Michell Pfeiffer reclaiming cinematic stake with Cheri

METRO NEWS
Weekend June 19-21, 2009

STEVE GOW
p. 30.

Michell Pfeiffer plays an ageing courtesan in Cheri.

For Michelle Pfeiffer picking roles carefully has paid off well. Not only has her discretion afforded the soft-spoken actress a lengthy career in Hollywood but decent scripts have led to three Oscar nominations, including one for Dangerous Liaisons.

It may not be surprising then that after not appearing on film since 2007, Pfeiffer is reclaiming her cinematic stake by re-teaming with the filmmaking duo behind that aforementioned film — scribe Christopher Hampton and director Stephen Frears.

“They have a tremendous amount of respect for each other,” said Pfeiffer recently in New York while promoting Cheri (in theatres next Friday).

“In fact, their relationship on the set is really unlike any other writer-director that I’ve seen. Usually when movies start, directors are kind of, ‘Now it’s time for me to take it where I want to take it’ and (on this), it’s a real collaboration between the two of them and Christopher is there everyday.”

Following their past history adapting classic French novels, Frears and Hampton’s Cheri tells the tale of an impossible affair between a spoiled, young navel-gazer and an ageing courtesan named Lea in 1920s Paris.

Although there have been various adaptations over the years, this latest version of famed novelist Colette’s work may be the most intimate.

“She had a very scandalous affair with (her teenaged stepson),” said Pfeiffer, comparing the author to her character. “She was ostracized from the family because of it; she was an actress at one point — which was basically the equivalent of being a prostitute at that time — she was very scandalous.”

It was just that fascination with the author that further inspired Pfeiffer to take on the role of Lea — just as it inspired Frears and Hampton.

“Stephen would talk about (paying tribute), about being true to Colette and honoring her,” said Pfeiffer. “He would constantly be saying, ‘Make Colette proud’ and ‘what would Colette have done?'”

“This is the quintessential Colette book,” added Hampton. “I started off wanting to make a film about Colette. This was kind of the next best thing.”

Original on Metro News

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