Griffith in 2016
Melanie Richards Griffith
August 9, 1957
New York City, U.S.
|Education||Hollywood Professional School|
|Height||5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)|
(m. 1976; div. 1976)
(m. 1989; div. 1996)
(m. 1981; div. 1989)
(m. 1996; div. 2015)
|Children||3, including Dakota Johnson|
|Relatives||Tracy Griffith (paternal half-sister)|
Melanie Richards Griffith (born August 9, 1957) is an American film, stage, and television actress, and film producer. She began her career in the 1970s, appearing in several independent thriller films before achieving mainstream success in the mid-1980s.
Born in New York City to actress Tippi Hedren and advertising executive Peter Griffith, she was raised mainly in Los Angeles, where she graduated from the Hollywood Professional School at age sixteen. In 1975, a then seventeen-year-old Griffith appeared opposite Gene Hackman in Arthur Penn's film noir Night Moves. She later rose to prominence for her role portraying a pornographic actress in Brian De Palma's thriller Body Double (1984), which earned her a National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress. Griffith's subsequent performance in the comedy Something Wild (1986) garnered critical acclaim before she was cast in 1988's Working Girl, which earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress and won her a Golden Globe.
The 1990s saw Griffith in a series of roles which received varying critical reception: she received Golden Globe nominations for her performances in Buffalo Girls (1995), and as Marion Davies in RKO 281 (1999), while also earning a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress for her performances in Shining Through (1992), as well as receiving nominations for Crazy in Alabama (1999) and John Waters' cult film Cecil B. Demented (2000). Other credits include John Schlesinger's Pacific Heights (1990), Milk Money (1994), the neo-noir film Mulholland Falls (1996), as Charlotte Haze in Adrian Lyne's Lolita (1997), and Another Day in Paradise (1998).
She later starred as Barbara Marx in The Night We Called It a Day (2003), and spent the majority of the 2000s appearing on such television series as Nip/Tuck, Raising Hope, and Hawaii Five-0. After acting on stage in London, in 2003 she made her Broadway debut in a revival of the musical Chicago, receiving celebratory reviews. In the 2010s, Griffith returned to film, starring opposite former husband Antonio Banderas in the science fiction film Autómata (2014) and as an acting coach in James Franco's The Disaster Artist (2017).
- 1 Life and career
- 2 Philanthropy
- 3 Filmography
- 4 References
- 5 Works cited
- 6 External links
Life and career
1957–1969: Early life
Melanie Richards Griffith was born on August 9, 1957 in Manhattan, New York City, to actress Tippi Hedren and Peter Griffith, a former child stage actor and advertising executive. Griffith's maternal ancestry is Swedish, Norwegian, and German. Her parents separated when she was two years old, after which she relocated to Los Angeles with her mother; they divorced two years later, when Griffith was four. After divorcing Hedren, her father married model-actress Nanita Greene and had two more children: Tracy Griffith, who also became an actress, and Clay A. Griffith, a set designer. Her mother married agent and producer Noel Marshall when Griffith was seven years old.
During her childhood and adolescent years, she lived part of the time in New York with her father and part-time in Antelope Valley, California, where her mother formed the animal preserve Shambala. Griffith appeared in advertisements and briefly worked as a child model before abandoning the career, citing extreme shyness as the reason. While attending the Hollywood Professional School, Griffith was advanced in her studies, which allowed her to skip a grade level and graduate at age 16.
1969–1979: Career beginnings and first marriage
Griffith's first onscreen appearances were as an extra in Smith! (1969) and The Harrad Experiment (1973). While on the set of the latter, fourteen-year-old Griffith met actor Don Johnson, then twenty-two. The two began dating, and the relationship culminated in a six-month marriage from January to July 1976. After divorcing Johnson, Griffith subsequently dated Ryan O'Neal. In her autobiography, A Paper Life, Tatum O'Neal alleged that Griffith dragged her into an orgy with Maria Schneider and a male hairdresser during the time of her father's relationship with Griffith.
Griffith had her first major role at age seventeen in Arthur Penn's film noir Night Moves (1975), in which she portrayed a runaway teenager pursued across the United States by a private detective, portrayed by Gene Hackman. In the film, she controversially appeared onscreen nude in several scenes. Griffith's performance in Night Moves drew attention to her and she was subsequently cast in two 1975 films: the comedy Smile, playing a Miss America contestant, and Stuart Rosenberg's The Drowning Pool, a thriller in which she portrayed the daughter of a Louisiana woman (played by Joanne Woodward) involved in a crime investigation. A contemporaneous profile of Griffith in Newsweek addressed her image at the time, in which it was noted: "She has the body of a sensuous woman, the pouting, chipmunk face of a teenager and the voice of a child–and, suddenly, she's showing them all."
In 1977, she had a supporting part playing a hitchhiker in the Lamont Johnson-directed sports drama One on One, where John Simon in his review of One on One wrote 'Griffith is miscast in a PG picture, where she is obliged to hide her one talent (or two depending on how you count it...them)'. Griffith appeared in the Israeli experimental film The Garden, in which she portrayed a mute woman in Jerusalem whom a man mistakes for an angel. The same year, she had a supporting role in Joyride opposite Robert Carradine, in which she played a young woman who leaves California with her boyfriend, hoping to start a fishing company in Alaska.
Griffith appeared as "Melanie" opposite her mother, Hedren, in the exploitation film Roar (1981), directed by her then-stepfather Noel Marshall. In the film, she portrayed the daughter of animal-keepers Madeleine (Hedren) and Hank (Marshall), whose various wild animals turn on them. Roar was a project devised by Hedren and Marshall, and has retrospectively been deemed one of the most dangerous film productions of all time. Filming of Roar had begun in 1970 and was intermittent over the following decade. On one occasion during the shoot, Griffith was mauled by a lion and had to undergo facial reconstructive surgery. Her attack and injury is visible in the finished film. Also in 1981, Griffith appeared as a Women's Army Corps recruit in the made-for-television movie She's in the Army Now (1981) with Jamie Lee Curtis and Steven Bauer. Shortly after completing the film, Griffith and Bauer married.
Griffith's well-known drug and alcohol addictions temporarily stalled her career in the early 1980s, but she made a comeback at age 26 with her role as a pornographic actress in the Brian De Palma thriller Body Double (1984). The film, although a commercial failure, earned her the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress. She then appeared in a supporting role in Abel Ferrara's thriller Fear City (1985), playing a prostitute in Times Square being stalked by a serial killer. Griffith gave birth to her first child, Alexander Griffith Bauer, on August 22, 1985, with Bauer. The following year, she had her first starring role opposite Jeff Daniels in Jonathan Demme's comedy Something Wild (1986), playing a mysterious woman who becomes involved with a straightlaced banker on a chance meeting. Critic Roger Ebert wrote of her acting: "Griffith's performance is based not so much on eroticism as on recklessness: She is able to convince us (and Daniels) that she is capable of doing almost anything, especially if she thinks it might frighten him." Griffith's performance earned her a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical. Griffith also starred in the speculative science fiction film Cherry 2000, which followed a business executive in the year 2017, and his relationship with a sex robot. The film was released directly-to-video in 1987.
Griffith achieved mainstream success when Mike Nichols cast her as spunky secretary Tess McGill in the box-office hit Working Girl (1988), co-starring Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Alec Baldwin, and Joan Cusack. Variety noted of her performance: "Griffith stands apart, both for her eagerness to break out of her clerical rut and her tenacity dealing with whomever seems to be thwarting her." Griffith was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance, and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. The film marked a professional shift for Griffith earning her accolades as an A-list actress, characterized in a 1989 Rolling Stone piece: "Before Working Girl, Melanie Griffith was known mostly for her beautiful body and the way that nearly half her directors suggested she expose it."
Griffith and Bauer separated prior to her appearance in Working Girl. Griffith later admitted to having problems with cocaine and liquor after her split from Bauer. "What I did was drink myself to sleep at night," she said. "If I wasn't with someone, I was an unhappy girl." In 1988, after completing rehabilitation, Griffith reconnected with Johnson, and the two remarried on June 26, 1989.
1989–1995: Mainstream success
On October 4, 1989, Griffith gave birth to her second child, daughter Dakota Johnson, with Don Johnson. After her pregnancy, Griffith began filming the thriller Pacific Heights (1990), directed by John Schlesinger, in which she portrayed a woman who, along with her husband, becomes embroiled in a dispute with a criminal boarder in their San Francisco home. Critic Roger Ebert gave the film a middling review, and characterized it as "a horror film for yuppies." The same year, she reunited with De Palma in The Bonfire of the Vanities, a black comedy in which she portrayed a Southern belle gold-digger. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone panned the film, noting that it "achieves a consistency of ineptitude rare even in this era of over-inflated cinematic air bags... Griffith has the curves and the Southern-belle voice of McCoy's mistress, Maria Ruskin, but the script robs this magnolia of her steel."
She was then cast in a lead role in Paradise (1991), a remake of the 1987 French film The Grand Highway, opposite then-husband Don Johnson, Elijah Wood and Thora Birch. In the film, Griffith portrayed a woman reeling from the death of her child, who takes in her friend's son. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly criticized Griffith's "cuddly, melting softness" in the film as being at odds with her character: "The way that Griffith has been directed, Lily never seems less than supremely nurturing. And so the movie — unlike, say, The Doctor — pulls back from revealing the dark side of an ordinary person's anguish." In 1992, she starred as Linda Voss, a German Jewish secretary in Berlin, opposite Michael Douglas in Shining Through, a World War II-set drama based on the 1988 novel of the same name. Desson Howe of The Washington Post was critical of Griffith's portrayal of a German accent, writing: "In all fairness, Griffith shouldn't be lambasted for her incompetent accent. She should be lambasted for her acting too. That baby voice of hers -- what's the deal with that? It's a liability in most of her movies. Here, it's completely ludicrous." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, however, noted Griffith as being "cannily cast" and "just about perfect."
She followed this with the Sidney Lumet-directed A Stranger Among Us, in which she portrayed a police officer posing as a fundamentalist Jew while investigating a murder. Jay Boyar of the Orlando Sentinel criticized Griffith's speaking in the film, writing: "When Griffith tries to speak in the crude manner of a streetwise cop, her baby-doll voice turns the words into strained peaches. And while she's capable of projecting the wounded quality that the role demands, she's completely unconvincing when it comes to conveying a detective's intelligence... The miraculous thing about A Stranger Among Us is that Melanie Griffith's performance doesn't entirely ruin it. In fact, though the movie has other problems, there are sections that work quite well."
In the summer of 1992, Griffith filmed the comedy Born Yesterday (1993), starring as a naive showgirl whose worldly and cultured husband (John Goodman) hires a reporter (Don Johnson) to educate her. Critic Ebert characterized the film as "gloomy" and faulted the performances for lacking chemistry. In 1994, Griffith headlined the romantic comedy Milk Money, playing a prostitute. Janet Maslin of The New York Times deemed the film a "brainless comedy," adding: "The film may try to renounce its own tawdriness, but not Ms. Griffith; she brings a certain irrepressible gusto to her role. Among the few genuinely amusing scenes here are those that show her flouncing through the small town where Frank and Dad live, scandalizing the locals and even finding one ex-client strolling with his wife on Main Street." The same year, she had a supporting role in Nobody's Fool, a drama starring Paul Newman, Jessica Tandy, and Bruce Willis. In the film, Griffith portrays the wife of a contractor (Willis) who has disputes with a free-spirited older man (Newman) in an upstate New York town. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times noted both Willis and Griffith as "somewhat less reliable" than Newman and Tandy.
Griffith and husband Johnson separated in March 1994, reconciled later that year, but separated again in May 1995, eventually divorcing in 1996. In the midst of her separation, she appeared in an ensemble cast in the coming-of-age drama Now and Then, playing an actress who returns to her Indiana hometown to reunite with her childhood friends. Roger Ebert wrote of the film: "The adult actresses are completely superfluous to the movie, which is a contrived Stand by Me kind of story." The same year, she starred opposite Anjelica Huston and Reba McEntire in the Western miniseries Buffalo Girls, based on the 1990 novel of the same name. Tom Shales of The Washington Post wrote of the series that "Huston, Griffith and McEntire make it not just bigger than life but, at times, better." For her performance, she received a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Television film.
1996–2002: Independent films and producing
In 1996, Griffith co-starred with Antonio Banderas in the comedy Two Much (1996). She and Banderas began a relationship during the film's production, and were married that year. After their respective divorces were finalized, Griffith and Banderas married on May 14, 1996, in London. Their daughter, Stella del Carmen Banderas, was born on September 24, 1996. Following Two Much, Griffith starred in the neo-noir Mulholland Falls (1996), playing the wife of a Los Angeles police detective (played by Nick Nolte). Critics such as Roger Ebert praised the film as "the kind of movie where every note is put in lovingly. It's a 1950s crime movie, but with a modern, ironic edge," but the film was a box office flop.
Griffith was cast in the role of Charlotte Haze in Adrian Lyne's 1997 adaptation of Lolita, opposite Jeremy Irons. The film received a brief theatrical run and was subsequently shown on television, and grossed only $1.1 million against a $62 million budget. Caryn James of The New York Times noted that Griffith was "ideally cast as the annoying, widowed Charlotte. With her garish red nails, her screeching voice, her affected diction, Charlotte seems unbearable to the professorial Humbert." In 1998, Griffith had a supporting part playing a famous actress in Woody Allen's Celebrity (1998), a performance characterized by critic Peter Travers as "playfully lusty." She followed this with a starring role as a free-spirited heroin addict in Larry Clark's independent film Another Day in Paradise, opposite James Woods. Roger Ebert praised the performances, writing: "Woods and Griffith play types they've played before, but with a zest and style that brings the movie alive--especially in the earlier scenes, before everything gets clouded by doom."
On February 5, 1999, Griffith made her stage debut at the Old Vic in London, England, where she acted with Cate Blanchett in The Vagina Monologues. The same year, she starred in Crazy in Alabama, a film directed by Banderas and produced by Greenmoon Productions, the company that she and Banderas formed together. In the film, Griffith played an eccentric woman in 1960s Alabama who kills her husband and heads to Hollywood to become a movie star; this plot is set against an subplot involving a race-related murder. Rita Kempley of The Washington Post wrote that "Griffith manages to make Barbra Streisand look downright camera-shy," but criticized its dual plots, writing that the "juxtapositions are not merely preposterous but downright tasteless. Worse yet, they unintentionally trivialize the civil rights movement by aligning it with a ding-dong belle's tenuous connection with the women's movement." This sentiment was echoed by Paul Clinton of CNN, who wrote: "The deadly serious Alabama plot line of Crazy in Alabama is much more interesting than Griffith's wacky, comic cross-country trip. These dueling stories result in a film that's oddly uneven and unlikely to generate big box-office numbers." This was followed by a role in the HBO television film RKO 281, in which Griffith portrayed 1920s and 1930s movie star Marion Davies. For her performance, she received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.
In 1999, Griffith was cast as Honey Whitlock, an arrogant actress kidnapped by a gang of underground filmmakers, in John Waters's black comedy Cecil B. Demented. Speaking on her being cast, Waters commented that Griffiths possessed "a combination of a good sense of humor and a little bit of defiance. Like me, she's someone with a past who has made peace with it. Nobody can blackmail her. So she's happy." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote of that while the film's jokes are "hit-and-miss," Griffith "has a ball tweaking her diva image." Also in 2000, Griffith opposite Patrick Swayze in Forever Lulu, in which she portrayed a schizophrenic woman attempting to contact her son. Derek Elley of Variety panned the film, referring to it as "a straight-to-vidbin stiff... this wannabe romantic comedy is chock full of phony sentiment."
In November 2000, Griffith returned to rehab for treatment of a painkiller addiction. While in rehab, Griffith began making public blog posts in an online journal detailing her battle to beat her substance abuse. She wrote in her first post: "I am starting this recovery journal because I wanted to share with you my experiences. I am still a little shaky, but I feel it is important that I share this with you, because an addiction to prescribed pain pills can happen to anyone, and you have to be careful." Griffith had a minor role in the 2001-released youth-oriented independent film Tart, which she co-produced with Banderas under their Green Moon Productions company. The film starred Griffith's former Lolita co-star Dominique Swain, as well as Brad Renfro, Bijou Phillips, and Mischa Barton. In 2002, she voiced the character of Margalo the bird in the animated film Stuart Little 2.
2003–2012: Theater and television
In August 2003, Griffith made her Broadway debut playing Roxie Hart in a run of the musical Chicago. The run was a box-office success. Though Griffith was previously untrained in song and dance, she still impressed New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley, who wrote: "Ms. Griffith is a sensational Roxie, possibly the most convincing I have seen" and "[the] vultures who were expecting to see Ms. Griffith stumble...will have to look elsewhere." Charles Isherwood of Variety noted some weaknesses in Griffith's performance, such as her singing and dancing abilities, but conceded:
These undeniable weaknesses ultimately are overridden, at least for this veteran of at least a half-dozen Chicago casts, by Griffith's fresh and thoroughly endearing take on the role. From the show's opening moments, when Roxie looks on with a sullen, confused pout as her lover prepares to hightail it out of her unsatisfactory life, Griffith infuses her perf with a natural vulnerability that gives her Roxie a refreshing authenticity. The contours of the character fit Griffith's screen persona like a lace glove: Inside this Roxie, a knowing woman playing the little girl lost, is a real little girl lost.
She returned to the stage in 2012 in a play written by Scott Caan, titled No Way Around but Through, in which she played his mother. She played Caan's mother again during 2014–16 in a recurring role on his television show Hawaii Five-0. In 2016, she filmed with Caan's father James Caan and Jon Voight in a TV-movie titled J.L. Ranch.
In August 2009, Griffith returned to rehab again for what her publicist called "part of a routine plan." She had a three-month stay. In December of that year, Griffith had surgery to remove skin cancer.
2013–present: Return to film
In June 2014, Griffith and Banderas released a statement announcing their intention to divorce "in a loving and friendly manner." According to the petition filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court, the couple had "irreconcilable differences" that led to the divorce. In December 2015, their divorce was finalized. Banderas has stated that he will always love Griffith, and Griffith appeared alongside Banderas in the 2014 science fiction film Autómata, which they filmed amidst their divorce proceedings. She then had a role in Day Out of Days (2015), directed by Zoe Cassavetes. In 2016, she signed to be a guest-star on Hulu's The Path.
In 2017, Griffith costarred opposite Al Pacino and Evan Peters in The Pirates of Somalia (originally titled Where the White Man Runs Away), a biopic about journalist Jay Bahadur; and played Jean Shelton in James Franco's The Disaster Artist, a comedy based on Greg Sestero's book of the same name. In mid-2018, Griffith played Mrs. Robinson in a stage version of The Graduate at the Laguna Playhouse in California. In August 2018, she revealed she had undergone further and "final" surgical treatments to remove skin cancer from her face.
Griffith supports the efforts of Children's Hospital Los Angeles helping to lead Walk for Kids, a community 5k, to raise funds as part of the hospital's community awareness efforts in support of the opening of a new state-of-the-art pediatric inpatient facility. She also participated in the hospital's 2012 Noche de Niños gala as a presenter of a Courage to Care Award.
|1976||Once an Eagle||Jinny Massengale||TV miniseries|
|1978||Daddy, I Don't Like it Like This||Girl in Hotel||TV movie|
|1978||Starsky & Hutch||Julie McDermott||Episode: "The Action"|
|1978||Steel Cowboy||Johnnie||TV movie|
|1978||The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries||Stacey Blain||Episode: "The House on Possessed Hill"|
|1978||Carter Country||Tracy Quinn||2 episodes|
|1979||Vega$||Dawn Peters||Episode: "Red Handed"|
|1981||The Star Maker||Dawn Barnett Youngblood||TV movie|
|1981||She's in the Army Now||Pvt. Sylvie Knoll||TV movie|
|1981||Golden Gate||Karen||TV movie|
|1985||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Girl||Episode: "Pilot"|
|1987||Miami Vice||Christine von Marburg||Episode: "By Hooker by Crook"|
|1990||Women & Men: Stories of Seduction||Lureen||TV movie|
|1995||Buffalo Girls||Dora DuFran||Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film|
|1998||Me & George||unaired TV pilot|
|1999||RKO 281||Marion Davies||Nominated—Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or a Movie|
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
|2000||Along for the Ride||Lulu McAfee||TV movie|
|2005||Heartless||Miranda Wells||TV movie|
|2005–2006||Twins||Lee Arnold||Series regular, 18 episodes|
|2006||Robot Chicken||Christine von Marburg/Hermione Granger/Love-A-Lot Bear/Wish Bear||Episode: "Password: Swordfish"|
|2007||Viva Laughlin||Bunny Baxter||Series regular, 8 episodes, but only 2 aired|
|2010||Nip/Tuck||Brandie Henry||Episode: "Sheila Carlton"|
|2011||Hot in Cleveland||Melanie Griffith||Episode: "Sisterhood of the Traveling SPANX"|
|2012||American Housewife||Leila Swift||Unaired Lifetime series|
|2012||Raising Hope||Tamara||2 episodes|
|2012||DTLA||Bryan's mother||2 episodes|
|2013||Call Me Crazy: A Five Film||Kristin||Television film, segment: "Maggie"|
|2014–2016||Hawaii Five-0||Clara Williams||4 episodes|
|2015||The Brainy Bunch||Grandmother||unaired TV pilot|
|2016||JL Ranch (Texas Blood)||Laura Lee Schafer||TV movie|
|2017||The Path||Jackie||Episode: "Return"|
|2019||SMILF||Enid||Episode: "Sex Makes It Less Formal"|
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