Audrey Hepburn “Couldn’t Really Act,” This Star Said


She’s a Hollywood icon for both her movies and her style, but if you ask one Oscar-winning star, Audrey Hepburn shouldn’t be remembered for her acting. Back in 2010, actor and writer Emma Thompson was working on the screenplay for a remake of My Fair Lady that didn’t end up being made. And when she talked about the 1964 feature adaptation of the musical and Hepburn’s starring turn as Eliza Doolittle, Thompson didn’t have many kind words to say. In fact, the British actor dealt with some backlash for daring to criticize the late star.

Thompson called Hepburn “twee.”

Emma Thompson receiving her Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 2010
Jaguar PS / Shutterstock

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2010, Thompson was asked about the My Fair Lady remake she was writing, and she said, “I was thrilled to be asked to do it, because, having looked at it, I thought that there needs to be a new version. I’m not hugely fond of the film.” She added of its star, “I find Audrey Hepburn fantastically twee.”

She said Hepburn couldn’t sing or act.

Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady"
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Thompson was asked what she meant by “twee,” and she responded, “Twee is whimsy without wit. Its mimsy-mumsy sweetness without any kind of bite. And that’s not for me.”

The Howard’s End star then shared further thoughts on Hepburn. “She can’t sing and she can’t really act, I’m afraid,” she said. “I’m sure she was a delightful woman—and perhaps if I had known her I would have enjoyed her acting more, but I don’t and I didn’t, so that’s all there is to it, really.”

Most of Eliza’s songs in the 1964 My Fair Lady are actually sung by Marni Nixon, not Hepburn.

Hepburn starred in numerous now-classic movies during her career, including Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Roman Holiday. For Roman Holiday, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress and was nominated in the category four other times. The beloved star died in 1993 at age 63.

Thompson made headlines for her comments.

Emma Thompson at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival
taniavolobueva / Shutterstock

Thompson was critical of Hepburn, and in turn, she was criticized herself. She made headlines for her comments, with some defending her assessment of Hepburn and others expressing that they were offended by it.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune soon after, Thompson said, “I thought, ‘What the hell’s going on here?’ The woman was obviously a saint and deeply charming, but it’s perfectly all right and acceptable for me to be honest about the fact that she’s not my favorite actress. I like my actresses to have more bite, actually. That’s fine. It was very strange. It was as though I’d just drowned a bag of kittens in front of some children.”

The remake didn’t come to fruition.

Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison in "My Fair Lady"
George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

In the Chicago Tribune interview, Thompson shared that she was interested in working on a My Fair Lady remake, because it could provide “something that was more emotionally true.”

She told The Hollywood Reporter, “Fans of the original won’t want another one to be made—and honestly, one has to just cope with that.” Even so, the musical My Fair Lady is already an adaptation itself—it’s based on the 1913 George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion.

Unfortunately for anyone who had been looking forward to the modernized version, it didn’t end up happening. “I did a new version of My Fair Lady, which they’re not making,” Thompson said in 2014, as reported by the Daily Mail. The publication reported that there had been issues with finding a director, star, and with rights to the material.

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