he wanted to go. Yes, she’s evil, she’s bad, she’s bad top the bone. And she has to be. And that’s my job. But we want to find the humanity there. I was very excited to sing again, I hadn’t done that in awhile. So in answer to you question, usually it takes me a lot of mulling over.

It terms of “Hairspray” did you end up going to see the Broadway show or were you familiar with it before selecting this role?

I had seen it. I had actually seen it a long time ago and liked it very much.

The Broadway musical?

The Broadway musical. In fact I have not seen the John Waters movie which I am dying to see. It is one of things that I never got around to seeing when it came out. Then when I signed on to this I really didn’t want to see it. Now I am dying to go back and see it. There will probably be so many great things that Debra Harry did.

I thought of sure you had seen it because there are certain … some of the body language. It is just because it is a beautiful woman being mean.

When I was younger, in my early 20s, people used to come up to me and think I was here. That was when Blonde was really, really big. I guess it makes sense that they would have thought of me for it.

I found out at the Michael Bay roundtables that anyone between the age of 35-40 is an old lady.

(Jokingly) Can’t wait to meet him. Where is he? Go get him.

As speaking as an old lady myself, how is it in this industry? It is a bit of a challenge?

I have to laugh because yesterday I was doing the Hollywood Foreign Press. One of the women said to me “So, now that you have this old and decrepit body.” She had a heavy accent so I thought she really didn’t say that. I said “Excuse me. Did you just say I had an old and decrepit body?” And I think it was sort of in her language. The worst say people say horrible things like that but they really don’t mean it. Maybe he really doesn’t mean that we are old and decrepit.

What was it like working with Nikki Blonsky?

What can you say? She’s a marvel. You just .. she was born to play this part. You would never know that she had never been on a movie set. She just .. it was like she had grown up on a soundstage. So comfortable. So gracious. She has such a grace and maturity about her. And looking into that face. That was the hard part. I had to be really mean a lot. The beginning scene when she comes in to audition we actually shot toward the end. So we had done all this sort of mean, mean, mean, mean stuff. And then I come to do this scene when I am in her face .. it killed me.

Are you about to start a new project?

I am not about to start a new project. It looks like I will be going back to work. And I won’t wait four years. Let’s just put it that way.

What about Brittany Snow as your daughter?

I just fell in love with Brittany. I just wanted to put her in my suitcase and take her home. She is a remarkable young woman. She started very young. She is an incredible person and I adore her. She is going to do very well.

Latest News