When it came to casting the star of Breakfast At Tiffany’s, the two producers were stumped. None of the big stars of the late Fifties seemed right for their radically modern heroine, who earned her living as a call-girl.
Debbie Reynolds? Too sweet. Grace Kelly? Too conventional. Liz Taylor? Too seductive. Doris Day? Too virginal. Then the producers had a brainwave. Of course: Audrey Hepburn!
Didn’t the novel on which the film would be based specify a skinny girl with a ‘flat little bottom’, ‘hair sleek and short as a young man’s’ and ‘a face beyond childhood, yet this side of belonging to a woman’?
Audrey wasn’t too sexy or too apple-pie, and there was no doubt she had the right physique. Hadn’t the great film director Billy Wilder once said that ‘Audrey Hepburn, singlehanded, may make bosoms a thing of the past’?
Now convinced that Audrey was the only woman on the planet who could bring Holly Golightly to life, one of the producers — Marty Jurow — flew out to meet her on a film set in the south of France. There, however, he was shocked to discover that their 29-year-old leading lady wasn’t quite as gamine as they’d imagined; in fact, she was heavily pregnant.
Well, that didn’t matter; they could wait. But they hadn’t reckoned with Audrey’s controlling husband, Mel Ferrer, a B-movie actor and occasional director who was increasingly resentful of his wife’s success.
Playing a woman of questionable virtue, he counselled his wife, could only do her image irreparable harm. Audrey acquiesced. ‘I can’t play a hooker,’ she told Jurow firmly but sweetly — and that appeared to be that.
If only Marty Jurow and co-producer Richard Shepherd’s problems had ended there. Audrey, as everyone knows, eventually relented, and Breakfast At Tiffany’s has over the past five decades become a classic, illuminated by a haunting song and the charm of its twig-like star.
But the film, it can now be revealed, was very nearly not made at all. Behind the scenes, a cauldron of egos and insecurities was continually threatening to boil over.