Audrey Hepburn had come a long way from her early days as third chorus girl on the left in the line-up for a 1950 musical called Sauce Piquante at London’s Cambridge Theatre. 8 a week, but she had gone on to become the toast of Broadway in Gigi, won an Oscar for her first big Hollywood movie Roman Holiday, and played a string of other major the birth and upbringing of son in films such as Breakfast At Tiffany’s and My Fair Lady. In short, she’d become a millionaire and a world star.
But in private, she lived a simple life with her husband, Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti, and to her five-year-old son Luca she was just Mama. I saw her on TV kissing a strange man. I didn’t know she was an actress. I didn’t even know what an actress was. All I knew was that Mama was doing something I was sure was wrong. I ran to my father and told him what I’d seen. But he just laughed and swept me up in his arms.
I didn’t understand, but if Papa didn’t mind, it must be all right. Mama who took me to school, cooked my supper and read me a bedtime story was exactly like the Mama I had seen on the screen. She was perfectly natural on and off it. There was nothing forced or actressy about her whatever she did. Audrey was born in Brussels, but had British citizenship through her banker father and went to school in the Kent village of Elham. She fell in love with Rome at the age of 24 while making what was to become the classic movie Roman Holiday in 1953, and it later became her home for more than 20 years.
And now, to mark the 60th anniversary of Roman Holiday, the film has been re-released in cinemas and Luca, a graphic designer, is publishing a book about his mother. Through 200 intimate photographs, Audrey In Rome focuses on her career and the lifestyle she led in the city. With her elfin face, big brown eyes, high cheek bones, swan-like neck and slim figure, she became a fashion icon as much as she was a movie star. We would only see her in jeans and a top.
The glamorous side of her life was something that she never flaunted. Eventually I realised she was special, because photographers would follow her around, and strangers would call out compliments in the street. It took me some time to see that this didn’t happen to everyone’s mama, just mine. When I asked her about it, she would laugh and play it down. She didn’t like clothes that were over the top, because she was aware of what she regarded as her defects. The discovery that his mother was a famous film star opened up a whole new world for Luca. Until then, I’d never realised her friends who used to visit us were famous.