Audrey Hepburn may be thought of as one of Hollywood’s greatest stars, but her childhood was rife with trauma. Looking at the glamorous actress who brought Holly Golightly to life in the iconic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, one would never know that she and her mother almost perished at the hands of the Nazi’s during World War II. These life events however, helped shape who she was and had a profound effect on her future.
Her life is the focus of the new documentary feature, AUDREY. The film is a hybrid of rare archive, cinematic dance sequences, and intimate interviews with those who knew her best. It brings the icon to life, showing a side many may not know.
Born in 1930’s Brussels, Hepburn’s early years were spent as part of an aristocratic family. But half way through the decade, Europe was in turmoil. As fear of communism grew, there was mass unemployment and a sense of destabilization after World War I. This lead to Fascism as a fashionable political alternative, and the rise of the Nazi’s followed.
Audrey’s father, Joseph, became a radicalized Fascist and in May 1935 he walked out on his wife and young daughter. Thinking the Netherlands would provide a safe haven for her family, Audrey’s mother moved them to Arnhem. The Nazi’s invaded the country and under their occupation, Audrey and her family dealt with the unthinkable terror that comes along with living in a Nazi occupied country.
Even so, she began ballet training at the Arnhem School of Music. This provided her with structure and an escape from her chaotic world. During this time period, famine swept through the country killing 22,000 people. While she ultimately survives the famine, Audrey and her family almost starved to death.
At 5’9” she weighed only 88 pounds and the young Audrey survived on nettles and water. She continued to dance even though her weight caused other health issues including acute respiratory problems, anemia and edema.
With the war over, Hepburn took on modeling jobs and small acting jobs to make money. She landed her first major film role in 1953 opposite Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday. At 24, she won her first Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the film.
Even while her career flourished, for years she held onto unresolved trauma related to her younger years. This caused her emotional pain for many years and contributed to the end of her first marriage to actor Mel Ferrer.
Later in life, however, she eventually found joy in helping others as a global ambassador for UNICEF.
AUDREY was filmed on the ARRI Alexa Mini camera, between April – November 2019. Interviews and B roll were shot in London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Switzerland, Munich, Tuscany and Rome. The crew was predominantly female, with a female director, producer and cinematographer.
AUDREY is currently available on DVD and Blu-ray and arrives on VOD January 5, 2021