Melanie Griffith has been a staple in Hollywood for decades and like many people, she struggled with balancing her career and her dependence on drugs and alcohol. In a new book about famed director Mike Nichols, Griffith and her co-workers remember the breaking point of the actor’s self-destructive behaviour on the set of the 1988 film Working Girl that led to Griffith paying an $80,000 fine.
“There were a lot of things that happened on Working Girl that I did that were not right,” said Griffith an excerpt from the new book Life isn’t everything: Mike Nichols, as remembered by 150 of his closest friends, which was released November 12. “It was the late ’80s,” said Griffith. “There was a lot going on party-wise in New York. There was a lot of cocaine. There was a lot of temptation.”
Working Girl producers Douglas Wick and Robert Greenhut told authors Ash Carter and Sam Kashner that Griffith was “unreliable” and was doing drugs, specifically cocaine, leading to a tense set where crew members were concerned about whether she would be able to act. “From the first reading, we all got a giant crush on Melanie’s talent,” said Wick. “She incarnated Tess, and there was no great version of the movie without her. But it was challenging.”
Griffith told Carter and Kashner that she remembers one particular day when she and co-star Alec Baldwin spent their downtime playing pool in a bar, with a then-sober Baldwin sticking to Coke while Griffith got drunk on rum and Cokes. “When we got back to the set, I had vodka in my motor home, so I had a slug of vodka, and it mixed and made me so drunk, which I thought was really funny,” Griffith said. “But it wasn’t, and it was cold, and I had to walk down the stairs with Alec, and I couldn’t do it.”
Wick says that director Mike Nichols was distressed by the situation, with the men learning that Griffith was also getting drugs delivered to her while on set. The pair agreed that a nurse would be present on set for the remainder of filming and Griffith would be hit with a monetary fine. “Mike [Nichols] got so mad at me, he wouldn’t talk to me. Mike Haley, the first AD, just came up and said, ‘We’re shutting down. Go home,’ and I knew I was in so much trouble,” says Griffith in the new book. “The next morning he [Nichols] took me to breakfast and said, ‘Here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to pay for last night out of your pocket. We’re not going to report you to the studio, but you have to pay for what it cost,’ and it was $80,000. They wanted to get my attention and they really did. It was a very humbling, embarrassing experience, but I learned a lot from it.”
Three weeks after filming wrapped on Working Girl, Griffith checked herself into rehab for the first time. Having dealt with alcohol and drug abuse issues since childhood, Griffith would seek treatment two more times, first in 2000 and again in 2009. In a 2017 interview with Porter, Griffith credits ex-husbands Don Johnson and Antonio Banderas for their support during her stays in rehab. “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,” said Griffith.