|August 9, 1957|
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Born Melanie Griffith in New York City on Aug. 9, 1957, she was the only child of actress Tippi Hedren and former actor and advertising executive Peter Griffith; the couple later divorced when she was four years old. Not surprisingly, considering who her parents were, the youngster began working as a model, spending much of her childhood and adolescence shuttling between New York and Los Angeles. Griffith made her first film appearances as an extra in the modern Western "Smith!" (1969) and in the sex comedy "The Harrad Experiment" (1973). The latter project featured her mother in a co-starring role with future television heartthrob Don Johnson. The 14-year-old Griffith and 22-year-old Johnson began an intense, albeit unlawful, relationship, moving in together, with the acquiescence of her progressive-minded mother. They would marry after Griffith's 18th birthday, only to divorce less than a year later. In the meantime, the intelligent and precocious youngster skipped a grade before graduating from the Hollywood Professional School at age 16, and began auditioning for film roles at the urging of Johnson. She landed her first significant role as a promiscuous teen runaway in director Arthur Penn's posthumously praised neo-noir "Night Moves" (1975), starring Gene Hackman as the private detective hired to find her. That same year, Griffith played a similarly Lolita-like character who flirted shamelessly with Paul Newman's private eye in "The Drowning Pool" (1975), in addition to a third notable role in the beauty pageant comedy "Smile" (1975).
With her brief marriage to Johnson over, the budding actress moved forward with her career, but feared that she was becoming typecast in the role of the "oversexed nymphet." While she did pick up supporting parts in features such as the basketball romance "One on One" (1977), Griffith's growing reputation as a Hollywood party girl was costing her jobs and she soon found herself accepting roles in television projects. In 1981, while shooting the TV comedy "She's in the Army Now" (ABC, 1981), she met fellow actor Steven Bauer, who she married later that year. By most accounts, Bauer was a positive influence on her, encouraging her sobriety and pushing her to study with famed acting coach Stella Adler in New York. The efforts paid off when director Brian De Palma cast Griffith in the pivotal role of porn actress Holly Body in his Hitchcock homage "Body Double" (1984). While the violent, misogynistic film as a whole was largely dismissed by critics at the time, Griffith's performance earned her rave reviews and a Golden Globe nomination. It also caught the attention of director Jonathan Demme, who cast her as wild child Audrey opposite Jeff Daniels and Ray Liotta in the quirky dark comedy "Something Wild" (1986). The film was a critical darling, and garnered Griffith and both co-stars Golden Globe nods. Although her career had suddenly taken off, her marriage to Bauer was failing, and in 1987 the couple divorced. Heartbroken after the split, Griffith returned to her bad habits and began drowning her sorrows in alcohol and cocaine.
Despite the shambles of her personal life, Griffith was becoming one of filmdom's most sought-after actresses. With her endearing turn as Tess Magill, a Staten Island secretary with dreams of bettering herself in director Mike Nichols' "Working Girl" (1988), Griffith's position as a top-notch comic actress was solidified, crowned by a Best Actress Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe win in the same category. As bright as her star was shining, the actress was also burning herself out with her rampant substance abuse. In 1988, Griffith checked herself into a rehabilitation clinic, simultaneously reaching out to ex-husband Johnson for support. She and Johnson were married for a second time after her departure from the clinic, and a newly sober Griffith once again focused on her professional endeavors. Her second attempt to resurrect her career, however, did not go as well as before. The urban thriller "Pacific Heights" (1990) may have failed to draw much attention, but her next project attracted all the wrong kind of notice. Reteaming with De Palma, in addition to stars Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis, the adaptation of Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities" (1990) had been one of the most anticipated films of the year. Instead, it became a near career-ending debacle for all involved - plagued by controversy throughout its production, reviled by critics, and shunned at the box office. For her part in the fiasco, Griffith was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress.
Griffith's other projects in the years that immediately followed met with less vitriolic, but still mixed receptions. Many of these were handpicked by Johnson, and in some instances paired her with her husband on screen, as in the case of the family drama "Paradise" (1991), in which they played a married couple struggling to cope with the loss of their child. Griffith followed with a string of uniformly panned theatrical failures, beginning with the outlandish WWII espionage romance "Shining Through" (1992), then in an unconvincing turn as a NYC detective who goes undercover in the Hassidic community in "A Stranger Among Us" (1992), and finally, the ill-advised remake of "Born Yesterday" (1993), once again co-starring Johnson. Rare bright spots of the time came with a charming turn opposite Paul Newman and Bruce Willis in the character study "Nobody's Fool" (1994), followed by a convincing performance as a brothel madam in the Old West for the star-studded miniseries "Buffalo Girls" (CBS, 1995). Even as Griffith struggled to get her career back on track, her personal life once again threatened to derail. Johnson, who had for years struggled with addiction problems of his own, had recently fallen off the wagon in several well publicized incidents of drunkenness. Combined with rumors of infidelities on his part, Griffith found herself on the verge of leaving him a second time. Her mind was made up in 1995 after she met handsome leading man Antonio Banderas, her co-star in the screwball comedy "Two Much" (1996). Griffith would recall in interviews that it was "love at first sight," and after divorcing Johnson in 1996, she and Banderas were married mere months later.
The newly married and in love Griffith entered the third stage of her career with a surprisingly effective performance in the relatively small role of Nick Nolte's wife in "Mulholland Falls" (1996), a stylish murder mystery set in mid-century Los Angeles. Further stretching her screen persona, the actress bravely took on the role of Charlotte Haze, mother of the titular nymphet "Lolita" (1997) in Adrian Lyne's uneven adaptation of Nabokov's novel. After failing to get a television sitcom off the ground, she landed a comedic role as a needy actress willing to trade sexual favors for an interview in Woody Allen's pop-culture skewering "Celebrity" (1998). However, it was later that same year that Griffith delivered what was arguably her finest screen performance to date as a heroin addict in "Another Day in Paradise" (1998). Co-star and producer James Woods handpicked her for the part, recognizing not only her ability to embody the character, but the role's importance in repositioning her in the eyes of Hollywood. Despite rumors of conflict on the set of the production, Griffith mesmerized as the mother figure in a band of low-rent criminals. If she stumbled a bit as a dizzy, aspiring actress in Banderas' directorial debut "Crazy in Alabama" (1999), Griffith redeemed herself on the small screen as Marion Davies in "RKO 281" (HBO, 1999), a fictionalized behind-the-scenes look at the making of the 1941 classic "Citizen Kane."
Griffith began the next decade with roles in a pair of little-seen independent films. First, she played a troubled woman who seeks out an old sweetheart in the romantic comedy "Loving Lulu" (2000), followed by a turn as a movie star kidnapped by an maniacal indie filmmaker in John Waters' darkly comic "Cecil B. Demented" (2000). After a series of small film projects, Griffith raised eyebrows when she accepted the role of murderess Roxy Hart in the Broadway production of the hit musical "Chicago" in 2003. Skeptics sharpened their knives in preparation for the inevitable humiliation of the actress who had never previously sang or performed on stage. The scathing reviews never came, however, after Griffith wowed audiences and critics alike with her inarguably impressive performance. Less successful were the television endeavors that followed her triumphant Broadway debut. Griffith was a regular cast member on the short-lived family sitcom "Twins" (The WB, 2005-06) and made a pair of appearances as Bunny Baxter on the disastrous musical/mystery/comedy series "Viva Laughlin" (CBS, 2007). Co-starring and produced by film star Hugh Jackman, the show was canceled after only two episodes. After a brief stay earlier in the decade, Griffith re-entered rehab in 2009 for continuing substance abuse problems - particularly prescription pills. This time she had the full support of Banderas and her extended family, resulting in what the actress hoped would be permanent sobriety. Another blow came later that same year, when Griffith underwent surgical treatment for a form of skin cancer. As the decade came to a close, she was seen again on television with a guest spot on the final season of "Nip/Tuck" (FX, 2003-2010) - ironic since her ever-changing appearance over the years often led to rumors of plastic surgery - and a cameo as herself on the sitcom "Hot in Cleveland" (TV Land, 2009- ).