Melanie Griffith’s life has been quite a rollercoaster. The iconic actress, daughter of actress Tippi Hedren, made her screen debut at age 12 and has since starred in numerous major productions.

While Melanie Griffith’s career thrived, her private life was often under scrutiny. She has been married three times, including to Antonio Banderas, battled addiction, and raised three children.

Her children from her first two marriages, Alexander Bauer and Dakota Johnson, had a tough upbringing, partly due to their mother’s struggles during their formative years.

In the 1980s, Melanie Griffith had a unique appeal. She exuded a blend of eroticism and sensuality reminiscent of European actresses, a quality rare among American actresses. She had real talent, though it seems she never fully reached her potential.

I adored her performances in Working Girl and Paradise!

Born on August 9, 1957, in New York City to Peter Griffith and the renowned actress Tippi Hedren, famous for her role in Hitchcock’s The Birds, Melanie Griffith’s life has been a mix of incredible highs and tragic lows. Known for her roles as strong yet sexy characters, she has survived a car accident, struggled with alcohol, and endured three divorces.

From a young age, she was thrust into the pressures of show business. Her mother, Tippi, was a superstar, and Melanie’s childhood was extravagant even by Hollywood standards.

At seven, her mother married agent and producer Noel Marshall. After a trip to Africa, they decided to make a film about lions. An animal trainer suggested they bring a lion into their home to get acquainted with it, leading to a unique childhood for Melanie Griffith.

Growing up, Melanie lived with a pet lion named Neil in their Los Angeles home during the 1970s. “I grew up with lions, tigers, and two elephants,” Griffith recalled.

Neil, the lion, lived with the family, and Life Magazine captured this extraordinary situation, including photos of Hedren lying on Neil’s back and the lion sleeping under blankets in Melanie’s bed. “It was stupid beyond belief,” Griffith later admitted.

Although she was not harmed by Neil, another encounter with a big cat years later did not end well.

Meeting Don Johnson at 14
Melanie Griffith appeared in her first commercial before turning one and continued doing commercials and modeling for years. At 12, she made her debut in Extra! (uncredited). At 14, she appeared in The Harrad Experiment, where she met Don Johnson, her first major love. Despite their eight-year age difference—Johnson was 22 and Griffith was 14—their relationship blossomed.

“I thought he was the most beautiful person I’d ever seen,” Griffith said.

Her mother, concerned about the age gap, eventually accepted their relationship. By 15, Melanie had moved in with Johnson, and they got engaged on her 18th birthday.

“They were two beautiful, wonderful people, and my daughter was showing signs I’d never seen before with an older man, which caused sheer panic,” Tippi Hedren recalled.

Griffith and Johnson married in Las Vegas in 1976 but separated after six months. They rekindled their romance and remarried in 1989.

Melanie Griffith lion accident
Griffith’s acting career took off in the 1970s with films like Night Moves and Joyride. In 1981, she starred in Roar, a film her mother and stepfather made with real lions. The shoot was perilous, and Melanie was injured on set.

She was mauled near her eye and feared she might lose her sight. Plastic surgery was necessary, and her mother, Tippi Hedren, developed gangrene and required skin grafts, as detailed in a New Yorker article.

According to The Guardian, Melanie Griffith said the lioness “didn’t mean to hurt me. After seven years of growing up with lions, I forgot that you always have to be cautious. You can never be completely safe; even a simple blow can be like getting hit by a ping pong ball.”

Despite the frightening incident, Melanie Griffith recovered and continued her acting career, avoiding live wild animals on set. She starred in films such as Body Double, Something Wild, and Working Girl, the latter earning her an Academy Award nomination in 1989.

In the 1980s, Griffith found love again with actor Steven Bauer. They married in 1981 and had a son, Alexander Bauer, four years later.

Melanie Griffith – daughter Dakota Johnson
Griffith and Bauer’s relationship ended in 1989, and she rekindled her romance with Don Johnson. They remarried but divorced again in 1996, after having a daughter, now-actress Dakota Johnson, in 1989.

“You have to understand that we have a bond, and I love him,” Melanie Griffith said about Don Johnson. “I will always love [him]. But just because you love someone doesn’t necessarily mean you can live with them.”

Dakota Johnson has become a prominent actress, known for her roles in Fifty Shades of Grey and The Social Network. However, her parents’ divorce when she was seven led to a tumultuous childhood. She moved frequently, attended various schools, and was even homeschooled at times.

Spending time on film sets with her parents inspired her to pursue acting. Nevertheless, Dakota’s childhood was troubled due to her family’s instability. She began therapy at the age of three.

“The whole shebang,” Dakota Johnson told Vogue. “All the help you can get.”

Melanie Griffith – marriage to Antonio Banderas
“I was so consistently unmoored and discombobulated; I didn’t have an anchor anywhere. I never learned how to learn the way you’re supposed to as a kid. I thought, ‘Why do I have to go to school on time? What’s the point when you’re living in Budapest for six months while your stepdad films Evita and you go to school in your hotel room?’ I was a disaster and thought for so long that there was something wrong with my brain. Now I realize that it just works in a different way.”

Dakota Johnson’s childhood could have led her astray, but a new person soon entered her life and changed everything. She needed an anchor and found one in her stepfather, Antonio Banderas.

In 1996, the same year Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson divorced, Banderas also ended his marriage to Ana Leza, whom he had been with for nine years. He had long admired Griffith after seeing her in Gone Girl and on the red carpet at the Academy Awards.

“The first time I went to the Academy Awards after we got a nomination for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, I saw this blonde woman on the red carpet. I knew her from movies but couldn’t remember her name at the time,” Banderas told Vulture.

“So, I asked [director Pedro Almodóvar], ‘Who is she? What’s her name?’ Pedro replied, ‘That’s Melanie Griffith!’ I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s her.’ Six years later, I married her.”

Dakota Johnson’s relationship with stepfather Antonio Banderas
They met while filming the comedy film Two Much in 1995, and they found common ground. Both were unhappy in their marriages and recognized each other’s situations.

Antonio Banderas was immediately attracted to Melanie Griffith while working together. He thought she was funny, generous, sweet, and beautiful. After Two Much, they stayed in touch, and in May 1996, they got married and welcomed their daughter, Stella, later that same year.

Antonio Banderas not only became a father to Stella but also a stepfather to Alexander, from Griffith’s marriage to Steven Bauer, and Dakota Johnson.

For both Alexander and Dakota, Antonio Banderas became a crucial figure, providing them with stability and support.

Initially, it was challenging for the children to accept Banderas because they didn’t know how long he’d stay.

“I was totally inexperienced. Suddenly I had a 6-year-old girl, a 10-year-old boy, and Stella came along almost immediately,” he told AARP. “I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ But once the kids knew I was there to stay, they were fine. They needed solid ground to grow. As soon as I realized that, I began establishing my relationship with them, giving them security, little by little doing the father thing.”

Changed Dakota Johnson’s life
Dakota and Alexander realized that Antonio Banderas was a permanent part of their lives. He took on the role of their stepfather and helped them in every way possible.

For Dakota, this was particularly important. Her childhood had been stressful and uncertain. Banderas provided her with a stepfather who taught her many things, including “true passion and discipline.”

In 2011, he revealed that the kids call him “Paponio,” a mix of “Papa” and “Antonio.”

During an award ceremony in 2019, when Antonio Banderas received the Hollywood Actor Award, Dakota Johnson and Melanie Griffith presented him with the trophy.

“I come from a family of many marriages, and I got very lucky,” Johnson said in her speech.

“I got a bonus dad who I realized, over time, is actually one of the most influential people in my whole life. When I was six years old, my mother married a man who brought an unbelievably bright light, a whole new world of creativity and culture, and one remarkably magical little sister into our family.”

“He loved my mother, my siblings, and me so big, so fiercely, and so loudly, that it changed all of our lives together,” Dakota added in her speech.

Strong bond to this day
The relationship between Antonio Banderas and his stepchildren remained strong even after he and Melanie Griffith divorced in 2014.

Despite their divorce, the family bond between Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas remains strong. As of today, Banderas is in a relationship with Nicole Kimpel. But whenever he is in Los Angeles, he ensures he spends time with his stepchildren and ex-wife.

Their 2014 divorce wasn’t dramatic, which was a relief for his stepchildren, Banderas explained.

He added that he would always cherish the time he and Melanie had together and that he will always love her. As for his stepdaughter, Dakota Johnson, he considers himself her proud father.

“I remember those years as very effervescent and really beautiful. I am not married to Melanie anymore, but she is my family. She is probably one of my best friends, if not my best friend. My family includes Dakota [Johnson], little Estella, and Alexander,” Antonio Banderas told Vulture in 2019.

“I met her when she was five years old,” he added. “I followed every single step of her journey. I’m so proud of her. I saw her recently in Toronto, and she looks — as I said on social media when I posted a picture of her and myself — ‘My radiant Dakota.’”

Melanie Griffith today
At 65, Melanie Griffith is happily single. Her last appearance on the big screen was in 2020, with a minor role 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. There will likely be much to cover, 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 again.

Doctors had to remove a cancerous cell from her nose, and the whole ordeal took a toll on Melanie.

“It’s a scary thing when you’re an actress and you depend on your face for work,” she told InStyle.

“But I realize I have to put a Band-Aid on it, and it’s fine. I just look like a dork.”

Fortunately, everything turned out well in the end. Melanie is now an advocate for cancer awareness and supports the efforts of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

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