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Anjelica Huston - A Life Well Told

Since the publication of the first volume of her memoir last month, Anjelica Huston has been everywhere. This week, she re-joined the HFPA at our West Hollywood offices where she regaled us with stories of the overpowering influence of her larger-than-life father, John Huston and the family’s peripatetic life. A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London and New York, is replete with the names of famous artists who were part of the set which congregated around the Hustons in their different locales.

“My father had a huge influence on my life, insofar as the men that I choose where always slightly larger than life, usually considerably older than myself, challenging artists,” she said. “I always seek strong men and that continued up until my marriage.”

Anjelica was in a very public relationship with Jack Nicholson for 20 years. He was stunning in Chinatown, which her father directed and also starred in. That relationship came to an end in 1989, although they remain close, and Jack has turned out for various launches of her memoir. Her only marriage was to the sculptor Robert Graham, who died five years ago. Mention of Graham’s name and legacy causes her to become palpably emotional.

“My husband deserves more recognition in Los Angeles than he is getting and that’s my next objective: to have my husband’s work recognized for all its importance. His influence on me was profound. He had such a work ethic that made my own pale by comparison. He was so dedicated and so I really learned a lot about the ethics of what I do.”

Her memoir was written in long-hand over a three and a half year period. The second volume, which has also been completed, deals in more detail with her adult life after she moved to California from Europe, in particular her relationship with Nicholson. The process of writing her memoir, she confesses, was both cathartic and revelatory.

“Writing, for me, has more similarities with acting than dissimilarities. In order to be a really good actor, you have to go there to where the pain is and be prepared to feel it and to commit. I really feel if you are going to write about something that hurts, you have to really go there and inhabit it. That was the biggest battle for me, to get deep enough to throw it on the page. My feeling now is, if you don’t want to talk about yourself, don’t write a book! Don’t do it!”

In her 62 years, Anjelica has worked as a model, an actress, a producer and a director. She founded the Huston Film School at University College Galway out of affection for the early years of her life which she spent near the city. She has been a generous and loyal patron to Irish film and wrote and directed Agnes Browne there in 1999.

“Anything that I do, I like to commit to it. If you surround yourself with good people in an atmosphere where you can work, that’s the best thing you can have. They are all close to my heart. I am happy when I’m working and when I dedicate myself to the process. What is inherent in all that I do is to feel a connection.”

And how close is her connection to her Irish roots? A lot more intimate than you might think.

“Peter O’Toole always wore green socks. I wear green knickers,” she says with a dirty laugh. “My main sort of Irishness starts from the inside out. I grew up in the West of Ireland, a wonderful, bucolic, restful, attractive, green place. Storytelling was very much part of my early life and there were a lot of visitors to our house in Ireland: writers, actors, people of interest and I think very much my first ideas were born there.”

Patricia Danaher