Anjelica Huston is truly Hollywood royalty. Born into one of the most prestigious families in cinema history, Huston's life is full of immense privilege, heartbreaking tragedy, and lasting scandal. Huston may be on top now—but it was one heck of a twisted journey for her to get there.
The daughter of legendary Hollywood director John Huston and prima ballerina Enrica Soma, Anjelica Huston was born into a world of glamour and privilege—but her childhood hardly reflected that. When she was born, her father was deep in Uganda making a film. It took three days and a telegram carrier had to run hundreds of miles to get the happy news to him.
His reaction was nonplussed. Katharine Hepburn, his star, had to pry the news out of him after seeing the telegram arrive. This type of distance—physical or otherwise—would come to define her family dynamic and her relationships.
When Anjelica Huston recalls her childhood, it seems like something out of a Victorian novel. Her father had left his third wife for the then-teenaged Soma, who gave up her career when she got pregnant at 18. Anjelica spent much of her childhood shut away in a country manor in Ireland. She and her older brother Tony had only their mother and a few tutors for company.
She described how Tony turned a cold shoulder to her, and with no other children around, she turned to books to occupy her time and imagination. Well, within a few years, her family drama would outdo anything she’d find on the written page.
Distance not only defined her relationships with her family, but also her parents’ marriage. Within a year of Anjelica’s birth, her father dealt her mother a devastating blow. He not only refused to cast Soma in his film Moulin Rouge, he also had an affair with the woman he did cast. He avoided Soma and the kids for months at a time and engaged in multiple affairs over the years. The tension was rising—and her parents didn’t exactly handle it well.
Anjelica’s mother moved her and Tony to London in 1960, but she left out a very important detail: She never told the kids that she’d separated from John Huston. But at holidays, things quickly became apparent, and Anjelica recalls meeting a literal cavalcade of girlfriends back in Ireland—actresses, socialites, novelists, and diplomats.
When she returned to London, Anjelica was in for another surprise.
Her mother told her she was pregnant—but her parents, still technically married, hadn’t seen each other in a year. Once again, Anjelica’s parents were hiding something from her. Soon enough, the truth came out. Anjelica’s mother had carried on an affair with a married man, but he’d refused to leave his wife. She gave birth to a girl, Allegra, in 1964.
Anjelica doted Allegra and had a special bond with her—but life would test their bond in more ways than one.
When Anjelica Huston was still in school, fate came knocking at her door. Franco Zeffirelli was adapting Romeo and Juliet, and producers were looking for their Juliet at her school. She wanted to audition—but her father had other ideas. If she was going to launch her career, it would be in one of his movies: 1969's A Walk with Love and Death. It was a dire mistake.
Not only was making the movie with her father miserable, but critics also panned her performance. Somehow, despite this, it wasn’t her last time working with him. But first, she had to put her burgeoning career on hold.
Anjelica Huston spent her high school years skipping class to hang out with boys. Meanwhile, her mother Enrica Soma spent most of her time mourning the failed relationship that had produced Allegra. Finally, the day before Soma left on a trip, she addressed the distance with her daughter, and they had a tearful reunion. The next day, Anjelica bid her farewell, feeling happy that she’d finally reached a good place with her family. Within hours, though, her sense of relief would be shattered.
Late one night, one of her mother’s friends shook Anjelica awake. He had heartbreaking news. Her mother Enrica Soma had been involved in a car crash in Dijon, France. While the driver survived, Soma didn’t. She was just 39. Instantly, Anjelica’s whole world changed. Even worse, she and her brother Tony had to explain the loss of their mother to four-year-old Allegra. The weight of the world was on Anjelica’s young shoulders—and the pressure was too much to bear.
Anjelica Huston fled to New York, instantly beginning a new chapter of her life—for better or for worse. Harper’s Bazaar called her, wanting to take her photo before the release of the film she’d made with her father. They matched her with one of fashion’s most in-demand—but also erratic and provocative—photographers, Bob Richardson.
Instantly, he drew her into his world, reassuring her of his impending separation from his wife and telling her they belonged together. She didn’t know it, but she was in way over her head.
History’s most fascinating stories and darkest secrets, delivered to your inbox daily. Making distraction rewarding since 2017.
Anjelica Huston may have lost the unconditional love of her mother, but the constant shower of attention from Richardson helped her feel safe again. However, his disturbing dark side soon began to show. The age difference reflected that of her parents when they’d met—he was 42 to her 18. Richardson was addicted to speed, had been institutionalized before, and his previous marriage had melted down after he and his wife began swinging.
And that’s just all the stuff that happened before he got together with Anjelica.
Despite the poor reviews for her first film, the world had taken notice of Anjelica Huston, and she was soon in demand as a model and actress. Vogue booked her to model for legendary photographer Richard Avedon, and not-so-coincidentally, the cracks in her relationship with Richardson began to show. Huston’s recollections of this time were heartbreaking, and she says that she lived in terror of him—but the worst was yet to come.
Once, after she briefly left to make an appearance on The Tonight Show, Richardson tore apart all of Huston’s belongings in the hotel room they shared—just because she’d committed the dire offense of not unpacking her suitcases. Next, when Huston expressed reticence about seeing her father, Richardson made her repeat recriminations and regrets about their relationship, first to him, and then on live television.
She had no idea why he acted like this—but the effects on her were incredibly dark.
Driven to the edge by his manipulation and gaslighting, Anjelica Huston once slit her own wrist in a dramatic attempt to convince Richardson how much she loved him. Their one-sided toxic relationship was now mutual. They attempted to save it with an ill-timed trip to Mexico where local law enforcement nearly detained them after catching them having a little too much fun on the beach.
Huston was at a dire breaking point, and in danger of losing herself completely.
Anjelica’s father John insisted that she and Bob Richardson join them on a fishing trip to Mexico with his new fiancée Celeste Shane, AKA Cici. Tensions were high, and one night, after Anjelica went for a drink with her father, Bob retaliated by throwing a bottle at her head when she came back to the room. It was the final straw—and her parting words were unforgettable. They flew home in silence with the elder Huston and his fiancée.
When they arrived in Los Angeles, Huston told him that it was over. Richardson reached out to shake her hand, and she replied: “If you were the last person alive, I wouldn’t shake it". Mic drop.
Shaken from the terror she’d felt over three years of living with Richardson, Anjelica Huston retreated to Cici’s home in the Pacific Palisades, where she rode horses, spent time in nature, and tried to avoid the blatant fix-ups that Cici subjected her to…that is, until Cici invited her to a party hosted by a popular young actor by the name of Jack Nicholson.
Anjelica had already developed a crush on him after seeing him in Easy Rider, but seeing him in real life only cemented it.
Still fresh from her breakup, Anjelica nonetheless began dating Jack Nicholson—but it wasn’t exactly smooth at first. Early on, she caught him on a date with his ex, musician Michelle Phillips. Soon, the tables had turned, and Michelle caught Anjelica at Jack’s. Regardless, the two became friends. Anjelica soon learned how to play a delicate game, balancing Jack’s romantic past with their budding relationship—but it was not without its missteps.
Anjelica’s modeling career was flourishing, as was Jack’s acting, which meant they had to briefly go long distance while he made a film and she worked in London. Days after they first parted ways, Anjelica made a disturbing discovery. One of her friends confessed to sleeping with Jack mere hours after she’d left for the airport.
The smooth-tongued actor got out of it by claiming it had been an act of “mercy". Anjelica didn’t know it, but it would become a dark omen for the future of their relationship.
Whether she was traveling with Jack or living with him, whenever Anjelica suspected that he was cheating, she was able to find evidence of it. He wasn’t exactly the most fastidious with his affairs, but still, she put up with it. In a strange turn, he ended up starring opposite John Huston in Chinatown…in a role where his character sleeps with the daughter of John’s character in the film.
If you know the plot of Chinatown, you know how creepy that situation was. Regardless, Anjelica was delighted when she saw her father and Jack getting along. Still, there was something missing from her life—and she soon identified what it was.
Anjelica Huston knew she wanted to try her hand at acting again, but after the failure of her one and only film, she was reticent. She refused to get by on nepotism—but on top of her dad’s legend status, she also happened to be dating Hollywood’s biggest star. There was no getting away from these types of connections.
Huston proudly refused to use them, which meant that she was often left sitting home alone at Jack’s—just as her mother had once been when still wed to her father.
During one of these times, Jack left Anjelica in L.A. and went to New York on a boys’ trip. She found herself at a party, where troubled star Ryan O’Neal approached her. When Jack returned home a few days later, Anjelica gave him the shock of a lifetime. She told him that she was in love with Ryan, and was leaving him. Anjelica even amazed herself with the admission—but there were a lot more surprises in store for her.
After years of reticence, Anjelica Huston finally decided to try her hand at film acting, hoping to get a part in The Last Tycoon—only to be brutally shut down by director Elia Kazan, who told her that she wasn’t beautiful enough for the leading role she wanted, but that he’d cast her as another character’s rejected date. Still, she went with it.
She appeared in the star-studded cast alongside a familiar face—none other than Jack Nicholson, her ex. Soon enough, she was seeing both him and Ryan O’Neal. It was two steps forward, and one step back.
Huston’s reunion with Jack Nicholson soon put her square at the center of one of Hollywood’s most notorious stories. It all began when director Roman Polanski asked her on a date. She accepted, and they went to dinner and a movie. The next day, she went to Jack’s to get some of her things, and noticed Polanski’s jacket there.
Soon enough, he emerged from the back of the house with a girl, and told Anjelica that they’d been taking pictures for Vogue. They went on their way and she thought little of it—until the next day.
The next day, Anjelica spotted a group of men with flashlights outside Jack’s home. It was a group of plainclothes detectives, and they had Roman Polanski with them. He told her they just wanted to look around, and she let them in. While looking around, they found some of Anjelica and Jack’s pot, and a bag of white powder in Anjelica’s bag.
They ended up arresting both Anjelica and Polanski on the spot. But there was much more to the story than just that...
Later, Anjelica found out the chilling truth about that day. When she got to the empty house (Jack Nicholson was out of town), Polanski had been in the bedroom, assaulting the 13-year-old girl he was with. That was why authorities had detained him, and a trial was forthcoming. Everyone expected Anjelica to testify in the case against him—but she never appeared on the stand, and her account of that day is quite controversial.
For her part, Anjelica Huston denies knowing that anything bad had happened that day. In her account of things, she never saw Polanski and the girl in the bedroom, and had barely noticed the girl’s age—only her height—when she briefly encountered her and Polanski as they left the house. However, the girl told a completely different story.
According to Samantha Geimer, Polanski’s victim, Huston was suspicious of Polanski and banged on the door during her assault, demanding to know what was going on. However, Polanski then reassured Anjelica that it was only a photoshoot, and she left them alone. Either way, her involvement threatened to overshadow everything in her life.
In a surprising twist, the court dropped the charges against Anjelica, as the search and seizure had been illegal. She never had to testify for or against Polanski, who later fled the US before his sentencing. Anjelica felt guilt over being involved in the scandal at all, and the repercussions on her family. And it’s not like she could turn to either of the romantic partners with her struggles…
With Jack Nicholson away, Anjelica Huston was spending most of her time with Ryan O’Neal—and she described life with him as a Jekyll and Hyde situation. And just like that story, their relationship had a chilling end. Ryan was physically abusive throughout their relationship. It escalated one terrifying night, when he head-butted her because he couldn't find her in the middle of a party.
Anjelica fled to an upstairs bathroom, and told security that she was fine. Soon after, he entered the room and continued to hit her. The writing was on the wall—but adrift as she was at the time, she still struggled with making a decision.
Anjelica had no one to look to for guidance. She’d kept her relationship with Ryan mostly secret, and most of her friends were Jack’s. She ended up getting help from an unlikely source—her 13-year-old half-sister, Allegra, who had just two words for Anjelica: “Leave him". Thankfully, Anjelica did, turning back to Jack Nicholson, who bought her a house nearby.
Their reunion may have been gleeful, but what followed had more ups and downs than a roller coaster.
After the disappointment of The Last Tycoon and the Polanski scandal, Anjelica Huston took a five-year hiatus from film, but when her friend Bob Rafelson offered her a part in a movie Jack was starring in, The Postman Always Rings Twice, she jumped at the chance—and it didn’t hurt that she’d then be able to keep an eye on Jack as he acted opposite a Hollywood’s newest blonde, Jessica Lange.
Still, she was bothered by the fact that her connections had gotten her the part—but she didn’t have much time to dwell on it.
After she finished her part in the film, Anjelica Huston was driving down the road near her home when an oncoming car crossed the center line, hitting the vehicle in front of her. Without her seatbelt on, she was thrown into the windshield. In a quick flash, she thought she was blind—but it was actually just all the blood pouring down her face.
A friend beat paramedics to the punch and rushed her to Cedars-Sinai, where doctors operated on her nose and face. As terrifying as the accident was, it had an unexpected side effect. It made Anjelica realize that she spent too much of her time waiting for things to happen to her—and that it was time to break that habit.
Anjelica Huston had spent the first 30 years of her life looking for love—first, with her family, and then, in romantic relationships. But now, she wanted something for herself and herself only. She wanted to act, without relying on her father or Jack or their friends for parts. And act she did. The roles weren’t large, and the films weren’t massive successes, but she took lessons and got by on her own.
Then, a friend passed her a book that he wanted to adapt. He thought she’d be great in the lead role. She was thrilled—but he had a major twist in store for her.
The book was called Prizzi’s Honor, and not only did he want Anjelica Huston to play the female lead, he also wanted to cast Jack Nicholson as the male lead and get her father to direct. At first, she refused, not wanting to have to act as a mediator between them. Finally, she agreed to appear—only to be met with a brutal insult.
When she asked for more money than the base rate, her agent called the producer only for him to say: “You must be kidding… She has no talent. Her boyfriend is the star and her father is the director. That’s the only reason we’re having this conversation". That’s gotta hurt.
The old Anjelica Huston would’ve taken the insults to heart and retreated, but the new Anjelica decided she’d make him eat his words. And that’s exactly what she did. Of the eight Oscar nominations that Prizzi’s Honor got, there was only one win—Anjelica’s, for Supporting Actress. After her speech, she ran from the stage back to her father instead of exiting to the press room. His response was heartbreaking.
The proud dad had tears streaming down his face as his daughter rushed over to greet and thank him. For the first time, Anjelica was able to bask in her own success—but only briefly.
Next, Anjelica Huston did some screen tests to appear in The Witches of Eastwick, but after Bill Murray dropped out, they needed a male lead. Well, when Jack Nicholson heard about it, he insisted that Anjelica push the director to cast him. Oh, how the old tables had turned. Sadly, they hadn’t quite rotated enough though.
After a terrible screen test, it was Anjelica who ended up not getting cast. Okay, I’m repeating myself here, but that one seriously had to hurt.
Still, there was one man who definitely wanted to cast Anjelica—her father, John. In the 80s, he began working on a film called The Dead, and he wanted it to be a family affair. Anjelica’s older brother Tony had secretly written the script. As John was ailing and needed to have oxygen tanks pretty much everywhere he went, producers and the Huston family moved heaven and earth to make it happen. While it was rewarding, it also took a devastating toll.
The stress of the production, and watching her father direct in such poor health, had an adverse effect on Anjelica’s health and she developed Epstein-Barr syndrome. And it wasn’t just taxing for her.
Not long after completing The Dead, John Huston fell even more ill than he already was. Confined to a hospital bed, Anjelica visited him daily. One evening, she bid him farewell and promised to come back the next day. Sadly, he passed before she could see him again. He was 81 years old. Despite their distance during her childhood, he had since become a steady presence in her life. Anjelica reeled from the loss.
Soon after, she returned to work—but as she grieved, many professional and personal challenges arose.
First, there was the matter of her relationship with Jack Nicholson. They had drifted apart throughout the 80s—for more than a few reasons, as we’ll see—and by 1990, they had finally called it quits. It even came with a devastating parting gift. At Christmas, Jack had a present delivered to Anjelica: a beautiful pearl-and-diamond bracelet that Frank Sinatra had once given to Ava Gardner, whom Anjelica adored.
He’d written that he hoped it wasn’t overbearing and signed the card, “These pearls from your swine". Ick. Well, she rebounded quickly…and rebounded well.
After the break-up, Anjelica went to Cannes to act as a juror at the festival. Within hours of her arrival, she had a new, very impressive suitor—Prince Albert of Monaco. While she did enjoy one date with him, it wasn’t the prince who ended up giving Anjelica her happily ever after. Like something out of a rom-com, one of her friends wanted to fix her up with a sculptor named Robert Graham. But instead of doing it the conventional way, he decided to tell Anjelica that Robert had a crush on her, and vice versa.
The reality couldn’t be farther from the truth. Neither had ever really considered the other. But somehow, it worked.
Anjelica and Robert began dating and fell in love. He had everything she’d loved about Jack—the humor, charm, and spontaneity; and none of what she’d loathed—the constant affairs with other women. And with this newfound happiness came professional success as well. Producers approached Anjelica with a role that had been her dream nearly her entire life.
As a child, Anjelica had read Addams Family cartoons and fantasized about playing Morticia. Now, she would—but the role also came with an unexpected dark side.
Playing Morticia Addams, as glamorous as it seems, does not sound fun. The corsets were so tight that Anjelica couldn’t even sit down in the car to get to set. Her makeup artist glued fabric tabs to her face that she’d then tape to the back of her skull, constricting her whole head and resulting in intense headaches and rashes.
Luckily, her hard work pulled off, and not only was The Addams Family a huge success, it also became a beloved family classic, defined at least in part by her iconic performance.
When Anjelica brought Robert Graham to Ireland to visit her childhood home, he surprised her on one of their last days there by proposing. In 1992, they had a star-studded wedding where Anjelica wore a smart white suit to walk down the aisle. Her close friend Jerry Hall, whom Anjelica also cited as an inspiration for her Morticia performance, was a bridesmaid.
As she was wearing a cream lace gown, Anjelica claimed that Jerry looked more like the bride than she did. Still, she was ecstatic to have finally found lasting love. But there was one piece of the puzzle missing.
Anjelica Huston hadn’t put that much thought into having children—after all, her relationships had frequently been tumultuous. She’d considered it with Jack Nicholson, but after they broke up, she finally tried to address why she’d never gotten pregnant, and made a devastating discovery. Doctors diagnosed her with endometriosis and told her that it was unlikely she’d ever have kids.
She felt inadequate and angry, especially in the wake of her break-up with Jack. After her marriage to Robert Graham, they made attempts at fertility treatments, but sadly, nothing worked.
Without the looming legacy of her father or Jack holding her back, Anjelica found untold professional success in the 90s. She appeared in more films, a TV miniseries, and even began directing herself. She became the kind of natural A-lister she’d been surrounded by her whole life. Robert Graham built them a home in Venice, California—but the decade was not without its setbacks.
Anjelica Huston appeared alongside an all-star cast in the critically-acclaimed The Royal Tenenbaums—but the making of the film seemed like a total nightmare. The set was notoriously dysfunctional, and Huston later revealed her disturbing side of the story. As she tells it, veteran actor Gene Hackman was a vicious presence on the shoot, and he often hurled insults at the young director Wes Anderson.
Huston confessed that it got so bad that she and Bill Murray would have to step in to protect Anderson, with Murray even coming in on his days off to make sure nothing happened. You’d think that would’ve bonded them together, but not so…
Though Bill Murray and Huston worked together previously on The Royal Tenenbaums, the actor was reportedly extremely rude to her on Wes Anderson's film The Life Aquatic. According to Huston, when everyone arrived on set, Bill dealt her a cold-hearted betrayal. As she said, "The first week I was there, we were all in this little hotel, and he invited the entire cast to go and have dinner, except me". Ouch. But he wasn’t her only Hollywood enemy…
Reportedly, Huston is on the wrong end of a one-sided feud with one of the most powerful women in show business: Oprah. Ever since Huston beat out the Great O's performance in The Color Purple and bagged her first Oscar for Prizzi’s Honor, she claims Oprah has shunned her. For one, Oprah never had her on the show—but at one Hollywood party, the feud went to the next level.
According to Huston, she was in the middle of talking to Clint Eastwood at the soiree when Oprah inserted herself between them without a word, putting her back to Huston and refusing to acknowledge her. Yeah, that's a grudge.
At the home he’d built for them in Venice, Anjelica Huston finally found her storybook ending with sculptor Robert Graham—but like so many of her other relationships, tragedy made its way into her life. In 2007, Robert fell ill. Sadly, six months later, he passed, leaving Anjelica a widow. The loss absolutely devastated her.
While she hasn’t moved on romantically, she did find solace in making the TV show Smash, and by writing two memoirs, one of which covered not only her love story with Robert, but also the nitty-gritty depths of her childhood.
Though they eventually reconciled, there was one event from Anjelica Huston’s childhood with her father that she never forgot—and took a long time to forgive. John Huston had his fair share of illicit trysts, frequently cheating on her mother, but one time, he went way too far. John started sleeping with his teen daughter’s friend, Zoe Sallis.
Although Zoe was older than Anjelica, it was still a shock to realize the person she’d considered a friend was hooking up with her dad. But that’s not even the worst part.
When John Huston broke the news to Anjelica about his affair with her friend, he did it in an utterly brutal way: By telling her she now had a baby half-brother. That child, actor Danny Huston, later became a beloved part of the Huston clan, but it took years for Anjelica to accept Danny and Zoe into her family. No wonder it hurt so much later on, when she experienced something similar…
Anjelica and Danny Huston
Anjelica Huston and Jack Nicholson were together on and off for 16 years, and according to Huston, there was never, ever a time in their relationship where she felt that she could fully trust him. She’d often find evidence of his affairs in his home, but would brush it off. After all, none of them ever stuck around for more than a night or two—until the day Nicholson committed the ultimate betrayal. One night, Jack invited Anjelica over for dinner. There, he informed her "Someone is having a baby". Except by "someone," he meant him, with another woman.
After years of infidelity and her own struggles with fertility, it was the final straw in their relationship. That was when she finally left Jack—although not without at least one instance where she, as she put it, wailed on him. He took it, knowing he deserved it, and they laughed about it later.
My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.
Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.
Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.
Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to email@example.com. Thanks for your time!
Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your help!
The Factinate team
If you like humaverse you may also consider subscribing to these newsletters: