The first time I ever saw Michelle Pfeiffer on a film set, it was when she was shooting "Batman Returns."  It's fitting that we'd finally sit down for a formal interview for her first work with Tim Burton since then, as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the head of the Collins family, desperately clinging to whatever faded glory and dignity they once had.

I was running late to the press day thanks to traffic, and I was getting phone calls from Anne, the Warner publicist, letting me know that I was going to be the last person sitting down with Pfeiffer for the day.  When I finally got to the SLS, I jumped out of the car, ran outside, and within 30 seconds of arriving, I was sitting across from Pfeiffer, which is enough to fluster even someone who had time to prepare.

Pfeiffer has managed to stake out her own place in Hollywood for thirty years or so now, and I admire the way she makes choices and the way she's established room for her role as a mother and a wife as well.  It's so easy to get pulled into the idea that you have to keep working, that you have to treat every film as part of a career, but when I got to spend some time on the set of "Stardust," she ended up being remarkably approachable and easy to talk to.  It was clear that she works when she's interested in something, and not just to work.

Like Burton, she was a first-generation "Dark Shadows" fan, and she was eager to figure out how to capture the eclectic mix of tones that made that show such a singular accomplishment.  With Burton as a collaborator, though, she seemed to feel comfortable that whatever they were doing was right.  She strikes me as the kind of performer who comes to the table with a wide range of ideas, giving her directors options.

It's strange to see an A-list movie star who doesn't always have ninety projects waiting on the runway, but Pfeiffer seems like she's in a really peaceful happy place with the work she does and the choices she makes.  She also remains one of the most strikingly lovely women in film, and it's that combination of a steely intelligence, a natural warmth, and those remarkable eyes that have made her such an icon for so long.

"Dark Shadows" opens everywhere on Friday.