A Question About Michelle Pfeiffer's Weight In 'Scarface' Led To Boos From The Audience

Note who wasn’t asked the same question.

Things got a little awkward at last week's 35th anniversary panel for Scarface during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. Inside New York City's Beacon Theatre, the audience booed when the panel's moderator asked Michelle Pfeiffer what her weight was when she filmed the iconic 1983 film, sparking a debate that we've had time and time again.

"As the father of a daughter, I am concerned with body image," Jesse Kornbluth asked Pfeiffer, who played Elvira Montana (the cocaine-addicted wife of Al Pacino's gangster Tony Montana). "In the preparation for this film, what did you weigh?"

Almost immediately the audience began booing — but they had a few other responses as well: "Seriously?" "You don't need to answer that." "Why do you need to know?" "Bad question."

Before Pfeiffer — who has three Oscar nominations and a Golden Globe win (in addition to six other nominations) — even got to the answer the query, Kornbluth attempted to calm the audience. "This is not the question you think it is," he said.

"Well, OK. I don't know," Pfeiffer replied. "But I was playing a cocaine addict, which was part of the physicality of the part, which you have to consider."

"The movie was only supposed to be a three-month, four-month shoot. Of course I tried to time it so that as the movie went on, I became thinner and thinner and more emaciated. The problem was the movie went six months," Pfeiffer added. "I was starving by the end of it because the one scene, which was the end of the film, where I needed to be my thinnest, it was next week and then it was next week and then it was next week. I literally had members of the crew bringing me bagels because they were all worried about me and how thin I was getting. I think I was living on tomato soup and Marlboros."

Photo Credit: Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com
Photo Credit: Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com

After being condemned by many outlets, Kornbluth gave a statement to IndieWire in which he didn't apologize and essentially doubled down on what he asked Pfeiffer.

"It is true that a gentleman should never ask a woman about her weight," Kornbluth's statement reads. "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."

Kornbluth didn't stop there, proceeding to write a blog post response. He explained that he was asking Pfeiffer to look at the role of Elvira from a 2018 perspective. He says little media attention was paid to other questions he asked her and it was asking what she weighed — and clumsily, at that — that garnered a reaction from what he calls a "hardcore liberal PC" group.

It seems Kornbluth's biggest justifications for asking the question was that "when a man gains or loses weight for a role, that fact is served up to the media as an asset" — so why is this "insensitive" to ask Pfeiffer this question. Kornbluth once again brings up De Niro gaining weight for Raging Bull as well as both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto losing weight for Dallas Buyers Club, and how these were reported as "invariably admiring." Kornbluth adds that "the topic of weight can also be an asset" for women — bringing up Charlize Theron's weight gain for Tully — but seemingly misses the point of how this relates to what he asked Pfeiffer.

The way in which Kornbluth asked Pfeiffer about her weight for Scarface was not handled in a way that would make any answer she gave him a positive thing. He approached the topic of her weight in a problematic way, making it taboo by alluding to the fact that she may have negatively affected other young women, specifically his daughter. Would anyone ask Christian Bale, a father of a daughter, if the extreme weight loss he underwent for The Machinist was a bad message to young men? No, it's looked at as an impressive feat and he is treated as a character actor who should be looked at in awe. The same is not afforded to Pfeiffer in this situation.

Plus, as Jezebel points out, Kornbluth didn't ask Pacino about the drug usage in the film or ask Brian De Palma, the movie's director, if he was concerned about the over-the-top violence in Scarface. After all, they're both fathers of daughters, so shouldn't they be concerned with these topics, both of which are just as, if not more, important than someone's weight? There's a double standard here, there always has been and, whether Kornbluth likes it or not, he only reinforced it.

Cover image: Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com

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