Audrey Hepburn's BiographyAudrey Hepburn is a legendary British actress and a style icon who embodied the epitome of femininity in her graceful image. Audrey can rightly be called one of the most sincere and direct actresses in Hollywood. Winner of the Oscar in 1954 for her role in "Roman Holiday", Audrey also received this award for her humanitarian work in 1993.
Military ChildhoodAudrey Kathleen Ruston was born on May 4, 1929, in the capital of Belgium, Brussels, in a cosmopolitan and aristocratic family. Her mother, Baroness Ella Van Heemstra, had Dutch roots, and her father, banker Joseph Hepburn, had English and Austrian origins. Audrey's maternal ancestors were French nobles and English civil servants. Audrey had two half-brothers from her mother's first marriage, Alexander and Jan Van Ufford.
Audrey was only 6 years old when her parents divorced, and the girl moved with her mother to London. Ella Van Heemstra wanted her daughter to receive a worthy education, so Audrey began attending a private girls' school. Soon they moved to the Dutch city of Arnhem, where Ella's father was the mayor.
In the 1930s, both Hepburn's parents supported the Nazis in their struggle against the dominant position of Jews in banking and trade, but after the occupation of European countries, Ella Van Heemstra renounced her previous views and sided with the Resistance.
Audrey was very attached to her kind and gentle father, and his departure became the hardest event in her life, as she later confessed in her memoirs. "My father and mother had almost no time for me. I remembered that nobody needed me, and all my life I doubted that it could be different. Chocolate was my only love, and it never betrayed me."
When the nazi occupation began, Audrey and her mother were in the Netherlands. It was dangerous to stay on the territory with an English name, so the girl had to change her name in the passport to Edda Van Heemstra. During the hungry winter of 1944, life was particularly hard for the inhabitants of Arnhem. Audrey suffered from constant malnutrition, which led to a deterioration in her metabolism, which never fully recovered throughout her life.
Because of the exhausting hunger during the occupation and trials Audrey had to go through, she suffered from anemia, respiratory diseases, and a tendency to depression all her life. But she never complained: "As long as a child has a certain minimum, he is completely happy. I remember that we had a lot of fun. We didn't sit on the floor and cry for five years in a row. Of course, there was a shadow of fear and repression, and terrible things happened..."
During the occupation, books and dance lessons helped the girl survive the hunger - it was then that she fell in love with ballet. In 1945, after moving to Amsterdam, Audrey began taking ballet lessons. Later in London, she was trained by the legendary Marie Rambert, who was pleased with the progress of the graceful and thin girl, but still warned her that she would not become a prima ballerina because of her height (171 cm).
For Audrey's family, the issue of material well-being was particularly acute - after the war they were completely ruined, and the aristocratic mother had to work as a nurse under humiliating conditions. Then Audrey decided that she would try her hand at drama art. At that moment, she could not yet assume how successful that decision would be.
Acting CareerAudrey began earning independently by acting in commercials, working as a model, and dancing in the corps de ballet. She was noticed by director Charles van der Linden during one of the shoots, who soon invited the charming and graceful young woman to play a minor role as a stewardess in the film "Dutch in Seven Lessons" (1948). Thus began Audrey Hepburn's acting career.
In 1951, Audrey played minor roles in the films "Laughter in Paradise", "Young Wives' Tale", "The Lavender Hill Mob" and a supporting role in both the English and French versions of the comedy "Monte Carlo Baby". During the filming of the last movie, she fatefully met Sidonie Colette, who saw in her the heroine of her novel "Gigi" and invited Audrey to participate in the Broadway production.
The incredibly successful production of "Gigi" on the main theatre stage in New York confirmed the popular opinion that a brilliant acting career in America could start with Broadway performances. In 1953, Audrey co-starred with Hollywood legend Gregory Peck in the melodrama "Roman Holiday," directed by William Wyler, which endeared her to audiences worldwide.
The role of Princess Ann, who wanted to experience life as an ordinary girl in the Eternal City, seemed tailor-made for Audrey - a charming girl, aristocratic by both blood and upbringing, and completely devoid of any pretentiousness or affectation. Hepburn burst onto the Hollywood scene, and she was immediately embraced - at 24, the actress received her first Oscar.
The organizers planned to write Peck's name in large letters on the movie poster, with Hepburn's name modestly placed beneath it. But Peck himself insisted there be no such distinction, as he had already foreseen Audrey's global success with this role.
Another interesting fact: Audrey's screen tests for the role of Princess Ann have become legendary. The thing is, the film's managers fell in love with the actress after the phrase “Cut!” was announced - she relaxed, became herself and then charmed everyone with her charisma.
The actress's next role was in the melodrama "Sabrina" (1954), where Audrey starred alongside Humphrey Bogart and once again received an Oscar nomination. Later, Audrey appeared in the play "Ondine", where she met her future husband Mel Ferrer. That same year, Hepburn won the Tony award for her theatrical role, further establishing her reputation as a brilliant film and theater actress.
Success followed with "War and Peace" (1956), where Hepburn played Natasha Rostova, "Love in the Afternoon" (1957) directed by Billy Wilder, and "The Nun's Story" (1959).
The role of Natasha Rostova brought Audrey the highest fee of her career at that point. In addition to $350,000, she was paid 1/12 of that amount for each week of work beyond the schedule, given $500 per day for personal expenses and provided with a personal driver around the clock. When Audrey's agent told her about these fantastic figures, she replied: "But that's impossible, I'm not worth that much!".
In 1960, she starred in John Huston's drama about the war with the Indians, "The Unforgiven". The next notable role for the popular actress was the charming Holly Golightly in the melodrama "Breakfast at Tiffany's".
The image of a calculating and simultaneously emotional girl, seeking her fortune in New York, won the hearts of viewers. The last scene of the movie would remain in everyone's memory. Once again, Audrey confirmed her status as a style icon - her little black dress by Givenchy, wide-brimmed hat and cigarette with a holder became symbols of elegance and luxury. According to the actress, this was the most vivid role in her career, but also the most challenging, as the introverted and unsociable Audrey had to transform into an extroverted girl.
In 1964, another cinematic masterpiece featuring Audrey Hepburn was released - the musical "My Fair Lady" directed by George Cukor, based on a play by Bernard Shaw, and in 1966, the crime comedy "How to Steal a Million" directed by William Wyler, which instantly became a classic. A new genre for Hepburn was the thriller "Wait Until Dark" (1967), where she played a blind woman.
At the peak of her fame, in 1967, Audrey Hepburn decided to temporarily leave cinema, and after ten years, she starred in several more films. Her last work was a collaboration with Steven Spielberg in the film "Always" (1989).
Personal Life of Audrey HepburnAudrey Hepburn met actor William Holden on the set of "Sabrina" and soon began dating him, even though he was already married. Upon discovering that Holden could not have children due to a vasectomy, Hepburn, who dreamed of becoming a mother, decided they should part ways.
While working on the play "Ondine", Audrey met actor Mel Ferrer, whom she soon married. The couple's wedding took place in Switzerland, where Audrey was receiving treatment for asthma.
Audrey is a creature of nature in an artificial world. She is honest and devoid of any cunning. And no amount of fame will change her. That's why I fell in love with her," said Mel Ferrer.
In 1960, the young actress gave birth to a son, Sean. She was overjoyed, as her fragile health had previously prevented her from carrying a child. Audrey continued to collaborate with her husband in the film industry, but he struggled to cope with her overwhelming success, and after 15 years, they parted ways.
Her divorce from Ferrer was such a blow that she sought psychiatric help. It was then that she stopped filming. Her treating physician, Italian Andrea Dotti, soon became her second husband, and in 1970 Audrey gave birth to a son, Luca.
The actress bought a small villa, which they named La Paisible (The Tranquil), in the Swiss village of Tolochenaz. Audrey did most of the housework herself, especially cooking, following the example of her mother, a baroness who was not afraid of hard work during difficult times. Later, she moved to Italy with her first son, but she always considered Tolochenaz her home.
She almost stopped filming and was happy spending time with her sons and husband. Family evenings in front of the TV brought her more joy than social gatherings and flashbulbs. Audrey often repeated the phrase: "What makes me happy, I keep. What doesn't concern me, I forget." Her life was only clouded by her husband's constant infidelity. After ten years of marriage, Hepburn filed for divorce. At 50, Audrey finally found her personal happiness. Her chosen one was the Dutch Robert Wolders (born 1936), who was with her until her last days.
Public ActivityIn the 70s, Audrey Hepburn turned to charity work instead of her acting career, becoming an ambassador for the United Nations International Emergency Children's Fund and working for UNICEF, an organization that once assisted the occupiers during World War II.
Hepburn was multilingual – she spoke French, English, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch, which made it easy for her to communicate with people from different countries.
DeathHepburn devoted herself entirely to charity and at some point forgot about her fragile health. During a trip to Somalia, Audrey had severe stomach pains, but she continued her work because she didn't want the entire program to be cancelled because of her. Upon her return, it was too late - the actress was diagnosed with colon cancer, the metastases of which affected the tissues of neighboring organs.
Since nothing could be changed, the actress decided to spend her last days in peace with her family. Audrey Hepburn passed away on January 20, 1993. She was buried in the town of Tolochenaz, Switzerland.
Memory and HeirsAudrey's eldest son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, never wanted to become an actor, having witnessed the example of his perpetually filming parents. His acting career ended after a single minor role in the movie "They All Laughed" (1981). In his youth, he was involved in production, and after his mother's death, he founded a charity in her name, providing help to children. In 2003, he published a book "Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit: A Son Remembers".
Sean has been married four times, the last time in 2014. He has three children: Emma, Gregorio, and Santiago. Emma became a model, appearing on the cover of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. The rest of the actress's grandchildren lead private lives.
The younger son, Luca Dotti, pursued a career in graphic design. He married an Italian from a well-off family, Domitilla Bertucci, who became the mother of his two daughters. Luca wrote three books about Audrey Hepburn, the most famous of which is "Audrey at Home".
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