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Huston, Anjelica

HUSTON, Anjelica



Nationality: American. Born: Los Angeles, California, 8 July 1951; daughter of the director John Huston. Education: Attended schools in England; trained for the stage at the Loft Studio and with Peggy Furey, David Craig, and Martin Landau. Family: Married the sculptor Robert Graham, 1992. Career: Film debut in A Walk with Love and Death, 1967; worked as photographic model, New York City, 1970s, then moved to California with partner Jack Nicholson and took acting lessons; in TV mini-series Lonesome Dove, 1989, Family Pictures, 1993, and Buffalo Girls, 1995. Awards: Best Supporting Actress, Academy Award, and Best Supporting Actress Awards, New York Film Critics, National Society of Film Critics, and Los Angeles Film Critics, for Prizzi's Honor, 1985; Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress, for The Dead, 1987; National Society of Film Critics Best Supporting Actress Award, for Enemies: A Love Story, 1989; ShoWest Female Star of the Year Award, 1990; Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Actress, National Society of Film Critics Best Actress Award, and Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead, for The Grifters, 1991; Women in Film Crystal Award, 1996; Golden Apple Award for Female Star of the Year, 1998; Youth Jury Award and Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award, San Sebastian International Film Festival, for Agnes Brown, 1999. Agent: c/o Toni Howard, William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.


Films as Actress:

1967

A Walk with Love and Death (John Huston) (as Lady Claudia)

1969

Sinful Davey (John Huston); Hamlet (Richardson) (as Court Lady)

1976

The Last Tycoon (Kazan) (as Edna); Swashbuckler (The Scarlet Buccaneer) (Goldstone) (as woman of dark visage)

1981

The Postman Always Rings Twice (Rafelson) (as Madge)

1982

Frances (Clifford)

1984

This Is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner) (as Polly Deutsch); The Ice Pirates (Raffill) (as Maida); The Cowboy and the Ballerina (Jerry Jameson—for TV)

1985

Prizzi's Honor (John Huston) (as Maerose Prizzi)

1986

Captain Eo (Coppola—short); Good to Go (Short Fuse) (Novak)

1987

Gardens of Stone (Coppola) (as Samantha Davis); The Dead (John Huston) (as Gretta Conroy)

1988

Mr. North (Danny Huston) (as Persis Bosworth-Tennyson); A Handful of Dust (Sturridge) (as Mrs. Rattery)

1989

Enemies, a Love Story (Mazursky) (as Tamara); Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen) (as Dolores Paley)

1990

The Grifters (Frears) (as Lilly Dillon); The Witches (Roeg) (as Miss Ernst/Grand High Witch)

1991

The Addams Family (Sonnenfeld) (as Morticia Addams)

1992

The Player (Altman) (as herself)

1993

Addams Family Values (Sonnenfeld) (as Morticia Addams); Manhattan Murder Mystery (Woody Allen) (as Marcia Fox); And the Band Played On (Spottiswoode—for TV) (as Dr. Betsy Reisz); Family Pictures (Saville—for TV) (as Lainey Eberlin)

1995

The Perez Family (Nair) (as Carmela Perez); The Crossing Guard (Sean Penn) (as Mary); Buffalo Girls (Hardy—for TV) (as Calamity Jane)

1998

Phoenix (Cannon) (as Leila); Ever After (Tennant) (as Baroness Rodmilla De Ghent); Buffalo '66 (Gallo) (as Janet Brown)

1999

Agnes Browne (title role, + d); Cleopatra: The First Woman of Power (doc) (narrator)

2000

The Golden Bowl (La coupe d'or) (Ivory) (as Fanny); Time of Our Lives (Donoghue)



Films as Director:


1996

Bastard Out of Carolina

Publications


By HUSTON: articles—

Interviews, in Inter/View (New York), April 1974, September 1985,

December 1987, July 1991, and December 1991.

Interview with Beverly Walker, in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1987.

Interview, in Time Out (London), 11 November 1987.

Interview with Joan Juliet Buck, in Interview (New York), December 1987.

Interview with Susan Morgan, in Interview (New York), December 1991; see also July 1991.

Interview with Sofia Coppola, in Interview (New York), October 1994.

Interview with Jan Aghed, in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 38, no. 6 (267), 1996–97.


On HUSTON: books—

Grobel, Lawrence, The Hustons, New York, 1989.

Harris, Martha, Anjelica Huston: The Lady and the Legacy, New York, 1989.


On HUSTON: articles—

Harmetz, Aljean, "Anjelica of the Hustons: Back in the Family Fold," in New York Times, 27 June 1985.

Kaplan, James, "Anjelica Rising: Stardom for Another Huston," in New York Times Magazine, 12 February 1989.

Current Biography 1990, New York, 1990.

Thomson, D., "A Bit of a Coyote, A Hell of a Woman," in American Film (Hollywood), November 1990.

Hample, Henry S., "Anjelica Huston," in Premiere (New York), November 1993.


* * *

In the movie world, nepotism has probably blighted as many careers as it has advanced. In the case of Anjelica Huston it did both. Luckily the damage came first, and early, giving her the chance to recover. By the time opportunity presented itself again she was ready to succeed on her own evident merits.

The daughter of John Huston and his fourth wife, the late Ricky Soma (to whom she bears a remarkable resemblance), Huston found herself at age 16 pushed into the female lead in her father's medieval romance, A Walk with Love and Death. Her co-star was the equally unskilled Assaf (son of Moshe) Dayan. Unhappy about her inexperience and her own looks, she found the whole film "uncomfortable." Like most of her father's films of this period, the movie was trashed by the critics—although, again like most of his films of this period, its esteem has improved over the years. Nevertheless, the debacle effectively put her off acting for the next 15 years.

Further unsettled by the death of her mother in a car crash ("It drove me a little mad for five years") she took up fashion modeling, her oblique, elegant features attracting the attention of Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton. At a Hollywood party, an encounter with Jack Nicholson led to a relationship that was to last, on and off, for 17 years.

For most of the 1970s Huston was relegated to being her father's daughter and Nicholson's partner—a status that occasional small screen parts (Swashbuckler, The Last Tycoon) did little to change. But in 1981 a serious car accident inspired "the need not to waste my life." Ironically, during his own early years in Hollywood, her father had also been involved in a car crash, which claimed a life; the trauma prompted him to turn his life around. With Nicholson's encouragement she took up acting classes and started building a career. Her striking looks and imperious presence gained her strong-women roles in some worthwhile films (Rafelson's The Postman Always Rings Twice, as a lion tamer) and some cheerful rubbish (a pirate queen in Ice Pirates).

It was John Huston, making amends for her teenage debacle, who offered his daughter her breakthrough role. In his Mafioso black comedy, Prizzi's Honor, she played the vengeful Maerose Prizzi, a Brooklyn Lucrezia Borgia, in a lethally funny performance that stole the film from its stars, Nicholson and Kathleen Turner. She herself ascribed her success to the script ("a part so solid that it protected me—one could wear the part like a coat") and to her father's direction. She won a Best Supporting Oscar nomination. Her father was also nominated for his direction, mirroring the 1948 ceremonies when he and his own father, Walter Huston, were nominated (and won) in the same categories for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. History failed to repeat itself, however, and this time, only one Huston, Anjelica, took home the prize.

Huston's elegiac side was superbly drawn out in her father's valedictory masterpiece, The Dead, adapted from the James Joyce short story by her brother, Tony. A film of flawless ensemble playing, it found its still center in the moment when Gretta Conroy, about to depart, halts on the stairway transfixed by the memory evoked by an old ballad. Huston played the scene with heart-stopping simplicity, her eyes and whole posture suggesting a grief held inside her for years, like an unborn child.

Huston rounded off the 1980s with four startlingly contrasted performances. Her concentration-camp survivor in Paul Mazursky's Enemies: A Love Story was wryly down-to-earth, recognizing with sardonic compassion that time and suffering have matured her far beyond her husband's inept reach. As chief of Roeg's The Witches she played the comic-strip villainy to the hilt, pulverizing recalcitrant underlings and changing small boys into mice with mocking relish. For Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors Huston turned her strength into neurotic tenacity, endowing Martin Landau's possessive mistress with an edge of desperation that was painful to watch. And she dominated Stephen Frears's bleak thriller, The Grifters, as Lilly Dillon, a predatory survivor driven by her own greed and terror into a downward spiral of destruction.

"I certainly grew up being doubtful about my looks, but now I guess I've grown into them." Huston's appearance is highly distinctive—poised, stylish, often beautiful, but never pretty. There is, underlying her tall, angular physique, a hint of fragility, of a capacity for hurt; naturally suited to tough roles, she can also appear touchingly warm and vulnerable. The one thing she can't play is ordinary, as evidenced by her anti-war journalist in Coppola's drab Gardens of Stone. But she was ideal casting for Morticia in The Addams Family and its sequel, Addams Family Values, based on Charles Addams' macabre cartoons. Her relishably witty performance, and that of the late Raul Julia as her husband Gomez, redeemed the weakness of the scripts.

The Addams movies, though, may have done her a disservice, making her the automatic choice whenever a high-Gothic villainess is called for. Huston can carry off these roles, such as the wicked stepmother in the latter-day Cinderella tale, Ever After, with effortless style. But she's capable of far more varied, nuanced work, and can turn minor supporting parts to impressive account: witness her scene-stealing leather-clad author in Manhattan Murder Mystery, or teamed with Ben Gazzara as Vincent Gallo's terminally disaffected parents in Buffalo '66. Her striking presence has been woefully underused, as if (as one recent critic put it) the Louvre "had been utilising the Winged Victory of Samothrace to keep the back door wedged open." Huston may well agree, since she's now turned director, so far with only limited success. But as with her late-flowering acting career, it would be unwise to write her off too soon.

—Philip Kemp

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