Great Britain

Audrey Hepburn’s son reveals the secret heartache behind her perfect face

IN movie classic Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly was the free-spirited young woman who charmed everyone she met while hiding a secret heartache.

It was a misery she shared with Audrey Hepburn, the Oscar-winning British actress who made Holly’s black dress and pearls so famous.

Both felt sad and lonely because the men in their lives let them down.

It was a pain that Audrey’s son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, witnessed first hand.

In an exclusive interview with The Sun, he reveals how she tearfully told him that his Italian stepdad Andrea Dotti had been cheating on her with other women.

Paparazzi had seen him with up to 200 women while he was married to Audrey.

Sean also says his own father, Audrey’s first husband Mel Ferrer, was a “neurotic” perfectionist with a troublesome temper.

But the man who really betrayed Audrey was her father Joseph, a former British consul who became a fascist then abandoned her at the age of six.

As a new documentary about the screen legend reveals, the feeling of not being wanted left Audrey with deep insecurities, even when she was feted by Hollywood.

The film, simply called Audrey, is available to download now. It tells how the star was born a British national in ­Belgium in 1929 and after a glittering career that included movies Roman Holiday, Funny Face and My Fair Lady, she turned her back on acting in 1967 to become a full-time mother and later Unicef’s first female goodwill ambassador.

'I DID NOT KNOW HOW TO HELP HER'

As such, she risked her life visiting war-torn countries across the world, hoping to raise awareness about the death and ­suffering experienced by children.

She believed in being very open with her own offspring — Sean and half-brother Luca — telling them about the realities of life. So much so that when Sean was just 12, she told him how her husband had been unfaithful.

Now 60, Sean, who hopes to bring an exhibition about his mother to London next year, recalls: “I knew there was ­difficulty. My mum sat me down with bloodshot eyes, told me what was going on and asked me what I thought.

“I was a kid. I did not know how to help her.”

Audrey’s own childhood was deeply unsettled.

Her father, who mistakenly believed he was descended from the third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, moved the family between London and Brussels.

He raised money for the British Union of Fascists and supported Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.

After walking out from his family in 1935, he didn’t see Audrey again for nearly three decades — though he did pay for her to go to a private school in Kent.

Fearing Britain would be bombed at the start of World War Two in 1939, her mother Ella, a Dutch noblewoman, moved Audrey to Holland.

That proved a terrible mistake, as the ­Germans took brutal control of the ­country for the next five years.

In the final year of the war, food was in such short supply that Audrey was forced to eat tulip bulbs and became badly malnourished.

Three years after the conflict, now aged 19, Audrey moved back to London to pursue her dream of becoming a ballerina. She then tried modelling and acting.

Success came remarkably quickly, with the young beauty winning an Oscar in 1953 for her very first leading role, in the romantic comedy Roman Holiday opposite Gregory Peck.

It turned her into a major star, her elfin face and slender ­features heralding a new Hollywood look.

Marilyn Monroe had been lined up for Audrey’s most famous role in 1961 — Holly Golightly in Breakfast At Tiffany’s — but she turned it down because she thought playing a woman who was paid for sex would be bad for her image.

By then Audrey was married to actor and producer Mel Ferrer and was mother to Sean. While the early stages of their 14-year marriage were happy, working and living together led to strain.

'HE WAS DIFFICULT'

Sean says: “They worked and travelled every day together. In the years they were together they probably spent as many hours with each other as those who were together for 35. That takes a toll.”

Mel, who married five times, was also hard work to be with. Sean says: “I think he had to fight for everything. He was difficult.

"He was neurotic in certain respects — about perfection, on the verge of being a rageaholic, brooding. We are brought together by the great feelings and it is the little stuff that breaks us apart.”

The couple divorced in 1968, a year after Audrey quit acting to be a full-time mother to Sean because she couldn’t bear to be away from him once he was too old to be with her on film sets.

Sean recalls: “She had waited her whole life to have a family. It’s what she wanted out of her life.”

Soon after her divorce came through, Audrey met psychiatrist Andrea Dotti on a cruise. They married in 1969 and had son Luca a year later.

To Sean, Andrea was a “fantastic” stepdad, playing games with him and doing experiments. But in the era of free love, the psychiatrist was not the monogamous husband Audrey had hoped for.

She had a history of miscarriages and while she was pregnant with Luca, Andrea went out clubbing in Rome.

Eventually his cheating was exposed by Audrey’s distressed maid, who told her how Andrea would bring women home while Audrey was out of the country.

Sean says: “She was as delicate as she could be and my mother had suspicions already — and this was the Sixties sexual revolution.”

Audrey hung on to the marriage until it was officially ended in 1982. She had stayed in Italy so Luca could see his dad, but Sean says Andrea did not take up his visitation rights.

After leaving Italy, Audrey spent the rest of her life in a village in Switzerland, where she finally found a caring and ­loving man, Dutch actor Robert Wolders.

'I TRUST HIM'

Although they never married, Audrey considered him her husband.

She once said: “He’s very loving. He’s a very affectionate man. I trust him.”
In contrast, the coldness of her own father had scarred Audrey.

Even after she tracked him down to his new home in Ireland in 1964 he was frosty towards her.

Having felt unwanted for so long and having seen the horrors of war as a child, Audrey decided to devote her life to children caught up in the world conflicts.

In 1989 she became only the third-ever goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Every year she would visit three or four countries, helping out in Turkey, Sudan, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Venezuela among others.

Every time she visited a ­country, at least a million ­dollars would be donated to Unicef by people who ­listened to her calls for ­support.

Audrey would write, “I love you” on the blackboards of the schools she visited.

'SHE DID RISK HER LIFE MANY TIMES'

Sean says: “She fought not just for the rights of the child but for the right to affection, to love, to education, to healthcare. The love of a parent is as much nutrition as a chocolate bar.”

She also witnessed dead and dying children at first hand in Somalia, East Africa, which made her even more determined to ­continue when others were worried about her welfare.

Sean says: “She did risk her life many times but she saw it as a ­tremendous opportunity to help.”

These days her actions might be denounced by politically correct commentators as those of a “white saviour”.

But her son believes it is important for famous people to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

He says: “People wouldn’t have known about what was going on without my mother’s work.

"What are these people supposed to do if there is no electricity, no running water, no food, you are being bombarded and your crops are dying because of lack of rain?”

In the short time between being ­diagnosed with abdominal cancer in November 1992 and dying in January 1993, Audrey put her things “perfectly in order”.

She labelled and sorted her memorabilia in the loft of her home so her family knew where everything was.

Since her death almost three decades ago, the Hepburn legend has grown and grown.

Her black Givenchy dress from Breakfast At Tiffany’s sold for almost £500,000 in 2006 and three years ago an auction of her memorabilia fetched £4.6million, including a record-breaking £632,000 for that famous movie’s script.

Sean still receives letters from teenagers saying they have Audrey’s poster on their walls. He says: “She has become more of a legend and, in a way, it’s nicer.

“It’s because of the mixture of the iconic performances, only 17 movies, and her relationship with this elegance which is both inner and outer elegance.

“And finally, the third chapter — the most important, as she used to refer to it — the humanitarian one.”

Audrey Hepburn eats a croissant and browses jewellery in opening sequence for Breakfast at Tiffany's

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