Mom introduced me to Audrey Hepburn via Charade when I was about 13 or 14. At first, I was just fascinated by her odd beauty–that square jaw, those huge eyes. In quick succession, I watched My Fair Lady and Roman Holiday and Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
This was back in the days of Blockbuster Video, before the bounty of Netflix.
I started requesting her movies through the library system instead, and over the next few years worked my way through How to Steal a Million, The Nuns Story, Robin and Marian, Funny Face, Two for the Road, Love in the Afternoon, Paris When it Sizzles, and War and Peace. Also, a curious set of gardening videos … I dunno. I tried to get my hands on a copy of the alleged flight safety recording she did before she became famous, but no dice. I didn’t watch The Children’s Hour and Wait Until Dark until I was in my 20s, and I still haven’t seen Green Mansions.
Somewhere along the way, it stopped being a fascination with her curious looks or her talent, and became an admiration for her as a person. She was a genuinely good person–someone worth looking up to. As a child in Austria during WWII, she’d gone without food to make sure her mother and siblings had enough, which led to a life-long weight issue due to the severe malnutrition she suffered during the war. Her estranged father was a Nazi who abandoned his family. She’s rumored to have worked for the Dutch Resistance. After she retired as an actress, she volunteered for UNICEF.
Growing up in the 90s, I didn’t know of any modern equivalent to her: Someone who was principled, and moral, and talented, and lovely. It fascinated me that no matter what role she was playing, the goodness seemed to shine out of her. I don’t think Audrey could’ve played a villain if she tried … she was too kind-hearted, and it showed.
These days, I’d say Emma Watson is the closest equivalent to Audrey Hepburn.
It kinda bums me out that of her entire legacy, most people remember Audrey Hepburn for Breakfast at Tiffany‘s, which I personally consider to be among her worst films.