If we were to ask everyone who the best living actress in Hollywood is, there would be an incredible variety of answers given. One woman who would undoubtedly receive a lot of votes is Faye Dunaway. Beginning in the late 1960s, Dunaway’s career proved to be as influential as it was successful. The 1970s, in particular, were kind to her, as she appeared in classic film after classic film. Of course, there will be those who know her for an incident which occurred late in her life that had nothing to do with her performances, but we’ll explain more in this list about Dunaway’s life, reputation, and legacy. Here are 43 dynamic facts about Faye Dunaway.
1. Boy, Was I Lucky!
The role which made Dunaway’s career, as Bonnie Parker in Bonnie and Clyde, was very nearly given to a plethora of other actors. Before Dunaway was cast, the role was offered to Cher, Ann-Margret, Tuesday Weld, and Sue Lyon.
2. Rare Record
Dunaway is of just four actresses to win both an Academy Award and a Razzie Award for acting. She won Best Actress for the film Network and “won” the Worst Actress Award for Mommie Dearest. In case you want to know who the other actresses are, they’re Sandra Bullock, Liza Minnelli, and Halle Berry.
3. Origin Story
Dunaway was born on January 14, 1941, in Bascom, Florida.
4. Explosive First Year
Dunaway’s first theatrical film was the 1967 comedy The Happening. That same year, she also appeared in the drama Hurry Sundown and the crime film Bonnie and Clyde.
5. Army Brat
Dunaway’s father, John MacDowell Dunaway Jr., was a non-commissioned officer in the United States Army. As a result, Dunaway’s childhood was spent traveling around the United States and Europe.
6. Conquering Television as Well as Film
In the early 1990s, Dunaway came into contact with Peter Falk, the star of the hit detective series Columbo, for advice about a similar role she had been offered. During the conversation, Falk brought up that he’d written a script for Columbo which required a skilled actress for a main female character. Dunaway was only too eager to take the part, which won her a Primetime Emmy award in 1994.
7. Did They?
Contrary to many women who co-starred with legendary screen hunk Warren Beatty, Dunaway didn’t have a romantic fling with him. During production, she and Beatty came to an understanding that they would keep things professional and platonic. We have no idea what happened after the movie wrapped, of course, so keep on shipping those two if you feel like it!
8. No Hard Feelings!
In Chinatown, Dunaway portrays the daughter of John Huston’s character in the film (and without spoiling it, their characters do not get along at all). More than a decade later, Dunaway was one of the presenters who awarded Huston his Golden Globe for directing the film Prizzi’s Honor.
9. What are the Odds?
In the mid-1970s, Dunaway appeared in two films back-to-back with co-star Max Von Sydow. The first was Three Days of the Condor and the second was Voyage of the Damned. We can only assume that it was a coincidence since this was before they could keep up with each other on social media to coordinate their auditions!
10. If it Didn’t Work the Second Time…
Dunaway has been married twice, both times for less than six years. Her first husband was American musician Peter Wolf. They were married from 1974 until 1979. Her second husband was British photographer Terry O’Neill, the father of her only child. They were married from 1983 until 1987.
11. Good Thing They Tried Again Later
Before it was turned into a hit TV series, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was made into a 1990 Hollywood film starring Dunaway, along with Natasha Richardson, Aidan Quinn, and Robert Duvall. However, the film was a critical and financial failure, with the scriptwriter Harold Pinter furiously arguing changes made to his script and trying to get his name taken off the project. We couldn’t find Dunaway and ask her what she thinks of the TV series, but maybe if we’re lucky we’ll get to see her appear in the series at some point.
12. Is That a Coincidence?
Interestingly, that wasn’t the first time that Dunaway appeared in a failed film adaptation only for it to become a hit TV show decades later! In 1984, Dunaway played the villain in Supergirl, a film adaptation of the aforementioned DC comics character. The film was a box office bomb and received dismal reviews. Again, we can only imagine Dunaway’s reaction if she ever turned on her TV and saw how popular the new show is.
13. That Gold Statue is Mine!
As of 2019, Dunaway has been nominated for three Oscars. They were, in chronological order, for the films Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown, and Network. She only won once, a Best Actress statue for Network.
14. Globe Trotter
Aside from Oscars, won or nominated, Dunaway has also earned ten Golden Globes for her work on film and on television. Her earliest Golden Globe nominations were for the 1967 films Bonnie and Clyde and Hurry Sundown, while her most recent nomination was for the 2000 television film Running Mates. Of those ten nominations, Dunaway won three Golden Globes (for Network, Ellis Island, and Gia).
15. A Fully Rounded Thespian
Aside from her work on the big and small screens, Dunaway has continually returned to the theatre throughout her life. Among her extensive stage experience, she has performed in productions of Sunset Boulevard and A Streetcar Named Desire, as well as acting in the premiere for After the Fall by Arthur Miller.
16. Golden Opportunity
Speaking of After the Fall, Dunaway returned to that story when it was adapted into a television production by Arthur Miller, the original playwright. Dunaway considered it “a dream come true” to work with Miller on the story again, where she acted opposite Canadian thespian Christopher Plummer. Yeah, we’d be thrilled too!
17. Your Crush is Showing
In 1975, Dunaway appeared opposite Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor. The story features Dunaway’s character being held hostage by Redford’s character, and she is meant to be in fear of being violated or killed. According to Dunaway, however, this was a particularly challenging moment for her. She joked that the idea of being kidnapped by someone who looked like Redford was “anything but frightening.”
According to Dunaway herself, she had a very brief fling with comedian Lenny Bruce and lived with him. Allegedly, this took place over the course of a week in 1963.
19. Frequent Collaborator
One person with whom Dunaway worked on five different films was American actor Richard Chamberlain. They appeared together in The Three Musketeers, The Towering Inferno, Casanova, The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge, and The Woman I Love.
Four films featuring Dunaway are being preserved for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. They are Chinatown, Little Big Man, Bonnie and Clyde, and Network.
21. What Might Have Been
One of the most famous roles that Dunaway turned down in her career was the pill-addicted character of Sara in Requiem for a Dream. The role would eventually go to Ellen Burstyn, who won an Oscar for her harrowing performance in the film.
22. A Chance to Really Act!
One film which was especially important to Dunaway was the indie film Barfly, directed by Barbet Shroeder and co-starring Mickey Rourke. The film was seen as a critical comeback for Dunaway at the time, wherein she portrayed a self-destructive alcoholic, but for Dunaway, it was also a role that she was truly passionate about. According to her, she hadn’t felt such a drive to play a character since Network some ten years prior.
23. I’ll Show You!
For her appearance in Bonnie and Clyde, Dunaway was paid a salary of $60,000, and she reportedly had to give $25,000 of it back for the privilege of being listed as a co-star on the film! Luckily, her cred was boosted so much by her role in the film that just two years later, Dunaway earned five times as much for appearing in The Extraordinary Seaman.
24. Sounds Like a Great Guy
Excluding members of her family, Dunaway has stated that the most important person in her life was her mentor William Alfred. A professor at Harvard, Alfred wrote the award-winning play Hogan’s Goat, in which Dunaway would act. Dunaway later credited Alfred for teaching her about many subjects beyond merely acting and even called him the father she’d never had.
25. Where’s the Fairness?
Like many women in Hollywood, Dunaway has taken umbrage at the way casting directors would deny her roles due to her age. On one occasion in 2008, Dunaway pointed out the hypocrisy in Hollywood that an actor like Clint Eastwood, who is 11 years older than her, can have an actress less than half his age play his love in a film, while she’s considered too old to play that role opposite Eastwood.
26. Did I Beat Meryl Streep?
In 1997, Empire Magazine drew up a list titled “The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time.” Dunaway would make the list, reaching #65.
27. Thanks for the Fame!
In order to portray Bonnie Parker on film, Dunaway initially planned to wear slacks (since anyone robbing banks would presumably prefer clothes that suited quick action). However, the costume designer on the film, Theadora Van Runkle, was determined to go for a glamorous look which emphasized skirts, a short jacket, and a beret. This look would become a fashion icon for years, while Dunaway would insist that Van Runkle get hired onto any of her projects as her costume designer.
28. Old and New Versions
In a rare feat, Dunaway appeared in two different versions of the same film. She starred opposite Steve McQueen in the original The Thomas Crown Affair, and also appeared in a different role in the 1999 remake of the same movie.
29. Anyone Still on the Fence?
Throughout her career, Dunaway has polarized her colleagues for what is either called her difficult attitude or her determined perfectionism to give as good a performance as possible. While some people have badmouthed her brutally (more on one of them later), directors such as Elia Kazan and Sidney Lumet have proclaimed their admiration and support for her.
30. Oh, Those Method Actors
Without giving away the story of Chinatown, one of the most famous scenes from the film involves Jack Nicholson’s character slapping Dunaway’s character. During filming, Dunaway was so dissatisfied with how the sequence looked onscreen, she insisted that Nicholson slap her, over his own reluctance to do so. The take with the real slaps were what made it into the final version of the film.
31. Method to Their Madness
Despite the box office and critical failure of Mommie Dearest, you can’t deny that Dunaway tried her hardest to make the role her own. To properly portray Joan Crawford, Dunaway watched all of Crawford’s films and read many books about the former movie star. During production, she also sat in the makeup chair every morning for at least three hours.
32. Rough Start
While she was working on The Towering Inferno, Dunaway attracted the ire of her co-star, William Holden, when she was chronically late to filming. Allegedly, the two actors got into a particularly nasty fight on the set of that film. However, when they reunited to work on Network together, they thankfully had a much more civil relationship.
33. Well Done!
In 2003, the American Film Institute released a list titled “100 Heroes & Villains.” Dunaway was one of only two actresses to receive two entries on the list of 50 villains (the other one was Bette Davis). In case you’re wondering which of Dunaway’s characters made the list, they were Bonnie Parker from Bonnie and Clyde and Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest.
34. Don’t Mention It!
While some people have certainly come around on the film Mommie Dearest (depicting the brutal childhood of Joan Crawford’s adopted daughter Christina), the initial response towards the film was highly negative. Dunaway’s performance was torn apart by critics. Since then, Dunaway refuses to speak about the film and her participation in it.
In one of the most infamous moments of her life, Dunaway presented the Academy Award for Best Picture alongside her former Bonnie and Clyde co-star, Warren Beatty, marking 50 years since the release of Bonnie and Clyde. However, disaster struck when Dunaway read out the wrong film name as the Best Picture winner. The incident was so awkward and surprising that Dunaway later described it as “one of the worst moments I’ve ever had.”
36. Practice Makes Perfect
Dunaway and Warren Beatty did have the chance to redo their botched delivery the following year. At the 51st Academy Awards ceremony, they returned for a tongue-in-cheek delivery of the Best Picture Oscar. Academy Award winner Guillermo del Toro joined in the fun by double-checking the envelope when he mounted the stage to accept his award.
37. I’m Ready for My Close-Up
One of the most famous images of Dunaway would have to be the “Morning After” picture taken after she’d won her Academy Award for Network. Dunaway (who hadn’t slept since she’d won the Oscar) is depicted reclining next to a pool with her Oscar and several newspapers around her. The picture was taken by Terry O’Neil, who would go on to be her second husband.
38. Passionate Affair
During the late 1960s, Dunaway entered into a relationship with acclaimed Italian thespian Marcello Mastroianni (best known for his work with Federico Fellini). The two of them met when they worked on the film A Place for Lovers (fitting title) and would be romantically involved for two years.
39. Bitter Ending
Dunaway’s relationship with Marcello Mastroianni would end in heartbreak for both of them. Mastroianni wouldn’t divorce his wife or leave his children to be with Dunaway, who wanted to marry him and start a family together. Dunaway finally gave up and left him, but later admitted in 1995 that she never quite got over her feelings for him. Mastroianni would feel similarly; in a 1987 interview, the aging actor claimed that Dunaway was the love of his life and that he would always regret losing her.
40. Director vs. Actor
Although she considered Chinatown to be the best film she’d ever worked on, Dunaway had a notoriously stormy relationship with its controversial director, Roman Polanski–this was years before the infamous incident which led to Polanski fleeing the US. During the production, Dunaway alleged that Polanski’s bullying behavior “bordered on sexual harassment.”
41. One Actress One Cup
The urban legend concerning Dunaway’s frayed relationship with Roman Polanski involved her furious response to his refusal to allow her bathroom breaks while they were filming. The story which has survived all these decades is that Dunaway lost her temper over this dictatorial restriction and proceeded to urinate into a cup and throw it in Polanski’s face. We must point out that this is unconfirmed to be true, and Dunaway has furiously ended interviews if asked about the incident.
42. Anyone See That Shade get Thrown?
Long before Dunaway portrayed Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, she became embroiled in a feud with Crawford’s rival, Bette Davis. In 1988, Davis was interviewed on Johnny Carson and was asked: “Who’s one of the worst people you know in Hollywood?” Davis immediately named Dunaway, citing a TV movie they had done together in 1976. Davis accused Dunaway of being unprofessional and very difficult to work with.
43. Rising to the Bait?
For her part, Dunaway never got into a war of words with Bette Davis over her accusations on Johnny Carson’s show. However, after Davis died, Dunaway expressed her feelings on the matter in 1995 autobiography. While labeling Davis as being unjustly angry at her, she reflected ruefully on whether she should have stood up for herself. She didn’t want to feed the media with a public feud, however, and stayed unresponsive towards Davis’ claims.