5 February 2009
The Glasgow Film Festival salutes the breathtaking work of Audrey Hepburn, but she was more than just a pretty face. Claire Sawers speaks to fans and family to find out what Hepburn means as an actor, style icon and activist
The Film Star
co-director of Glasgow Film Festival
‘Although she’s remembered best as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey wasn’t just a ‘fluff’ actress. She has great depth, and always wanted to stretch herself as an actress. Born in 1929, she remembered vividly living through the Nazi occupation of Holland and suffered terribly from depression and malnutrition. As someone who knew her own feelings inside out, she brought that emotion into her acting.
Anyone who thinks they know Audrey after seeing Tiffany’s should watch The Unforgiven or The Children’s Hour, both showing in the festival. The first is a western where Burt Lancaster plays her husband; the second is a creepy, gothic thriller where she and Shirley McLaine are accused of being lesbians. Both were quite unusual roles, and very interesting to watch.Whatever she did, she had a certain noblesse oblige about her . She was an incredibly rounded person with real passion.’
Dr Rachel Moseley
lecturer in Film and TV Studies at the University of Warwick and author of Growing Up with Audrey Hepburn
‘When Audrey played Princess Ann in Roman Holiday (1953), Sabrina Fairchild in Sabrina (1954), or Holly Golightly in Tiffany’s (1961), she seemed merely to be playing herself. There was a transparency about her screen persona that made her accessible, even though she had a poise that set her apart. All her most well-loved roles were ‘Cinderella’ stories, echoing her origins in war-torn Europe. Her 1950s stardom was boyish and liberated, and yet absolutely feminine. She wore trousers, tiaras or Givenchy with equal flair. Her kooky elegance makes her an enduring retro icon for our contemporary Holly Golightlys.’
The style icon
owner of Herman Brown vintage boutique
‘Audrey exuded style, grace and poise in an utterly inimitable way. Her early training as a dancer, an acute awareness of her physical attributes and flaws, and her minimalist approach to fashion all lent a hand in sculpting ‘the look’. She absolutely loved ballet pumps for example, which gave her a gamine air. She wore them because she was so tall, but that was very unusual for a starlet at the time. Others have tried to copy – God bless her, Victoria Beckham is one – but what Audrey had, you can’t buy, copy or fake.’
owner of Totty Rocks fashion label
‘My favourite Audrey Hepburn film is Funny Face. There’s a brilliant moment when she is dancing with the Beatniks in a smoky underground jazz bar in Paris. She is wearing a black polo neck, skinnyrib jumper and tight capri pants, with white socks and little pumps. She looks fabulously chic, just like a little black pussycat!’
‘Audrey is always an inspiration – I regularly watch 50s and 60s films when I’m designing. In an era of buxom blondes, Audrey didn’t exactly fit in. She wasn’t conventionally ‘beautiful’. And yet she’s the definition of style. She had that rare ability to bring playful vivacity to exquisite clothing.
My favourite outfit is from Roman Holiday – a white blouse, full skirt and flat shoes. Her waist is the tiniest ever, but with the broad belt she looks stunning. From Roman Holiday’s tomboy chic to the cheeky sophistication of Tiffany’s, Audrey is an inspiration to all of us who run up the occasional frock.’
runs Flossy and Dossy, making vintage-style dresses
singer in Sons and Daughters
‘Audrey Hepburn was probably my first ever serious style icon when I was a teenager. I saw Breakfast at Tiffany’s on TV when I was 19 and became obsessed, buying the video and watching it, pretty much daily! I thought she carried herself with so much grace and dignity, it almost didn’t matter what she wore, although the clothes are incredible. My boyfriend bought me an Audrey doll on eBay a few years ago for Christmas. She is wearing the pink dress and tiara from the movie, and it is a much treasured possession. She really ignited my first interest in fashion.’
singer in Clare and the Reasons
‘Audrey Hepburn makes me smile. She makes me wish I was alive in the day when being fabulous was fabulous; not ‘trying too hard’ or ‘over the top’. I live in New York, the place that Audrey, in Tiffany’s, made look like a safe haven from normal or average; a refuge for people who wanted to stay young, savvy and beautiful forever. I think that idea remains here in people’s minds, but not so much with how they dress – are they too hip to care? Audrey, you could say, was a hipster of the times in Tiffany’s, wrapped up perfectly in her safety bubble of ‘scene’ and ‘cool’. When I go hear the New York Phil I get blue seeing people, who have the perfect opportunity to look fabulous, opt for jeans instead. Have they no desire to decorate themselves? I do – any chance to tap into my inner fabulous is a little gift, I say.’
Sean Hepburn Ferrer
Hepburn’s son and chairman of the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund
‘People ask how I remember her best, and all I can say is, as my mother. We didn’t have DVDs when I was little, so it was only later that I began to watch her films and realise she had left an indelible imprint on society. She made a lot of unforgettable gems, which touched many people. My favourite is probably Funny Face. Having wanted to be a dancer in her youth, and missing out because of the war – she was also too tall to be a ballerina – it means a lot to watch her get to dance with Fred Astaire. Other films remind us she was more than a ‘cute face’, but also a serious actress. On a personal note, her last role as an angel in Always by Steven Spielberg is very special too. I miss her a lot, but I’ll walk into a hotel room in Japan, and she’ll be on the screen. That makes it easier.
‘Although her humanitarian work wasn’t the centrepiece of her career, it was a very important part. She spent her last five years working with children for UNICEF. It let people see that the twig they had fallen in love with 40 years earlier had grown into this beautiful, strong oak tree. The Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund carries on in her footsteps with children’s charity projects. Of all the work she did, her humanitarian work makes me most proud.’
For more details, visit www.audreyhepburn.com
Executive Director of UNICEF
‘Audrey Hepburn worked tirelessly to improve the lives of girls and boys around the world. As a young girl, Hepburn herself received food and medical relief from UNICEF following WWII. Later, as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Hepburn travelled the world, touching the lives of millions of children through her work. In her own words, she said: “I speak for those children who cannot speak for themselves, children who have absolutely nothing but their courage and their smiles, their wits and their dreams”.’
The Audrey Hepburn season runs Thu 12 Feb-Sun 22 Feb, showing My Fair Lady, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade, The Children’s Hour, Funny Face, Robin and Marian, Sabrina, The Unforgiven and My Fair Lady.