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Audrey Hepburn Weathered Two Marriages, Affairs, And Heartbreak Before Meeting Her Greatest Love

littlethings.com logo littlethings.com 11/12/2020 Stephanie Kaloi
Robert Wolders, Robert Wolders, Audrey Hepburn posing for the camera: AUDREY-hepburn-love © Instagram AUDREY-hepburn-love

So many people love Audrey Hepburn, and it’s incredibly easy to understand why. She was a talented actress and a strong force in the world, and devoted a lot of her life to philanthropy and helping others. Audrey especially gave a lot of her time to children and organizations that support the lives of kids.

Audrey was born in Brussels, Belgium, in 1929. Audrey’s parents were Dutch baroness Ella Van Heemstra and British-born Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston, and they ended up eventually taking the last name Hepburn-Ruston because her father believed he was related to James Hepburn, earl of Bothwell. Her family moved to the Netherlands in 1939 in hopes of avoiding World War II, but ultimately they weathered many of the hardships that most of the Dutch endured.

Audrey began acting in her 20s, and quickly began winning small roles. She was filming in Monte Carlo when the author Colette spotted her and thought she’d be perfect for the stage adaptation of Coco, which brought Audrey to Broadway.

While there are any number of fascinating details about Audrey’s life out there, her personal life was definitely a little legendary. Audrey definitely had her fair share of great loves, heartbreak, and romantic losses. She was engaged to British businessman James Hanson in 1952. Audrey had a dress made and a date set when she decided that James was gone too often for his work and that ultimately, the marriage was doomed.

Mel Ferrer, Audrey Hepburn posing for the camera © Ted West/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

But no matter! Audrey was magnetic, and she soon had another romantic interest. She and Mel Ferrer met the following year as she wrapped up filming on Roman Holiday. Though Mel had two ex-wives and four children, the pair dove in head-first and got married on September 25, 1954. They made their marriage work for fourteen years, and they have a son together named Sean.

a group of people riding on the back of a truck © Mondadori via Getty Images

Audrey and Mel were thrilled to welcome Sean, especially since his birth followed several miscarriages. Audrey experienced a stillbirth in the late 1950s after she fell off a horse while filming Unforgiven, and subsequently took a year off work when she became pregnant with Sean to make sure the unborn baby would be okay. Audrey was notoriously private and protective of her personal life, and she rarely opened up about these experiences.

Mel Ferrer et al. sitting on a bed © Getty Images

Sean and his brother, Luca Dotti, are the owners of their mother’s image these days, and they’re staunchly hesitant about sharing too much of what she experienced privately. Sean recently opened up a little about the conversation he and his mother had about her pregnancy losses.

“She talked about the first but then the last one, it was almost to term. And then she told me it was one of the hardest things she ever had to deal with in her life, without a doubt.”

two people sitting posing for the camera © Getty Images

He also shared that the two had an incredible lifelong bond.

“I think when she finally had me, it was more than just the desire of having a child. It was also a healing from these experiences. But I know it was very, very hard for her. That she did talk about.”

While Audrey and Mel’s relationship lasted for quite some time, there are conflicting reports about whether or not it was a great romance or it was something a little darker. Film director Alfred Lunt once said that Mel was controlling and that he took advantage of Audrey. “Ferrer used Audrey’s crush on him to rule her with an iron fist.”

Both Mel and Audrey reportedly had affairs, and Audrey was rumored to be involved with her married Sabrina co-star, William Holden.

Audrey later said that William was “the most handsome man I’ve ever met” and William confessed that “Audrey was the love of my life. I fell in love. She wanted to get married.” However, he was married and had three children with his wife, Brenda Marshall.

In his book Audrey and Bill, author Edward Epstein writes that William was on the brink of leaving his wife and he and Audrey were even talking about having kids together. “She told him she wanted three, maybe four, and would retire from the screen to raise them.”

William reportedly entertained the conversation until it became apparent that Audrey was serious. He finally confessed that having children together wasn’t an option.

“Once while chatting brightly about the names of their future children, suddenly an embarrassed smile, tinged with fear, crept into Bill’s face. He told her that the one thing, the only thing they could not have together, was children. She stood looking at him like a hurt, bewildered child as he explained that he’d had a vasectomy years earlier. She ended the affair on the spot.”

Audrey and Bill reconnected in 1961 while filming Paris When It Sizzles, but she was over him. For his part, William was anxious about seeing Audrey and also struggling with alcohol addiction. His drinking was so intense that shooting on the film often had to be paused, and, much to her great displeasure, he even surprised Audrey by climbing a tree outside her dressing room and trying to enter through her window.

Andrea Dotti, Andrea Dotti are posing for a picture © Daily Express/Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Audrey soon moved on to Andrea Dotti, who both become her second husband and leave her emotionally wrecked. Audrey became pregnant four months after their wedding, and she retreated from Hollywood and work to focus on raising her kids.

Audrey was 40 when Luca Dotti was born in 1970. While she immersed herself in motherhood, she had to contend with numerous reports of Andrea’s many affairs and she experienced another miscarriage in 1974.

Audrey and Andrea were married for 12 years, but reports that he engaged in several relationships with much younger actresses had damaged their marriage long before they finally divorced in 1982.

In 1980, Audrey met the man she would stay with for the rest of her life: Robert Wolders.

Audrey and Robert had an immediate attraction to one another. In the years following her death in 1993, Robert opened up about their right place, right time kind of love.

“We were ready for each other. At the time in our lives that we met, we had both made our mistakes. If chance would have had it that we would have met at an earlier stage, we might not have had the discoveries together that we did have and found those things in life together that were valuable to us at a later point in life when we were both more mature.”

Robert even went so far as to say he knew they were “meant to be” early on.

“After I’d met her, a mutual friend prompted me to ask her out for dinner, but she said she had a night shoot.  thought it was her gentle way of rejecting me. The next day she invited me for a drink at the Pierre hotel, which turned into a three-hour talk. At one point she said, ‘Do you mind if I order some pasta?’ After many long phone conversations, we realized we were meant to be together.”

The pair were together for 13 years, and while they discussed marriage, they both felt like they had a great relationship and didn’t need to change a thing. “When Audrey would be asked, she’d also say, ‘Why mess with a good thing?’ I remember her saying to one interviewer it’s more romantic this way because it’s not another piece of paper, but out of loyalty to each other that binds us together. Had we been younger and wanted to have children, it might have been different, but that’s just not the case.”

 

Though they never married, Audrey sometimes introduced Robert as her husband at events.

“She viewed us as being married. There were times in order to avoid confusion that she would present me as, ‘My husband, Rob,’ but never as, ‘my partner,’ or, ‘my life partner,’ or anything like that. What always pleased me or always sounded so nice was, ‘Have you met my Rob?’ Or, ‘This is my Rob.'”

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