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Back in 1983, Michelle Pfeiffer was relatively new in the industry, and young to boot. She hadn't become the household name she is today, and she was trying to break in not take a break from acting. She got her chance with Scarface, Brian de Palma's drug kingpin story which feature Pfeiffer as Elvira Hancock, a trophy wife who eventually gets embroiled into Tony Montana's world. The actress went all-out for the gig, and was rewarded for it with fame and bigger roles. However, she recently revealed that she put her body through a lot in order to lose weight for the famous role, noting what was responsible for her look at the Scarface 35th anniversary showing:
The one scene that was the end of the film where I needed to be my thinnest, it was [pushed to the] next week, and then it was the next week, and then it was the next week. I literally had members of the crew bringing me bagels because they were all worried about me and how thin I was getting. I think I was living on tomato soup and Marlboros.
It isn't easy to lose weight for movies. A lot of stars use a combination of diet and exercise to get trim for movies these days -- Chris Pratt's "What's My Snack" comes to mind -- however, Scarface was filmed in the eighties, a time when people didn't bat as many eyelashes at people smoking heavily as a weight loss tool. Michelle Pfeiffer did reveal at the Scarface screening that she really committed to the weight loss to the point where people were paying attention to how much she was eating and were worried about her. But she also revealed she was committed to the role.
Elvira Hancock spirals heavier into drug addiction after getting with Tony, and she also revealed at the Scarface Anniversary screening at the Tribeca Film Festival (via USA Today) that she wanted to show how the character changed during the movie.
I don't know, but I was playing a cocaine addict, so that was part of the physicality of the part, which you have to consider. I do remember, you know, the movie was only supposed to be, what? A three-month, four-month [shoot]... it ended up being [longer]. Of course, I tried to time it so that as the movie went on, I became thinner and thinner and more emaciated.
People were not particularly pleased that Pfeiffer was asked about her weight, and you can hear them booing in the clip, below, but she did answer the question.
Whatever Michelle Pfeiffer did for the role, it worked. The actress subsequently landed a slew of parts, from roles including but not limited to The Fabulous Baker Boys that brought her Academy Award nominations, and roles that have stuck out in pop culture in the years following, including famously playing Selina Kyle in Batman Returns. After a break, the actress returned to acting only recently, starring in mother! and Murder on the Orient Express in 2018. This year, you can catch her as Janet Van Dyne in Ant-Man and the Wasp.