February 10, 2009 / 4:45 PM / 10 years ago

Pfeiffer says mature actresses get better roles

BERLIN (Reuters) - Mature actresses pairing up with decidedly younger men is a healthy development for the film industry, American Michelle Pfeiffer said on Tuesday after the world premiere of her film “Cheri” at the Berlin Film Festival.

Michelle Pfeiffer poses during a photocall to promote the movie 'Cheri' at the 59th Berlinale film festival in Berlin, February 10, 2009. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Pfeiffer said she felt “liberated” when she turned 50 last year, saying the roles now offered are more interesting than before. That some films put aging actresses with young men is better than Hollywood putting them out to pasture, she said.

“It’s a positive step, a step in the right direction,” she told a news conference after “Cheri” became the third older such film in this year’s festival after “The Reader” and “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.” Two years ago Cate Blanchett’s “Notes on a Scandal” featured a teacher’s affair with a teenage boy.

“It seems my leading men keep getting younger the older I get,” Pfeiffer said. “It seems people have an aversion about casting me with men my age. Lucky for me; I don’t really mind.”

Pfeiffer, who plays an aging courtesan who falls in love with the son of a rival high class prostitute in “Cheri” set in Paris’s “Belle Epoque,” said it has long been tough for older actresses in Hollywood — but not necessarily for older actors.

Pfeiffer, who won a Berlinale best actress Silver Bear in 1992 for “Love Field,” said she sensed the rules are changing.

“They do allow you to get older in Hollywood. Some of us continue to work. This film is a good example. It’s still true the older you get the fewer parts there are. But there are fewer movies being made overall and fewer parts for actors in general.

“The roles become more interesting the older you get,” said Pfeiffer, who took a four-year break to spend time with her family before returning with two films in 2007.

“It’s also at a time in my life when I’m not wanting to just work all the time, so it’s all just fine.”

“Cheri,” directed by Britain’s Stephen Frears, is based on a 1920 novel by French writer Colette. It offers a glimpse into the pre-war era and entertaining insights into the fabulous wealth of some of the courtesans.

“They were incredibly wealthy, these women,” said Frears, who light-heartedly denied that “Cheri” has similarities to his 1988 film “Dangerous Liasons” — also starring Pfeiffer — that got seven Academy Award nominations and won three.

“I don’t think this is similar at all — John Malkovich isn’t in this one,” he deadpanned, a reference to the American actor’s prolific career with more than 70 films in 25 years.

Frears added: “There are themes emerging that are similar and they’re both based on French literature. But they’re very, very different films.”

Frears, who also is the narrator’s voice in parts of the film, chided one journalist who did not realize it was the director’s voice: “He was wonderful, I agree.”

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