Friday, 5 February 2016

Looking For Audrey

Darcey Bussell was only twenty years old when she was made a principal dancer for The Royal Ballet in 1989. Watching her early performances, with their gossamer lyricism and mischievous humour, it’s easy to see the influence of her personal hero Audrey Hepburn.

Bussell never had the chance to meet Audrey Hepburn, but in a documentary for BBC One, she was given the chance to take a close look at the places and events that shaped the legendary actress and fellow ballet dancer. “She has inspired and intrigued me since I was about ten,” Bussell told The Telegraph in 2014. “She was dark and elfin, so different from the blonde bombshell actresses of the fifties and sixties.”

If you’re a long time Audrey Hepburn fan, this isn’t the kind of documentary that electrifies with shocking revelations. It offers little in the way of new insight, even though it has some fun tidbits. Did you know Vanessa Redgrave was a few years behind her as a student at Ballet Rambert in London? Bussell’s interview with Redgrave is a highlight, giving a sense of what it was like to be around Audrey at the very start of her success and towards the end of her life.

There’s also a session with a makeup artist who worked on Hepburn, and explains how her unique doe-eyed features were specially tailored to as she came to exemplify the changing tides of beauty standards. And an interview with the granddaughter of Oliver Goldsmith, shedding light on the earliest examples of what we think of now as celebrity endorsements. That bit’s a little dull, but if the costuming in Two for the Road catches your eye, you might enjoy it.

Throughout, Bussell sits down with Hepburn’s sons, and both of them offer pretty well-worn stories that don’t do much to illuminate her private life. Hepburn was a private person, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t be too keen on gossiping. What does make it strange is that there’s very little discussion of the film roles taken after Breakfast at Tiffany’s, tipping the interest of the documentary towards the home life and then not really investigating it.

What makes it worth watching – instead of any other well-crafted documentary about Audrey Hepburn – is the road trip aspect. Bussell visits Holland, Switzerland and Rome; sees the hotels Audrey stayed at, visits the places where she lived and filmed. It’s a fascinating glimpse at how much and how little has changed, and the photography is beautiful. Darcey Bussell makes a charming tour guide, tooling around in her little blue car with her own version of Audrey’s sunglasses.

All in all, it’s pleasant look at an often discussed icon, and should satisfy anybody who likes more atmosphere than dirty laundry. I think it would be great to mix in with a marathon of Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and My Fair Lady.

If you’re an Audrey Hepburn fan and you’ve never seen it, give it a try!

Darcey Bussell's Looking for Audrey is currently available on YouTube and BBC iPlayer.


  1. February should be Audrey month because February is all about love and everybody loves Audrey Hepburn! ;)

  2. Audrey Hepburn could totally be a Valentine's goddess, she was the best!