To this day, Audrey Hepburn defines grace, elegance, and humility. The incredibly talented and beautiful actress dominated the silver screen in the 1950s and 1960s with classic roles in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, and so many more. However, Hepburn was far more than a pretty face. In fact, her history is much darker than most people know.
1. She Didn’t Have A Home
Born in Brussels on May 4, 1929, Audrey Ruston was a far cry away from the glittering world of Hollywood. In the beginning, she lived a rootless existence, with her family moving incessantly for her father’s work. As they flitted from London to Arnhem and beyond, little Audrey learned a whopping six languages. However, as privileged as her life undoubtedly was, her family had a twisted dark side.
2. She Felt The Sting Of Abandonment
See, Audrey’s parents wholeheartedly believed in the growing Nazi regime and even traveled to Germany to attend marches and show their support. In fact, her father Joseph was so deeply entrenched in his prejudiced beliefs—he did the unthinkable. In 1935, he abandoned Audrey and her mother, fleeing to London where he could devote more of his time to Fascist pursuits.
His abrupt departure from her life cut Audrey to the core—and her reaction was downright heartbreaking.
3. She Faced Unending Trauma
In looking back on this harrowing chapter of her life, Audrey confessed that her father’s disappearing act was “the most traumatic event of my life.” But that wasn’t all. After he left, she lived in Kent where she attended boarding school. Despite having visitation rights, her father never came to see her. Audrey’s isolation was tantamount.
While the other children reunited with their parents during weekends and holidays, she always found herself terribly alone—and it was only going to get worse.
4. She Flew Into The Eye Of The Storm
When WWII finally descended, Audrey’s life experienced the greatest upheaval of all. Thinking that she’d be safest in the Netherlands, her parents sent her away. In fact, it was her father who brought her to the airport in 1939…And after that fateful day, she wouldn’t see him for years. But while Audrey thought she was headed toward a safe haven, she was actually flying straight into the eye of the storm.
5. She Was In Danger
Although the Netherlands seemed like the perfect place to hunker down and wait out the war, it quickly morphed into one of the most dangerous places on the map. In 1940, 10-year-old Audrey witnessed the German invasion of Holland. Not only did the military blot all hope out, but so did the intimidating presence of the SS. But it was so much worse than Audrey thought…
6. She Changed Her Name
In looking back on her traumatizing childhood, Audrey said, “Had we known that we were going to be occupied for five years, we might have all shot ourselves. We thought it might be over next week…six months…next year…that’s how we got through.” To avoid being identified as English, she changed her name to Edda van Heemstra. However, despite her best efforts to lay low, the following years were fraught with fear.
7. She Became A Prisoner
For years, Audrey and her housemates lived like “prisoners,” sometimes hidden in the cellar while the sound of bullets rang out around them. It was an interminable nightmare, but it had only just begun. In 1942, a bloody and pivotal moment came to pass. Audrey’s two uncles were ripped from their homes, taken hostage, and shot.
Where Audrey had sat on the sidelines in silence, this brutal loss changed everything.
8. She Fought Back
From then on, Audrey found herself swept up in the underground Dutch resistance: She delivered its papers, and even hid messages in the soles of her shoes, carrying them to the Allies. But her most generous act of all was also one of her greatest passions—dancing. You see, above all else, Audrey dreamed of becoming a prima ballerina—and even in the harshest of times, she was more than willing to put on a show.
9. She Kept It A Secret
Having studied dance at boarding school, Audrey took to the stage and entertained the Dutch resistance. The “underground concerts” she put on helped raise money for the cause—but even the joy of dance couldn’t erase her depressing reality. At the end of every number, there was no clapping to be heard, only silence and a sea of smiling faces. No noise could be made. It had to be kept a secret.
But while Audrey tried to escape her suffering through dance, the year 1944 ushered in a whole new lineup of horrors.
10. She Starved
Just when she didn’t think it could get any worse, it did. In 1944, the Dutch experienced a horrible famine throughout the colder winter months. The Germans blocked the routes where food and supplies were passed, and soon starvation and malnutrition darkened Audrey’s doorway. Her family had no choice but to make bread out of tulip bulbs.
It seemed like Audrey had hit rock bottom, but her misfortunes were far from over. Plagued by hunger, Audrey’s health took a terrifying nosedive.
11. She Lost Everything
Audrey’s whole life seemed to crumble around her as she battled ailments like anemia, malnutrition, and respiratory issues. To make matters worse her family’s financial situation went up in flames, with so many of their grand estates being turned to rubble. Audrey Hepburn—destined to be one of the most famous actresses of all time—didn’t have two pennies to rub together.
12. She Started Over
Finally, after years of fear and uncertainty, WWII came to a close and Audrey found herself liberated. In fact, one of her most vivid memories was when one of the UNICEF workers swooped in and offered her a chocolate bar. It was a whole new world. She later remembered, “It was so exciting and that’s when life started again.” In the face of this long-awaited freedom, Audrey didn’t miss a beat.
With her ambition in hand, she set off to conquer a daunting challenge—one that led her straight to her destiny.
13. They Crushed Her Dreams
After liberation, Audrey still harbored her dream of becoming a ballerina, and so, when she moved to London with a ballet scholarship, she began her training at Ballet Rambert…However, there was just one problem. Audrey had simply lost too many years to WWII, and by the time she arrived at the school, it became painfully obvious that the other dancers were far more advanced than her.
Because of the lost time and her health problems, she faced yet another disappointment—and it was one of the hardest pills to swallow.
14. She Found Another Way
Audrey had to face the facts: She was never going to be a prima ballerina. Her time at the Ballet Rambert crushed her dreams once and for all. She was both weak and too small to ever make it big. Somewhat lost at sea, Audrey wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel just yet. She found another way to pursue her passion—and that was through acting.
However, Audrey wasn’t all work and no play. While she tried to figure out her acting career, she kept one eye on one of the other joys of life—romance.
15. She Believed In Love At First Sight
For a long time, Audrey had known the industrialist James Hanson. They had met in London, and in 1952, he became her very first fiancé. In the beginning, their attachment seemed like a genuine fairy tale, with Audrey claiming that it was “love at first sight”—but it was doomed to a heartbreaking end. As the wedding day approached, she called it off…and the way she went about it was utterly brutal.
16. She Broke Her Engagement
Audrey was all set to marry James Hanson: She’d gone to her dress fitting and had even set a date. However, despite all the preparation, there were to be no church bells ringing for the hopeful couple. In the midst of wedding planning, Audrey came to the horrifying revelation that their marriage would crumble in the face of their demanding careers. However, the sting of rejection didn’t end there.
In light of the broken engagement, she made a public statement: When I get married, I want to be really married.” Ouch. Clearly, Audrey had bigger fish to fry.
17. She Didn’t Want To Be An Actress
Faced with her failed dancing career and her broken engagement, Audrey dove straight into show business. This, of course, was a consolation prize. Right from the get-go, she never wanted to be an actress. However, the gigs helped put food on the table and the musical parts afforded her a small slice of the dancing she craved. At the time, acting was just a job, but it soon grew into something much greater.
From the stage, she began dabbling in small film roles. Little did she know, it was bound to take her all the way to the top.
18. She Got An Offer She Couldn’t Refuse
In an auspicious turn of events, Audrey had a run-in with a creative icon who made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. While filming a scene for 1953’s Monte Carlo Baby in the Hôtel de Paris, Audrey caught the eye of the illustrious writer and actress, Colette. Colette got straight to the point and asked Audrey if she’d like the lead role in Gigi on Broadway. But this was only the tip of the iceberg.
19. She Made It Big
In a single month, the stars aligned for Audrey. She got two big breaks: One on Broadway and one in Hollywood. You see, in 1951, director William Wyler saw a screen test of Audrey in action and was absolutely captivated. He had a new film on the horizon, Roman Holiday, and immediately envisioned her for the lead role. Even more impressive? She beat out one of the most sought-after actresses.
20. She Changed His Mind
Before he set eyes on Audrey Hepburn, William Wyler had every intention of casting Elizabeth Taylor. However, after seeing Audrey, he completely changed his mind: “She had everything I was looking for: charm, innocence, and talent. She also was very funny. She was absolutely enchanting, and we said, ‘That’s the girl!'” But that wasn’t all.
21. She Had A Gentleman On Her Side
Audrey’s famous costar Gregory Peck also knew that this promising newcomer was destined for greatness and insisted that she get equal billing. Originally, her name was meant to come second to his, but he knew that that would be a huge mistake. Peck, ever the humble gentleman, said, “You’ve got to change that because she’ll be a big star, and I’ll look like a big jerk.”
22. She Was Different
Her observant leading man was right: Audrey Hepburn filmed the right movie at the right time, and for all audiences, she was a breath of fresh air. In Roman Holiday, she was the embodiment of a new ideal of beauty—one that was far easier to relate to than the otherworldly bombshells like Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe. Audrey wasn’t curvaceous or polished to perfection, her beauty was absolutely singular…and yet, accessible.
Right from the get-go, she had the makings of a style icon.
23. She Was The New Feminine Ideal
Audrey’s character as Princess Ann in Roman Holiday had great dualities and even highlighted her boyish qualities, celebrating a cropped hairstyle, thick eyebrows, and a slight figure. By 1954, Cecil Beaton, the renowned fashion photographer, had already dubbed her the “public embodiment of our new feminine ideal.” With only one film under her belt, the public expectations were mounting—and for good reason.
24. She Was Behind The Times
For Audrey Hepburn, the world of Hollywood was startlingly new and deeply contrasted her time in the Netherlands throughout WWII. She felt frighteningly behind when it came to movies, and yet, right out of the gates, she won an Academy Award for Best Actress. It was a turning point that completely shook up her life. At that point, she had no clue that her success would lead to another movie…or that her life would never be the same again.
25. She Charmed Her Co-Star
Audrey’s next film paired her with two of Hollywood’s most beloved leading men—Humphrey Bogart and William Holden. However, only one of them truly liked her. Poor Audrey had to grapple with Bogart’s chilly reception of her, no doubt influenced by the fact that he’d wanted his own famous wife, Lauren Bacall, to play the role of Sabrina.
Instead, Bogart got stuck with this inexperienced, youthful newcomer. William Holden, on the other hand, took one look at his doe-eyed co-star and was absolutely starstruck.
26. She Had A Secret Affair
Under the director’s nose, Audrey and Holden embarked on a sordid affair. You see, even before he began working with her, Holden had harbored a schoolboy crush on this graceful, young actress. They became quick friends and it wasn’t long before their easy camaraderie evolved into passionate affection. But there was more than one problem barring these two from a happily ever after.
27. Her Beau Had Baggage
Unfortunately, William Holden wasn’t exactly Prince Charming. He had a whole arsenal of personal problems including his affinity for drink, not to mention the fact that he already had a wife. However, even with all his baggage in tow, Holden couldn’t control his love for Audrey. He wanted to marry her, and even proposed—but Audrey turned him down…Why?
Well, there was something that Audrey wanted that Holden just couldn’t give her…
28. She Turned Him Down
According to rumors, Audrey Hepburn’s desire to start a family destroyed all chances of her ever marrying William Holden. He’d gone ahead and had a vasectomy, making their union an impossibility in Audrey’s mind. Completely heartbroken by the whole situation, Holden later commented, “I really was in love with Audrey, but she wouldn’t marry me.”
Clearly, the doomed fling hit Holden much harder than Audrey. After all, this was her grand introduction to the world of stardom—and one disappointment couldn’t mar the excitement of the endless opportunities opening up to her.
29. She Dominated Award Season
Roman Holiday made Audrey Hepburn a star, and yet, only three days after her Best Actress win she also won a Tony Award for her Broadway performance in Ondine. Suddenly, life began hitting her from every angle: Everyone wanted to interview her and everyone wanted her for their next project. Both onstage and onscreen, Audrey pursued love, but behind the scenes, a real-life romance was in the making.
30. She Had A Life-Changing Meet-Cute
After Gregory Peck returned from working with Audrey Hepburn on Roman Holiday, he ran straight to his best friend to sing her praises. This friend was none other than the actor Mel Ferrer. Peck insisted that Ferrer just had to meet this girl. When Audry and Ferrer met, sparks began to fly, and once they starred with one another in Ondine, their relationship truly began to heat up.
31. She Had An Unusual Romance
From the outside looking in, Audrey and Ferrer might have seemed like a rather unusual couple. At the time, Audrey was only 24, while Ferrer already had two ex-wives and four children. They were at different chapters in their lives, and yet they shared undeniable compatibility. As Audrey’s career took off, she fell deeper and deeper in love with her new beau.
Unlike her frivolous fling with Holden, Ferrer had something that Audrey couldn’t live without.
32. She Tied The Knot
Audrey fell for Ferrer for many reasons, some of which were their similarities. He was intelligent and educated, and like her, spoke many languages. He hailed from a European background and was incredibly passionate about film. By September of 1954, the two of them decided to marry in a relatively secret ceremony in Switzerland—but her overflowing happiness was only a precursor for heartbreak.
33. She Wanted To Be A Mother
Together, Audrey and Ferrer became master collaborators, sitting at the kitchen table and bouncing ideas off of one another. In the beginning, their marriage flourished—but life was about to throw them some devastating curveballs. More than anything, Audrey wanted to become a mother. However, her journey toward this dream was unbelievably painful.
34. She Lost The Baby
Not long after her wedding, Audrey discovered that she was pregnant with her first child. Sadly, this burst of joy didn’t last long. She suffered a devastating miscarriage in 1955. Four years later, she was elated to learn that she was, once again, expecting—but in a cruel twist of fate, a freak accident ripped this happiness away from her.
35. A Freak Accident Ruined Everything
In 1959, while filming her only Western, The Unforgiven, Audrey had a number of horseback riding scenes—but one fateful day of shooting revealed just how perilous this stunt could be. In between takes, she was thrown from her horse, and to everyone’s horror, the consequences were unspeakably tragic. The injured actress had broken her back. And that wasn’t all.
36. She Was Resilient
At the time of the accident, Audrey was pregnant. Because of her broken back, she took a break from filming, spending six weeks recuperating in the hospital. Despite this setback, she returned to the set. Suited up in a back brace and dressed in special costumes to hide her injury, she managed to power through and finish the film. However, months after this whole debacle, tragedy struck again.
37. She Grieved For Another Child
In the aftermath of this traumatic accident, Audrey Hepburn suffered her second miscarriage. The director of The Unforgiven, John Huston, was absolutely beside himself and felt as though he shouldered some of the blame for her loss. He believed that the horseback-riding fiasco had precipitated Audrey’s miscarriage, and because of this, he despised his own film.
Audrey and Ferrer’s grief was overwhelming, but it wasn’t long before they found a silver lining.
38. She Didn’t Risk It
Despite multiple losses, Audrey finally welcomed her first child on July 17, 1960, Sean Hepburn Ferrer. When it came to this pregnancy, she left nothing up to chance. Terrified of miscarrying once again, she took a year-long leave of absence from acting. Thankfully, the much-needed rest paid off and all she had to think about was raising her healthy baby boy.
Although she’d stepped into her new role as a mother, Audrey’s new responsibility did not detract from her star power. The very next year, she took on her most iconic role yet.
39. She Wasn’t His First Choice
In 1961, Audrey took on the daunting task of embodying the extraverted character, Holly Golightly, in the adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Unfortunately for Capote, this was not the casting he originally had in mind. In fact, the writer had only one actress in mind for the part, Marilyn Monroe. He wouldn’t have it any other way…until he had no choice.
40. She Disappointed Him
You see, when Monroe learned that the character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a “lady of the evening,” she turned her back on the role for the sake of her reputation. When Capote discovered that Audrey had been cast instead of his dream girl, he was absolutely scandalized: “Paramount double-crossed me in every way and cast Audrey.” Of course, Audrey’s challenges didn’t end with Capote’s hurtful reaction.
41. She Was Incredibly Nervous
Whenever Capote was on set, Audrey fell unbelievably self-conscious. She, too, felt that she’d been miscast and the stress of playing the role caused the already-slim actress to shed even more weight. As an introvert herself, the role of Holly Golightly was wildly out of her comfort zone. Although she seemed effortless on screen, one of her most memorable scenes in the film made her incredibly nervous.
42. She Masked Her Insecurities
At the very beginning of the film, audiences see Audrey for the first time in her iconic get-up: the stunning black dress and her unforgettable updo. She is the very vision of grace, ease, and confidence. However, in reality, Audrey was just a bundle of nerves. While filming the window-shopping scene, there were hundreds of people watching Audrey from the sidelines—and the pressure really got to her.
43. She Messed Up
With her anxiety mounting, Audrey kept making mistakes. Finally, a near-disaster caused her to get her head in the game: one of the cast members almost got electrocuted. The plight of one of her coworkers gave her the much-needed push to forge through her stress and finish the scene. However, despite her doubts, Breakfast at Tiffany’s would change Audrey’s life in more ways than one.
44. She Was A Style Icon
Everything about Audrey’s look in Breakfast at Tiffany’s has continued to define elegance to this day. She’s a downright style icon. From Givenchy’s “Little Black Dress” to the large sunglasses and high chignon, the whole look has remained one of the most classic fashion moments in American cinema. However, in her private life, Audrey’s relationship to her physical appearance was rather surprising.
45. She Hated Her Body
Although Audrey Hepburn was a glamorous vision on screen, she naturally gravitated to comfortable, simple garments. And while the rest of the world hoisted her up on a pedestal of beauty, she herself didn’t always love the way she looked. In a 1959 interview, she stated, “you can even say that I hated myself at certain periods.” And her turbulent relationship with her own body didn’t end there.
46. She Was Insecure
Even the petite Audrey Hepburn found herself “too fat” or “too tall” at different points in her life. The constant admiration didn’t protect her from a wide range of insecurities that crept up on her. But while Audrey considered herself to be the everyday woman, there was one person who considered her to be the greatest muse of his life.
47. She Defied Expectation
Audrey first met the fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy in preparation for Sabrina. However, the story of how they met has a humorous twist. You see, Givenchy had believed that he’d be designing for Katharine Hepburn. Thus, when the sweet newcomer, Audrey Hepburn, walked into the room, he was more than a little disappointed. Little did he know, this meeting would change the course of both of their lives.
48. She Became His Muse
After Audrey wore her first Givenchy dress in Sabrina, there was no turning back. Out of this collaboration, sprung a professional romance that defined both actor and designer. In fact, the magnetic quality that Audrey has is a fantastic mixture of her personality and the powerful lines of her posture—the clothes she wore, but also, the way she carried herself.
Audrey later stated, “[Givenchy] gave me a look, a kind, a silhouette. He has always been the best, and he stayed the best. Because he kept the spare style that I love. What is more beautiful than a simple sheath made an extraordinary way in a special fabric, and just two earrings?”
49. She Reunited With An Old Love
In 1964, Audrey reunited with her old flame, William Holden, for Paris When It Sizzles—but it ended badly. You see, after all this time, Holden still harbored deep feelings for the one that got away. In Audrey’s orbit for a second time, he took it upon himself to revive their long-lost passion. Blinded by hope, he did something so embarrassing, it’s unforgettable.
50. She Watched Him Humiliate Himself
Poor William Holden made a huge mistake in trying to seduce the married Audrey Hepburn. Tack on his horrible drinking problem, and you have a recipe for disaster. One night, while horribly intoxicated, he attempted to climb up to her dressing-room window, but before he could make his grand entrance, he lost his grip and fell. There was just no coming back from such a humiliation. It was the nail in the coffin.
Unfortunately for Audrey, however, the messy relationship problems just kept coming.
51. She Felt Haunted By The Past
Audrey Hepburn’s career was a full-blown success. Even as time wore on, her popularity amongst audiences held steady. Sadly, however, this success didn’t translate to her personal life. When the cameras stopped rolling, she continued to battle demons from her past—long-buried insecurities that crept into her marriage and threatened to destroy it.
52. She Feared Abandonment
For her entire life, Audrey was haunted by her father’s abandonment of her, and many critics believed that Audrey sought out father figures in her own romantic relationships. Certainly, her husband Mel Ferrer controlled and steered her career with an authoritative hand. In fact, little by little, her love for Ferrer began to wane and diminish, and soon, she wasn’t happy at all.
53. She Had A Controlling Husband
After 14 years of marriage, Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer divorced. Rumors of his domineering nature and bad temper were likely reasons for Audrey’s discontent, as well as the alleged affairs on both sides. But not even the disintegration of her marriage was as shocking as Audrey’s next move. In 1967, she did something so unprecedented—it shocked Hollywood to its core.
54. She Deserted Hollywood
In 1967, right at the peak of her success, Audrey Hepburn decided to step away from acting to focus on her family. One of her main anxieties was her son, Sean. After wanting a child for so long, her work kept dragging her farther away from him. With her own traumatic childhood at the back of her mind, Audrey was determined to be the best mother possible.
She decided to sacrifice her meteoric fame, but as we’ll see, this risky decision didn’t always lead to happiness.
55. She Had A Lightning-Fast Romance
The same year Audrey left Ferrer, she met her next husband—Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti. Their love bloomed during a summer cruise on the Mediterranean and as they explored Greek ruins together, Audrey and Dotti drew closer and closer to one another. Within six months, their lightning-fast romance led, not only to a wedding but to an entirely different life for Audrey.
56. She Moved Far Away
When Audrey said “yes” to Dotti she was more than ready to quit Hollywood forever. She wanted more children and was willing to become a simple, “Italian housewife.” The family moved to Rome where she hoped to raise her children in peace. She was also head-over-heels in love with her new husband…but the union was headed for disaster.
57. Her Husband Had A Dark Side
In the beginning, Audrey really seemed to have found her fairytale ending—but her dreams were quickly dashed. You see, Dotti hid a terrifying duality. On one hand, he was an upstanding, generous doctor, but on the other, he had a penchant for young women. Audrey was heartbroken to discover that the man she loved was a serial adulterer—and the details were downright unnerving.
58. She Couldn’t Escape Them
One Italian paparazzo caught Audrey’s husband’s infidelities on camera, and most shockingly, there were over 200 different women he’d stepped out with. She was completely devastated by this betrayal, but for the sake of Luca, held onto the marriage with all her might, hoping against hope that they’d pull through. However, this wasn’t Audrey’s only source of distress.
59. She Feared The Press
Although Audrey had fled to Rome to build a new life far from the beady eye of Hollywood, she just couldn’t escape her international fame. Even in a new country, the paparazzi pushed her into a corner: “When my second son was born…I could take him nowhere—not to a park, not down the street, not put him on the terrace—without paparazzi.”
With her privacy threatened, Audrey feared the press. All of her hopes and dreams for a new start seemed to wither with the constant attention and her husband’s shameless infidelity. It was finally time for Audrey Hepburn to return to Hollywood…
60. She Made A Comeback
In 1967, Audrey made her comeback with the relatively successful Robin and Marian opposite Sean Connery. But it wasn’t until a film called Bloodline that Audrey indulged in a forbidden romance. Hurt time and time again by her husband’s cheating, a very sad Audrey connected with her very sad co-star, Ben Gazzara. Together, these two actors drowned their sorrows together.
61. She Had A Disheartening Affair
When Audrey met Ben Gazzara, she soon learned that his marriage was also on the rocks. He later said, “She was unhappy in her marriage and hurting; I was unhappy in my marriage and hurting and we came together and we gave solace to each other and we fell in love but it was impossible.” Unfortunately, because they lived on separate continents, the affair was destined to end—but that wasn’t even the saddest part.
62. She Didn’t Believe In Herself
You see, Gazzara revealed that one of the most heartbreaking parts about Audrey was her prevailing self-deprecation. While filming their movie Bloodline, he remembered one devastating detail. Over drinks, she told him, “Do you know Ben, I never thought I was a good actress.” Gazzara, of course, knew better. He knew that this wonderful woman was luminous. The sad part was that she didn’t believe it.
63. She Ran Away
In the end, both Audrey’s affair with Gazzara and her disappointing marriage came to an end. She considered divorce to be one of the greatest traumas of her life. After briefly rearing her head in Hollywood, the heartbroken actress wanted nothing more than a place to rest and center herself, and so, once again, the aging starlet ran away from the spotlight.
64. She Found Her Dream Home
Audrey Hepburn moved from Rome to Switzerland where she took up residence in the restored farmhouse called La Paisible, meaning “quietness” in French. In many ways, this was her dream house. Not only for its beauty but because she could stroll down the streets without fear. Unlike New York or Rome, she was just another woman in Switzerland.
However, although she was proud of her acting career, her ultimate desires flew in the faces of most of her contemporaries.
65. She Didn’t Want To Act Anymore
Always at the top of every filmmaker’s list, Audrey turned down countless roles: “I personally do very little publicity as such so that I can have a real life—a private one if you like—but just an everyday, ordinary life.” Poor Audrey was trying to heal from a broken heart, but just when all hope seemed lost, fate dealt her the hand she’d been waiting for all along.
65. She Met The Love Of Her Life
Audrey met the greatest of love of her life at a charity auction. His name was Robert Wolders, the widow of another famous actress, Merle Oberon. When Oberon passed, she’d left Wolders all of her worldly possessions, and so, he decided to auction off her jewelry for a good cause. His act of generosity led him straight to his next great partnership—Audrey Hepburn.
66. They Cried Together
Interestingly enough, Audrey and Wolder’s romantic bliss began on a sad note: “We were both very, very unhappy, and we did talk about our unhappiness…So we both cried into our beers.” Climbing out of the darkness of her ruined marriage, she realized that Wolder truly was the upstanding, selfless lover she’d been dreaming of—and it was only going to get better.
67. She Found The Missing Piece
For Audrey, it seemed that Robert Wolders fit into her life like a missing puzzle piece. He, too, was Dutch, and their shared heritage only added to their intimacy. The chemistry. The compatibility. It was all there. She confessed happily: “We like the same things, and we like the same life. We like the quiet life, we love the country, we love our dogs. And everything that we do together is such fun.”
But just as she settled into this new life, an unexpected offer turned everything on its head.
68. She Went In A New Direction
When Audrey’s cousin invited her to a concert for UNICEF, and she ended up speaking to the audience—sharing her own harrowing experience as a child in the war. Little did she know, the head of UNICEF was present. After her speech, he approached her with an offer she simply couldn’t refuse: He wanted her to become a full-time ambassador for UNICEF.
All hopes of a quiet retirement came to an end, but this time, the incessant traveling bore a much deeper meaning.
69. She Loved Children
Having lived through WWII, Audrey was no stranger to hunger and starvation. Moving around the world—no matter how tiring it was—and connecting with mothers and children offered her a chance to heal old wounds: “I’m happy to do it because, for children, I’d go to the moon.” Having suffered so much as a child, Audrey had every motivation to give back.
Her traumatizing formative years were forever burned into her memory, especially her father’s absence.
70. She Missed Her Father
In the 1960s, Audrey realized that she wanted to find her father—the man whose absence had haunted her for so long. Through the Red Cross, she managed to track him down. Joseph Ruston had settled in Dublin. He hadn’t seen his daughter since 1939, the day he sent her off to the Netherlands. But when Audrey finally came face to face with him, she was in for an excruciating disappointment.
71. She Was Utterly Crushed
Audrey had hoped that a reunion with her father would bring the warmth and love she’d always needed. Instead, she met with a rather cold and disconnected man who didn’t share the same enthusiasm as she did. It devastated her. Still, despite his actions and disturbing history, Audrey decided to forgive him entirely and even supported him financially until his passing.
The pain of the entire relationship, however, would always be a sore spot in her heart. In complete contrast to her father’s support of the Fascist movement during WWII, Audrey’s work with UNICEF was all about equal rights and love.
72. She Received Devastating News
In 1992, Audrey faced a horrible crisis. Upon returning to Switzerland, she began to feel an alarming pain in her abdomen. At first, all tests seemed to be inconclusive, that is, until a laparoscopy revealed the devastating truth: She had a rare cancer. This particular disease had been festering for years, coating her small intestine. The outlook wasn’t promising.
73. She Went To Battle
Audrey faced her illness head-on, undergoing both surgery and chemotherapy—but it became terrifyingly clear that she would never recover. For her last Christmas, her old friend Givenchy arranged for a private jet to take her back to Switzerland. Her final days were as peaceful as they could be. With hospice care on hand, Audrey sometimes walked in her beloved garden.
But sadly, her inevitable demise came far too soon.
74. She Succumbed To Her Illness
After a period of bed rest, Audrey Hepburn passed in her sleep on January 20, 1993. Friends and family came out to mourn the loss of this iconic actress, including the rich and famous. The Dutch Royal Family, Elizabeth Taylor, and Gregory Peck all sent flowers to the funeral. Most fittingly, she was laid to rest near her home at the Tolochenaz Cemetary.
75. Her Legacy Will Live Forever
Although she never wanted to be an actress, Audrey Hepburn’s memory and accolades have built her a legacy that will never be forgotten. Today, she is considered one of the greatest actresses of all time, and is one of the rare few to have won four of the biggest awards in entertainment—Academy, Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Awards. Through her films, her style, and her humanitarian work, Audrey was always so much more than met the eye.
76. She Had Great Sadness
In 2020, the documentary Audrey shed light on the woman behind the actress, showcasing interviews with family members and friends. Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking moments of the film is when Audrey’s granddaughter, Emma Ferrer, tearfully reveals a hard-hitting anecdote. She recalls her father telling her: “The best-kept secret about Audrey was that she was sad.”