Watch me, by Anjelica Huston
NOTA DE LEITURA
O segundo volume das memórias da actriz Anjelica Huston é, como o primeiro um livro muito simpático, embora por motivos diferentes do primeiro. Este falava sobretudo da infância na Irlanda e da vida familiar; o segundo refere a carreira artística da autora e de todo o pessoal do cinema que ela encontrou no eu caminho.
Continua a mencionar nomes em catadupa, tanto que o interesse de cada página é inversamente proporcional ao número de nomes nela mencionados.
O que mais me agradou neste volume foi a sinceridade da autora que não hesita em revelar as suas fraquezas e as suas desilusões. Um bom exemplo á a narração do seu relacionamento com o actor Jack Nicholson.
08 Dec 2014
It took a car crash to make Anjelica Huston realise that she wanted to make a career out of acting. She was driving her convertible Mercedes in Los Angeles; her head hit the windscreen and broke her nose in eight places. During what reads like an account of post-traumatic stress disorder, she writes: “I made up my mind to take greater advantage of my life. I felt powerful, but in order to prove myself, I needed to do my own thing.”
She was 28, which seems surprisingly senior. She had acted, in a film directed by her father, John Huston. And then she was Jack Nicholson’s first-string girlfriend, and had been on and off sets, sometimes in front of the camera. But she was better known as a model. When she made her decision, she went to acting classes. She learnt a great lesson from Peggy Feury, a teacher who’d given her the assignment of begging for a dime. Huston put out her hand. Feury’s note was crucial: “Anjelica, you’re a tall and imposing girl, a big presence. When you ask for something, you don’t need to extend your hand. You have our attention.”
It explains a lot. It explains how, every time she’s in a film, from classics such as her father’s The Dead and Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanours, through Horrid Henry to Captain EO (in which she plays an alien so bent on destroying the universe that only Michael Jackson’s singing can save it), her appearance always reassures us, as if to say: “Stay with it, this is at least fairly classy.” It explains, too, how unaware she was of how many others saw her – as someone who was born into the business, and who should be able to enter it with natural assurance. It was, she writes now, “the awakening in me of the illusion of confidence”.
Her memoir, which takes us from 1973, when she was 21, to the present, helps us understand why she might have felt less confident. Since 1973, she had been on the arm of Jack Nicholson, but not the only one in his bed. He was not careful about his infidelities. Even her father would tell her that Jack was just being a man, and it didn’t mean anything. At one point she took to wearing the bits of jewellery she found about the house and seeing if anyone stepped up to claim them.
When she did land parts, she was made to feel lucky to have them. Once, when she asked for a bigger fee for her role in Prizzi’s Honor – she felt (understandably) entitled because she had persuaded Nicholson to appear in it – she heard a producer tell her agent down the phone: “We’d like nothing better than to see her dropped from the film. She has no talent. Her boyfriend is the star and her father is the director, that’s the only reason we are even having this conversation.” It’s satisfying that the only Oscar the film won was hers, as best supporting actress.
If Watch Me has a thread, it’s that: the journey from little girl lost to the commanding star she is now, and how long the first steps on the journey took. The memoir picks up from where her previous book, A Story Lately Told, left off. There we learnt of her childhood, spent largely in Ireland and London, and of the two traumas that ended her youth: the death of her mother, and a destructive relationship with the much older and increasingly seedy Bob Richardson. She arrives on these pages with the assurance she took from surviving, but can still chide herself now for being so gullible with Nicholson.
Among all that, there’s a grim interlude in which she goes out with Ryan O’Neal, who beats her. The relationship lasted a year and a half, but takes up only a few pages here. One of the things that make this book so likeable is Huston’s refusal to pity herself. If there’s a moment in which she looks like a victim or a doormat, she turns the situation around and moves on. Jack Nicholson is fairly big in this book – he is its best supporting actor – but so, too, is Bob Graham, the sculptor she married and with whom she was happy until his death in 2008. And even on his death, those around the bed notice a sudden burst of sunlight through the window.
Huston is a good writer, and if this is a superior celebrity memoir, it’s because the author is a superior celebrity. But it reads more like a stitched-together version of the diaries she kept than a sustained narrative. This has its own kind of music: there are lists of names that read like the passage in The Great Gatsby in which we hear the now exotic names of the attendees, and of some of their fates. (She even compares one of the great Seventies hosts, the producer Bob Evans, as a Jay Gatz figure.) And there are fleeting scenes that she captures elegantly: she’s especially good at describing gardens, and the melancholy account of a visit to the estate in Ireland she knew as a child is touching. Throughout all these things, her trump card is understatement. There is sadness and there is joy, but none of it so overwhelming that Anjelica Huston loses her sense of perspective.
Watch Me review – Anjelica Huston’s revealing account of her A-list friends
Anjelica Huston proves herself an astute observer in her star-packed second memoir
The first volume of Anjelica Huston’s memoir, published last year, was notable for being a celebrity memoir with barely any celebrity in it. A Story Lately Told dealt mostly with her childhood in rural Ireland, riding horses on her film director father’s country estate and dining at the Shelbourne hotel in Dublin, where the most a reader could hope for in terms of revelation was a detailed insight into the menu. “Prawns were my favourite”, we were reliably informed, while her brother“always ordered the vichyssoise, shrimp scampi and lemon sorbet for dessert”.
It was a well-written book, in an understated, matter-of-fact kind of way, and got some nice reviews. But we were all secretly waiting for volume two and the appearance of Jack Nicholson, Huston’s on-off lover for 17 years.
And now – rejoice! – here it is. Watch Me is jam-packed with celebrities. In fact, it’s nigh-on impossible to get to the end of a sentence without having tripped over a roster of A-list names. One minute, we’re being introduced to Ava Gardner, smiling like a million-dollar diva while “uttering a stream of profanities” at the paparazzi. The next, we’re being confronted by a 12-year-old Gwyneth Paltrow at a party in Aspen. Ryan O’Neal pops up and kisses Huston for “six hours straight” on a dining room table in Los Angeles. Jack Nicholson writes her poems and calls her “Toots”. Marlon Brando tells her she’s a queen. David Bailey photographs her and tries to persuade her to marry him. Joni Mitchell writes a song about a party they were both at.
Huston floats through it all remarkably unfazed. When she finds Roman Polanski entertaining a 13-year-old girl in Nicholson’s house, she thinks “nothing of it”, even though Polanski would later admit to unlawful sexual intercourse and flee the country hours before he was due to be sentenced.
The whole thing is a breathless whirlwind of seediness, glamour, stitched-together silk scarves and magic mushrooms. This book picks up where the first one left off: Huston is living in California and recovering from a difficult, sometimes violent relationship with the photographer Bob Richardson. She is making a living as a model, but feels her existence is aimless and harbours a secret desire to act. And yet she is anxious about emerging from the shadow of her intimidatingly talented father, John, whose numerous credits include The African Queen and The Misfits.
It is only when she finds herself at a party (another one) with the film and theatre director Tony Richardson that her life changes course. Richardson summons her to a low divan on one side of the room and tells her she has “‘so much talent and so little to show for it. You’re never going to do anything with your life.’”
This is all the propulsion Huston needs. As she recalls: “Inside, I was thinking, ‘Watch me.’”
Soon, Huston is hoovering up parts and nominations, winning an Academy award in 1986 for best supporting actress for Prizzi’s Honor (a film directed by her father and starring Nicholson). She collects the statuette in a dress made from “kelly-green silk jersey” and starts talking earnestly about her preparation for roles: “There is the moment when you must trust your preparation and allow your imagination to take over in order for a character to exist. In a way, it’s like conjuring up ghosts…”
Luckily, Huston doesn’t dwell too much on the actor’s art. Most of the time, she is a sympathetic narrator. She breezes through the pages with an acute observer’s eye, always giving the impression that things happen by chance rather than her own design. er descriptions of people are astute. A “sleek and burnished” Eddie Murphy is shown insisting he must be the last to arrive on set in order to make an entrance. There is a walk-on part for the young Jade Jagger in London in the late 70s. When asked what she would like to drink, Jagger replies: “Fresh strawberry juice.”
“I thought that was pretty good for a seven-year-old in November in England,” Huston remarks drily.
And there’s all the Nicholson stuff, too, which is affectionately rendered, right up until the point he left her in 1990 for the actress Rebecca Broussard, with whom he was expecting a child. But the real love story in this memoir is with the sculptor Bob Graham, whom Huston married in 1992. Graham died 16 years later of a rare blood disease with his wife by his side.
Huston’s recounting of his death is deeply poignant. It is done without mawkishness or sentimentality and is all the more touching for it.
“In its way, it was as ceremonial as a wedding,” she writes. “Bob’s head resting on a white cotton pillow, his hair like mother-of-pearl, his eyebrows arched above closed eyelids, his eyelashes long and dark. When the nurse removed his oxygen mask, he wore no expression at all.”
Watch Me is full of glitz and glamour. But beneath the sequins and the kelly-green silk jersey beats a real and honest heart.
Watch Me is published by Simon and Schuster (£20)
Actress Anjelica Huston's Memoir Has Glitz, But Lacks Depth
when I heard that Anjelica Huston's memoir
about to come out, I was excited. I imagined that it would include a lot of
inside stuff about the '70s and Hollywood and the actress' long relationship
with Jack Nicholson. As it turned out, that book's subtitle was ,
and it ended with Huston arriving in California. But I didn't miss the glitz.
The story she had to tell was original.
Now Huston has published her next volume — and it's all Hollywood. Lesser parts go to Ryan O'Neal, Roman Polanski, Elia Kazan and Huston's director father John Huston, and various other splashy names from that memorable era.
book's leading man is Nicholson, who is animated not just by Huston's portrayal
of him, but also by whatever feelings the reader already has about him from his
movies. It's easy, reading this book, to picture young Jack at the height of his
career, with his winning, devious smile. He's so charming that he can do no
wrong, even as he refuses to be pinned down by his girlfriend or anyone, and
lives his life as he pleases. Throughout the memoir, Nicholson seems like
tremendous fun to be with, as long as you have no expectations or demands. He's
sexy, funny, smart, playful, well-meaning, a good-time guy, a brilliant actor
and huge presence, always generous with himself.
Finally, though, this generosity leads to another woman's pregnancy. After the long, exhausting whirlwind of the Nicholson-Huston relationship, Anjelica Huston walks away.
I was surprised not by the stories of excess, fame and money, but by Anjelica Huston's seeming lack of interest in fleshing out her story with subtext. Sometimes, it was like reading a screenplay rather than a memoir — as if she expected that these actors she mentions would come in to give her words the intensity that isn't there on the page. I was frustrated by dutiful list after list of people who had appeared at one event or another. Describing nights at a roller-skating rink, she writes: " ... these evenings ... attracted people as disparate as the football star Jim Brown and Robin Williams and even Cher ... Marlon's daughter, Cheyenne" (Marlon Brando's daughter, that is) "appeared at Skataway one evening ... Ed Begley was there, and the Arquettes and Harry Dean. Broadway singer and dancer Charles Valentino became my dance partner ... I never sat down unless he was dancing with his other favorite girl, Joni Mitchell."
Okay, I'm sure I would've been dazzled if I was there. But I wanted the story beneath the story. How did it feel being in the middle of all of that? What was it really like to live it? Even a potentially dramatic moment, in which Huston describes being so mad at Nicholson for his behaviors that she "beat him savagely about the head and shoulders" lacked drama. I never felt the rise of her anger, and instead I only got to see the result of it.
was fun to read about Huston's encounters with Michael Jackson and Marlon
Brando, who tells her, "You are a queen. Remember that." And it was disturbing
to hear that Ryan O'Neal was abusive and "a bully." The later section of the
book, when Huston falls in love with the sculptor Robert Graham, has more depth,
maybe partly because their relationship seemed more stable.
is an enjoyable but thin story about big Hollywood players in a golden era that's starting to feel like it took place as long ago as silent pictures. While we get a lot of detail about Nicholson's big and important movie career, along the way we also start to see Huston's life as a working actress. Someone who is not a big star in the way Nicholson has been, but who wants to work, and who is persistent and talented, appearing in movies that range from (for which she won an Oscar) to to And amid all the noise of celebrity, this, maybe, is the interesting story here — though it's much more quietly told.
The second volume of Anjelica Huston's autobiography is a disconcerting book, but also an enjoyable one. Alongside the account of her on-off, on-off relationship with Jack Nicholson, a long-term lover who refused to marry her, are gossipy interludes describing the parties that Huston and her jet-setting friends attended.
These are interspersed with a look at the inner workings of Hollywood in the 1970s (including the Roman Polanski scandal) and with a moving account of the final years of her father, the director John Huston. His lungs were shot, he was on oxygen for much of the latter part of his life, in extremely frail health, and yet still managed to do exceptional work, completing his majestic James Joyce adaptation The Dead (1987) in the year of his death – somehow making a quintessentially Irish, Dublin-set story in a studio in California.
Huston makes clear how hard she had to fight to establish herself as an actress. "She has no talent. Her boyfriend is the star and her father is the director. That's the only reason we're having this conversation," one executive sneered when she first tried to get cast alongside Nicholson in John Huston's Prizzi's Honor.
Nicholson himself may not relish reading this second instalment. Huston regales us with details about how he flooded the hotel during the shooting of The Passenger because he forgot to turn off the Jacuzzi taps; how he dragged her off to watch endless LA Lakers games (The Lakers always seemed to lose); and when she threw him a surprise 50th birthday party, hiding friends in an indoor swimming pool, he "remained in a bad mood all day". What's more, Nicholson was a "world-class philanderer" who let her down many times – and yet he was still clearly one of the loves of her life.
In the 1970s, when he was cementing his reputation with films like Chinatown and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, she could hardly get a part. In spite of her chequered start, Huston became a consummate character actress. She describes in detail her meticulous approach to her roles: the agonies she endured at the hands of the make-up department on films like The Addams Family and The Witches, her initial bemusement at Woody Allen's aloofness when he directed her in Crimes And Misdemeanours, and her relish for working with Wes Anderson.
Huston writes very frankly. There is a grim account of one boyfriend, Ryan O'Neal, allegedly beating her up. In self-lacerating fashion, she describes her feelings of inadequacy at not being able to have children: "To find oneself infertile somehow renders one useless as a woman."
At the same time, the book is breezy and anecdotal. Huston shares her father's skill for spinning a yarn and isn't ever prey to self-pity. You can't blame her for the name dropping (after all, she is describing the world she lives in) and you can't help but admire her sheer zest.
Whether describing her love for Ireland, her passion for horse riding, or her dedication to her acting career, she is perceptive, witty, enthusiastic and gossipy by turns.
Anjelica Huston on her new memoir, which details her turbulent romance with Jack Nicholson and the alleged violence by former boyfriend Ryan O’Neal.
Anjelica Huston had never spoken publicly about the abuse she experienced at the hands of actor Ryan O’Neal until last week, when an advanced copy of her upcoming memoir landed on a desk at . The newspaper reprinted the damning quotes: “He turned on me, grabbed me by the hair and hit me in the forehead with the top of his skull. I saw stars and reeled back. Half blind I ran away from him.”
The alleged fight occurred in the 1970s. It was a different time for Huston, before her smoldering, award-winning roles in , , and . At that point she was primarily known for her life off-screen: as a model, as the daughter of legendary director John Huston, and as one-half of Hollywood’s “It” couple, thanks to her on-again, off-again relationship with Jack Nicholson. (During one of the couple’s many separations, Huston began dating O’Neal.)
is the second in a two-part memoir series. Her first, , was a gorgeously written account that detailed Huston’s life growing up in Ireland under the shadow of her father, and the early death of her mother, model Enrica Soma. , however, caters to those interested in the high-wattage Hollywood side of Huston’s life, from her relationship with Nicholson, to her marriage to sculptor Robert Graham, to the behind-the-scenes work of her most memorable roles.
The 63-year-old actress spoke to The Daily Beast ahead of the release of to discuss her past relationships, her best performances, and why she ultimately decided to talk about the incident with O’Neal.
[Laughs] Yeah, plastered all over the place!
Nope. Originally we intended to make one book, but I just think it was going to be too fat, so it was my publisher’s decision to split it into two.
Oh very much so. It wasn’t an initial decision; it sort of happened halfway into the first book. We decided that there was just too much material.
Um…I don’t know. I would think it’s probably because it was an important relationship at the time. We were a famous couple and received quite a lot of attention for just being together. So I think that continues. And people are always interested in Jack.
Just his immense charm and humor. Jack is an extremely convincing actor. You feel that you’re with him. There are no barriers between Jack and his audience. He really shares himself on screen.
Oh, you know, these things become part of your life. It’s not like all of a sudden you get upset because you’re writing about them [laughs]. You maybe get upset the first time around but I think, no, it didn’t cause me to get re-upset. Revisiting those memories were kind of clarifying.
Just that you get that opportunity to look at it from more of a distance. I think you see yourself in a certain perspective too. You see where you were more impetuous, where you might have overreacted to certain things. But you know, it’s the nature of an actor to have to use sense memory. So for me, it’s not that big a thing.
It’s very good.
Well, I was referring more to the time before the Rupert Murdoch scandal, because it really was open season on famous people, particularly in England, where they would follow you home in their cars. They could really make your life unpleasant—when you couldn’t leave a hotel room, that was unpleasant. I don’t think things are quite as bad as they were then.
Well, you know, I think if you post pictures of yourself naked on the Internet, you kind of have to expect that there are going to be repercussions. I think it’s naïve to think that there won’t be. Because I don’t believe in privacy. I mean, I the idea of privacy, but I don’t believe that it happens anymore. I think privacy is something I am afraid we seem to be waving goodbye to. On the other hand, privacy is about having things to hide and I don’t know that this is a time really where we as a country or in our world really have things to hide. There is so much nefarious activity.
Well Bob and I had a meeting of the minds and of the souls, I would say. He was an extremely gifted and talented artist whose work I admired tremendously. It was a 22-year marriage. It was I think [pause]…a quite evolved relationship, and one that made me very happy.
Yeah, it was hard to write about Bob, more than anything else for me, because I wanted to get it right, so it was very important to be accurate about Bob and what he did and who he was.
No, it was not really that difficult to write about it. It wasn’t one of the more pleasant things that has happened to me in my life. But when I was considering it and thinking about writing it, I thought,
It wasn’t that I was hesitant about acting after. It’s that I didn’t want to do that particular film with my father. I wanted to act, but I didn’t really respond to that script, and that was what was really difficult about the situation.I had some bad reviews from that movie, and it was difficult for me.
It just kind of nailed home the idea that I didn’t have time to waste. Not that, [laughs]. It didn’t quite happen that way! I had just worked in . It was about a week after I came home from working on that movie.
It’s kind of an antiquated idea now, but it was very fun. There was a lead up to [the Oscars at the time]. I was nominated with Jack for the New York Film Critics, and we won the New York Film Critics, and some other awards. I think my father won a Golden Globe, which I accepted. But it certainly wasn’t what it is today, where people start bidding on whether people are going to get nominated. It’s become a big race. It’s very different.
I was so happy I did that! I was sort of delirious in the middle of that big thing happening. I don’t know how I escaped off that stage, but I ran back into that audience. It was a magic moment, though. First, seeing my father in the middle of his row crying, and thinking, ? Then going to my seat and seeing Jack and John Foreman and seeing them both very moved. It was great. I was dry as a bone! [laughs] I was just pumping adrenaline.
I wasn’t in the least bit. It was a complete illusion.
I really liked playing that woman. She was cold and bitter but also she had a desperate quality. It was strong emotions. And I loved working with Stephen Frears. He’s a really fantastic director. He knows what he wants and how to get it. The other cast members, John Cusack and Annette Bening, were at the top of their game. They were so good. It was just like having the best secret making that movie, because I think we all three on screen knew exactly what we were doing and how good it was. I looked forward every morning waking up and going . I looked so ugly in my off time, though, because every time I bent my head you’d see my dark hair underneath the wig, so all around my face they had to bleach out my hair. I was basically un-presentable for the whole time we made that movie.
I was very excited to do . It was with one of my favorite directors, Nick Roeg, and I loved his work from and . So I was very excited to work with him. The story was a very subversive fairy tale by Roald Dahl, and a fantastic part. Jim Henson’s Workshop did all of the makeup and special effects and they were genius. Although it was a very physically difficult costume to wear.
Yeah, and I remember being sort of shocked that I was going to be the one to be under all of that rubber. Because basically all you could see were my eyes. So I was surprised at first. I thought, . But I think it made a big difference, the fact that it was me all the way through. There is something about those mannerisms and the way she moves, it’s definitely the same person.
Yes, well, that’s part of it, to make it look comfortable. But the problems with of time. It was a hand, it was a puppet, it was half-CGI, but mostly puppetry. But it had to be really, really precise. There were some days where we had to just wait for it to work, and sometimes it would take up to five-six hours, and you’d be sitting in your trailer in your tight corset. It was difficult.were mostly just having to wait around in your trailer while people or Thing or It were working. Thing took a
I thought he was very intelligent, very gentle, soft-spoken, precise. I liked him immediately. And I loved  script. All of Wes’s films have a sort of family atmosphere to them, where you get to be part of his chosen group. And I think some of my favorite memories are just being all together in that house in Harlem. It was very cold when we were shooting, so it was either a choice of hanging in your trailer or hanging out in the green room in the house we were using up in Harlem. It was very cozy. It felt more like an actor’s workshop than it did being on a Hollywood movie.
I remember our catering was really bad on that movie. It was horrible food. And all of these lovely ladies up there on 139 street or whatever it was, were making us this fantastic soul food and bringing it to set because they were so sorry for us for the horrible catering we were having! [laughs]. (Of my memory would be about food.) I remember them coming over all adorable with mac and cheese, collard greens, fried chicken. They were so cute.
I guess just the same thing I’ve always looked for. Am I interested? Am I engaged? Am I excited? Am I turned on? Do I think it’s a good premise? Is there something I can do with this that’s in some way innovative? Can I make this mine?
I considered directing again, but I won’t consider it unless I find something I absolutely have to direct. It’s not something you want to do otherwise. It’s difficult. You have to have courage and endurance, like certain kinds of horses [laughs]. And sometimes you feel like you’re carrying a big load. So I admire directors. You need to have a lot of stamina.
Oh there’s a few, of course. I think Bernal is fantastic, Inarritu is amazing. I’d love to work with Joel and Ethan Coen. I’ve been saying for about 100 years that I’d love to work with Scorsese.
I hope that [readers] are able to learn something from it. Like what I said about a young girl in trouble in a relationship. Maybe she can read this book and say, “You know what? There’s no reason I need to stay here.” I think growing up often we don’t get the proper advice or we have to learn stuff from our selves. Hopefully I can shed a little light on that. Also let people know it’s not all ivory tower stuff. There’s a little life going on in there and we all share it. We’re in it together. There isn’t this huge vast difference between people who have fame and people who don’t.
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
By Carrie Rickey
By Anjelica Huston
(Scribner; 389 pages; $27.99)
Previously on the chronicles: “A Story Lately Told,” the first of her two-volume memoir. In it she writes of an enchanted, if lonely, youth on an Irish estate, of puppies and piglets, of poring over a collection of cartoons and of her favorite childhood pastime: posing in front of the bathroom mirror pretending to be Addams’ slinky ghoul, Morticia. The account ends with the death of her mother and of Huston becoming a top model, decamping from New York for Los Angeles to escape an unstable lover.
“,” the second volume, opens at an LAX baggage carousel in 1973, where the six-footer with the raven hair and bird-of-prey profile correctly intuits that in the land of the blond, fashion bookings for her will be few. Her memories are sensory and evocative. She remembers the intoxicating scent of tuberose and the silky touch of a horse’s coat. The color of a dress is not green, but “goose-turd green.” She is the daughter of Hollywood royalty, director John Huston, and struggles to find a title of her own.
In short order the striking and worldly 23-year-old becomes the consort of a Hollywood prince, actor . After some years as a fashionista and scenemaker, she becomes an actor like her grandfather Walter Huston. She wins an Oscar for her performance as Maerose, the gimlet-eyed Mafia princess in “Prizzi’s Honor,” directed by her father — making John the first filmmaker to direct both a parent and a child to Academy Award wins.
She writes with a conversational intimacy, inhabiting the role of the new best friend who shares just enough to make you want more.
She doesn’t want to get parts because of her connections. At 19 she had starred in her father’s disastrous “A Walk With Love and Death” and had learned her lesson. After dedicated study with teacher , she learns that acting is about imaginative sympathy.
Still. The famous are different from you and me. The shindigs Huston goes to are immortalized in songs like ’s “People’s Parties” (“All the people at this party, they got passport smiles.”) Her intimates are boldfaced names — Nicholson and — one who loved her but wasn’t faithful and the other whom she says she left after he hit her.
She is self-critical about her emotional neediness and equally perceptive about others. Of O’Neal: “There was a molten quality to him, as if his engine ran too hot.”
Nicholson, who reminds Huston of her womanizing father “without the vodka edge,” is a “deep and serious person.” Nicholson belatedly learns that the woman he thinks is his sister is in fact his mother. “He takes things harder than you would imagine or than he would want you to know,” she writes. “In part because of the early experience of everyone in his family lying to him about his birth, it is not surprising that he’s quite cynical.”
Some girls are born with silver spoons in their mouths; Huston is born with a flotation device under her rump. For modeling gigs and to accompany Nicholson on movie shoots, she jets to Rome, London and Paris. Aspen is her playpen, New York for more serious fun. On her way to a star-studded soiree in the Village one Halloween, she gets “caught in the gay parade ... and was almost run over by a giant latex penis.”
She is always in the right place at the right time except that night she walks into Nicholson’s house and is in the Jacuzzi with a girl. When the police come the next day, Huston is arrested for possession of cocaine and Polanski for sexual assault of a 13-year-old. Because there was no search warrant, Huston is released.
When she accepts a small part in ’s “The Last Tycoon,” he gives her an acting exercise. She is to knock on the door of co-star and react to what she encounters. Boulting greets Huston with mascara-smeared tears streaking down her face. Huston suddenly becomes aware that acting is not just the projection of one’s own character but also reacting to the others in the ensemble. “Until that moment I had been living in my own head,” she says. “I had not even considered the other character’s state of mind.”
Soon after she is at a party where a guest is the director . “Poor little you,” he says to Huston. “So much talent and so little to show for it. You’re never going to do anything with your life.” She responds: “Perhaps you’re right.”
She thinks: “Watch me.”
John Foreman, her father’s producer, believes in her talent. He recommends her for small gigs, like “Ice Pirates” (1983). And suggests that she work for her father in “Prizzi’s Honor” and “The Dead,” two exceptional performances that establish her talent and range. (She can do accents as well as but rarely gets the credit.) Still, she is insecure. She auditions for a role in “The Witches of Eastwick” that goes to Cher. When Huston gets the call about playing her childhood role model, Morticia Addams, she wonders if Cher is in the running. She nurses her father through his dying from emphysema.
Huston has a remarkable run in the 1980s and 1990s, with surprising performances as the crone in the story “The Witches,” the frontierswoman in “Lonesome Dove,” the Holocaust refugee in “Enemies: A Love Story,” the Mob bag woman in “The Grifters” who has unfinished business with son John Cusack, and the paramour of ophthalmologist in “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
Living parallel lives on different film sets, Huston and Nicholson drift apart. When he tells her he’s expecting a baby with Rebecca Broussard, she decks him. For Christmas, he sends her a diamond and pearl bracelet given to by with a card that reads, “These pearls from your swine.”
Apart from a date with Prince Albert of Monaco and the occasional on-set flirtation, she shares little about her private life after Nicholson. Just before her 40th birthday in 1990, she meets , the Mexico-born sculptor and public-art luminary. Like Diego Rivera for Frida Kahlo, Graham designs a house and studio that gives them separate work spaces and joint living space, overlooking the Pacific in Venice.
They enjoy a productive 15 years together, with Graham doing a major commission for the Cathedral of Los Angeles and Huston directing films such as “Bastard Out of Carolina” and working for the likes of (“Manhattan Murder Mystery”) and Wes Anderson (“The Royal Tenenbaums,” “The Life Aquatic”). Incrementally, Graham’s health fails.
Engaging and laced with mourning, Huston’s memoir has a coda of which her father would be envious. I won’t spoil it for you, but what the medium said is damned funny and I absolutely believe every word.
December 28, 2014
By Carol O’Sullivan
By Anjelica Huston
If ever there was a gal who could’ve used her mother’s advice it was Anjelica Huston. Sadly, we learned in the first part of her two-part memoir (“A Story Lately Told”) that her mother died in a car accident when Anjelica was a teenager.
She learned from her famous father, director John Huston, that men are philanderers — as he was — and she’d better get used to it. As she reveals in her second book “Watch Me,” Ms. Huston put up with men treating her badly for much of her adult life.
In part two, which begins as she arrives in California, life proves to be a bit more challenging than expected. Not yet 22, she has trouble getting her career off the ground, and there are temptations aplenty.
It doesn’t take long for her to fall under the spell of Jack Nicholson, with whom she had an off-and-on relationship — a kind of marriage really — for nearly two decades. Upon meeting him for the first time, he invited her to spend the night and she did. A few days later he asked her out on a real date, but stood her up. She should have taken that as a sign.
In the intervening years they had wonderful adventures traveling the world together, sharing many friends, pets, and houses, but he broke her heart over and over with his cheating ways. They would split up and then Jack — always the charmer — would worm his way back.
Occasionally when they were “on a break,” she took up with other handsome men, including actor Ryan O’Neal, who had an explosive temper. Once at a party, she writes, “he turned on me, grabbed me by the hair and hit me in the forehead with the top of his skull.”
The ’70s party scene in LA, as described here, was just as decadent as you might imagine.
In March 1977, the police questioned her about Mr. Nicholson’s friend, director Roman Polanski, who was about to be charged with the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl. Ms. Huston was at Mr. Nicholson’s house the night a young female came out of a bedroom with Mr. Polanski.
At the time he explained they were there taking pictures. She recalls the girl “appeared to be quite tall.” She gave it no more thought.
But during the questioning, police found a small amount of cocaine in Ms. Huston’s handbag and arrested her. She believed the district attorney was planning to use her as a witness for the prosecution in exchange for dropping the possession charges. She insisted she never actually saw them in the bedroom, or anything inappropriate at all. When Mr. Polanski accepted a plea bargain, her testimony was not required. Mr. Polanski fled to France in February 1978.
In the meantime, Ms. Huston was frustrated by Hollywood. In 1980 she decided to take more control of her career, including honing her craft at the best method-style acting studio in LA, The Loft.
The middle third of this memoir is all about Ms. Huston’s efforts finally being recognized. She regales us with tales of encounters with amazingly creative, talented people, including Francis Ford Coppola, Stephen Frears and Woody Allen.
Of her only Academy Award-winning role (“Prizzi’s Honor”) she says: “It was a wonderful thing to be given a part like Maerose Prizzi and I am forever grateful. … It was proof that if you believe in each other, are willing to risk humiliation, and put your heart on the line, miracles can happen.”
Things eventually improve in her personal life as well. The last straw with Mr. Nicholson — he tells her nonchalantly over dinner he’s going to be a father (with a much younger girlfriend) but that it doesn’t need to change anything between them. It did.
Finally Anjelica Huston finds a true and good man in sculptor Robert Graham. The day they met, she says, “there was a strong attraction, but also a feeling of destiny.” They married in 1992.
Perhaps it’s not fair to compare the two separate books that make up the astonishingly detailed story of her life. But in part one, her delightful descriptions of a childhood lived in County Galway, Ireland were enchanting; her teenage years in London were exciting. Nothing here matches that.
Of course grownup stuff is necessarily more harsh. Much as she tries to show us her pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps spirit, the mood that permeates this book is loss. She was never able to get pregnant, something she desperately wanted. And there are staggering deaths — lifelong friends, fellow actors, her father, her sister-in-law, and her beloved Bob, who made her a widow in 2008.
Anjelica Huston has had a privileged life for sure, but with pain enough to make a mother weep.
Carol O’Sullivan teaches film history at Pittsburgh Filmmakers.
Watch Me: A Memoir, Anjelica Huston, Simon & Schuster, hdbk, 400pp, £21.90
For 17 years, Anjelica Huston co-starred in one of Hollywood's most tumultuous love affairs opposite Jack Nicholson.
During their time together, the actress recounts being left alone on the side of the road by the star as he sped off on the back of another girl's motorbike, tells how she would regularly find perfume and jewellery belonging to his other conquests in his bedroom and admits she only left him after discovering he had fathered a child by fellow actress Rebecca Broussard.
Yet it was "Jack the joker" who was by her side at her father's funeral after the legendary director died of pneumonia, a complication of lung disease, in 1987, reveals the actress in her latest memoir, Watch Me.
"People think, 'Jack the joker' - Jack's all about fun," says Huston. "And he pulls it off successfully, but it is a one-dimensional view. He is a deep and serious person."
Jack's "killer smile" first caught the Oscar winner's eye on the big screen in Easy Rider in 1969, and turned out to be no less dazzling in reality when they met at a birthday party at his Mulholland Drive home four years later.
"The front door of a modest two-storey ranch-style house opened, and there was that smile," recalls the 63-year-old in the follow-up to her first autobiography, A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in London, Ireland and New York. "At the time, I thought, 'Ah! Yes. Now, there's a man you could fall for'."
After the break-up of a four-year relationship, Anjelica, then 21 and a successful model in New York, had fled to LA, which is where this second memoir begins.
As the daughter of legendary director John Huston, one of Tinseltown's original hellraisers, it's perhaps no surprise that Anjelica - who spent most of her childhood at St Clerans, the 110 acre Galway estate bought by her father in 1952 - should be drawn to one herself.
"My father and Jack were a lot alike," continues The Royal Tenenbaums star, citing the time she turned to her dad for advice over her famous boyfriend's chronic infidelity, but was given short shrift: "Dad threw me a look of exasperation, as if dealing with a difficult four-year-old." "Stop crying! Men do this - it means nothing," he told her.
Although the model-turned-actress says she was desperate to prove herself as more than just 'John's girl' or 'Jack's girlfriend', ultimately, it was collaborating with both on Prizzi's Honor - directed by her dad and co-starring Nicholson - that established the young Huston as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood, and earned her an Academy Award in 1986.
"When my name was called out, everything went into slow motion," remembers the star, who was named Best Supporting Actress for her role as Maerose Prizzi in the film. "I turned to see my father in the middle of the centre row, tears coursing down his cheeks, and Jack looking emotional.
"When we arrived at his hotel room, Dad [a lifelong smoker who suffered from emphysema] was sitting in his wheelchair, breathing oxygen through a plastic tube. 'I'd hoped they might have let us share that one,' Dad said to me," referring to when her father and grandfather, actor Walter Huston, had a dual win for The Treasure of the Sierra Madres in 1949.
Despite her success on the big screen in movies such as Crimes and Misdemeanours (1989) and The Addams Family (1991), privately, Huston confesses she felt like a failure for being unable to start a family of her own with Nicholson, and later, husband Robert Graham.
"The fertility doctors had discovered that I had endometriosis and had probably had it since my teens," she divulges in the book. "I had undergone a laparoscopy, followed by a hysteroscopy, but a child was not to be.
"The fact that Rebecca Broussard had become pregnant where I had failed made me feel inadequate and bitter. I think much of what a woman is has to do with procreation. And to find oneself infertile somehow renders one useless as a woman, in the grimmest set of the mind's eye, so I was very conflicted." But all of that doubt and heartache finally melted away when, at 40, she wed sculptor Graham, to whom she was married for 16 years until his death in 2008. "I've always been attracted to cowboys and rock stars, artists and wild men," admits Huston. "Men you can't depend on. And then I met Robert.
"There was a strong attraction but also a feeling of destiny. Bob and I talked often about having a baby... and made the attempt to implant several times (but) it was not meant to be."
Almost 30 years after her father's death at the age of 81, meanwhile, Huston says she misses him more than ever: "When Dad died, everything went silent. I longed for him - his burst of laughter, his head thrown back, his monkey grin - and I cursed his disease, and time, for taking him. If I could have sacrificed a part of my own body to help my father, I would have without question."
"At his funeral, the funeral director handed me a lead box," she adds. "I said, 'Oh, it's heavy!' And he said, 'Your father was a very big man'.
"You want to weep, but you also want to cry with laughter. Sometimes that's all you can do."
Watch Me: A Memoir, Anjelica Huston, Simon & Schuster, hdbk, 400pp, £21.90
Thursday, November 13, 2014
"I FELT a loss of identity," writes the successful author, sometime model and Oscar-winning actress Anjelica Huston in the second book of her astounding memoir. It is titled this time around "Watch Me."
WELL, no wonder. She grew up in the intimidating shadow of her famous father, director John Huston, himself a considerable character and ladies man. Anjelica went on to Hollywood and had astounding love affairs with stars, Jack Nicholson and Ryan O'Neal.
We gave Anjelica's first book a rave. It was about growing up in Ireland, her extraordinary mum and dad, the loss of her mother in a car accident, siblings, nursemaids and stepmothers, etc. It was titled "A Story Lately Told" and I didn't know this paragon till after she had matured and happily married the artist sculptor Robert Graham.
But this second version of Anjelica's life is, of course, about New York, London, Hollywood and how she lived once she was all grown up. The problem is I haven't had this book in hand long enough to finish it. So I will plunge along anyway with the first part of it, which is what everyone is talking about.
THERE was an eternal celebrity question we used to ask back when movie stars were real stars and not reality creatures manufactured for the Internet moment. It was: WHAT IS JACK NICHOLSON REALLY LIKE AND WHAT WOULD JACK DO?
Many magazines and gossip columns posed that query in the time of Jack's super success in "Five Easy Pieces" ... "Easy Rider" ... "Chinatown" ... "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (the first of his two Oscars) and "Prizzi's Honor." Don't forget that Anjelica was privy to all the inside info on Roman Polanski's rape case. (Polanski directed "Chinatown.") Angelica would win her own Oscar for "Prizzi's Honor."
AT that time, I hadn't met her, but I always thought Anjelica's behavior was exemplary. I read about this incredible woman who was very much Nicolson's thoughtful longtime companion. I sometimes wondered how she put up with Jack's behavior in a relationship fraught with "other women." She never complained publicly that I knew of and Jack always plunged ahead living exactly as he wanted to, like the star he was and she put up with it.
I simply assumed that Anjelica was very broad-minded and permissive, never showing the slightest public exasperation at his free-wheeling chutzpah.
I didn't get to ask her then how she really felt, and some years later, when I began to know her slightly, I didn't have the nerve even to mention him. (By then, Jack Nicholson was a god!) I remember believing at the time that Anjelica's childhood with a dynamic, womanizing father had engineered her emotions to simply shrug and put up with Jack.
Boy, was I ever wrong! This book tells of Anjelica's pain, her tantrums, her leaving Jack over and over, her straying unwisely with Ryan O'Neal and, I suppose when I get further along, I will be able to understand more of Jack and Anjelica's real-life split and what I take to be their ultimate friendship.
THE Jack-Anjelica love affair, long-playing through the Studio 54 days, was pretty compelling and glamorous in an Andy Warhol sort of way. We're still reverberating from all that rebellious stuff and it seems "tame" now. Nicholson was ever making excuses and telling lies to glide over bad feelings and, as Anjelica writes: "I stopped snooping. But I stopped trusting him." She criticizes herself as "tragically gullible!"
What's really important is not what Jack was/is really like and what he would do and always did, but what happened in the end to their friendship. And I guess it's about how Anjelica moved on and grew up. Fascinating stuff for us celebrity freaks.
What's more -- Anjelica gives us lots of detail about Jack's more appealing features, and this actress can REALLY write. She is especially gifted and has given us real show biz glimpses of truth without being mean about it and others in the scene.
I can't wait to sit down and finish "Watch Me." It's from Scribners.
Here's a quote: "Since 1981, party control of the White House and Congress has been split for all but six and a half years. Voters continually tell pollsters how disgusted they are that government doesn't function, then cast their ballots in patterns that all but insure gridlock. This pathology has many causes. One is that the electorate that votes in midterm years is smaller, older, whiter and, these days, angrier than the one that votes in presidential election years. This contributes to Election Night whiplash; the change of control in the Senate next January will be the seventh since the Reagan Administration."
So writes Steve Coll in the Nov. 17th New Yorker magazine. Food for thought.
Jan. 23, 2015
about Anjelica Huston ’s new book, “Watch Me,” the second installment of her two-part memoir, is how she writes about fashion. The 63-year-old actress speaks of her early days as a runway model, the meticulous research she’s put into her on-screen costumes for films such as “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Prizzi’s Honor,” and her jet-setting style in hot spots like Aspen, where she stuck to an inspiring uniform of Levi’s, pearls and a mink coat in the early ‘80s. However, her red-carpet style over the years has been even more refreshing. “I loved when Oscar night wasn’t all about skin,” writes Ms. Huston of her preference for more demure and tailored award-ceremony ensembles.
Among her most stunning contributions to that school of glamour-thought is a piece she wore to the Directors Guild of America Awards at the Beverly Hilton hotel in 1986: a satin-collared, velvet smoking jacket that tied at the waist. The jacket was Yves Saint Laurent, Ms. Huston explained via email, worn over a white sequin Zoran top—a loan from her friend, the model and actress Susan Forristal—with earrings from Butler & Wilson, the beloved jewelry shop in London.
More waist-cinchingly feminine than a straight-up tuxedo cut, a jacket in the style of Ms. Huston’s would be a wonderful alternative to a dress for a winter party, especially if paired with a sharp midi-pencil skirt or taffeta trousers. It would look equally chic in the daytime with cropped jeans and slippers. “It shows confidence and a little irreverence of style,” said Tom Mora, head of women’s design for J. Crew, which offers a plush velvet blazer with a thin ribbon tie that hits the nail on the head.
New York designer Joseph Altuzarra takes the idea a step further by way of a surrealist crepe blazer whose lapel literally becomes a tuxedo scarf that flutters freely on one side. And Marissa Webb’s supple shrug is ideal for belting.
However, if you’re aiming to capture Ms. Huston’s look to a “T,” you might have trouble sourcing one key and un-shop-able element: “My other accessory that night was Jack Nicholson,” Ms. Huston added playfully of the actor, who was her on-again-off-again partner for almost 17 years.