On Thursday night, Michelle Pfeiffer and fellow castmates celebrated the 35th anniversary of the iconic film Scarface with a panel at the Tribeca Film Festival. While Al Pacino, Brian De Palma, and Steven Bauer were asked engaging questions about their performances, Pfeiffer was deigned to answer a question about her weight while playing Elvira Hancock.
“As the father of a daughter, I am concerned with body image,” moderator Jesse Kornbluth said at the top of the program, according Vulture. “In the preparation for this film, what did you weigh?” Members of the audience proceeded to boo the question, and in one video, a woman can be heard yelling, “You don’t need to answer that!” to a shocked-looking Pfeiffer. Kornbluth defended himself by saying, “This is not the question you think it is,” and, despite seeming to be speechless, Pfeiffer answered graciously.
“Well, okay. I don’t know. I was playing a cocaine addict, so that was part of the physicality of the part, which you have to consider,” she said. “You know, the movie was only supposed to be a three- or four-month shoot. I tried to time it so that as the movie went on, I became thinner and thinner, and more emaciated,” Pfeiffer continued as Kornbluth interjected, “without getting addicted to cocaine.” The actress continued, “The problem is, it ended up going six months. I was starving by the end. The one scene, the end of the film, where I was thinnest, it was always next week, then next week, [and so on]. I literally had members of the crew bringing me bagels because they were worried about how thin I was getting. I was living on tomato soup and Marlboros.”
According to Vulture, besides the question surrounding her appearance, Pfeiffer was only asked one other thing about the performance that cemented her path as as a serious actress who would go on to notch three Academy Award nominations, while colleagues Pacino, De Palma, and Bauer were not asked about their weight or physical considerations as fellow cocaine addicts.
In an e-mail sent to IndieWire, Kornbluth defended his question as “a comment on the knee-jerk political correctness of our time,” adding “that no one would be shocked if you asked Robert De Niro about the weight gain required for his role in Raging Bull but you get booed — not by many, but by a vocal few — for asking Michelle Pfeiffer about the physical two-dimensionality required for her to play a cocaine freak in Scarface.”