“What Lies Beneath”: Michelle Pfeiffer Interview

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., July 15, 2000 — Okay, we can be officially jealous of Michelle Pfeiffer.

It’s not enough that she’s a three-time Academy Award nominee who laces up her corsets for Scorsese’s artsy “Age of Innocence,” then turns around and slings on a leather jacket for the Simpson/Bruckheimer box-office hit “Dangerous Minds.” Or that she’s had on-screen romantic partners in Mel Gibson, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, John Malkovich, Bruce Willis, George Clooney … the list goes on.

But then there’s her private life. Devoid of controversy or scandal, the former Miss Orange County (Calif.) has been happily married for nearly seven years to David E. Kelley, a.k.a. the writer/producer/creator of “The Practice,” “Chicago Hope” and “Ally McBeal.” They have two children: Claudia Rose, whom Pfeiffer adopted as an infant in 1993, and John Henry, born in 1994. Pfeiffer has even cut interviews short because her kids made her hang up.

But what is really grating, of course, is this: When Hollywood.com sat down to interview the star of the upcoming thriller “What Lies Beneath,” we hoped that her legendary beauty was actually something embellished by camera lighting and good makeup.

No such luck. At the age of 43, Pfeiffer is as striking as ever, luminous but not too stiff to crack a joke or two. Her eyes, which turn rather sinister at times during the supernatural suspense, today are friendly and warm.

In the film she plays a former cellist who gave up her career to have a perfect family. After her only child (Katharine Towne) leaves for college, she begins to see evidence of a spirit in the house. While her husband, played by Harrison Ford, dismisses her inklings as paranoia, Pfeiffer begins to learn that the ghost may be linked to her husband’s past betrayal, and may be returning to torment them.

“I’m not afraid of scary movies, [but] I’m afraid of the water,” she says frankly of her many frightening scenes in the bathroom. “[And I spent] a lot of time in the bathtub. Days … weeks in the bathtub. Torture. I got through it. I’m here; I live to tell the tale.”

She also “survived” her experience with co-star Ford. The two acting veterans had never shared a screen before, and Pfeiffer admits nervousness when she meets her leading man for the first time.

“You always have certain kind of expectation. Because even though you know better, you still do believe a lot of the public kind of persona,” she says. “But I was really taken with [Ford’s] presence in the room, his very sort-of power that is a little overwhelming initially. But he’s very nice and very hardworking, and is a real collaborator.”

The two stars do share one thing in common: They’re both private celebrities who keep their families out of the spotlight. But Pfeiffer says her kids are still too young to distinguish her career from real life.

“Actually they’re kind-of kept very separate from all of it,” she says. “[But] my daughter was on the set one day and she … overheard my voice saying there’s a ghost in her house.”

She chuckles. “And you know, she’s 7 — at the time she was 6 — so it took a lot of explaining on my part. ‘No honey, there really aren’t ghosts, it’s just this movie I’m making.'”

“What Lies Beneath,” released by 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks, opens July 21.