Melanie Griffith’s life has been quite a rollercoaster. The iconic actress, daughter of actress Tippi Hedren, made her debut on the screen at age 12 – and since then, she’s starred in several big productions.
While Melanie Griffith’s career kept rolling, her private life was very much in focus. She’s been married three times – including to Antonio Banderas – been in rehab, and raised three children.
Melanie Griffith’s children from her first two marriages – Alexander Bauer and Dakota Johnson – had a pretty rough upbringing, especially considering that they had to go through having a mother who was in a terrible place at the time…
Melanie Griffith really had something in the ’80s. She was erotic and sexual in a way that European actresses sometimes are and American actresses almost always are not. And she could act, even though I don’t think Melanie ever truly realized her potential.
I loved her in the movie Working Girl and Paradise!
She was born on August 9, 1957, in New York City to parents Peter Griffith and superstar actress Tippi Hedren, most commonly known for her role in the Hitchcock classic, The Birds.
In hindsight, Griffith’s life has been rather incredible. However, it’s been tragic at the same time. The famous actress, who became known for playing strong-but-sexy characters, has been involved in a car accident, battled with drinking problems, and went through three divorces.
From the start of her life, she was exposed to the pressure of a life in show business. Her mother, Tippi, was, as mentioned, a superstar, and her childhood was extravagant in a very special way – even by Hollywood standards.
When Griffith was seven years old, her mother married agent and producer Noah Marshall. After coming back from a trip to Africa, the couple decided to make a film about lions. An animal trainer gave them a unique idea: to get to know the big cat better, they could welcome one into their home.
So, Melanie Griffith grew up with a pet lion, living with them in the 1970s at their home in Los Angeles, California.
”I grew up with lions, tigers, and two elephants,” Griffith said.
The pet lion, Neil, lived together with the family. Life Magazine documented the extraordinary event, with pictures showing Hedren resting on Neil’s back. The lion even slept under blankets in Melanie Griffith’s bed.
”It was stupid beyond belief,” Griffith later explained.
Even though she wasn’t involved in any incidents with Neil, years later, in another encounter, things didn’t end that well.
Met Don Johnson at 14
Melanie Griffith starred in her first commercial before she turned one. She continued to do commercials and modeling work for some years, and at 12, she made her debut in Extra!, even though she was uncredited.
At the age of 14, she appeared in The Harrad Experiment, and on set, she met her first big love. Griffith met actor Don Johnson on set, and the two fell madly in love. At the time, however, their age difference was somewhat controversial. Don Johnson was 22 at the time – eight years older than Melanie – but their love for one another didn’t stop them.
”I thought he was the most beautiful person I’d ever seen,” Griffith said.
Her mother feared for the two because of her age but eventually gave in. At 15, Melanie Griffith moved in with Don Johnson, and on her 18th birthday, the two got engaged.
”They were two beautiful, wonderful people, and here, my daughter was showing signs that I had never seen before in her, with an older man, and there was just sheer panic,” her mother, Tippi Hedren, recalled.
Griffith and Johnson tied the knot in Las Vegas in 1976. And, after just six months of marriage, the two split. However, they would rekindle their romance later on, exchanging vows a second time in 1989.
Melanie Griffith lion accident
Melanie Griffith started her promising acting career in the 1970s, starring in films such as Night Moves and Joyride.
In 1981, Melanie Griffith starred in the film Roar. Even though her mother and stepfather raised lions to shoot a film, things turned out ugly on the set of Roar. It was very dangerous being in front of the camera, and Melanie got injured.
She was mauled near the eye, and she feared losing her sight. She needed plastic surgery, while her mother Tippi Hedren contracted gangrene and needed skin grafts, according to a piece in the New Yorker.
As reported by The Guardian, Melanie Griffith said that the lioness ”didn’t mean to hurt me. Just, after seven years growing up with the lions, I forgot you have to be careful. You can never be sure you’re safe, and just a blow can pop your head like a ping pong ball.”
Melanie Griffith came through the scary incident. She continued to star in movies, however, without any live wild animals. She appeared in Body Double, Something Wild, and The Working Girl, among others, with the last one earning her an Academy Award nomination in 1989.
In the 1980s, Melanie Griffith also found love for the second time. She married actor Steven Bauer in 1981, and four years later, they welcomed a son, Alexander Bauer.
Melanie Griffith – daughter Dakota Johnson
Their relationship lasted until 1989 when the couple divorced – with Griffith finding love in Don Johnson again. They divorced again in 1996, after welcoming daughter and now actress Dakota Johnson in 1989.
”You have to understand that we have a tie, and I love him,” Melanie Griffith said and added:
”I will always love [Don Johnson]. But just because you love someone doesn’t necessarily mean that you can live with them.”
Dakota Johnson has become a prominent actress, starring in Fifty Shades of Grey and The Social Network. But because her parents divorced when she was only seven years old, she had a turbulent childhood. She moved around plenty, went to several different schools, and was even homeschooled for a while.
She was often hanging around her parents on film sets from a young age. It made her want to become an actress as well, which she did.
However, the childhood of Dakota Johnson was also filled with much trouble because of her family situation. As a result, she started to go to therapy at age three.
Melanie Griffith today
At 65, Melanie Griffith is happily single. Her last appearance on the big screen was in 2020, when she had a minor role and co-starred alongside her daughter Dakota in The High Note.
Today, she devotes her time to her family, and according to BestLife, Melanie is currently writing her memoir. And there will probably be a lot to pen down – including her battle against cancer.
The actress was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2010, and eight years later, she revealed that she had been diagnosed with cancer.
Doctors had to remove a cancerous cell on her nose, the whole event took a toll on Melanie.
“It’s a scary thing when you’re an actress and you depend on your face for work,” the actress told InStyle and continued:
“But I realize I have to put a Band-Aid on it, and it’s fine. I just look like a dork.”
Luckily, everything went fine in the end – Melanie is now a loud advocate of cancer and also supports the efforts of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
You can say what you want about Melanie’s looks and her turbulent life, but she does seem to have a really sweet soul!