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Watch Me... Anjelica Huston and the Joker Jack Nicholson

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As Good as it Gets: Anjelica Huston and Jack Nicholson were together for 17 years.

As Good as it Gets: Anjelica Huston and Jack Nicholson were together for 17 years.

Anjelica Huston and late husband Robert Graham

Anjelica Huston and late husband Robert Graham

Anjelica Huston and dad John

Anjelica Huston and dad John

Watch Me: A Memoir by Anjelica Huston

Watch Me: A Memoir by Anjelica Huston

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As Good as it Gets: Anjelica Huston and Jack Nicholson were together for 17 years.

For 17 years, Anjelica Huston co-starred in one of Hollywood's most tumultuous love affairs opposite Jack Nicholson.

During their time together, the actress recounts being left alone on the side of the road by the star as he sped off on the back of another girl's motorbike, tells how she would regularly find perfume and jewellery belonging to his other conquests in his bedroom and admits she only left him after discovering he had fathered a child by fellow actress Rebecca Broussard.

Yet it was "Jack the joker" who was by her side at her father's funeral after the legendary director died of pneumonia, a complication of lung disease, in 1987, reveals the actress in her latest memoir, Watch Me.

"People think, 'Jack the joker' - Jack's all about fun," says Huston. "And he pulls it off successfully, but it is a one-dimensional view. He is a deep and serious person."

Jack's "killer smile" first caught the Oscar winner's eye on the big screen in Easy Rider in 1969, and turned out to be no less dazzling in reality when they met at a birthday party at his Mulholland Drive home four years later.

"The front door of a modest two-storey ranch-style house opened, and there was that smile," recalls the 63-year-old in the follow-up to her first autobiography, A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in London, Ireland and New York. "At the time, I thought, 'Ah! Yes. Now, there's a man you could fall for'."

After the break-up of a four-year relationship, Anjelica, then 21 and a successful model in New York, had fled to LA, which is where this second memoir begins.

As the daughter of legendary director John Huston, one of Tinseltown's original hellraisers, it's perhaps no surprise that Anjelica - who spent most of her childhood at St Clerans, the 110 acre Galway estate bought by her father in 1952 - should be drawn to one herself.

"My father and Jack were a lot alike," continues The Royal Tenenbaums star, citing the time she turned to her dad for advice over her famous boyfriend's chronic infidelity, but was given short shrift: "Dad threw me a look of exasperation, as if dealing with a difficult four-year-old." "Stop crying! Men do this - it means nothing," he told her.

Although the model-turned-actress says she was desperate to prove herself as more than just 'John's girl' or 'Jack's girlfriend', ultimately, it was collaborating with both on Prizzi's Honor - directed by her dad and co-starring Nicholson - that established the young Huston as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood, and earned her an Academy Award in 1986.

"When my name was called out, everything went into slow motion," remembers the star, who was named Best Supporting Actress for her role as Maerose Prizzi in the film. "I turned to see my father in the middle of the centre row, tears coursing down his cheeks, and Jack looking emotional.

"When we arrived at his hotel room, Dad [a lifelong smoker who suffered from emphysema] was sitting in his wheelchair, breathing oxygen through a plastic tube. 'I'd hoped they might have let us share that one,' Dad said to me," referring to when her father and grandfather, actor Walter Huston, had a dual win for The Treasure of the Sierra Madres in 1949.

Despite her success on the big screen in movies such as Crimes and Misdemeanours (1989) and The Addams Family (1991), privately, Huston confesses she felt like a failure for being unable to start a family of her own with Nicholson, and later, husband Robert Graham.

"The fertility doctors had discovered that I had endometriosis and had probably had it since my teens," she divulges in the book. "I had undergone a laparoscopy, followed by a hysteroscopy, but a child was not to be.

"The fact that Rebecca Broussard had become pregnant where I had failed made me feel inadequate and bitter. I think much of what a woman is has to do with procreation. And to find oneself infertile somehow renders one useless as a woman, in the grimmest set of the mind's eye, so I was very conflicted." But all of that doubt and heartache finally melted away when, at 40, she wed sculptor Graham, to whom she was married for 16 years until his death in 2008. "I've always been attracted to cowboys and rock stars, artists and wild men," admits Huston. "Men you can't depend on. And then I met Robert.

"There was a strong attraction but also a feeling of destiny. Bob and I talked often about having a baby... and made the attempt to implant several times (but) it was not meant to be."

Almost 30 years after her father's death at the age of 81, meanwhile, Huston says she misses him more than ever: "When Dad died, everything went silent. I longed for him - his burst of laughter, his head thrown back, his monkey grin - and I cursed his disease, and time, for taking him. If I could have sacrificed a part of my own body to help my father, I would have without question."

"At his funeral, the funeral director handed me a lead box," she adds. "I said, 'Oh, it's heavy!' And he said, 'Your father was a very big man'.

"You want to weep, but you also want to cry with laughter. Sometimes that's all you can do."

MEMOIR

Watch Me: A Memoir, Anjelica Huston, Simon & Schuster, hdbk, 400pp, £21.90

Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie or by calling 091 709 350

Indo Review