Interesting Facts About Audrey Hepburn's Life You Probably Never Knew

Audrey Hepburn is quite possibly one of Hollywood's most timeless stars. Born in Belgium in 1929, she went on to become an actress, model, dancer, and humanitarian, as well as a beauty and fashion legend. Audrey Hepburn's movies and her signature style stood the test of time, revered decades after she passed in 1993. But there are plenty of things about Audrey Hepburn's life most people don't know. Despite being a beloved Hollywood starlet, her life wasn't all roses.

Away from the camera, she faced struggles and triumphs. There are plenty of amazing facts about Audrey Hepburn that go beyond her movies. Dysfunctional parents, two high profile and failed marriages, and a lifetime of medical issues and poor health were also part of the reality behind the public facade. Here are some of the things you probably didn't know about Audrey Hepburn.

  • Hepburn Weighed Only 88 Pounds Because Food Was Scarce During WWII
    Photo: Hans Gerber / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    Hepburn Weighed Only 88 Pounds Because Food Was Scarce During WWII

    Hepburn's remarkably slender and delicate physique has been perceived as the height of natural, elegant beauty. Unfortunately, this body type resulted from the extreme deprivation she experienced during World War II. As the war progressed and the situation for the occupying Nazis grew bleaker, they punished the Dutch population by limiting already scarce food supplies. .

    By the winter of 1944, Heburn recalls her family attempting to survive by boiling grass, nettles and tulip bulbs. She also suffered from asthma, jaundice, and anemia. By the end of the war, Hepburn - who stood at 5-feet seven-inches tall - weighed 88 pounds.

  • Her Parents Were Nazi Sympathizers
    Photo: Trailer Screenshot / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Her Parents Were Nazi Sympathizers

    Hepburn's father, Joseph, was a British ex-pat born in the present day Czech Republic and her mother, Ella, was born in the Netherlands as a Baroness in an aristocratic family. Both of Hepburn's parents were enthusiastic about and raised funds for the British Union of Fascists, an anti-Semitic British political party popular in Britain in the mid-30s that quickly lost credibility as Nazi Germany and Great Britain verged on open warfare.

    Joseph abruptly left his family in 1935 to move to London, and became even more deeply involved with the British Union of Fascists. Meanwhile, Ella attended the Nuremberg rallies with British fascist Unity Mitford. In June of 1940, when war broke out, Hepburn's father was interned on the Isle of Man and considered "an enemy of the state."

    Hepburn's mother made the erroneous assumption the Netherlands would be able to remain neutral, as the country had done during World War I, and relocated with her daughter to Arnhem, where her father was the former mayor. This would prove to be a fateful decision, as the Nazis quickly overran the country in 1940.

    Much has been written about Hepburn's alleged work with the Dutch resistance and personal experiences witnessing Nazi atrocities; however, this seems to be the work of numerous Hollywood press agents, possibly compensating for Hepburn's parents' ties to fascism. 

  • Hepburn Was A Heavy Smoker
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Hepburn Was A Heavy Smoker

    Hepburn began smoking when she was a teenager. For the rest of her life she smoked heavily, upwards of two to three packs a day. She even smoked during breaks in her performance during The Nun's Story, secreting cigarettes in her nun's habit.

    Even as society grew more conscious of the dangers of tobacco, she continued the habit. "I have some sins," was her witty rationalization of the vice that would ultimately have dire consequences.

  • Her Sons Fought Over Her Estate
    Photo: Paramount photo by Bud Fraker / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Her Sons Fought Over Her Estate

    After Hepburn's death, her sons - Luca Dotti and Sean Ferrer - waged a legal battle against one another for rights over her belongings. In 2015, they entered a court battle over a slew of her items - including her clothes, jewelry, scripts, costumes, and awards. A judge stepped in to divide the assets, but again in 2017 the brothers were at war with one another in court

    Both brothers were on the board of Hepburn's Children's Fund board, but in 2008 the elder son Ferrer resigned. He later tried to block Dotti from exhibiting Hepburn's effects and using her likeness. Dotti accused Ferrer of trying to overrun him and edge him out of Hepburn's estate despite Ferrer leaving the board of her charity. As of May 2017, the case has not been resolved. 

  • Hepburn's 'Little Black Dress' Was Auctioned For Close To One Million Dollars, But Wasn't Worn In The Film

    Hepburn worked closely with the designer Hubert de Givenchy. In 1961, he designed what was actually a prototype of the black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany's. The bottom part of this dress would be redesigned by Paramount's designer Edith Head, chiefly to remove the long leg slit that was considered too revealing. Following the film's production, the dresses worn by Hepburn in the film were destroyed.

    Givenchy retained three copies of his original design, one of which was given to a friend, author Dominic Lapierre, to auction off to benefit the City of Joy Foundation, a charity based in Calcutta, India. Christie's auctioned this dress for close to a million dollars in December 2006. However, this and two other dresses purported to be from the film were never worn in Breakfast At Tiffany's.

  • Her Love Life Was Rather Stormy
    Photo: Unknown photographer / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Her Love Life Was Rather Stormy

    After a fairly serious affair with the married William Holden while filming Sabrina, Hepburn moved on after discovering Holden had undergone a vasectomy. She then met and married Mel Ferrer. She had two miscarriages before giving birth to a boy, Sean Ferrer, in 1960. After two more miscarriages and mutual infidelity, the couple would divorce in 1968. Despite her connection with Ferrer through her son, Hepburn would only speak with him two more times for the rest of her life.

    She quickly remarried an Italian psychologist, Andrea Dotti, and had another son, Lucca Dotti, in 1970. This marriage would last until a divorce in 1982. Hepburn would never remarry, but would become involved with actor Robert Wolders, a relationship that lasted until her passing in 1993.