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Michelle Pfeiffer is still fine at 50

Cheri

Life is sweet for Michelle Pfeiffer. As she tackles playing French courtesan Lea de Lonval in Cheri, released on Friday May 8, she discusses turning 50 in Hollywood and why she doesn't care about cosmetic surgery.

Hollywood is known for tossing aside older actresses faster than you can say 'Lights, camera, action'.

But luckily for Michelle Pfeiffer, who turns 51 this month, the roles continue to roll in.

She cites herself, Meryl Streep and Dame Judi Dench as exceptions to the rule.

"I think it's changing, I think it's getting better, so hopefully we'll continue along those lines. I haven't tracked it but it does appear that way. There are more actresses now who have crossed that threshold. It all balances out, because there are more roles and more women. As much as there are fewer movie roles, there are more opportunities to work on TV," she says.

"I started getting asked how does it feel to age in Hollywood when I was 35. And I remember one of the reviews for What Lies Beneath called Harrison Ford and I - he was like 15 years older than me - the middle-aged protagonists.

"I think there's a small sort of transitional phase of actresses between 40 and 50 where you can only play the psychotic mother-in-law or the wife. Most people pick the psychotic mother-in-law because it's at least interesting. A number of them have come across my desk."

But the three-time Oscar nominee prefers to steer clear of those parts. Most recently, she has played a witch-queen in Stardust, a singing villainous mother in Hairspray and an ageing French courtesan romantically involved with a younger man (played by Rupert Friend) in the forthcoming Cheri.

"This is my third movie doing that recently, but you know, it's always welcome," Michelle says, smiling.

"And my leading men, the older I get, the younger they get, which is interesting because it was the opposite when I was younger. So it seems that people don't really want to see people of the same age in a movie."

At least it makes for some interesting intimate scenes.

"I suppose they got easier the more we got to know each other and the more comfortable we were with each other, but initially it's a little strange," she admits.

"It makes it much easier when you genuinely like your co-star and you trust each other, and he (Rupert) has a really good sense of humour. That gets you through a lot."

In real life, Michelle is happily married to TV writer and producer David E Kelley (Ally McBeal, Boston Legal) and the couple have two children - adopted 16-year-old daughter Claudia and 14-year-old biological son John.

The actress took a four-year hiatus in 2003 to spend more time with her family when they moved away from Los Angeles.

"It kind of got harder and harder finding projects that didn't entail me leaving home for long periods of time during the school year," she explains.

"When the kids were small, I actually worked a lot because I would take them with me. Once they were enrolled in school, I didn't like the idea of uprooting them or being away from them for long periods. And then, we moved - it was a big transition for us, much bigger than I anticipated. Actually quite overwhelming.

"That kept me very occupied and busy, and distracted from my work. After we settled in, I sort of realised how long it had been and I started to miss it and thought it was time to go back.

"I decided to come back to work and Hairspray was there, Stardust was there. It's been really fun and I've been lucky to have the opportunities I've had, actually my whole career, especially the past few years."

The star of films such as The Fabulous Baker Boys, Dangerous Minds and Batman Returns, where she famously played Catwoman, looks years younger than her age and isn't keen on cosmetic surgery to keep the wrinkles at bay.

"Well, you know the older you get, the harder it is to say never. It's easy to say that when you're 25," she says.

"I don't really object, I don't really care about plastic surgery one way or another. I mean, it's not very interesting to me, it doesn't really matter to me. I do think it's upsetting when you see people have a distorted look - that I object to. I suppose I object to bad plastic surgery, and too much of it is not a good thing."

Instead, she tries to maintain a healthy diet, although it's difficult to picture Michelle, who looks very slim in an elegant black dress and black Christian Louboutin heels, indulging in junk food.

"When I'm working, I take really good care of myself. You have to eat really well, it's not a big mystery. There are no magic creams, or anything like that.

"And when I'm not working, I can let myself go and have a little bit of fun. I'm not such a gluttonous person but I have a soft spot for crunchy, salty things and I love movie popcorn, a nice white wine. The only problem is the older you get, the longer it takes to get back into shape and the easier it is to fall out of shape."

Michelle's career spans nearly four decades and she has no plans to take it easy just yet.

"No. I can't imagine that," she says adamantly.

"I've been working since I was 14, and I loved working from the moment I had my first job. I don't think I'll ever retire. I might not always do what I'm doing now, but I'm a real worker bee.

"One of my really close friends growing up wanted to marry a rich guy and sit around the pool all day, drinking Bloody Marys. I just thought, what is fun about that? I just couldn't, and think it's just the different way people are made up. I would go crazy if I was stuck at home all the time."

Even so, she won't be drawn on any specific plans.

"I have a lot of different interests. I might direct one day, I paint which I really love. I have different ideas for businesses, which I won't share with you," she adds with a wink.

"Hairspray was a ton of fun. I would love to do it again. I'm always just looking for something good, I never know what it's going to be."