Anjelica Huston has lived a big, colorful life - big and colorful enough to fill two volumes of an autobiography.
The first, A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London and New York
(Scribner), goes on sale Tuesday. It begins with her unconventional
childhood and ends when she has started modeling and is in a deeply
troubled relationship with fashion photographer Bob Richardson.
funny," says the actress, who has won an Oscar, famously made the
Hollywood scene with Jack Nicholson, and most recently made a splash
(literally, as cocktail-tossing producer Eileen Rand) on the
now-canceled NBC series Smash.
"There are times in one's
life when people start to ask you questions, like, 'When are you going
to have a baby?' " says Huston, 62, who never had a child. "And in this
case, it was, 'When are you going to write your book?' This idea
cropped up quite a lot, particularly in the last four or five years
since my husband's death, and I think actually it's been very
Huston, who laughs easily and often, is calling from Venice, Calif.,
where she lives with a menagerie of cats and dogs. Her husband of 16
years, sculptor Robert Graham, died in 2008.
On this day at the
beach, she reports, the sky has "that blank look that skies take on in
November in California, where it's not sunny but it's not anything else
Huston has a way with a descriptive phrase, and it's on display in A Story Lately Told,
which, unlike most celebrity books, she wrote herself. Huston began by
collaborating with a ghostwriter, but quickly decided it wasn't working.
became evident to me that if I was going to embark on this idea that I
should do it myself. Because really I don't think anyone can replicate
your way of thinking," she says.
So, with her Paper Mate Sharpwriter #2 in hand (she even thanks the
pencil's manufacturer in the acknowledgments), Huston set out to
remember an "unusual and special" childhood, and "lay bare a few things,
and put a few things to rest." Publishers Weekly calls the book a "brave account."
is such a fine writer. She finds language exhilarating in a way a
writer finds language exhilarating," says Nan Graham, her publisher at
Scribner. "She's so winning on the page."
Huston's parents were
John Huston, the legendary film director and actor, and his much-younger
fourth wife, Enrica Soma, who had been a ballet dancer before her
marriage. John Huston was filming The African Queen with Humphrey
Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in the Belgian Congo when Anjelica was
born in L.A. in 1951; two years later he moved his family to Ireland.
says it probably was inevitable, considering who her parents were, that
she would become a performer. "I was a showoff," she admits. She writes
of staring in the mirror as a child, pretending to be Morticia Addams -
a role she would later play in The Addams Family and Addams Family Values.
In Ireland, Dad (when he was around) lived in the "Big House" ;
Anjelica and her older brother, Tony, and her mother in the "Little
House." There were other women for her larger-than-life father, and
later, other men for her mother. Writing A Story Lately Told,
Huston says, allowed her to piece together the real story of her
parents' marriage. As a child, "I didn't want to press anyone for
answers, because I wanted my version of the truth."
In the '60s,
Huston's mother moved her children to London, which, Huston says, "I
enjoyed tremendously and where I had a very good time, mostly of a
non-curricular nature." At 17, she had an affair with 28-year-old
British actor James Fox.
This was also the disastrous period when the teenage Huston appeared, reluctantly, in her father's 1969 film, A Walk with Love and Death.
She writes that she was afraid of her dad; he had once hit her for
dancing in what he considered a provocative way. When the movie came
out, her performance was panned.
"I see bits of (the movie) now
and again, and I feel so terribly sorry for myself," she says with a
laugh. "It's almost unbearable to watch."
Years later, her father would direct her in Prizzi's Honor (1985),
a considerably more successful joint effort. Huston won a
best-supporting-actress Oscar for her role as the daughter of a Mob
"I think I pleased him in that one," she says of her father.
"He knew I was good, I knew I was good, but the hideous hump of his ego
got in the way in A Love with Walk and Death."
In 1969, Huston's mother was killed in a car crash; "Ricki" was only 39.
Huston, it was a devastating loss. After her mother's death, Huston
moved to New York, where her dark, exotic, angular looks caught the eye
of fashion editors.
She met Richardson when he photographed her for Harper's Bazaar; they had an instant connection. He was 42; she had just turned 18, an age difference that echoed her parents'.
looked to Richardson, she writes, to be her "champion and protector."
And while he taught her how to respond to the camera, he also was
volatile - a schizophrenic, she later discovered.
"I was very
young and I had never had an experience like this," she recalls. "It was
only after I'd been with him for a little while that I came up against
Huston thinks many readers will be surprised to learn about Richardson, whom she left after four years. He died in 2005.
"Most people associate me with Jack and don't really think of me before Jack," she says.
Jack, of course, is Jack Nicholson, 76, with whom she had a storied relationship in the '70s and '80s.
Huston is now writing the second volume of her memoir, which is called Watch Me and is tentatively due out a year from now. It will cover her acting career, her years in L.A., and, she says, "meeting Jack."
remain pals. "We've had a long and deep friendship, and Jack's somebody
that I want in my life," she says. "I wouldn't be happy not having him
in my life."
Nan Graham, who has read many pages of the Watch Me manuscript, says "there's a lot of Jack," in volume two.
"There will," Graham promises readers with a taste for celebrity dish, "be ample Jack."