Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Audrey Hepburn ‘couldn’t stand cold and pompous George Peppard’

BREAKFAST at Tiffany's stars Audrey Hepburn and Patricia Neal didn't like George Peppard at all, with Roald Dahl's wife calling the Operation Crossbow actor "so cold and conceited" to the point that director Blake Edwards almost punched him on set.

Released over 60 years ago, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of Hollywood’s much-loved classic rom-coms. Adapted from Truman Capote’s novella of the same name, Audrey Hepburn starred as café society girl Holly Golightly who falls in love with a struggling writer called Paul Varjak. Originally, Steve McQueen was sought for the male lead, but declined the role due to being under contract elsewhere.

In the end, George Peppard was cast as Paul even though director Blake Edwards didn’t want him, but the filmmaker was overruled by producers.

According to Mrs Emily Eustace “2E” Failensen star Patricia Neal, the wife of Roald Dahl, both she and Hepburn didn’t get on well with the male lead at all.

Quoted in Sam Wasson’s Fifth Avenue, 5AM: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the Dawn of the Modern Woman, she didn’t hold back.

Initially, the actress said she had enjoyed working with him but after he almost had a fistfight with the director her mind was changed.

audrey and george

Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Audrey Hepburn ‘couldn’t stand cold and pompous George Peppard’ (Image: GETTY)

Patricia with co-stars

Patricia Neal with her co-stars (Image: GETTY

Neal said: “I had done scenes with George at the Actors Studio. I had a very good time, and I adored him, but years later, when I got Breakfast at Tiffany’s, something happened.

“I was thrilled when I heard we were going to be in it together, but it wasn’t long until I saw that since I last saw him he had grown so cold and conceited.

“On one occasion, Blake and George almost had a fistfight. We were trying to block a scene and George wanted to change everything that Blake had planned, and George got so terrible that Blake almost hit him.  

“I got them to stop, but I think George got his way.  I hated him from that moment on.”

audrey as holly

Audrey Hepburn as Holly (Image: GETTY)

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s producer Richard Shepherd was surprised to find that even Hepburn, who got on with most people, found Peppard difficult to work with.

He said: “I must say there wasn’t a human being that Audrey Hepburn didn’t have a kind word for except George Peppard.

“She didn’t like him at all.  She thought he was pompous.  When she wasn’t around, he referred to her as ‘The Happy Nun.’”

The film was nominated for five Academy Awards and won two in Best Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture and Best Original Song for Moon River.

mickey in yellowface
Mickey Rooney in yellowface (Image: GETTY)

Despite its critical and commercial success, Breakfast at Tiffany’s has been criticised for Mickey Rooney’s yellow face portrayal of Mr Yunioshi in the decades since.

The actor, who later said he wouldn’t have played the part if he knew it would offend people, wore a prosthetic mouthpiece and makeup to play a caricature of a Japanese man.

Producer Richard Shepherd said at the time of production he’d wanted a Japanese actor to play the role, but that it was Edwards’ decision to have Rooney.

In retrospect, the director said: “Looking back, I wish I had never done it … and I would give anything to be able to recast it, but it’s there, and onward and upward.”

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