Audrey Hepburn (born Audrey Kathleen Ruston; 4 May 1929 – 20 January 1993) was one of the most beautiful, elegant, and – yes – iconic actors in cinema history. She never seemed to try to be iconic; it just came naturally. Whether dressed in scarves, nun's habits, or the Little Black Dress, hers was an unforgettable image. Look up the word "classy" in the dictionary, and a picture of her will be staring back at you.
A British citizen, she was born in Brussels, Belgium to a Dutch Baroness and an Anglo-Irish ne'er-do-well. Her father walked out on the family when she was young, and her subsequent adolescence in German-occupied Netherlands was quite traumatising (she helped the local resistance, witnessed deportations of Jews and almost died of malnutrition during the "Hunger Winter" caused by a German blockade). She then studied and practiced ballet in Amsterdam.
She went from one small role after another in Dutch and British film and stage productions, until she ended up in the main role in the Broadway play Gigi in 1951, which earned her much acclaim. Prominent Hollywoodian director William Wyler decided to cast her for Roman Holiday as neither of his first choices, Elizabeth Taylor and Jean Simmons, were available. The rest, as they say, is history.
She was married to American actor Mel Ferrer from 1954 to 1968 and to Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti from 1969 to 1982. Even in her later years, she was still a looker, appearing in Blackglama's "What Becomes A Legend Most?" ad campaign◊, although she spent most of her later years doing philanthropic work with UNICEF. She passed away from appendiceal cancer (which was diagnosed too late) in Switzerland at the age of 63 on January 20, 1993.
She is not related to Katharine Hepburn, who was American. However, they were close friends; Katharine nicknamed Audrey "my little daughter".
- The Lavender Hill Mob (1951): Crime caper comedy in which she has a bit part.
- Laughter in Paradise (1951): Has a small role as cigarette girl.
- Roman Holiday (1953) - A Rebellious Princess meets an Intrepid Reporter in the middle of the Eternal City. This role is her Academy Award winning Star-Making Role, and her personal favourite. Gregory Peck insisted she be given equal billing with him, and correctly predicted she would win the Oscar.
- Sabrina (1954) - Nominated for an Oscar.
- War and Peace (1956)
- Funny Face (1957) - Her first musical, co-starring Fred Astaire. The definitive "Audrey Hepburn looking awesome in all sorts of costumes" film.
- Love in the Afternoon (1957)
- Mayerling (1957) - A Made-for-TV Movie about the real-life murder-suicide of an Austrian prince and his mistress, co-starring her husband Mel Ferrer.
- Green Mansions (1959) - She famously took a fawn as pet to acclimate it to the filming.
- The Nun's Story (1959) - Some of Hepburn's best acting work. Nominated for an Oscar.
- The Unforgiven (1960) - Western in which she co-stars with Burt Lancaster.
- Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) - Possibly her most iconic role. Nominated for an Oscar.
- The Children's Hour (1961)
- Charade (1963)
- My Fair Lady (1964) - Starts out Playing Against Type, being an uncultured street woman who gradually is groomed to become the classy lady we all know and love. Infamously, her singing scenes were dubbed by Marni Nixon. Two songs with her original vocals are available on the DVD.
- Paris When It Sizzles (1964)
- How to Steal a Million (1966)
- Two for the Road (1967) - Playing Against Type as a bitchy housewife.
- Wait Until Dark (1967) - One of the first modern thrillers, with Hepburn as a blind woman threatened by heroin smugglers. The studio had a lot of trouble casting the main villain, as few actors wanted to be seen tormenting a blind Audrey. Nominated for an Oscar.
- Robin and Marian (1976) - Playing an aging Maid Marian opposite Sean Connery.
- Bloodline (1979)
- Always (1989) - Her final role. note
Tropes in her works:
- '50s Hair: She wore a ponytail at the start of her career, then cropped it into a pixie cut, then grew it again into a Beehive Hairdo in The '60s.
- Hollywood Thin: Along with the Little Black Dress example below, Hepburn's physique has long been considered an ideal standard of beauty and grace. Despite being tall at 5”7, she never weighed more than 115 lbs her entire life. Sadly, this stemmed from having gone through long stretches of starvation during the war which ruined her metabolism. She suffered lifetime health complications due to this such as anemia, having issues getting and staying pregnant note , and eventually stomach cancer from which she died at only the age of 63.
- Little Black Dress: She didn't invent it, but let's face it: her face is the one that immediately comes to mind whenever one hears the phrase. She's not the page image for nothing, after all.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Played two of the early role models for this archetype, Princess Ann and Holly Golightly.
Portrayals in fiction:
- Played by Sarah Hyland (young child), Emmy Rossum (teen) and Jennifer Love Hewitt (adult) in The Audrey Hepburn Story (2000). This TV biopic was not well received, and accusations of coming "too soon" (seven years after her passing) didn't help.
- In 2018, a biography series was being developed by the producers of The Young Pope.
- As of 2022, a more proper biopic is being developed for Apple TV+, with Rooney Mara starring as Hepburn and producing, Luca Guadagnino directing, and Michael Mitnick writing the screenplay.