Belfast Telegraph

Life lessons with acclaimed actress Anjelica Huston

By Patricia Danaher

Actress Anjelica Huston was born on July 8, 1951. Her mother Enrica had been a prima ballerina and her father was acclaimed actor and film director John Huston. Along with her brother Tony, Anjelica spent much of her childhood in the Republic of Ireland, starting out in Kildare and then moving to Galway where her father had bought a Georgian country house called St Clerans.

Following her parents' split, Anjelica was moved to London.

When her mother was killed in a car crash at the age of 39, Anjelica relocated to the US.

After stints modelling, she set her sights on becoming an actress, taking small parts in her father's movies. In 1986, she won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in Prizzi's Honour, which was directed by John.

The film also starred notorious womaniser Jack Nicholson, with whom Anjelica was in a stormy, on-and-off relationship for 17 years.

In 1992, she married sculptor Robert Graham. He passed away in 2008 from an illness that followed a heart attack. Anjelica continues to act and Watch Me, the second volume of her memoir, was released last year.

In her own words:

I looked in the mirror a lot when I was a little girl, especially in our bathroom in Connemara. There was a collection of books behind the commode. My childhood in Ireland was quite lonely and I often disappeared into the books in the house.

I can easily project myself into any time and place that you ask me to. Just by going there mentally. I can smell the turf fires in our house in Connemara, I can feel the dampness in the air and the sounds from the kitchen.

I've kept diaries consistently since I was very young. Sometimes during my life, I'd write prolifically and then not at all. Usually when I was in love, I'd write a lot and then go to nothing as soon as the person was out of the way, and I could look back on all that stuff.

My father was warm, wonderful, generous, fiery and loving. He loved stories. He liked to inhabit stories and many of those he told had him at the centre of them.He was an interesting guy and he got to go to a lot of places and do a lot of things, so being around my father was always an adventure.

My father certainly influenced my taste in men from a very early moment in my childhood. He was one of those people who challenged me but who also appreciated me in a way I don't think anyone else really did. It was like working at the feet of the master. I think the best relationship I've had with a director was also with my father.

Everyone has always been asking me about Jack Nicholson. At first I didn't want to talk about that and it took a long time before that gestated and I asked myself why I didn't want to talk about it, and eventually I did.

Jack and I remain dear friends to this day. We were together for 17 years, on and off. We had a few fights once in a while. He was certainly seminal in my life and a huge influence, and remains so.

When I was living with Jack, there were a lot of influences. There was us as a couple, there was what was going on around us, there was a lot of how the world saw us and a lot of how we saw the world.

When you're with someone who's very famous - that famous - it is life under a microscope. So you're apt to becoming quite insular. So I have this mental idea of my life with Jack as being sort of behind gates and being quite secular, in its way.

You start to lose touch a little bit. With the outside and with what the outside represents, how interactions take place and who you really are and who your friends really are. I only found a lot of that out after Jack and I had split up. When I came out from behind those gates, I had to really discover who I was and what my priorities were.

Growing up in Ireland, I had big aspirations, big dreams. It's all fine when you're a child, but then you grow up and people love to tell you what you can't do. If there was ever a dream that any young person had, I'm sure it's been shattered many times over by adults telling them it's not going to work and why they shouldn't do it.

I was always a little bit more confrontational. When it came to those issues, I was more inclined to say: "Oh, you don't think I can do it? Watch me."

I started writing my first book about a year after my husband Robert Graham died because I found I had a lot of unburdening to do. There was a lot inside that I wanted to examine and I didn't necessarily want to examine it with anyone else at the present.

I always thought of myself as a kind of hippie. But writing a book required that I get up at 6.30 every morning, have my shower, put on my make-up, dry my hair, breakfast about 9am, write til 1pm, break for lunch, go back and write til 6pm. My approach was very conformist and it worked very well.

I think that as long as you have things that fulfil you, family and things that you love and things that you love to do, life is worthwhile. Getting older is not so bad when you have these things in your life, along with some like-minded people and good, true friends.

Belfast Telegraph


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