Audrey Hepburn died in 1993, but to this day she remains an icon of Old Hollywood and impeccable style. She’s considered one of the most beautiful and elegant women of recent history, in fact. But there was a lot more to her than just a pretty face. Even without her stardom, she would have led an absolutely fascinating life. Here are 20 things you may not have known about her.
20. She never thought she was beautiful
It seems astounding, but Audrey Hepburn really didn’t think she was anything special looks-wise. She considered herself “a good mixture of defects,” as her son explained to Vanity Fair in 2013. He added, “She would look in the mirror and say, ‘I don’t understand why people see me as beautiful.’”
19. She got a cinematographer fired
1964’s Paris When It Sizzles isn’t considered a particularly memorable Hepburn film. And she wasn’t easy to work with on the set of it, either. Hepburn demanded the removal of the cinematographer, Claude Renoir, as she felt he failed to light her in a flattering enough manner. She got her wish, and he was replaced.
18. She liked plastic surgery
These days, actresses tend to denounce plastic surgery and never admit to it. Not so Audrey Hepburn back in the ’80s. “I think it’s a marvelous thing, done in small doses, very expertly, so that no one notices,” she told Harper’s Bazaar.
17. She had an affair with Ben Gazzara while still married
In 1969 Hepburn married psychiatrist Andrea Dotti, but he gradually became more interested in younger women. And as her marriage collapsed around her, Hepburn fell into the arms of her just-divorced Bloodline co-star Ben Gazzara. But the affair didn’t last, and the 1979 film – the first and only R-rated Hepburn movie – wasn’t even a hit.
16. She didn’t want to look too grubby in My Fair Lady
Hepburn was a fine actress, but she knew she had a reputation to protect. The opening of My Fair Lady was meant to show her character Eliza Doolittle looking dirty and unkempt while pushing a flower cart. But Hepburn refused to film the scene, saying that her fans wouldn’t like it.
15. She had a fear of water
Hepburn suffered from aquaphobia, a fear of water. But in the film Two for the Road, her character was thrown into a swimming pool. And the horror on her face in that scene is very much Audrey’s own. The crew had to hover nearby, ready to grab her if anything went awry.
14. Her mother once told her she had no talent
Speaking to Parade in 1989, Hepburn recalled, “Many years ago, my mother said to me, ‘Considering that you have no talent, it’s really extraordinary where you’ve got.’” It seems that her mother’s cruel attitude had a knock-on effect on Hepburn’s confidence, because she then added, “And that’s what I really believe to this day.”
13. She had several miscarriages
Hepburn suffered five miscarriages over the course of her life, one of which took place when she fell from a horse during filming for The Unforgiven. She did, however, have two children, and when her son Sean was born in 1960 she wrote in a letter, “I find it hard to believe he is really ours to keep.”
12. She smoked throughout her entire life
Hepburn started smoking when she was just a teenager – aged only 15 by some accounts – and spent the rest of her life as a chain-smoker. Reportedly, there were times when she smoked 60 cigarettes a day! However, during her adolescence smoking was considered normal and even healthy.
11. She may have attempted suicide
In the ’60s an article written by Tom Daly and quoting an unknown “insider” claimed that Audrey Hepburn twice tried to commit suicide. More recently, a 2015 book by Edward Z. Epstein made the same allegation. Epstein claimed that Hepburn’s two broken marriages and her multiple miscarriages drove her to despair.
10. She bent quarantine laws for her dog
When Audrey Hepburn traveled to the Congo in 1959 to film A Nun’s Story, she insisted that her beloved terrier Famous be allowed to come with her. And seeing as how she was a world-famous film star, her request was granted – despite strict quarantine rules. A regular member of the public certainly wouldn’t have been granted that privilege.
9. Marilyn Monroe was meant to have her role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Breakfast at Tiffany’s author Truman Capote imagined Marilyn Monroe in the role of Holly Golightly and wasn’t too happy when the part went to Audrey Hepburn instead. He felt that she was miscast, and that Monroe would have been much more believable as a call girl. The movie, however, was a great deal more upbeat than his book.
8. Her father abandoned her
Audrey Hepburn’s childhood was, by any normal standards, terrible. Not only did her family starve under the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, but her father abandoned the family when Hepburn was just eight. And when she met her father again as an adult she decided to support him financially, although he really may not have deserved it.
7. She was ashamed of her feet
Audrey Hepburn wore a size 10.5 shoe. In her time – and perhaps even now – that would have been considered an unusual foot size for an actress. And this was something that made her feel deeply uncomfortable. “She thought she had a big nose and big feet,” her son Luca Dotti told Vanity Fair in 2013.
6. Paramount made her reveal her engagement in front of her ex-boyfriend
While filming Sabrina, Hepburn had an affair with the married William Holden. She dumped him as soon as she realized he couldn’t give her children, but Hepburn’s employer Paramount was concerned that the tabloids might learn about their romance. So when Hepburn became engaged to Mel Ferrer, she was forced to announce it in front of Holden… and his long-suffering wife, as well.
5. She nearly died of whooping cough as a child
Just a few weeks after she was born, Hepburn contracted a terrible case of whooping cough. However, her mother Ella was a strict Christian Scientist, and she simply prayed for her daughter’s survival instead of taking her to a doctor. As a result, Hepburn nearly died before she’d even had a chance to live. She later rejected her mother’s religious beliefs.
4. Her singing in My Fair Lady was dubbed
Audrey Hepburn was chosen over Julie Andrews to play Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, but there was one small problem. Her voice just wasn’t strong enough to carry an entire musical. So Hepburn was dubbed over with the voice of soprano Marni Nixon, who went uncredited in the film.
3. She turned down the role of Anne Frank
Hepburn identified a lot with Anne Frank, another child who suffered terribly during World War II. “My mother never accepted the simple fact that she got luckier than Anne,” Hepburn’s son Luca Dotti told People in 2015. In fact, it was because Hepburn felt such empathy with Frank that she turned down the role when she was offered it in 1957. She came to the decision after meeting with Otto Frank, Anne’s father.
2. She nearly married a baron
In 1952 Audrey Hepburn became engaged to James Hanson, an industrialist and English baron. She got as far as having the wedding dress designed before calling it off, deciding she would rather focus on her career instead. “When I get married, I want to be really married,” she announced in a statement at the time.
1. Her parents were fascists
During the ’30s both of Hepburn’s parents were donors to the British Union of Fascists. In fact, her father Joseph became even more involved with the group after he abandoned his family. Admittedly, Hepburn’s sons claim that Joseph was not a Nazi sympathizer. But there’s little doubt that Hepburn’s parents were at least sympathetic towards some forms of fascism. However, Hepburn herself was absolutely not. Aged just 11, she even carried messages for the Dutch Resistance during World War II.