1. Charmed Childhood
Born in California to director John Huston and ballerina Enrica Soma, Anjelica Huston was raised in Ireland and England. Her childhood, spent in old, stately homes in Ireland, consisted of a belief in ghosts, fairies, and leprechauns as well as hours frolicking in waterfalls and riding horses. It was also during this time that she was drawn to costumes. "We were miles from anybody and my brother and I didn't get along that well. I spent a lot of time with my dolls and a lot of time making up little theater scenes." She would pretent to be a bride while wearing her mother’s tutus and fell in love with the pageantry of the Catholic faith even though her family was not religious. “I longed to take the veil." That is, become a nun.
2. Loss, Light, and the Automobile
Her first screen role was in her father’s film A Walk with Love and Death. Father and daughter constantly bickered on set. She describes the experience as miserable. Both her performance as well as the film received poor reviews. That same year, Huston lost her mother in a car accident. She was 17 and her mother, just 39.
Devastated, Huston left London where she had been living and moved to New York. A friend of her mother’s, famed fashion photographer Richard Avedon, took Huston under his wing and she became a model for Vogue. She found success in modeling because she loved the fantasy and she loved the pageantry. It reminded her of her childhood with the Irish nuns and fairies.
And even though her only acting experience had been negative, the desire to perform had never gone away. When she told her father she wanted to try her hand at acting again, he replied "Don't you think you're a little old, honey?" She was 28.
Shortly after this conversation, there was another car accident in her life. This time, it was Anjelica who was behind the wheel. When the car lay still, she reached up to wipe the blood from her face and found that her nose was missing.
After a long operation that removed the bone shards from her face, her nose was reconstructed and, to her surprise, so was her outlook on life.
While recuperating, she was filled positive energy. For the first time in her life, she felt strong, that she wasn’t just “John Huston’s daughter” or “Jack Nicholson’s girlfriend.”
“It was like I'd woken up. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I'd better get myself in gear, because this life isn't going to last forever.’”
|Phillipe Halsman, 1968|
3. Goddess Gone Wrong
Huston has played several bad ladies, including Lilly Dillon, a con artist who is ultimately responsible for her own son’s death, in the 1990 film The Grifters. Huston finds freedom in these intense, unsympathetic characters. “Witches are witches for very distinct reasons. They’re witches because they’re in hell; they’re furious and angry, but they’re almost like goddesses gone wrong. There’s a lot of depth there, and I enjoy it very much.”
4. Screen MomThe stereotype of an actress as she grows older is that it is somehow a down-market move to play a mother. Says Huston, “I mean, it's a woman's fate, I guess, at a certain age, to be cast as a mother, and then as a grandmother. But these are all, I think, very interesting people, and that's what I like playing.” Her mother roles have been as varied as the aforementioned Lilly Dillon, Etheline Tennenbaum, and Morticia Addams.
5. Life Today