This is that ice cold Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold...
That’s how the song goes, anyway. But Michelle Pfeiffer, the actual person and not the Mark Ronson fantasy lyric, is rather different.
Sure, she’s got the pale complexion of a Frozen sister, but face-to-face, the movie star has the vibe of a best friend’s mom—warm, interested, and casual enough about her wild youth that you feel free discussing a kind-of-maybe-boyfriend. (“Watch out for those,” she says, and yeah.)
Pfeiffer has come from Malibu to Manhattan to discuss her newest role—beauty brand founder—and to introduce her first-ever line of scents. “I’ve always been obsessed with fragrances,” says the three-time Oscar nominee, “but for the longest time, I didn’t wear them, because all the chemicals in perfume really scared me.”
Enter Henry Rose, a line of scents named for her children and dedicated to 100% clean ingredients. “It’s taken almost ten years,” she admits, “but I’m really proud of the results.”
She’s so proud that she sat down to discuss her five new fragrances, plus some iconic roles and George Clooney tea…
You’ve made over 60 movies, but this is your first actual product. Why fragrance?
Because I’m obsessed with it, but of course, I picked the hardest beauty product to make, and nobody told me until I’d already gotten started! When I said I’d only make a totally “clean” fragrance, I was told, “You will never get fragrances 100% ecological. Never.” So I had to make them myself.
What was the source of that obsession?
Years ago, when I was a new mom, I got obsessed with ingredients. I started asking, “What kinds of chemicals am I exposing my kids to?” Around that same time, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. It was a real wakeup call for me. It really changed the way I began to view health… not just what’s in our bodies, but what’s on and around them. The problem was, the [beauty] products I found that were 100% organic just didn’t work.
So you made your own.
Eventually. It took almost 10 years from start to finish… we finally teamed up with International Flavors and Fragrances, and together, we made formulas with Cradle to Cradle certification—I know, it’s a mouthful!—but basically, the finished product is fine fragrances that have the stamp of approval from the most rigorous watchdogs in the environmental industry. And they still smell amazing, which is the most important thing.
A lot of Hollywood stars have wellness empires. Jessica Alba made The Honest Company, Gwyneth created GOOP… is this the beginning of a Michelle Pfeiffer lifestyle brand?
You know, I didn’t even have a company until last June!…It’s such a miracle that we’ve actually done the fragrances. Of course, I think we’d want to expand the brand a little, but I don’t know what that looks like. I think it has to be transparent, innovative, and sustainable. But I can’t think about anything beyond that.
So we won’t be getting e-newsletters from you about holistic breakups or poop?
An email about my poop? Oh gosh, I’d say that’s very unlikely.
Cool, just checking. So your fragrances have really evocative names like “Torn” and “Last Light.” But the most curious name is “Jake’s House.”
Ah, Jake’s House is actually my grandfather’s house in North Dakota! Jake’s my grandfather. Growing up, their house smelled amazing. I think because I grew up in a family of smokers, our house just stank all the time. Now that I’m making this connection, I think when things smelled beautiful, I just relished it because that was so far from my normal life. That’s why I probably became so obsessed and in love with perfume, because of the smoking.
Were you a big smoker, too?
Oh yeah, I would smoke a lot. I quit when I was 32… but I still want to smoke all the time. I never fell out of love with it. And every time I have to smoke for a role, they have those cigarettes that don’t have nicotine, and it’s like a cruel joke. Because they smell awful but not like a cigarette, and they don’t have Nicotine but they still burn your lungs. But even so, the motion of doing it—just pulling it in and out of your mouth—it’s still so soothing to me.
You have a fragrance named “Fog,” but I bet that doesn’t smell like cigarettes…
It smells like San Francisco in the summertime.
Which of your fragrances smells most like Catwoman?
Oooh, “Dark as Night.” That one smells like you’re out late at night in a place you’re definitely not supposed to be!
What scent comes to mind for your movie Dangerous Minds?
It smells like Old Spice! Which my father also wore, so I developed one of the Henry Rose perfumes—”Torn”—to smell a bit like it, even though at the time, I didn’t even realize… but yeah, I love the smell of Old Spice! I guess because I found it wonderful as a child.
Do you think being a female business founder is—
No way! Being a movie star is so much crazier.
And I’ve been doing that for like a million years.
I was going to say, do you think being a female business founder is easier now than it would have been if you’d started Henry Rose ten years ago, when you first wanted to do it?
I do think that if you’re a female founder, now is a great time to start a business. Certainly when I started out, there wasn’t this wave that’s happening now. So for once, my timing is really good! [Laughing] Seriously, with my work, I’m not that premeditated—I really should be—but I just kind of “go” when I feel like it. And it’s actually a good idea to do this now.
Your timing seems perfect. After launching Henry Rose, you have Maleficent 2 coming out this Fall…
But I’m not allowed to talk about it! All I can say is that it was so fun working with a cast full of women, just women. You don’t get to do it that often. It’s like you show up, and you’re automatically sisters. It does change the feeling of the work. But that’s literally all I’m allowed to say about it.
Well, if I can’t ask about Angelina, I guess I’ll end with George Clooney. You famously made him a bet during One Fine Day…
You bet that he’d eventually get married to his true love, and he bet that he’d always stay single. So… Mrs. Amal Clooney is real and amazing, and has he paid you?
No! He hasn’t paid up!
So how much money does George Clooney owe you right now?
Well, the number kept going up and up in the press. I think when we made the bet, it was $200. Then it jumped in some publication to $2000… It keeps growing each time it’s printed. So now, I guess it would be like $200,000?! So sure, I expect a check in the mail. I’m sure it’ll happen any day now. [Laughing.]