Audrey Hepburn has remained an icon for generations due in part to her remarkable on-screen charisma, fashion sense and awe-inspiring philanthropic work. As the embodiment of grace whose image remains a staple on virtually every young woman’s wall in the form of a Breakfast At Tiffany’s poster, Hepburn managed to captivate the movie-going audience in such classics as Roman Holiday, Funny Face and Sabrina, just to name a few.
Her journey to super stardom certainly wasn’t a simple one, as many are aware of the harrowing experiences she suffered through. These included the Nazi occupation during World War II and the subsequent Dutch famine of 1944-1945 which resulted in her developing numerous health ailments.
Her inspirational rise to fame ultimately came to a heartbreaking end in January of 1993 when Hepburn passed away from appendix cancer at the age of 63. She left behind a marveling legacy and for those familiar with Hepburn, here are just a few facts about her life you probably never knew.
1. She Is Part Of The Elite EGOT Club
Hepburn is one of 12 people who have earned the rare honor of winning four of the major annual American entertainment awards – an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award. She is also the first to join this elite club posthumously, earning an Emmy for Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn in September 1993 and her Grammy Award in 1994 for Best Spoken Word Album for Children.
She is perhaps best known for earning a Best Actress Academy Award for her first starring role as Princess Ann in 1953’s Roman Holiday, an achievement only a few exceptional talents can say they’ve earned. Hepburn was awarded her Tony Award for Best Actress in a Drama for her performance in Ondine the following year where she worked alongside her future husband, actor Mel Ferrer, on Broadway.
2. Givenchy Created A One-Of-A-Kind Perfume Just For Her
Hepburn met French designer Hubert de Givenchy during the production of 1954’s fashion-centric Sabrina. Givenchy was reportedly expecting to meet another Academy Award winner, actress Katharine Hepburn (no relation to Audrey) to discuss clothing options for the film. Although he was initially a bit disappointed by the confusion, Givenchy and Hepburn ended up becoming the best of friends for the remainder of her life.
Givenchy created an exclusive perfume for Hepburn in 1957 titled L’Interdit which translates to “the forbidden” in French. She adored the fragrance, wearing it for years and ultimately becoming the face of its advertising campaign when it was finally released to the public in the 1960s.
3. She Dated John F. Kennedy And Informed The Crew On Set Of My Fair Lady Of His Death
You’re probably familiar with the Breakfast At Tiffany’s tidbit that Marilyn Monroe was original author Truman Capote’s first pick for who should portray Holly Golightly – the role that solidified Hepburn’s place in pop culture and film history. This discord between the film’s casting and Capote is not the only similarity shared between the two actresses. Interestingly enough, the beloved 35th President of the United States is where they both align as well.
Former President John F. Kennedy and Hepburn dated when he was a senator with no love lost between them when they ultimately split, as Kennedy was once quoted saying Roman Holiday was his favorite film. Monroe’s relationship with Kennedy is a bit different as he allegedly had an affair with her while married to Jackie O. Her seductive recitation of “Happy Birthday” remains one of the most talked about events in all of human history. Hepburn actually performed the song in a less scandalized matter the following year, however since it was a private event there is unfortunately no record of it.
When Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963, it was Hepburn who made the distressing announcement to the cast and crew on set of My Fair Lady during production. She reportedly asked everyone to pray for him and when she went into a carriage on-set with co-star Jeremy Brett, she apparently lowered the shades and cried.
4. Disney Threatened Legal Action Against A Live-Action Peter Pan Film Starring Hepburn In The Titular Role
You read that right, we would’ve gotten to see an Audrey Hepburn-starring Peter Pan film if Walt Disney himself hadn’t threatened legal action against the London Hospital for Children.
The Hospital proposed a live-action film adaptation of J.M Barrie’s play in hopes to generate funds to improve patient care facilities. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, gifted the rights to the Hospital in 1929. The proposed film was to star Hepburn as the boy who never grew up and Laurence Olivier as Captain Hook. Hepburn’s My Fair Lady director George Cukor would have directed the film, however the project was ultimately scrapped courtesy of the King of the Mouse House.
Disney essentially claimed their studio owned all the cinematic rights to Peter Pan following the release of their classic animated Pan film in 1953. They did pay for the rights to make the animated movie, although it was only a small amount in 1939. When they learned about the Hospital’s plan to develop a live-action Pan adaptation, Disney reportedly threatened legal action against them and that was enough to say goodbye to the idea of a flying Hepburn. If there’s anything we know about Walt Disney, it’s that he could utterly ruthless when anything related to his business arose and this was definitely a taste of just how harsh he could be.
5. Her Salary For Breakfast At Tiffany’s Made Her The Second Highest Paid Actress Of Her Time
While Hepburn portraying Holly Golightly in Blake Edwards’ Breakfast At Tiffany’s may not have been Capote’s first choice, her charismatic magnetism just radiated on screen which led to her earning what she rightly deserved for the role.
She was reportedly paid $750,000 for Tiffany’s, a number that placed her second behind Elizabeth Taylor’s record-setting contract of $1 million for the epic Cleopatra (1963). Actresses earning these numbers were simply unheard of at the time, however these two films ride entirely on the performances of the main lead actresses. Hepburn particularly enchanted critics and audiences alike with her incredible talent which only assisted her for future deals, earning a staggering $1,100,000 for My Fair Lady.
For anyone wondering how monumentally impressive this achievement is, she reportedly earned $12,500 for her starring role in Roman Holiday. Not every famous face who makes the big bucks in future projects are given the same sum during their debuts, no matter how impressive it may be. It goes to show how important those initial starring debuts are since the trajectory of Hepburn’s career managed to skyrocket following that role and subsequent Oscar win.
6. She Didn’t Understand Why People Thought She Was Beautiful
In one of the more unbelievable things learned about this brilliant woman, she experienced self-esteem and body issues throughout her life. According to her son, Luca Dotti, his mother didn’t know why people thought she was beautiful, revealing in a Vanity Fair interview that she “thought she had a big nose and big feet, and she was too skinny and not enough breast.”
She apparently would “look in the mirror and say, ‘I don’t understand why people see me as beautiful'” to which I say, she was easily one of the most gorgeous-looking human beings to ever grace the Earth. A sentiment I know I’m not the only one to share.
7. Her Debilitating Health Caused Her To Miss The Presidential Medal Of Freedom Ceremony Honoring Her Humanitarian Work
Hepburn retired from acting in the 1970s, choosing to spend more time with her family and focus on the plight suffered by millions around the world. Hepburn was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador in 1989 and in December of 1992, she was awarded the Presidential Medal Of Freedom.
It’s truly no surprise why Audrey Hepburn is as beloved as she is. An icon in every sense of the word be it through her fashion sense, the way she conducted herself or her emphasis on the struggles experienced by the less fortunate, Hepburn has and will continue to remain an inspiration. While she easily could’ve went down the route of a typical Hollywood starlet, she chose roles that challenged her abilities and didn’t allow her various insecurities to stop her.
Whether you feel a sudden inkling to laugh hysterically, cry uncontrollably or anything in between, there is always an Audrey Hepburn film guaranteed to satisfy whatever film craving you may have.