After taking time off to focus on family, Melanie Griffith is back to her working-girl ways
IIt’s hard to believe, but it’s been 30 years since Melanie Griffith’s Tess Mcgill took the Staten Island Ferry to her Wall Street secretarial job in 1988’sworking Girl, with Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run” providing the anthemic soundtrack for her journey across New York Harbor.
Prior to the film’s release, Griffith had seemingly lived plenty: her first acting job at 14; sexually charged scenes at 17; a marriage to and divorce from Don Johnson (the first time); a second marriage, to Steven Bauer, resulting in her first biological child, Alexander (now 33). Afterworking Girl, while her career grew ( her performance garnered her an Academy Award nomination), so did her personal experiences. Divorcing Bauer, she remarried and divorced Johnson again and then married (and later divorced) Antonio Banderas. There were trips to rehab. And she gave birth to two more kids ( plus claimed a stepson, Jesse Johnson, as part of her extended family). Griffith’s daughters are the ones carrying on the Hollywood legacy that her mother, Tippi Hedren, now 88, started. Stella, her 21-year-old with Banderas, is a student at USC who spent the summer taking acting classes at Stella Adler, where Griffith herself had studied. And Dakota, her 28-year-old with Johnson, is an international superstar thanks to her role as Anastasia Steele in the Fifty Shades of Grey blockbusters.
But in our national collective memory, Griffith, who turned 61 in August, remains Tess fromworking Girl: sexy, plucky, and a poster child for outmaneuvering misogynist pigs way before the #Metoo era.“that’s fucked up,” says an amused Griffith when she’s reminded over lunch near her Central Park West apartment thatworking Girlwas a full three decades ago. “I didn’t even think about that. But it was one of those amazing, amazing experiences inmylife. And people still love it so much. They tell me how much it meant to them and how it changed their lives. And a lot of women my age and younger say, ‘I saw that movie, and it gave me encouragement to do what I wanted to do.’ ”
Does that feel good? “Hell, yeah,” Griffith says with a smile, outshining her two diamond rings and the heavyduty studs in each ear.
As Griffith dips into her tuna tartare and Parmesansprinkled fries, she says she always knew the Mike Nichols– directed film would have an impact, in part because making it was “magic.” Also, the issue of toppling the patriarchy remains crazily resonant today. Griffith’s mother went through a lot of hell in Hollywood, especially because of her muchdiscussed working relationship with Alfred Hitchcock.
“She was mentally abused and tortured by him,” explains Griffith, “so I knew not to ever let somebody take advantage of me. And I wasn’t stupid. I’m not saying any of those girls are stupid, but I was aware of what was possible.”
Though several of her early roles involved baring her skin for the camera, she insists she never had a situation where anyone tried to abuse her. “I’m sure that I had the suggestion of ‘I want to sleep with you, come over,’ but I knew better.
“If I think back, there were things that were asked, and I would just say, ‘No, I’m not doing it that way,’ but you had to be strong and know what you wanted,” Griffith continues. “I think I always had that. I was a tough chick. I wouldn’t do something if I didn’t want to do it.”
This resilience may explain why, when Griffith admits she’s thinking about writing a memoir and I suggest borrowing the titleworking Girl, she proposes calling itworking Bitchinstead. “But I don’t want to do a corny, stupid movie-star book, you know what I mean?”
Griffith, who stepped out of the limelight to raise her kids and be a wife, seems ready to get back to work again. Marrying Banderas after divorcing Johnson for the second time was “tumultuous,” Griffith recalls.
Diane von Furstenberg dress. David Webb necklace. Hair: Maranda for The Wall Group. Makeup: Lisa Storey for The Wall Group. Manicure: Whitney Gibson for TMG LA. Production: Tyler Duuring for Avenue B.