Olivia Hussey, star of Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet: 'I was wild' | Film | The Guardian
He is married to his (former?) manager Lynn Presser and has two out that Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting apparently dated and were. Forever Juliet: Olivia Hussey at 16 in Romeo and Juliet young men - including her co-star in Romeo and Juliet, Leonard Whiting, with whom she had a passionate fling - and a desperate desire for some paternal guidance. Dino, she followed him to Los Angeles, where they married on her 20th birthday. 'Romeo & Juliet' at Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting on Viewers' . “We started with a dialogue coach two or three hours a day,” Hussey said. She's been happily married for the past 27 years to third husband, rocker.
Even when we did Jesus of Nazareth, Franco only has to look at me for whatever role, and I just say, "I know, let me try. Let me do this. And then I'd say, "What was that like during, like, the balcony scene? What was that take like?
So after that, it was really, really tough. I couldn't work for two years after Romeo and Juliet because I just didn't want to.
I was, at then, sixteen years old, almost seventeen. And we'd toured all over the world with this thing—opening the film all over the world. And you know, Paramount never so much as gave us like a little bonus check for personal appearances. I mean, it was incredible. We were very, very underpaid. We had horrible contracts—seven-year contracts. The only clause that I liked was that if we didn't like scripts being sent to us, we couldn't be forced to do them.
So of course I turned everything that came down. Which, in a way, I regret it now because my body of work would have been much bigger. You know, one of the biggest things that happened to me—I'll tell you—that I really, really regret was that we were touring and we were so tired. You can remember how young we were. And we were in New York—we traveled—we'd gone to Canada the day before, and we'd flown in, and Hal Wallis, the big American producer wanted to meet me to talk about a couple of films he had in mind for me.
I was there promoting Romeo and Juliet, and I was in a bad mood because I didn't have anything nice to wear.
Groucho Reviews: Interview: Olivia Hussey—Romeo and Juliet—01/10/08
And I'm making them a fortune with this film. You know, and so they put me—I went into this meeting and met Hal Wallis. He was a charming gentleman, and he said to me, "You know, I've got two projects in mind for you, Olivia, that I think you'd be perfect for. Of course, later I found out what a great producer he was. But at the time, I didn't care who he was. I was in a bad mood, I was young, I was tired. And I said, "What are those?
Oh thank you, I'd love that. Richard Burton's one of my favorites. I met him last month in London with Franco. And he was so sweet. And I would love to play that. The other project is a project called True Grit with John Wayne. And I said, "But John Wayne can't act. And I really blew it. And I didn't mean to. You know, now I'm older.
And after that I said John Wayne's an American institution. He's a great, you know, movie star. Who cares if he's not Richard Burton on the stage? He is who he is.
Olivia Hussey recalls controversial 'Romeo and Juliet' role at 16, reveals personal tragedies
But at the time I didn't know. You know, you get very opinionated when you're young—as I'm telling my fourteen-year-old now. You know, we all think we know everything when we're young and then as we grow older we realize we know nothing. But at the time—so I blew those two parts. That was—I really regret that because those would have been two really good pieces of work. I want to ask about something that you maybe don't get asked about as much, which is actually the character of Juliet—playing the character.
She's an everygirl in a sense, but what was Zeffirelli's thought about how the character needed to be played and how did you see her? No, he just said she needs to be like a young girl of fourteen who's found love for the first time. She has to be a spitfire—full of passion and full of the emotions a fourteen-year-old feels.
And just—"So basically Olivia, be yourself," you know? And that's how it was. And then—at first I thought, "Well, this dialogue is difficult," but then once you actually—the thing about Shakespeare, the beauty of Shakespeare, is once you know the dialogue, then you can let all the emotions come in.
And another thing that I found over the years, is nobody rewrites Shakespeare. One of the worst things is when you take a job and you approve the script—you take the job, especially on television here—you know, you show up for work and they say, "Well, we've decided"—usually the producers—"We've decided to rewrite the scene.
The beauty of Shakespeare is that nobody can rewrite it.
All they can do is delete. They can delete certain speeches or certain lines. And they can't rewrite. Which is really—and he—once you actually get the dialogue down, then you understand it, and it's just—it's absolutely beautiful. And as an actor, it's very fulfilling to play. Because the dialogue is really, I think, not quite as important as the feelings. But if the dialogue is right, then it should come out at the right moment. And the feelings—it's the feelings that are more important.
I think the whole vibe of Romeo and Juliet was that they were two beautiful, young people who found love for the first time and were willing to die for it. And that's something that's ageless. I mean to this day—I think if Paramount re-released Romeo and Juliet, even in this jaded world of today, I think a lot of people would go see it again on the big screen and be moved all over again.
It is a classic. From our enlightened perspective now, of forty years later, one thing looking back was about—you know, I think you were pressured at the time about your weight. Because I loved to eat. And I was a very compulsive person. And so when somebody ate one plate of pasta, I'd have to have three. I'm that way too. And all my life I battled you know—until I hit like forty and then I said, "You know what? I'm going to get healthy, and I don't care anymore, you know. I'm just not going to worry about it.
And I said, "You know, you've got this one life. Just really enjoy every day and accept yourself the way you are. Once you start to breathe deep and do that, you know, your weight will adjust.
Everything adjusts as soon as you relax. You know, don't take it all so seriously. We're lucky if we get ninety years on this planet— G: We're not here that long. But unfortunately, you have to, you know, live through a large portion of your life before that hits home.
For some people, it never does. One of the probably memorable parts of the experience that we haven't talked about of making Romeo and Juliet was the rehearsal period--living in the villa—Franco's villa. Did you feel like it was a good preparation—that time—or chaotic, or both? Oh, I had a ball. Franco was so colorful and so full of life. And you know, we were all sharing different stories, and people would come, and he always had lots of rooms in the villa—it was fantastic.
And he just—for me, anyway, it was fantastic. I had a ball. And Franco had a reputation for seducing male cast members that would probably be considered harassment today. Were you conscious of that during the— OH: And I suppose because I was so young I wasn't exposed to that. And I've heard from a few people that it was tough on them. But, being a girl, I didn't have any problems at all. I just had a really good experience, you know?
I became really good friends with Bruce Robinson and, um, um, oh, Mercutio. I don't see either one of them now. It was a long time ago. But I loved them. We used to hang out a lot.
And of course, Leonard. We became like a big family. And you worked with Michael York three times, right? Michael's very, very professional. Your co-star Leonard complained about the nude scene—at least after the fact. What was your attitude about that—I mean obviously you were so young—and the controversy that surrounded that.
Well at the time, I don't think anybody this young in English cinema had ever done anything like that. But it was done so tastefully that it really, you know, I mean—Franco shot it towards the very end of the film, so obviously we'd been working together for months on end.
We all knew each other. And when the bedroom scene actually came around, you know, he sent Mauro, the makeup gentleman, to come up to my dressing room—and he said, "Franco wants you made up from head to toe. And I said, "But why? I'm going to have a long nightgown on. It will be done in the best of taste. So then, it wasn't that difficult. And then the grips at that time, all the men in the crew, you know, got to know us all, and we were the youngest people on the set.
So when we did the bedroom scene, a lot of the men, when they didn't have to, you know, be lighting something, they'd stand there with their backs to us. So they didn't have to watch what was going on in the shooting, which I thought was very respectful and nice.
At the time, you get caught up in the role. I don't know what the big deal was all about anyway. Well I think it's hard to imagine a nude scene that is more justified than that one, in a way. But you know, at the time—now, everybody does nude scenes. But at that time, nobody other than—Vanessa Redgrave did a nude scene in Blow Up. That was at that time.
But she was a lot older than I was at that time. And it was such a counter-cultural film, and this was such a traditional one. But it was really the first nude scene of people our ages, I think. You worked with Zeffirelli, as you mentioned earlier, about a decade later on Jesus of Nazareth.
Was the process any different ten years on? Had he changed as a director? No, we have a really—it's like a bond we have. You know, like every great director has their actor that works for them and they—and I'm his.
I really believe that. And he has said it in articles and things as well. We just—you know, I, he—I don't know. We just have a bond. I sort of know what he wants and—I wish—in a perfect world, I'd love to work with him all the time. I wish that the last thirty years had been only with Zeffirelli, you know, because I just loved working with him.
I want to ask about Lost Horizon, which was an international smash hit, right? I thought it was— OH: People that loved the film, I've got to tell you, get very upset with me if I knock it.
It certainly got knocked here in America. It was voted one of the ten worst films ever made. Yes, it does have that reputation.
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But it was a great cast. I got to meet Peter Finch—the late, great Peter Finch. Liv Ullmann, who's a fantastic actress. Michael York again, you know. It was an incredible experience. And I was horribly pregnant during that shooting.
So I was vomiting all day long. You know, it was awful. I was trying to pretend I wasn't. Well, it seems like a bizarre kind of torture to have a pregnant woman— OH: Well, he didn't know. They would have replaced me if they had known. And I really didn't want to miss out on the role just because I was pregnant. And my costumes had to—you know, John Louis, the great designer—they had to keep letting the costumes out because I was getting bigger.
And they were saying, "Olivia, are you eating a lot? And you had to do song and dances. And I loved to si—I loved to do the dancing. But unfortunately, I was so ill— ohhh. Well, I think you come off well in those scenes. I think it's pretty impressive. It was just that I looked so big—because I was three months pregnant—three-and-a-half months. Now you did a beloved cult horror film as well. I was invited—actually this December, again—you know, poor Bob Clark died last year.
And it's funny, because every year he'd call me and say, "Olivia, will you come to the screening of Black Christmas? It's like a cult classic. And every year I'd say, "Oh, Bob. It starts at midnight. I like to go to bed early. I can't stay up that late. Why don't you just go this time? Any they've got pictures of Bob and I together.
And what's really funny is that a few months later—two, three months later, he died. I was really glad that I had actually done that at the end. That's a—you know, when I met Steve Martin, years ago—I had just cut all my long hair off, trying to change my image again. And Steve Martin was doing a film called Roxanne. And I was called in to go in and meet. And when he heard I was coming in, he stayed behind with the producer.
And I went into the meeting with my really short-cropped hair and he said, "You were in one of my all-time favorite films, Olivia. He said, "I saw it twenty-three times, and loved it. And they remade it as well. They remade it, and Bob was one of the executive producers on it, but I heard it was horrible.
It just became like a slasher movie. Now, speaking of horror films, you also made horror film history by playing Norman Bates' mother. I wish that the whole thing had been shot in black and white.
It would have really been along the lines of the original Psycho. I loved playing a meanie. Normally, I get cast as the vulnerable victim. Were you pleased then, with that experience and how it turned out? I loved working with Henry Thomas. I thought he was wonderful.
She doesn't mind looking backwards, and the more she talks about her past, the more animated she becomes. In her youth, she was a bit of a wild child with a weakness for good-looking young men - including her co-star in Romeo and Juliet, Leonard Whiting, with whom she had a passionate fling - and a desperate desire for some paternal guidance.
I used to say that my own father was dead, because he might as well have been. He was in Argentina and didn't play a part in my life. He and my mother divorced when I was only two. Without the father's support, the family struggled. Her mother - whose maiden name was Hussey - worked as a secretary in a law office, and Olivia dreamt of becoming an actress. Zeffirelli saw the play, asked Olivia to be his Juliet and made her a star almost overnight. It overwhelmed me, so I just ran away from it the first chance I got.
He was Dean Paul Martin, the son of the famous crooner. Dino was his father's favourite and had become moderately famous in his own right as a budding rock star in America. Swept off her feet by Dino, she followed him to Los Angeles, where they married on her 20th birthday. Two years later, she gave birth to a son, Alex - now 29 and a handsome actor - and life seemed good.
The golden couple and their son lived like Hollywood royalty. They had stacks of photos showing all their good times with friends, and you would look at the pictures and suddenly notice that Marilyn Monroe or some other incredible star was standing in the background.
When we went to Las Vegas and saw my father-in-law perform, I couldn't believe that I was part of this new circle that seemed bigger than life. Everyone loved Dean Martinand he seemed to be having such a wonderful time. Since adolescence, he had collected firearms and, as an adult, had developed a taste for seriously powerful guns.
Unfortunately for him, some of his weapons were illegal - such as a few high-calibre machine guns - and he was convicted of a federal felony. The punishment was light - probation and a small fine - but the arrest was enough to convince Olivia that it was time to leave.
Shortly after Dino was convicted, she filed for a legal separation and moved elsewhere with her son. I hadn't been working, and all of sudden I needed to make money to support my child.
I had trouble coping. Her efforts to put her film career back on track resulted in a few successes - most notably Jesus of Nazareth - but many disappointments. And she had great difficulty accepting that her romance with Dino had failed. I hated to see us part. Later, we used to tell each other that we would get back together in our forties, when we were more mature.
But, of course, that didn't happen. InDino was killed when the military jet he was flying slammed into a mountain. To the very end, he loved life in the fast lane. After she left Dino, her inability to find another part as good as that of Juliet was not helped by continued complications in her love life.
In the late Seventies, she was married briefly to a songwriter called Paul Ryan, and then to a man she says is the "Japanese Frank Sinatra", Akira Fuse. That union - which was strained by the couple's need to divide their time between Japan and America - lasted nine years and produced another son, Max, who is now 19 and a student. At the restaurant in Beverly Hills, I meet her fourth - and she swears - her "last" husband, David Eisley, a former rock singer, who won brief fame with a band called Dirty White Boy.
Three years her junior, he is an amiable fellow, with a face that Olivia describes as resembling a bulldog's. They met by chance in a Los Angeles deli but - you guessed it - he had already fallen in love with her screen image and was quick to throw himself at her with cries of utter devotion.