Michelle Pfeiffer gets feisty in ‘People Like Us’

Chris Pine has the kind of face that Michelle Pfeiffer dreads hitting.

Despite the fact that actor Chris Pine has grown accustomed to taking a beating on film — with roles in “Star Trek” and this year’s “This Means War” — Michelle Pfeiffer wasn’t particularly enthused about joining the party. “Oh, I hated that,” Pfeiffer says of her first scene with Pine in “People Like Us,” in which she slaps him across the face. “I didn’t like having to do that. I didn’t even like watching it. It’s so brutal, really, to slap somebody. I think it’s probably hard for audiences to see that.”

In “People Like Us,” Pfeiffer plays Lillian, the mother to Pine’s Sam, who is dealing with the aftershocks of discovering his recently deceased father secretly had another child (Elizabeth Banks). Given the tension in the mother-son relationship onscreen, Pfeiffer’s main concern was conveying some warmth in Lillian. “One of the things [director] Alex [Kurtzman] and I talked about from the beginning was that she just didn’t become one-dimensional and really arch and really cold and icy,” Pfeiffer says. “We wanted to find the humanity of this person who was just really limited and damaged and who had made certain choices in her life that she may regret, that she’s not proud of. What I love about her is that she ultimately owns up and takes responsibility for those choices. I think she’s unapologetic about it.”

Another thing she decided to be unapologetic about was Lillian’s look, presenting her natural beauty with a fair dose of weary reality. “It’s not easy to see yourself at your worst,” she says of watching the finished product. “None of us want people to see us when we’ve just rolled out of bed and your hair is dirty and you don’t have any makeup on and you’re puffy from whatever you’ve been doing. And that’s who she is. I wanted to do that. I wanted to go there, I felt it would be liberating.”

While Pfeiffer has become much choosier about what roles she takes, that’s only partly due to the quality of the work being offered. “I’m always looking for something well-written, something interesting, a place I haven’t ventured before,” she says. “And then there are other variables like when is it shooting, where is it shooting, how long is it shooting — because I still have family commitments and I’m always weighing that. If you look at the last three movies I’ve done, they have been sort of smaller parts or part of an ensemble where I can come in and come out and still be a mom and go off and get my work fix.”


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