Hollywood Flashback: Before 'Maleficent 2,' Michelle Pfeiffer's First Fairy Tale Was 'Ladyhawke' in 1985

Ladyhawke (1985) - Michelle Pfeiffer - Photofest-H 2019
Warner Bros. Pictures /Emilio Lari/ Photofest

The actress returns to Euro-medieval-ish landscapes in 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,' 34 years after starring opposite Rutger Hauer in a film about "the liberation of two beings, forced by an obligatory destiny to separation," says cinematographer Vittorio Storaro.

The Hollywood Reporter described 1985's Ladyhawke as "a mythopoetic fairy tale." With Maleficent: Mistress of Evil out Oct. 19, Michelle Pfeiffer makes her second visit to that Euro-medieval-ish landscape.

In Ladyhawke, Pfeiffer plays a beauty who's been cursed into separation from her shining knight (Rutger Hauer). A priest character explains the lovers' situation this way: "She was to be a hawk by day and he a wolf at night. Only for a split-second at sunrise and sunset could they almost touch."

Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro says the film is about "the liberation of two beings, forced by an obligatory destiny to separation. They live in the same world but in two different time slots of the Earth's revolutions." The plot centers on resolving these relationship issues, mostly with sword fights. But all that battling tends to overshadow the romance. When Hauer finally reunites with Pfeiffer after many escapes, horse jumps and crossbow wounds, the best he can come up with is: "You cut your hair. Love you."

If there were three things all critics agreed upon, it was that Pfeiffer, then 26, was incandescent; Hauer, then 41 and still in Blade Runner afterglow, was a hunk; and Matthew Broderick, then 22, playing the knight's reluctant aide, got all the best lines. Besides the stars, Ladyhawke boasted major names in its production. Director Richard Donner had seen big hits with 1976's The Omen and 1978's Superman, and Storaro had earned Oscars for 1979's Apocalypse Now and 1981's Reds and would win another for 1987's The Last Emperor.

Despite all the assembled talent, THR said the film "gloriously captures the look and even the feel of a great fairy tale, but it somehow lacks the resonance to become a classic." It didn't resound too well with audiences, either. The $20 million production ($48 million today) brought in just $18 million domestically. 

This story first appeared in the Oct. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.