Was It Wrong To Ask Michelle Pfeiffer About Her Weight?

Photo: John Phillips/Getty Images
The Tribeca Film Festival held a screening of Scarface in celebration of the film's 35th anniversary, with key players from the movie ready to answer burning questions about Brian De Palma's iconic gangster movie. Per Vulture, however, one question from moderator Jesse Kornbluth struck a nerve with members of the audience. That question was: How much did Michelle Pfeiffer weigh while working on the film?
The question was asked directly to the Scarface leading lady, and phrased by Kornbluth as such:
"As the father of a daughter, I am concerned with body image... In the preparation for this film, what did you weigh?"
Kornbluth stated that "this is not the question you think it is" as fans in the audience booed the odd question. The Murder on the Orient Express star, however, chose to answer it, as delicately as possible. She explained that being thin was "part of the physicality of the part" (she played a woman addicted to cocaine), but added that it was not easy to maintain such a body weight. She told the crowd:
"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. 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 [pushed back]. 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."
IndieWire followed up with Kornbluth, who revealed why he asked the controversial question in the first place. Via email, he wrote:
"It is true that a gentleman should never ask a woman about her weight. But that was not my question. It is a comment on the knee-jerk political correctness of our time 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."
Except, that's not the question Kornbluth asked: He asked the specific number on the scale that Pfeiffer weighed during Scarface. Kornbluth's explanation doesn't exactly fit in with his framing the question around "body image" — if this was truly about the physicality of the role, why go there?
Kornbluth is not wrong that men are often celebrated for undergoing physical transformations for a role. (See: Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club.) It's just not what he asked Pfeiffer about — at least not initially. The saddest thing about it is, the question he did ask just feels like a waste. You have Pfeiffer, on stage, ready to talk about Scarface — and that is what you focus on? Come on now.
There's so much more that Pfeiffer could say about being a working woman in Hollywood — or even about the pressure to look a certain way to embody a role. While this question from Kornbluth may not have meant to offend, it sure as hell was boring.

More from Pop Culture

R29 Original Series