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70 Elegant Facts About Audrey Hepburn, The Iconic Ingénue

Stephanie Kelsey

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. The iconic actress had a pet fawn, felt passionate about her humbling UNICEF work, and grappled with dark experiences in her romantic life and during World War II. Strike a pose—here are 70 Elegant Facts About Audrey Hepburn, the iconic ingénue.


Audrey Hepburn Facts

1. Unscripted Sweetness

Audrey Hepburn landed her first major film role not just through her talent and beauty, but her demure, humble, charismatic personality. After her screen test for the role of Princess Ann in Roman Holiday, the camera kept rolling. In the clip, Hepburn talks to the cameraman about her childhood. These unscripted moments won her the part.

Audrey Hepburn’s screen test for Roman Holiday

2. Overwhelmed Oscar Winner

When Audrey Hepburn won the Oscar for Roman Holiday, she was understandably flustered. She accidentally kissed the president of the Academy Awards on the mouth instead of the cheek, then somehow managed to lose her trophy within minutes! After finding it in the women’s washroom, Hepburn regained her composure and greeted the photographers.

3. Horse Horror

When Audrey Hepburn filmed her only Western movie The Unforgiven, she decided to perform some of her own stunts including horse-back riding. Little did Hepburn know, this was a terrible mistake. Hepburn’s horse threw her, causing Hepburn to break her back. After spent six painful weeks in the hospital, Hepburn returned to set—only to find even more tragedy.

4. Off-Screen Sadness

It turned out that Hepburn was several months pregnant when the horse threw her. She suffered a miscarriage a few weeks after the accident, with the director John Huston blaming Hepburn’s loss on the botched stunt.

5. The Cat Came Back

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly gets upset and pushes her orange cat out of a cab, telling it to scram. As an animal lover, this part of the movie broke Hepburn’s heart—but it had an unexpected bright side. After the movie came out, animal shelters got a record number of calls and requests for orange cats!

6. She Would Have Loved Netflix

Hepburn wasn’t a big fan of going out and spending time with people, and considered herself an introvert. “I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.” Us too, Audrey, us too.

7. Holly Go-Monroe?

The role of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was originally meant for Marilyn Monroe. Truman Capote, who wrote the novel on which the movie was based, often said that Audrey Hepburn was terribly miscast. At one point, he even described how he felt like “throwing up” when he saw the finished film. Ouch, Truman.

8. Award-Winning

Hepburn is part of an exclusive club. She has won four major awards: an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. That’s right, she’s an EGOT winner. Even more impressive, Hepburn won the Oscar for her first leading role.

9. Voila!

When Audrey Hepburn was just 22 years old, she took a stroll along the French Riviera. Little did she know, that walk would change her life. Hepburn ran into the legendary author Colette (recently played by Keira Knightley in the biopic Colette). Upon seeing the gamine beauty, Colette gasped. “Voila, c’est Gigi,” she said. With the author’s blessing, Hepburn went on to play Colette’s heroine Gigi on Broadway. The role launched her career.

Audrey Hepburn FactsGetty

10. Humble Hepburn

To everyone’s surprise, Audrey Hepburn didn’t really see herself as a style icon. Many people wanted to emulate her look though–from her hair, to her dresses, to her oversized sunglasses. And they could! As she said, “My appearance is accessible to everyone. With hair tied in a bun, big sunglasses and black dress, every woman can look like me.”

11. Family Secrets

It’s a crazy thing to think about, but Hepburn and her family survived a German occupation of their town during World War II. Hepburn was praised for her courage during the Nazi regime, but all the while her agents desperately tried to cover up a scandalous secret. Hepburn actually had ties, through her parents, to the Nazis. Her mother and father were Fascist sympathizers, and recruited donations for the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s. They even met Hitler.

12. Change of Heart

During the second World War, Audrey Hepburn’s father went to a very dark place and became a radicalized Fascist. Her mother, however, changed her mind and stopped supporting the British Union of Fascists. These ideological differences tore the couple apart, with Hepburn’s father leaving the family when Audrey was just a little girl.

13. To Err Is Human, To Forgive, Divine

In the 1960s, Hepburn reunited with her father. While we don’t know if he changed his mind about his political beliefs, Hepburn was a forgiving soul. She provided for him financially for the rest of his life. However, when he passed on in the 1980s, there was one person noticeably absent from his funeral: his daughter Audrey did not attend.

Audrey Hepburn FactsGetty

14. What’s in a Name?

Even though it’s an iconic moniker, Audrey Hepburn isn’t actually the actress’ real name. She was born Audrey Kathleen Ruston on May 4, 1929. In 1940, she started to go by the more German-sounding Edda van Heemstra, as having an English-sounding name was dangerous during the war.

15. Survival

During the hostile German occupation, food was scarce in young Hepburn’s village and even worse, no one could enter or exit the town in search of sustenance. During the Dutch Famine, Hepburn’s family had to grind up tulip bulbs for food, and tried baking grass into bread. Hepburn suffered from malnourishment, acute anemia, and respiratory issues during the war. Sadly, these issues contributed to Hepburn’s health problems in the years to come.

16. Dancing Dreams

Hepburn started ballet at a young age, and hoped to become a prima ballerina. She would later study in London, but her dreams were dashed. At 5’7”, Hepburn was considered too tall to break into the cutthroat world of professional ballet. Even worse, because of Hepburn’s malnourishment during the War, she became too ill to continue her training.

17. High-Profile Pooch

Audrey Hepburn owned a terrier named Mr. Famous. Breaking news: I am naming my next pet “Mr. Famous.”

18. Actual Angel

Audrey Hepburn’s final film role was as an angel in the Stephen Spielberg movie Always. She was paid one million dollars and, in true angelic fashion, donated every penny to UNICEF.

19. Bet On It

Hepburn’s first major film role as Princess Ann in Roman Holiday saw the young actress perform next to industry heavyweight Gregory Peck. Even though Hepburn was a nervous novice, she impressed Peck tremendously. After seeing her performance, Peck declared that Hepburn would win an Oscar for the movie. He was right.

20. Injustice

When she was a young girl, Audrey Hepburn was traumatized by the violent death of her uncle. German soldiers killed him in retaliation for a rebellious act—but the worst part? It turned out that Hepburn’s uncle wasn’t even involved. He died for no reason. The murder was highly publicized, with Anne Frank recording it in her famous diary.

21. Runaway Bride

Few people know that when she was a young lady, Audrey Hepburn broke off an engagement very late in the game. After agreeing to tie the knot with James Hanson, a successful businessman, the couple had arranged everything (Hepburn had even picked out a dress!) only for the actress to leave Hanson for fellow actor Mel Ferrer.

Audrey Hepburn and her first fiance, James Hanson

22. Any Takers?

When it came time to cast the villain in Wait Until Dark (a movie where Hepburn plays a blind woman who must outsmart home invaders), no one wanted to take the role because they didn’t want to be mean to Audrey Hepburn! In the end, Alan Arkin took the part and became a classic screen villain.

Getty

23. Life Works in Mysterious Ways

When she was just 16 years old, Hepburn volunteered as a nurse during the War. For a time, she aided a young British paratrooper named Terence Young. Years later, the duo would reunite under jaw-dropping circumstances. Young went on to become a major film director. One of his movies? The thriller Wait Until Dark starring Audrey Hepburn.

24. Two Girls, Two Lives, One Painful Past

Hepburn was born just a month before Anne Frank, and Hepburn felt a connection to the young girl. “I was given [The Diary of Anne Frank] in Dutch, in galley form, in 1946 by a friend,” she said. “It destroyed me. It does this to many people when they first read it but I was not reading it as a book, as printed pages. This was my life.”

25. A Role Too Difficult

Anne Frank’s own father Otto wanted Audrey Hepburn to play his daughter in the 1959 film The Diary of Anne Frank, but Hepburn turned down the role for an utterly devastating reason. Hepburn felt that the performance would bring back too many difficult emotions and memories, given her own terrible experiences during the war.

26. Motherhood Called to Her

Hepburn had an absolutely brutal time when it came to motherhood. The actress desperately wanted to be a mother, only to face five terrible miscarriages. Her lack of body fat and her high stress levels were often to blame, but after many years of heartbreak, we’re happy to say that Hepburn did eventually have two sons, Luca Dotti and Sean Hepburn Ferrer.

27. Speaking in Tongues

Hepburn proved that you can combine brains and beauty. The style icon spoke five languages: Dutch, English, French, Italian, and Spanish.

28. Emotional Scars

When Audrey Hepburn’s father left the family, the actress developed lifelong issues with trust and abandonment. She called it “the most traumatic event of [her] life.”

29. No Foot Fetish Here

Hepburn’s feet were slightly, larger than average, and she even bought her ballet slippers a half size bigger, in a 10 ½, so that she didn’t feel like her feet looked squished. She also didn’t like to wear heels because she thought they made her too tall.

30. The Perfect Lash

After applying three coats of mascara, Hepburn’s makeup artist would separate her eyelashes with a pin. Yup, you read that right. How long must that have taken?

31. Friendship Made in Mix-Up

Hepburn became great friends with French designer Hubert de Givenchy—but they got off to quite a rocky start. During their first meeting, when Hepburn was looking for dresses for Sabrina, Givenchy mistakenly thought Katharine Hepburn was coming in. He was slightly disappointed when Audrey showed up, but the pair hit it off. Givenchy would provide Hepburn’s stunning wardrobe for many of her movies.

32. Open Wide!

Could you imagine going to the dentist, and Hepburn was the one cleaning your teeth? Well, it almost was a thing. Before becoming an actress, she trained to become a dental assistant.

33. If Only She Saw How Beautiful She Was

Hepburn’s son Luca Dotti once told Vanity Fair that his mother didn’t believe herself to be beautiful. He told them, “she thought she had a big nose and big feet, and she was too skinny.” We think Hepburn was absolutely one of the most beautiful women around, no matter how she thought of herself.

34. Penny Pincher

Audrey Hepburn was born to play sweet Princess Ann in Roman Holiday, but behind the scenes, the production actually cast her for an unexpected reason. The director William Wyler insisted on shooting the movie on location in Italy, leading the studio to save money on an up-and-coming actress. They originally wanted Elizabeth Taylor but couldn’t afford to book her!

35. *The* Diamond

Hepburn is part of a very exclusive club. She is one of two women who were lucky enough to wear the famous Tiffany Diamond. Hepburn wore it on a necklace for the now-legendary promotional shots for Breakfast at Tiffany‘s.

36. Art Mimics Life

At the end of Roman Holiday, the lovers part and Princess Ann begins to cry. Well, almost. Hepburn just couldn’t make the tears come, leading the director to yell that she was wasting time. Distraught and stressed, Hepburn immediately sobbed. They got the perfect take.

Romcom Heroine EditorialRoman Holiday, Paramount Pictures, 1953

37. Princess Audrey, er, Aurora

Who can say they have a Disney Princess created in their likeness? Hepburn can. Disney modelled Aurora, more commonly known as Sleeping Beauty, after Hepburn.

38. Be Right Back, Just Taking The Fawn for a Walk

Most people have dogs or cats, maybe even bunnies for pets. But not Hepburn. She had a pet fawn named Pippin. The baby deer was part of her movie Green Mansions. The film’s animal trainer suggested she take the fawn home so he could get used to her. Hepburn ended up falling in love with him (the two would even nap together!). She adopted the baby deer once the filming was over.

39. Pearls, Please!

Hepburn’s favorite piece of jewellery was a pearl necklace given to her by her first husband Mel Ferrer. Unfortunately, their relationship at large wasn’t nearly as beautiful as the precious necklace. Rumors swirled that Ferrer was oppressive, controlling, and domineering. To dispel the rumors, Hepburn gave an interview claiming otherwise. While we’ll never know the truth, we do know that something drove the couple apart. They split in 1968.

40. Affairs of the Heart

As Audrey Hepburn conquered Hollywood, the gamine actress struggled with a rocky personal life. When she filmed Sabrina, Hepburn fell madly in love with her co-star William Holden, though the couple was doomed to a heartbreaking end. Holden was married, but there was something even worse: He had a vasectomy. Because Hepburn desperately wanted children, this made the relationship impossible.

41. Wasting Away

When Hepburn filmed The Unforgiven, she dropped to a tiny 98 pounds. Film scholars blame her miscarriage, stress, and intensified smoking for the star’s drastic weight loss.

42. Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number

Hepburn starred in some of the greatest movies of her time, more often than not with leading men who were quite a bit older. A few, for example: Humphrey Bogart in Sabrina was 29 years older than Hepburn, Fred Astaire in Funny Face was also 29 years older, and Cary Grant in Charade was 25 years older. Ironically, Cary Grant turned down Roman Holiday because he thought he was too old to play Hepburn’s love interest.

Flash forward a few years later, he clearly changed his mind.

43. Troubled Production

The production of Two For The Road was…messy. Hepburn had to confront her fear of drowning in a scene where she jumps into a pool and she was incredibly nervous to shoot her first nude scene…only for the footage to be cut from the film. But it got so much worse. Hepburn left the set when she became pregnant, only to return when she suffered a miscarriage. Poor Audrey.

44. Sabrina and David Shippers Rejoice

William Holden never quite got over Audrey Hepburn. He described her as “the love of [his] life.”

45. We Stan Gregory Peck

Originally, the posters for Roman Holiday were going to bill Hepburn below the title (as “Introducing Audrey Hepburn”). However, her co-star, the famous actor Gregory Peck, was so confident that she’d sweep the awards that he insisted the producers put her name right next to his on the poster. Publicity materials announced both Peck and Hepburn above the film’s title.

46. Horrors of War

During World War II, Hepburn witnessed the depths of human depravity. She saw soldiers carry out executions on public streets and was haunted by the memory of seeing Dutch Jews forced onto trains headed to concentration camps. In particular, the actress could never forget the haunting sight of a little Jewish boy boarding a train in a coat that was too big for him.

47. Water Woes

Few people know that Audrey Hepburn was terrified of water and drowning. Unfortunately for her, during the filming of Two for the Road, she had to shoot a scene where she was thrown into a pool. Hepburn was so scared that crew members had to be in the pool, off camera, ready to grab her if anything somehow went wrong. Poor Audrey!

48. Sing Us a Song

After training hard to belt out the musical numbers in My Fair Lady, Hepburn was devastated to learn that the producers didn’t think her singing voice was all that powerful. In a harsh move, they replaced Hepburn’s vocals with those of Marni Nixon. When Hepburn found out, she stormed off the set. She would return the next day, apologetic for her “wicked behavior.”

49. Hepburn VS Monroe

Everyone knows about the famous moment when Marilyn Monroe sang John F. Kennedy a very breathy “Happy Birthday.” But few people realize that in 1963 during a private function, Hepburn sang him her own rendition of the song. Sadly, there is no footage of Hepburn’s version, but we bet it was lovely.

50. In Their Shoes

Hepburn was a big supporter of UNICEF, especially because of how much the organization helped her and her family after World War II. As she said, “I can testify to what UNICEF means to children, because I was among those who received food and medical relief right after World War II.” Later in life, Hepburn became an ambassador for the organization and travelled to places like Sudan, Ecuador, and Guatemala.

51. Moon River or Bust

When an executive suggesting cutting “Moon River” out of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn leapt up and said, “Over my dead body!” They kept the song in the movie. It’s now a classic moment in cinema history. Good call, Audrey.

52. Pays to be Modest

At the time, Hepburn’s massive paycheck for War and Peace was the most money an actress had ever been paid for a single movie at $350,000. When she learned that she’d set a record, Hepburn humbly said “I’m not worth it. It’s impossible. Please don’t tell anyone.” A few years later, she’d be proved wrong. She got $750,000 for her work in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

53. First Lady Audrey?

Few people know that Audrey Hepburn actually dated John F. Kennedy while he was still a Senator! She was absolutely devastated when she heard the news of his assassination, and was the one who told the cast of My Fair Lady, which she was filming at the time. Before leaving the set to cry, she tearfully asked everyone who was around to pray for him.

54. Dark Side

Audrey Hepburn is known for glitzy romance movies like Sabrina and My Fair Lady, but she also starred in surprisingly dark films. In The Nun’s Story, she plays a nun who has a crisis of faith, in The Children’s Hour, she plays a teacher accused of being in a lesbian relationship, and in Wait Until Dark, she a blind woman who has to fight criminals. Hepburn definitely wasn’t afraid to show off her dramatic chops.

55. Like a Chimney

We all know smoking was a pretty popular thing amongst movie stars around Hepburn’s time, but did you know she was known to smoke upwards of three packs a day? Yeah, we thought that was a little gross too.

56. Not A Fan

These days, everyone loves Audrey Hepburn, but back in the 1960s, she had some very famous haters. When Hepburn filmed Sabrina, her co-star Humphrey Bogart said she couldn’t act and wasn’t talented. And when she filmed War and Peace, Marlon Brando turned down a part because he didn’t want to work with her. Humphrey and Marlon: Are you guys okay?

57. No Thank You

Hepburn decided to take a hiatus from acting in 1967 so that she could raise her sons. After this time, she was offered roles in a number of films, including Goodbye, Mr. Chips, The Exorcist, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She turned them all down, though I would pay big money to see Hepburn’s take on Nurse Ratchett.

58. Who’s Laughing Now?

After taking a break from showbiz to raise her children, Hepburn returned to cinema in the 1970s and 1980s. And with Hollywood comes drama. Hepburn fell in love with the actor Ben Gazzara, starring with him in They All Laughed. Unfortunately, their affair would end in heartbreak. Gazzara got divorced from his second wife, only to leave Hepburn for yet another woman. Despite the movie’s title, the set of They All Laughed does not sound very fun.

59. Blue for the Win

Hepburn’s son, Luca Dotti, once told Vanity Fair that her favorite color was cyan (a brilliant light blue/turquoise), not white, which was widely believed to be the case.

60. Smell Like Audrey

Givenchy created a perfume specifically for Audrey Hepburn. After a couple years, the scent was released to the public. L’interdit (which translates to “forbidden”) has notes of rose, jasmine and violet.

61. It Never Goes out of Style

That famous “little black dress” Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s sold for over $900,000 at auction in 2006.

62. When Your Second Choice Comes Through

In the theatrical production of My Fair Lady, Julie Andrews played Eliza Doolittle…only to be snubbed when the play became a movie. To Andrews’ disappointment, producers interfered and made sure that Audrey Hepburn got the part. Even so, Andrews and Hepburn rose above the drama and remained good friends. It probably didn’t hurt that, since Hepburn got My Fair Lady, Andrews was free to win an Oscar for Mary Poppins.

63. At Long Last

After a lifetime of romantic drama, Audrey Hepburn finally found love with Robert Wolders, a Dutch heartthrob who was a few years younger than Hepburn. The couple met in 1980 and were very happy together until Hepburn’s death in 1993.

64. Two Green Thumbs

It only makes sense that she had flowers named after her–she loved gardening! During her later years in life, she even hosted a show on PBS called Gardens of the World. “To grow a garden is to believe in tomorrow,” she said.

65. Funny Games

Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire teamed up for the legendary musical Funny Face. Little did they know, they were tricked into signing onto the flick! Production told Hepburn that Astaire had already signed up, while telling Astaire that Hepburn was a sure thing. Sneaky, sneaky…

66. Harsh Realities

In December 1992, Audrey Hepburn received an incredible honor: UNICEF awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom because of all of her work on the organization’s behalf. However, in a heartbreaking twist, Hepburn could not accept the well-earned medal in person because she was too ill.

67. “We’re All One World”

Explaining her passion for humanitarianism, Hepburn once said, “the ‘Third World’ is a term I don’t like very much, because we’re all one world. I want people to know that the largest part of humanity is suffering.”

68. End of an Era

Following a battle with appendicular cancer, Hepburn passed away on January 20, 1993 when she was just 63 years old. She had only been diagnosed in November, 1992.

69. Dancing in the Dark

When she was a young girl living in war-torn Holland, Hepburn gave ballet performances to up morale in her neighborhood. But for years, defiant rumors swirled. According to Hepburn herself, her dance recitals secretly raised funds for the underground Dutch resistance. Showing off her bravery and determination, Hepburn once said, “There is probably nothing in the world as determined as a child with a dream and I wanted to dance more than I feared the Germans.”

70. Unhappy Home

Even though the world adored Audrey Hepburn’s kind heart, iconic style, and dazzling beauty, the actress always had a hard time in the romance department. She met her second husband, the Italian psychiatrist Luca Dotti, on a cruise, with the two marrying only six months later. Sadly, the marriage would not be happy. Dotti was an insatiable playboy. He constantly had affairs with young women and Hepburn only stayed with him to provide stability for her son, Luca.

Sources: 12345, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23


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