Sunday Times Magazine | 22 January 2005
Armani has been saving Michelle Pfeiffer from fashion disaster on the red carpet for 20 years – so she was happy to help him by modelling his new creations
REPORT HILARY ROSE PHOTOGRAPHS MARIO TESTINO
Dressing for the red carpet is a notorious minefield. Even when you’ve suspended your own fashion sense, hired a stylist and selected a little something from one of the world’s finest designers, the chances for howlers are still legion. (Cast your mind back, if you will, to Gwyneth Paltrow in her unwise gothic-y McQueen number.) Encouragingly for those who have suffered for their art in this way, even Michelle Pfeiffer isn’t immune from worry. She describes her fashion sense as “wayward” and admits she needs saving from her own sometimes dubious dress choices.
Not that you’d know it. It’s more than 20 years since Pfeiffer got her big break in Scarface. Since then, she has sashayed up red carpets with the best of them, yet she is almost a stranger to Worst Dressed Lists. It helps that nearly all clothes look good when you’ve got a model’s figure (this is a former Miss Orange County); if you can top it off with a classically beautiful face, so much the better.
But Pfeiffer is cleverer than that: rather than leave it to chance, she has nurtured a relationship with Giorgio Armani that has become a friendship. Now for the first time, as these pictures show, she is modelling for the new Armani advertising campaign.
Armani has been a fan of hers for years. “Scarface had just come out and I got a call saying that Giorgio Armani wanted to dress me,” Pfeiffer recalls. “I didn’t know that people in the movie industry did such things. I remember thinking, “Why do I want someone to dress me? I can dress myself, and who is Giorgio Armani?”
Pfeiffer, 47, is no mere clotheshorse: her loyalty to Armani, whom she calls her “soul mate”, is based on her belief that he is an “artist”, who never gets it wrong. “He is versatile and flexible enough to adjust to my sometimes schizophrenic personality. Mostly I don’t want to think about what I wear, but sometimes I’ll get in a mood to try something a little daring. He is always there to save me from myself.”
As evidence of that, she cites her decision some years back to get a pair of Armani trousers re-cut into bell-bottoms, which she then wore to the Emmys. (Events like that still make her nervous, whether she’s presenting an award or receiving one.) Luckily for both of them Armani was, she says ruefully, “gracious enough to look the other way”. But it was a rare gaffe: mostly, she says, he has saved her from herself and spared me from being on all those worst-dressed lists. You don¡¦t see the whole design until it is actually on your body. So much of fashion today is unwearable. His clothes are meant for people to wear.”
It’s a long way from Pfeiffer’s California childhood, with teenage years at the beach and an early career as a model and checkout girl at the local supermarket. It wasn’t nearly enough: she remembers thinking one day, “This is my life and I hate it – what am I going to do?” The one thing she really wanted to do was act, so she thought she might as well give it a try. As she puts it, with characteristic understatement, “It just went from there.”
Surprisingly, the glacial insouciance that she radiates both on the page and on-screen was, at first, an act: she spent the early part of her career so crippled by nerves and fear of failure that she felt physically sick. Two decades later and she has acted opposite the likes of Al Pacino, George Clooney and Jack Nicholson, and is currently filming Chasing Montana, a comedy drama about a father-daughter relationship, written by her husband, David E.Kelley.
She’s also settled down into a life of comparatively anonymous domestic bliss. In 1993, shortly after adopting a daughter, Claudia Rose, now 11, she met and married Kelley, the writer and producer of Ally McBeal. They now have a son, John Henry, 10, and apparently share a healthy reluctance to attend the opening of envelopes. “Neither of us wants a life of parties,” her husband has said. “We’re just not made that way.” She prides herself on having a “relatively normal” life. When her children started school, Pfeiffer had to sit down and explain to them that Mummy was quite a famous actress, so they would be prepared if classmates commented. (She showed them a tape of Grease 2 – not, she admits, her finest hour – and was gratified that they were bored stiff by it.)
“HE HAS A WAY OF LETTING ME BELIEVE I’M WEARING EXACTLY WHAT I WANT”
Perhaps as a result of that grounded life, Pfeiffer is clearly a woman at ease in her skin. With the confidence of someone whose looks seem only to improve with age, she is unafraid of growing older but admits that though she does sometimes feel beautiful, there are other times ¡§when I want to crawl under a rock”. Though she watches what she eats and works out, she isn’t obsessive about it and keeps her skincare routine simple. Ten years ago she smoked, didn’t have a beauty routine, and ate whatever she wanted. “Now I use sunscreen and it takes longer to go to bed or leave the house.”
For more information and pictures of Michelle modeling for Giorgio Armani S/S 2005 collection please visit PFEIFFER STYLE GALLERY