Audrey Hepburn's son Sean Hepburn Ferrer discusses the Breakfast at Tiffany's 50th Anniversary Blu-ray edition, his mother's legacy, and more
Fans of classic cinema, or Audrey Hepburn fans, are in for a treat with the 50th Anniversary Blu-ray edition of Breakfast at Tiffany's hitting the shelves on September 20. Audrey Hepburn was nominated for an Oscar for her unforgettable performance as Holly Golightly in Blake Edwards classic, which was restored to pristine condition for this 1080p release. I had recently had the privilege of speaking with Audrey Hepburn's son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, about this classic film, the Blu-ray release, and his mother's legacy. Take a look at what he had to say below.
I believe you were less than a year old when Breakfast at Tiffany's came out. I was wondering at what age you first discovered the film?
Sean Hepburn Ferrer: Well, I was only a few months old when she shot it, but it was a very happy time for her. She had always wanted to have a child. It was a very happy time for her and it really reflects on her persona in the film. We were not a film buff family. I did not grow up in Hollywood, but close by. We did not have a screening room. She just let us find out about her at our own pace. We had an old 16MM projector in the attic. In those days, we didn't have DVD or VHS, so a star would get a 16MM print of their movie to keep. So I went upstairs and started to watch whatever movies we had, some were my dad's, some were my mom's. It's kind of magical to have that flickering sound, the image on a sheet at night with the windows open in the summer, and that little voice coming from that tiny speaker. That's the way I saw her films.
I always look forward to big anniversary collections like this. Were you involved at all in putting this 50th Anniversary Blu-ray collection together?
Sean Hepburn Ferrer: I worked a bit with Paramount. I was not involved as much with the restoration. As you know, the digital age is upon us.
Can you talk about how this movie stands out, in the collected works of your mother, as far as you're concerned?
Sean Hepburn Ferrer: I think every artist, every painter, every sculptor, every musician, has their favorite piece. My mother would tell you that her success was because she was surrounded by the best writers, directors, costume designers, actors, and she would take no credit whatsoever. She did that throughout her life.
What would you like to say about your mother in general. What do you think that people should know about Audrey Hepburn that they might not know or should know?
Sean Hepburn Ferrer: Actually, that's the delightful thing about my mother. You may not know every detail about her personal life. It's very straight-forward. She grew up as a hungry kid, abandoned by her dad, then there was the war and she had nothing, and had to go to work. She tried to be a ballet dancer and couldn't get that dream going, so she had to take the next job, and here we are. The beauty of it is, without knowing the details and the decisions that went through her mind every day, what you see on the screen is the person that she was. It wasn't a put-on. It wasn't just the way she was on screen, and at home she was something else. I think that's the reason why people relate to her.
It's great to hear that too, especially in today's day and age when you hear about all of these actors in trouble. It's cool to hear that a huge star like Audrey Hepburn was as great and as genuine as she appeared to be on screen.
Sean Hepburn Ferrer: She was just a normal person. That's what she would say to all the biographers when they approached her. She'd say, 'You're not going to do a biography, because my life is basically boring and there's nothing to tell.' So, in the end, they went out and tried to look for something exciting for the masses and try to create something. That's why she wrote her own biography during her life. There was a conundrum I was in with a 30-page article I had written for my kids, right after she passed away, so one day they would look up and see this woman and remember what she was really like. It was read by a dear friend who wanted to take it to the publisher. He was the right-hand man of a legendary literary icon. I decided to do it. I found out that, in the end, it's not what you say, but how you say it. If you really tell the truth, you can talk about anything. The truth is beyond what we normally point fingers at and the initial reaction. When you're talking about emotions and people and relationships, you really have to get to the core of it. It's worked out very nicely. I think she would be proud of it, at least I hope she would. It's a mixture between a wonderful coffee table book and a spiritual book. If you include the seven unauthorized Chinese editions, we're close to one million copies by now (Laughs).
Do you recall a favorite scene or a memory from the set that your mother always talked about regarding Breakfast at Tiffany's?
Sean Hepburn Ferrer: She was a very matter-of-fact kind of person. When the film was done, it was done. It was a job, she would hope for the best, and move on with her life. She kept wonderful, lifelong friendships with the people that she worked with, whether they were cast or crew. The photographer, the make-up man who would come to lunch in Rome when I was a kid, to Gregory Peck, (director) Billy Wilder, and so forth. In this case, she was not only close with (director) Blake (Edwards) but also very close with Julie (Andrews), even though there were stories written about the struggles over My Fair Lady. Just to give you a touch, when she was finally offered the role, she invited all of the executives to dinner at the house. They were all very excited because they thought they would sit down and she would announce she would take the part. She spent the entire dinner convincing them that Julie was better for the part, because she had done the play. It was only until she had exhausted any chance that they might hire her, that opted to take the part. It was a great part for her, because she had grown up in England, she knew the character, she knew the accent. It wasn't that hard for her. I mean, she was a British subject, by birth, and she spent a long time in England. Speaking of restorations, I still hope one day they will reinstate My Fair Lady with her voice, which is what we would do today. The bottom line is we see these extraordinary musicals coming from people who are not trained as singers. When they restored My Fair Lady years ago, they found all the original recordings. They didn't want to change it, though, but maybe someday.
I was wondering if you could talk about your own work as a filmmaker. Is there anything that you're working on now?
Sean Hepburn Ferrer: When my mother passed away, at the time, I was transitioning from working in production for 15 years into producing and developing my own projects. I had to make a decision, whether I would continue on that path and maybe look back and say, 'Oh, look, I made a couple of bad movies.' Or take this extraordinary legacy, with this actress, the symbol of elegance inside and out, this humanitarian, and run with it and continue her work, because she was taken so young. That's what I did. We tried to fill her larger than life footsteps with our tiny footsteps. I still retain the hobby of filmmaking, which is something I love to do. I have this wonderful mini-series that took a very, very long time to get produced in Australia. It's based on an extremely important Australian book called Cloudstreet. It's now being sold worldwide. I have another project I'm working on, to maybe direct. If I'm lucky, I may do it in three or four years. My day is filled with the management and protection of her image and likeness.
Finally, what would you like to say to anyone from a younger generation who might not be as familiar with Breakfast at Tiffany's about why they should pick up this amazing 50th Anniversary Blu-ray set?
Sean Hepburn Ferrer: Because it's a timeless film. It's as fresh today as it was then. At the same time, it gives you a peek into a time when America was a happy place, with all the optimism of overcoming the war and overcoming the Depression. It was a time when human values were as important as the next business deal.
Great. Well, that's all I have. Thanks so much for your time.
Sean Hepburn Ferrer: Thank you so much for getting the word out.
Breakfast at Tiffany's makes its debut in the Blu-ray format starting today, September 20. You can also visit AudreyHepburn.com for more information on the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund which Sean Hepburn Ferrer runs.