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‘Audrey took pain and trauma and transformed it into something beautiful’

The team behind the award-winning ‘McQueen’ film have made a new documentary about Audrey Hepburn. Niamh O’Donoghue talks to the director about the fashion and film icon’s life, her relationship with the designer Givenchy and the sadness that stayed with her after her father — who spent much of his life living in Dublin — left when she was just a child

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Iconic actor and fashion muse Audrey Hepburn

Iconic actor and fashion muse Audrey Hepburn

Bettmann Archive

Iconic actor and fashion muse Audrey Hepburn

There’s a wonderful French word, ‘dépouillé’[deh-pool-e-yay], which means without ornament, with everything stripped away and reduced to its foundations. It’s not an overtly fanciful turn-of-phrase but it is exact in its intentions and is both elegant and deliberate. It’s a contemporary word that, when pronounced correctly, renders your mouth into a particular bourgeois-style shape, and there’s a purity to its sound: it demands attention but in the same stroke of breath is also effortlessly blasé.

It is an expression that contextualises and encapsulates the late, wildly-talented and endearing Audrey Hepburn. A doyenne of the golden age of Hollywood, over the course of her career, Hepburn worked with directors as varied as Billy Wilder and George Cukor and starred opposite Tinsel Town’s most-famous male leads, including William Holden, Marlon Brando and Rex Harrison. One of the last great actors of her generation, Hepburn’s legacy as a film and fashion icon is forever immortalised, not least for the captivating and transformative roles she portrayed and the Belgian-born beauty’s revolutionary approach to fashion.

In 1951, a 22-year-old Hepburn — then a recent European export — made her Broadway debut as the star of Gigi, a stage adaptation of Colette’s hit novella. Hollywood took note of the gamine ingénue, and two years later the world fell in love with the actress, as Princess Ann, in William Wyler’s Roman Holiday.


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