Actress and producer, Melanie Griffith, is sandwiched between three generations of Hollywood starlets. Daughter to actress Tippi Hedren and mother to model and actress Dakota Johnson, she is known widely for her ‘Working Girl’ performance and also for her sizzling relationship with Latino-lover and A-lister, Antonio Banderas.
Lessons Learned from Failed Marriages
The up and down drama of Melanie Griffith’s relationships and marriages are as riveting as the movies she’s played in. She’s been hitched with Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty and married to Don Johnson and Antonio Banderas. Both marriages went well until they didn’t, and have since ended.
After the emotional chaos settled out, she opened up about what went wrong in her marriages. In all, she was married four times. Twice to Don Johnson. You can’t say they didn’t try.
Love Came a Little Late
Melanie Griffith’s film career teems with powerful roles and a trailing list of major films. But what we remember is her long-time marriage to Antonio Banderas. Though she married two other men prior to Banderas, it is this relationship she’s known for.
Years of heartache and pain confronted her before she was able to enjoy Banderas’ long and loving commitment. Here, we will map the trajectory of her life and loves, and the struggles between them.
A Unique Childhood Education Plan
Melanie did not have a normal childhood. She didn’t sit through the tedious grind of an average public school all day long, day in and day out, and she didn’t have a soccer mom shuttling her and her teammates to games, practices, and team parties for hours on end every single week. In fact, her mom was probably practicing lines or filming a shoot.
She set Melanie up at the Hollywood Professional School in Hollywood, California. It was a private school established for showbiz kids who could study in the mornings and attend scheduled acting gigs in the afternoons. Melanie was an excellent student. She skipped a grade and finished early. She was just 16 years old when she graduated.
A Family Broken by Divorce
Like many families, Melanie’s parents did not stay married. She was born in NYC to Tippi Hedren and advertising executive, Peter Griffith, on August 9, 1957. Her parents separated when she was two and filed for divorce when she was four. It wasn’t long after that until her father left their home.
Growing up, her time was split between staying with her mom in Los Angeles and at an animal conservatory in Antelope Valley, California, and spending time with her dad in Manhattan.
The Growing Up Years
Melanie spent her childhood and adolescent years with her mother in Los Angeles. But she traveled to the East coast frequently to be with her father. (Just your typical bi-coastal custody arrangement.) Her mom remarried when she was seven years old. Agent and producer Noel Marshall became part of her family.
As for her dad, he remarried model and actress, Nanita Greene, soon after the divorce went through. Together they had two children, actress Tracy Griffith and set designer Clay A. Griffith.
Adolescence, Fame, and Don Johnson
Melanie met Don Johnson long before he was universally known as the sexiest man on TV. Those ’80s days when he would play a private detective on ‘Miami Vice’ were yet to come. Later, she would land a role on that same show, and their romance would burn bright again. But getting back to when they first met, she fell wildly in love with Johnson when he was just 22 years old. And if you think that’s young, Mel was a full eight years younger.
At 14, Melanie’s mom allowed her to move in with Johnson. The lovebirds met on the set of ‘The Harrad Experiment’. Three years later, they married. It didn’t last long, but their passionate romance is legendary. In the end, adolescence, fame, and Don Johnson did not add up to stability. The two partied often and found themselves dependent on substances. The wild and crazy lifestyle took a toll on Melanie.
The First Trip to Rehab
Her first trip to rehab came after her first divorce with Don Johnson. She emerged sober and admitted that she has an “addictive personality.” She told New Idea magazine that she was lucky to be alive, despite feeling disconnected from the program. “I was never as bad as some people I knew. But I did do a lot of drinking,” she said.
“I just thought I was having a good time.” With a celebration every weekend and parties every night at never-ending Hollywood clubs and socials, who wouldn’t think that way? It was a good time, for a while.
The Rise and Fall of a Passionate Love
Melanie appeared in ‘The Harrad Experiment’ as an extra. She happened to be hanging out on the set because her mother, Tippi, played opposite Don Johnson in the film, and that’s when Mel met him. She couldn’t know at the time that he would take her on a path of turmoil that would lead to a lifetime of substance abuse issues.
Though they lived and partied together for three years, they were only married for six months—from January to July 1976. When it started falling apart, she began focusing on work and distancing herself from Johnson. It was then she reached the difficult realization that her marriage had failed.
Though she had been behind the camera since she was nine months old, it wasn’t until 1988 when she hit the big time with ‘Working Girl’. Starring alongside Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Alec Baldwin, and Joan Cusack, she won a Golden Globe for Best Actress and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress.
In one review of the comedy-drama directed by Mike Nichols, Variety magazine praised her role as secretary Tess McGill writing, “Griffith stands apart, both for her eagerness to break out of her clerical rut and her tenacity dealing with whomever seems to be thwarting her.”
A New Love
After a wild ride with Don Johnson, she would have more pain to deal with, only this time it was also physical. Melanie was mauled by a lion during the filming of ‘Roar’, her mother’s big cat production in 1981, which was directed by her stepfather, Noel Marshall. The scene made the cut. For her part, she required facial reconstruction surgery. Just a year before, she was hit by a car and hospitalized after walking across Sunset Boulevard while intoxicated.
Finally, something went right that same year, when she was introduced to Steven Bauer. They met while filming the TV movie ‘She’s in the Army Now’. Not long after, she moved to NY, and they were married. They had their first child, Alexander Griffith, in 1985. When the marriage dissolved, she spiraled back into a pattern of heavy drinking.
The Wake-up Call
It all seemed like self-medication to her. She used substances to calm anxieties and escape her internal suffering. But one day, on the set of ‘Working Girl’, a message hit home. Director Mike Nichols sat her down. She arrived at the set drunk one too many times, he told her, and he gave her a warning.
In an interview with Parade, she divulged, “I wasn’t very concerned about my future.” She also talked about how using substances had become all too normal for her.
‘Working Girl’ Really Got Her Working
The success of ‘Working Girl’ brought a slew of new film roles Melanie’s way. She worked one gig after another all through the nineties. The overnight success made her a true A-lister, starring in mainstream movies like ‘Born Yesterday’, ‘Nobody’s Fool’, ‘Paradise’, ‘Now and Then’, ‘Milk Money’, ‘Shining Through’, ‘A Stranger Among Us’, and ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities’.
One of those Hollywood movies would change her life forever. That film was the 1996 romantic comedy, ‘Two Much’. But 1996 was still many years away. In the meantime, she starred with Don Johnson in several 1990s movies.
Trouble in Paradise
Steven Bauer and Melanie hitched up in the early 1980s. When little Alexander was born in 1985, she was already struggling with substance abuse, and the marriage wasn’t going very well either. The couple tried to stay together for their child, but it wasn’t that simple. By the time ‘Working Girl’ came out, the two had called it quits. Melanie was not happy.
She later admitted feeling depressed and lonely. In an interview, she said, “What I did was drink myself to sleep at night. If I wasn’t with someone, I was an unhappy girl.” The split made it worse. Once she was alone, she revealed that she began having problems with more serious substances as well as alcohol. She wouldn’t let this secret out until another rehab stint in 1988.
Rekindling the Flame With Don Johnson
After rehab, a program that Mike Nichols directed her to, Melanie tumbled back into the arms of her first love. Sober for the first time, she felt safe and secure with Johnson, the man she loved as a teenager.
At that point, both had gone through rehabilitation, and with sobriety, and at the height of their careers, the couple tied the knot again. They remarried in June of 1989. On October 4, 1989, they welcomed Dakota Johnson to the world.
Remarrying Didn’t Bring the Peace She Craved
The birth of her second child brought more stress. Her first child, Alexander Bauer, was four years old when his baby sister was born. And mainstream success was taking its toll. Her substance abuse issues, increasingly hitting the spotlight, had become so problematic that studios stopped offering her work.
After Mike Nichols pushed her into rehab, her efforts for getting cleaned paid off, and she began focusing on her film career. She first took a role in ‘Pacific Heights’, which saw moderate success. However, most of the films she chose during this period were destined to flop.
Melanie and Don’s Marriage Flops (again)
The Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center in Minnesota did Mel a lot of good. She contacted Don Johnson before entering the facility, and he waited for her until she was released. Their love was deep and profound, but they probably have too much in common. “You have to understand that we have a tie, and I love him,” she said. “But just because you love someone doesn’t necessarily mean that you can live with them.”
The couple stayed married until 1996, over six years instead of six months. Apparently, however, Melanie stopped tolerating rumors of his infidelity; and his substance abuse problems, including drunken public outbursts, also became untenable. But then she took him back, again, after he sobered up. It didn’t last long.
A Winning Role
During the late 1990s, Melanie was handed a part that she shined in. In ‘Another Day in Paradise’, she played a heroin addict at large with another junkie who inadvertently spiral into a life of crime. Her work in the independent film brought strong reviews, some critics raved it was the best performance of her career.
It also brought another role, ‘RKO 281’ (1999), which earned her a Golden Globe and an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress. While her career was on a comeback track, behind the scenes she was developing a dependency on pain killers.
Another Daughter of Hollywood
Dakota Johnson was born in 1989. Ten years later, hanging out with mom on the set of the dark comedy, ‘Crazy in Alabama’ – a film directed by Antonio Banderas about an eccentric woman who murders her husband and moves to Hollywood – is where Dakota made her movie debut.
Though they allowed her to play the role, her parents encouraged her to finish high school before auditioning for more roles. Once she graduated high school, she landed a small part in ‘The Social Network’. By 2016, she earned a BAFTA Rising Star Award nomination.
A Debut on Broadway
Getting into the 2000s, with performances in films like ‘Shade’ (2003) and ‘The Night We Called It a Day’ (2003) flatlining at the box office, offers for television and film trickled to nothing. Instead of giving up, Mel reinvented herself by turning to the stage.
In 2003, she hit the stage on Broadway and packed the place with her performance as the villainous Roxie Hart in ‘Chicago’. One New York Times theater critic raved, “Ms. Griffith is a sensational Roxie, possibly the most convincing I have seen. Vultures who were expecting to see Ms. Griffith stumble . . . will have to look elsewhere.”
The Early 2000s Slump
‘Shade’ and ‘The Night We Called It a Day’ were not the only losers. ‘Crazy in Alabama’ also fell flat. The TV series ‘Me & George’ (1998) didn’t even make it to television. And, in 2000, ‘Cecil B. DeMented’ and ‘Forever Lulu’ nosedived at the box office.
Her performance in these two independent films earned her a nomination for a Golden Raspberry Award for worst actress. Her career took a solid hit, as did her reputation as an actress. Finding roles became so difficult that she turned to Broadway.
Opening Up About Substance Dependency
“I was never loved unconditionally. Booze gives you a feeling, a physical sensation . . . a buzz inside your body that takes the place of something you should have when you were a child,” Melanie told Vanity Fair in a 1989 interview. She discussed with the magazine why she didn’t get help and turned to substances instead.
She also revealed that she was introduced to alcohol as a child. At 10 years of age, she would frequently drink wine. It was “like a soft drink. I was medicating myself so I could escape my pain and insecurities.”
Melanie’s first visit to the rehab clinic was not only supported by Mike Nichols, who firmly suggest she check-in, but also by her first love. Don Johnson had been five years sober when Melanie was swirling through the abyss of her marriage with Steven Bauer. Alone and afraid, she was losing control of her life.
It was the first time she had been single since she moved in with Johnson at 14. All this happened during her most successful period, right in the middle of ‘Working Girl’. Emerging from the clinic, she ran back into Don’s arms and divorced Bauer.
A New Lease on Life
Recovery worked! Even though she had struggled her entire life with substances, she was finally able to get sober and face her life without the consistent conflict she had with herself. For the first time, she was seeing life through a lens of sobriety. Overcoming dependency on booze opened up a new lease on life.
Though she would stumble again with recovery, for the time being, she was able to spend quality time with her kids, and they got to know her joyfully. Being a better mother and fulfilling her role was as rewarding as success at work.
A New Man on Her Arm
When Melanie met Antonio Banderas on the set of ‘Two Much’ (1996), it was love at first sight, with a quirky introduction. Melanie said, “He asked me how old I was. That was the first thing he said to me.” She adored him because he was funny like that. Antonio spotted her six years earlier saying, “I saw this beautiful woman with a cream dress, with pearls.” When they finally met, the couple fell passionately in love. Melanie called it quits with Don, while Antonio’s divorce with his wife in Spain was pending.
“It was very fast and very compulsive, but at the same time we were tied at the time,” Antonio said. “We tried as much as we could to be respectful.” They married in London that same year. Their daughter, Stella, arrived a few months after the wedding. Melanie had found her man. She wore his name like a badge. “Antonio” was inked inside of a heart and tattooed on her upper right arm. He would give Mel one of her longest and most stable relationships.
Antonio Turned Her Life Around
After they married and Stella was born, Melanie’s home life and career life seemed to be coming together. Her performances in ‘Lolita’ and ‘Celebrity’ turned critics’ heads with praise in her favor. And at home, Antonio lifted her spirits. Just being around her new hubby taught her wonderful life lessons. She learned about family, from a Latino perspective, and those loving bonds. She dove into philanthropy with Banderas. In 2002, the Stella Adler Angel Award celebrated their work.
Banderas’ constant love and support was the key ingredient. She divulged later that she could not have done it without his steady support. Together, it seemed, they could achieve everything in life. At the time, Antonio put it like this, “We love each other, and above all, we love our family. We’ve figured out how to get past obstacles . . . and if you can get past those, you only get stronger.”
It Wasn’t Exactly a Prenuptial Agreement
Both had been married previously, so, when they wove their lives together, they were wise enough to try to keep at least one part separate. During the first years of their marriage, they decided to keep incomes in individual accounts.
This meant that they agreed to keep their earnings from 1996 to 2004 completely separate so that each earner would hold onto their own income. So, it wasn’t a prenup, it was more like a way to make the sad circumstance of a divorce a little less complicated.
A Return to Rehab
Alas, the marriage could not fix everything. Sadly, Melanie checked into rehab once more in 2000. Her career hit a slump in the late 1990s with a TV series that didn’t even make it to air and movies that flatly flopped. With the support of Antonio, she found herself checking into a California clinic to be treated for painkiller dependency. “It’s a battle that never ends,” she said. “And you have to take it one day at a time, just like they say.”
But this time, in her ongoing struggle to find inner happiness, she had the strong support of a loving man on her side. The abuse issue started with a neck injury and a strong codeine painkiller called Nocor. In a recovery journal, Melanie wrote, “Overcoming addiction is tough but it can be made easier if you have someone that can offer support.”
The Painkiller Dependency Took a Toll on the Marriage
After it all, Banderas admitted that he would have left Melanie if she had succumbed to the addiction. Melanie said, “He’s always been extremely supportive of me in situations where other people might have run away.” But he was there for her. On particularly tough nights when she could not sleep because she was not taking the drug, she said he would hold her close.
Overcoming the addiction and its toll on their marriage fortified their love and prompted them to reevaluate their matrimony. They renewed their vows, in a way, by undoing the financial separation clauses. Signing a new agreement, they combined all their assets. It was a romantic notion that would come back around.
It Ended in Irreconcilable Differences
“We have thoughtfully and consensually decided to finalize our almost twenty years marriage in a loving and friendly manner honoring and respecting each other, our family and friends and the beautiful time we have spent together.” The statement signed “Melanie & Antonio” represents one of the most civil divorces in Hollywood history. Though Melanie filed for divorce in 2014, the two remain close friends.
The ‘Shrek’ star said love doesn’t end with divorce. They share Stella together and a united front. “I will love that woman until the day I die,” Banderas says. They spent 18 years together after critics opined it wouldn’t last six months. Although, even Mel had her reservations. She shared with Porter Magazine that she feared the relationship was doomed from the get-go.
A New Friend
Singles’ life brought Melanie a new friendship. Not another man. This time she found friendship with Kris Jenner, who she met up with after befriending her daughter, Khloe Kardashian, at the gym. Khloe and Mel shared the same gym trainer.
Soon after, on Instagram, Kris emoted, “I couldn’t be more obsessed with Melanie Griffith. Go follow her sweet soul. I’m in love with this hot mama.” Khloe was instrumental in bringing the friendship together. She just knew her mom would be great friends with another mom who shared her interests.
A Losing Streak
Melanie was not afraid of taking risks professionally. The move to Broadway paid off, but things didn’t always go that way. ‘American Housewife’, produced by Banderas, was not picked up by Lifetime as anticipated.
She starred in WB TV series ‘Twins’, which was canceled after one season (2005-2006), and in 2007, she starred in the TV series ‘Viva Laughlin’, which only lasted two episodes. In a seemingly desperate move, she guest-starred on Nip/Tuck and Hot in Cleveland. By 2009, back in rehab again. Her publicist called it “part of a routine plan.”
It was around 2011 when the Academy Award nominee started receiving cruel comments on social media about a botched plastic surgery. At the time she said, “Most people are telling me I look horrible.” Adding, “The tweets I get are really nasty.”
She went on to explain that people were saying, “’Oh my God, what has she done?!’ I was so hurt.” Then, in 2017, she opened up with Porter saying that her former doctor had made some mistakes and that a new doctor was correcting those.
Repairing a Plastic Surgeon’s Mess
The media was tough on her, but she stood her ground. Standing up for aging women on Larry King Live, she told him the story about how Revlon had moved her to the “age-defying” line when she was just 34 years old. When she had to deal with the botched surgery, it turned out that the previous doctor had been injecting Botox into her face.
The new surgeon worked with her to remove it. Apparently, the claims that Botox would stop the aging process were untrue.
Under the Knife Again
In 2017, she made the decision – Melanie would try plastic surgery again. The goal was to go through a reversal treatment provided by her new plastic surgeon that would dissolve the Botox.
It took years to reverse the Botox treatments. She told Porter, “Hopefully, I look more normal now.”
Melanie and Kris
Kris Jenner has been a wonderful friend and confidant. She was what Mel needed after going through her last divorce. When someone asked about their friendship, Melanie had this to say, “We’ve both been divorced a couple of times, we’ve had a few kids and we’ve had situations ins common—life-changing ones. I’ll be having a [bad] day, the lowest of the lows, and she’ll come over, sit on my bed and be right there with me.”
Close relationships between older women are rare. Theirs is a positive example of the benefits of that type of friendship.
Giving Back to the Community
During her marriage with Banderas, Melanie took on a love for philanthropy. The two put their heart and soul into helping others. In one such effort, Melanie helped organize a 5K walk to raise money for the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles.
In giving back to the community, the goal was to generate enough money to build a new state-of-the-art pediatric inpatient facility. She was also on hand for the hospital’s 2012 Noche de Niños gala, where she was presented the Courage to Care Award.
Putting Her Best Face Forward
Though they were in the midst of the divorce, Melanie appeared on Banderas’ arm at the red-carpet event celebrating the premiere of his 2014 film, ‘Automata’. Their joint announcement depicting an amicable ending to their marriage came out that same year. And, while she appeared strong on the outside, inside she was suffering.
Though she had not publicly discussed reasons for the divorce, she did say she felt hollow as she reconciled her fourth divorce with her feelings. She admitted feeling down about future relationships and set goals to make it on her own.
Dakota’s ‘How to Be Single’ premiere
At the New York premiere of ‘How to Be Single’, where Dakota Johnson plays the lead character, Melanie was asked what her advice is for single women trying to make it on their own. Her response was not the canned reply everyone expected.
The advice she offered became so controversial that a Tweet storm erupted, and her reply became the most-discussed topic all over social media. Magazines like US, Weekly, and People kept the ball rolling claiming she was a completely different person.
Just Say No
At 60 years old and two years out of a divorce, Melanie said, “Don’t get married! There’s no need. [. . .] You don’t need to get married to have a child anymore, it’s not like there’s a stigma on a child, and getting married, you either go through the whole bullsh!t of a prenuptial, or if you want to get divorced and you don’t have a prenuptial, then you wish you had a prenuptial.”
She went on. And she sounded like a woman who learned some valuable lessons from a lifetime of mistakes in marriage.
‘Marriage is Archaic’
She went on to say that she is never tying the knot again. Putting a lot of thought into the idea of marriage, she questioned the whole institution.
“Why not enjoy the person and have a good time and do whatever?” “Live together, don’t live together—but marriage seems archaic to me,” she explained. She used her marriage to Banderas as proof.
Melanie Opens Up About Her Divorce for the First Time
After a life of bouncing from one man to another, Melanie is feeling a bit gun shy. She is cautious with men and prefers to spend time with friends. She opened up with Porter about her divorce recently.
She said, “I think part of the reason my marriage to Antonio fell apart was because I was stuck; nobody else is to blame. It’s just that I personally got stuck and I won’t let that happen again, I want to enjoy life, I want to do whatever I want to do.”
The Day They Met
The instant connection between Melanie and Antonio was apparent to all. Especially since they made few attempts to conceal the love they were feeling. At the time, Antonio Banderas was not yet a household name; ‘Puss in Boots’ did not exist. He was just breaking into the scene, and she was the perfect girl to have on his arm.
His wife in Spain and Melanie’s severing (for the second time) with Johnson were placed on the back burner, but those details were placed front and center on the covers of tabloids.
Another Side of Melanie Griffith
We know Melanie best on camera. Her bold and outgoing personality comes before her. But it’s not exactly the truth. Inside, she is incredibly shy. Her shyness created a difficult challenge for her.
Starting out as a model, she got to the point when she realized, after years of posing in awkward angles and attempting to avoid facing the camera, that she was not cut out for modeling and left it for acting.
A Model and an Actress, Just Like Mom
Tippi worked as a model before she landed the part in ‘The Birds’ and won Hollywood fame. Melanie followed in her mom’s footsteps and got into modeling early. Really early! At just 9 months old, she debuted in her first TV commercial. She continued to book modeling gigs and TV commercials until she landed a part in ‘Night Moves’, in 1975.
There was nowhere to go but up, and she catapulted herself into her own place in the acting world of the rich and famous. It was a world she would come to despise, a world of pain and suffering.
A Birthday Gift She Will Always Remember
After Alfred Hitchcock screened Melanie’s mother, Tippi, for the lead in ‘The Birds’, he became obsessed with the then-young actress. He saw her as his muse and was madly in love, but he treated her abusively. He was demanding, and he harassed her. He threatened to ruin her career when she walked away from his offer for another role.
And then he outdid himself. As creepy as his own Norman Bates creation, he sent 4-year-old Melanie a disturbing birthday present. He gave her a small wooden coffin containing a wax effigy of her mom. Talk about insane.