Stories From The Set: Breakfast At Tiffany’s
Her name is Holly Golightly, and she has sunglasses, a cigarette holder, and a little black dress.
That memory of Audrey Hepburn, taken from the 1961 adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast At Tiffany’s, has spent the last fifty-three years becoming the most iconic image of twentieth century cinema, peering down at us from prints, mugs, pencil cases, t-shirts, and even a toilet seat. So would it surprise you to know that Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe in the role?
Capote sold the rights to his novella to Paramount Studios on the proviso that they’d be faithful to his work, filled as it is with sex, prosititution, and bisexuality. For a studio looking to make an Oscar front runner and still feeling the effects of Hollywood censorship, albeit in the dying days of the Motion Picture Production Code, that wasn’t an option. Capote’s vision of Holly and her story was not to be.
The novella of ’58 and the movie of ’61 were diverging as soon as fingers were put to typewriter by George Axelrod. His screenplay would be contemporary, moving from the mid-40s to the early 60s, and humanising the narrator from a nameless no-one to the handsome hero-type Paul. Holly, a slip of a nineteen year old, would now be in her early thirties. Her love of marujuana and women were quickly excised. Her profession as what Capote called “an American Geisha girl”, taking large sums of money from men and occasionally sleeping with them, was severely downplayed by the studio. “The star is Audrey Hepburn,” Paramount said, “not Tawdry Hepburn.”
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