What Audrey Hepburn Taught Me About Artistry, Acting, and Success

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Photo Credit: Jerine Lay via cc
About Sanna Haynes – I’m an actress and I teach acting. I write screenplays. I paint, draw, dance ballet, I sing, I am horrible at tap dance (trying to work on that one), I visualize films in my brain, I yoga it up most mornings, I like to organize.
In addition to acting, I private coach, and I also teach acting. I am a screenwriter, and I am now in the production side of filmmaking. In addition, I am also a blogger, and a YouTuber. I used the word “I” a lot in this paragraph. I apologize. I.
From the very first time I ever watched My Fair Lady, Audrey Hepburn has always been my favourite actress.
I never think of myself as an icon. What is in other people’s minds is not in my mind. I just do my thing.
Audrey Hepburn
Now, I realize Audrey recognition is everywhere these days. Her face is on notebooks, stock photos, and all over pinterest. Regardless, it’s true. She’s my fave, and she always will be.
If you are a classic film connoisseur, you probably have no questions for why she might be considered a favorite actress. Stock pop art paintings of her face aside, the multifaceted essence of her life, acting, and artistry can give you a glimpse of why she is one of the greatest film actresses who ever lived.

She was extravagantly beautiful, but she didn’t rely upon her beauty.

Audrey never relied upon sex appeal for any of her roles. Rather, her beauty and grace played “back-up” to her incredible characterisation.
Audrey Hepburn is very often revered for her beautiful face and fashionable taste. However, it must be noted that she looked very different from other actresses in her day.
There is more to sex appeal than just measurements. I don’t need a bedroom to prove my womanliness. I can convey just as much sex appeal, picking apples off a tree or standing in the rain
Audrey Hepburn
War-torn Holland had left her body sickly and weak. Some argue this had an effect on her ability to put on weight or digest food properly her entire life. As a result, Audrey’s thin frame and small chest were a distinct contrast to one of the leading film actresses of the day: Marilyn Monroe. In fact, compared to the looks of many actresses of the 50′s, Audrey looked practically odd. However, the public loved her immediately, and accepted her unique appearance as a refreshing change from other actresses’ overdone appearances.
In fact, many of the characters she played were a bit quirky, or socially awkward. For instance, in Roman Holiday, she plays a princess who doesn’t have much contact with regular people. Take a look at this scene where she wakes up in Joe (Gregory Peck)’s apartment:
In Sabrina, Audrey plays a chauffer’s daughter who has an obsessive crush on David, the son of the family for who her father works. The film shows a contrast between an awkward, adolescent girl, and the sophisticated, well-traveled woman who she becomes:
Compared to that of Marilyn Monroe (who, in all fairness, was very often prohibited by the studio to take on more challenging roles, even though she was incredibly capable of such), Audrey Hepburn was able to play characters with more complexity — she didn’t rely upon her good looks.

Her acting was always natural, real, and organic — even in more fantastical films.

Watch Audrey in this scene from Sabrina. Specifically look at her reaction from Humphrey Bogart’s kiss at around 1:58:
So real. Her acting (or, rather, reacting) was ALWAYS in the moment, ALWAYS honest, ALWAYS truthful.
The above is true in even more commercial-driven successes, such as Funny Face (co-starring Fred Astaire, 1957):
I have no words from this clip … the end of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Her Lifelong Goal was to Help Others.

I personally believe that the more hardship one endures in their life, the more character one contains. Audrey was an estranged daughter to a nazi sympathizer. She and her Mother fled to The Netherlands to be with the Dutch side of their family. They were advised that the Germans would not invade Holland, as it was a neutral country(wrong). Audrey and her mother nearly starved to death while working to send secret messages “underground”(often in the presence of nazi soldiers). Audrey was also, for all intensive purposes, somewhat of a failed prima ballerina. All of the above contributed to her kind spirit and compassion for others.
Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.
Audrey Hepburn
This compassion was something that never left her, even when fame, influence, and fortune came into her life. Audrey always used her success as a platform to help other people.
A lifelong humanitarian, Audrey spent most of her latter years as a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador.
As much as I adore other greats: Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, and Meryl Streep, Audrey will always be my number one. She taught me about acting and artistry, success and compassion.
Let’s never lose our compassion.