Melanie Griffith

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Every performer who makes it onto the Tinseltown A-list has a remarkable tale to tell. Some of their stories speak of incredible good luck, while others are sagas of steely determination and raw talent. But just a few of our movie stars have travelled a road so remarkable, so unique, that it is outstanding even by Hollywood standards.

Melanie Griffith is one such individual. A life less ordinary began when the actress was born in New York City on August 9, 1957. The child of The Birds actress Tippi Hedren, she was exposed to the pressures of celebrity life right from the very beginning. And over the years that followed, the starlet's journey would see her survive a lion mauling, a car accident, a series of broken relationships and a battle with alcoholism. Indeed, her success is presumably all the sweeter for the incredible challenges she has managed to overcome.

Asked about her courage in facing such difficult times, she responds with characteristic modesty: "Courageous? Isn't life tough for everybody?" she asks rhetorically. But Melanie is not just anybody. And despite being born into a wealthy family, her life has been tougher than most.

She was only five years old when her actor father Peter Griffith left the family, and her own troubled romantic relationships have become something of a media obsession. She was just 14 when she met 22-year-old actor Don Johnson on the set of The Harrad Experiment, but the two moved in together almost immediately and three years later were wed. The marriage didn't last long, but their relationship would become an enduring saga, itself fit for the big screen. After meeting again when the husky-voiced beauty appeared on his hit TV series Miami Vice, Melanie and Don rekindled their romance and made their vows for a second time in 1989.

But despite welcoming the birth of daughter Dakota later that year, they both fought pitched battles with addiction. And while their love for each other was profound, it was perhaps because they had so much in common that a family life together proved impossible. Melanie eventually filed for divorce in 1996, after both she and Don had spent time in treatment centres.

"You have to understand that we have a tie, and I love him," she said. "I will always love him. But just because you love someone doesn't necessarily mean that you can live with them."

Outside her relationship there were other problems. In 1980, she was hit by a car and badly injured when crossing Sunset Boulevard while intoxicated. She was hospitalised again the following year after being attacked by a lion during the filming of her mother's big cat feature Roar. On both occasions she recovered, and while further trials lay ahead success and happiness were also on their way.

An outstanding performance in Working Girl earned her a Golden Globe for best actress as well as an Oscar nomination. And while the years that followed brought mixed fortunes professionally, she later met a man who would change her life forever.

Mel first set eyes on Antonio Banderas on the set of Two Much in 1996. The pair fell deeply in love and later that year were married. Stella, their daughter, was born just a few months afterwards. Her relationship with the hunky Spaniard seemed to mark a turnaround in her professional life, too, as performances in films like Lolita and Celebrity brought renewed respect from the critics.

Addiction returned to haunt her, however, and in 2000 Melanie checked into a clinic in Florida to be treated for painkiller dependency. "It's a battle that never ends, and you have to take it one day at a time, just like they say," she says. "But you need help from a higher power."

Like other difficulties the actress has faced, Melanie has since overcome her substance dependencies. These days she enjoys a happy family life and successful acting career, while holding a lucrative contract as the face of Revlon.

The archetypal blonde bombshell also finds time for charity work, and it is from this she takes greatest satisfaction. It is perhaps because Melanie has seen the darker side of life, that helping to alleviate the suffering of others is so important to her. "I think everybody who has done well out of life has to give something back," she says. "We have to share and we have to help those who have nothing." It is a fitting philosophy for someone with Melanie's unique wealth of life experience.

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