People Weekly Magazine
July 13, 1992
THE TWO LIVES OF CATWOMAN:
Onscreen she's a haughty, naughty feline, Batman's purrfect foil. But unmasked, the real Michelle Pfeiffer is a Plain Jane who shuns makeup, ducks fans and cohabits with a nonhunk actor she adores.
Like a catwoman on a hot tin roof, Michelle Pfeiffer is sizzling this summer. As the slinky, kinky, whip-snapping, wisecracking antiheroine of Batman Returns, she has helped transform the year's most eagerly anticipated movie into one of the biggest blockbusters of all time (more than $100 million and purring) and guaranteed herself superstar status in the bargain. Yet despite a glamorous image that keeps her in the public eye (she's been one of PEOPLE's 50 Most Beautiful People in the World for three years running), Pfeiffer, 34, remains a mystery woman offscreen. Playing Catwoman, she has said, "I have to be frivolous and off-the-cuff and over-the-top, and it isn't may nature to be any of those things."
unmasked Michelle appears to be a lot closer in
personality to Catwoman's mousy, inhibited alter ego,
Selina Kyle. "The way my mouth curls up and my nose
tilts," Pfeiffer once joked, self-deprecatingly,
"I should be cast as Howard the Duck." This other
Michelle downplays her beauty by routinely pulling her
hair back into a ponytail and wearing no makeup. Often
hidden, in the interest of privacy, under a floppy hat,
behind sunglasses and in T-shirt and jeans, she certainly
makes no effort to look like a movie goddess.
|Nor to seek happiness with another matinee
idol. She already tried that in a nine-year marriage to thirtysomething's
hunky Peter Horton (they separated in 1988 and divorced
two years later) and in two brief flings in 1988 with Batman's
Michael Keaton and her Dangerous Liaisons costar
John Malkovich. But for the past three years, Pfeiffer
has kept company with Fisher Stevens, a 5' 8"
character actor (Short Circuit, My Science
Project) who specializes in playing nerds, wears $40
thrift-shop suits and, at 28, is six years her junior.
Considering some of the fabulous men she has starred
opposite (Sean Connery, Mel Gibson and Jack Nicholson,
among them), Pfeiffer knows that, at first blush, her
choice of steady may seem unusual. "Fisher is not
your standard leading-man type," she has admitted,
"but I adore him.
|By all accounts there is much to admire in
Stevens. "Fisher is terribly creative, dedicated,
honest and kind," says Kenneth Johnson, who directed
him in Short Circuit 2. "He's the kind of
guy you can't not like. I wasn't surprised when Michelle
was drawn to him. I wouldn't be surprised if Elizabeth
and Stevens met three years ago, when both were appearing
in a New York Shakespeare Festival production of Twelfth
Night. She was making her New York stage debut as
the desirable countess Olivia; he was her foolish suitor,
Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Their real-life courtship had a
shaky first act. Stevens, who at 18 had changed his name
from Steven Fisher (already used by another actor) and
had previously been linked with Helen (Supergirl)
Slater, whisked Pfeiffer to Paris for what was supposed
to be a romantic interlude. Just as they arrived,
however, Stevens fell "violently ill" with the
flu, recounts Johnson. "How would you feel if you
were with a beautiful, talented person in paris and you
were sick? I remember him saying that she was terrific
about the illness." Their romance survived that
crisis, and they have been loyally winging ever since
between his co-op in Manhattan, her hacienda-style home
in Santa Monica and their far-flung locations.
Pfeiffer seems determined to make this relationship work. "When she sets her goals in a direction, look out," says her father, Dick, 59...
<snip history of Pfeiffer's early years>
She also came
into her own personally. "After Peter Horton, Fisher
seemed like a strange turn-around for Michelle,"
Dick Pfeiffer concedes. "But you know what she told
me? 'Dad, Fisher makes me laugh. The others made me cry.'
" Fisher, adds Dick, is "real good to Michelle
and fun to be around."
"Fisher has a great sense of humor," confirms his mother, Sally Fisher, 49, a Los Angeles painter and AIDS activist who raised her son alone in Manhattan after being divorced from his father, Norman, a Chicago furniture executive. And she thinks the apparent differences between Fisher and Michelle are merely skin-deep. "Fisher would not be with someone just because they're beautiful," she says. "He's with Michelle because she's wonderful inside."
Looks aren't an issue, their contemporaries concur. Nor, they say, is the couple's six-year age gap a barrier. Fisher, who as a teen successfully battled Hodgkin's disease (a lymphatic cancer), is "very mature for his age. He's 28 going on 70," says David Beaird, Stevens' executive producer on his upcoming Fox series, Key West, a sort of Southern Exposure in which eh plays a lottery-winning writer from New Jersey. "He comes across as sensitive and smart," continues Beaird. "And he's fascinated by people. He's interested in the busboy and the hot dog vendor. He could go to a KKK rally and walk up to anybody and find out why they got demented."
Stevens' friends, who address him as Fish (Michelle prefers Fisher), adds that he's a good dancer and a competitive amateur athlete who excels at squash, basketball and touch football. "He's also a good poker player," says Dick Pfeiffer. "We play when he visits."
Michelle, in turn, goes shopping with Fisher's mother in L.A. and once skied with both of them in Taos, N.Mex., where Pfeiffer's fans inevitably discovered them dining at a lodge. Sally Fisher describes the fans' behavior as "appalling. People would come right up to the table and start arguing out loud whether that was Michelle Pfeiffer sitting in front of them," she says, ruefully. "Don't these people have a life?"
Under the circumstances, Michelle and Fisher are tyring to keep their life together as private as possible. Whenever she jets down to the Key West set, says Beaird, "he's very protective of her. He stays with her, keeps the press away, keeps everyone away. Maybe that's why they're still together."
But all too
often they're apart. "It's difficult," Stevens
says of their cross-country relationship. "But we're
working it out." Last month he flew from Wilmington,
N.C., where he is shooting Super Mario Bros., a
big-screen version of the popular video game, to escort
Pfeiffer to the Hollywood premiere of Batman Returns.
As photographers and reporters mobbed her outside Mann's
Chinese Theatre, Stevens stood about 10 feet away, all
but ignored and looking uncomfortable. "It's
completely overwhelming," he said softly. "There
are just so many people."
Which is why they prefer to stay home. Last winter, while Pfeiffer was shooting Batman Returns in L.A., she and Fisher nested in her Santa Monica spread. After an exhausting day on the set, he recalls, "she'd come home with a completely different hairstyle, depending on whom she was playing, Selina or Catwoman. It was funny." She also walked around the house practicing her feline avenger's antics (the kickboxing close-ups onscreen are all hers, though a stunt double did Catwoman's backflips). And, says Stevens, "she was constantly cracking her Catwoman whip."
When, if ever, will Pfeiffer take another crack at wedlock? "I don't know if they'll marry," says Sally Fisher. "But they're very affectionate with one another, and they think about having children." <snip rest of article>
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