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We are accustomed to seeing our favorite actors on the big screen — completely taking on new identities, personalities, and goals. As they effortlessly melt into these new personas, it can be easy to forget about the real-life struggles of the people underneath.

Every once in a while, convention panels, discerning interviews, or tell-all memoirs can lend shocking insight into off-stage drama. These details aren’t always salacious. On the contrary, they’re often a comforting reminder that even Catwoman can have her days of self-doubt… but Michelle Pfeiffer found a way to persevere. 

Michelle Pfeiffer has dominated the big-screen for four decades

Michelle Pfeiffer attends the world premiere of Disney's “Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil" at El Capitan Theatre on September 30, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Michelle Pfeiffer attends the world premiere of Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil” at El Capitan Theatre on September 30, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. | Amy Sussman/WireImage

Pfeiffer was born just 40 minutes from Hollywood, but didn’t grow up with dreams of acting. According to IMDb, she attended Golden West College after high school with ambitions of being a court reporter. Fortunately for movie-goers everywhere, Pfeiffer realized her love of acting just one year into her college education.

In 1979, she began appearing in small TV and movie roles. Initially, she seemed to be hopelessly type-casted — frequently playing parts that were solely focused on looks and even unnamed. 

Grease 2 served as her gateway to the big leagues, although the actress has since admitted that she hated the film. At the very least, the mediocre sequel helped other casting directors recognize the diverse talents of Pfeiffer, leading her to the set of Dangerous Liaisons, a drama film for which she would earn an Oscar nomination in 1988. In the coming years, she would see many more. 

From an iconic Hairspray remake to a recurring role in the Marvel Character Universe, Pfeiffer seems like the quintessential Hollywood success story. After all, it’s not just anyone who could get a shout-out in a song like Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk

The actor and other stars opened up about the tough side of acting

The Los Angeles Times recently hosted Pfeiffer and four other woman powerhouses in Hollywood. The group participated in “The Actress Envelope Roundtable” — an open discussion that seeks insight from all actresses in the running for a 2021 Academy Award. Other famous faces included Kate Winslet, Rashida Jones, Vanessa Kirby, and Andra Day. 

In recent years, big names in the movie industry have been more open about problems behind the scenes — from sexual harassment to racist treatment. As each woman shared her personal fears and experiences, Day commented that, “This is a roundtable, but also a therapy session.” 

Winslet opened up about her immense apprehension toward Hollywood following TitanicThe star feared that her success had been a fluke, and felt unbearable pressure to live up to her original performance and intense beauty standards in the industry. 

Michelle Pfeiffer feared her anxiety would end her career

Winslet isn’t the only one who questions her qualifications for Hollywood. Pfeiffer’s lack of professional training has frequently be a source of insecurity for the star. She told the New Yorker that each new role fills her with dread as she convinces herself that “this will be the performance [she] will be discovered as the fraud that [she has] known all along that [she is].”

For fans who have seen her wield a whip as Catwoman, this concern could seem laughable. Still, she expanded on this idea during the roundtable.

She confessed that, when she first started acting, the first day of filming would cause her to shake so bad that she “was sure you could see it on film.” She estimated that these tremors lasted for the first decade of her career. 

Now, a few more decades later, fans of nearly every TV and movie genre have a reason to be grateful that Pfeiffer didn’t give up.