No, but I did watch it. I watched it in London. And we stayed up until four in the morning at the—I can't remember what it was—the Wal—the Astoria—the Waldorf Hotel or something like that—. Waiting for the reviews. And the reviews came in and—in London—and they were so mean. You know, and I cried and Franco said, "Don't worry, it's just jealousy. Well, there was, of course, much praise as well. But I know there were mixed reviews. Of course, in London, they were so protective of the Shakespearean—.
But you know what? Franco said, "I really don't want it to be lost in the dialogue. I really want to make it a classic film that appeals to young people in fifty years from today. I get e-mails today from—on my web page—twelve, eleven-year-old kids. You know, it's great.
Now, had you been prepared at all to handle—obviously it was such a whirlwind experience—it's impossible to imagine a headier experience than playing the most important role in dramatic literature for nine months in Italy—. Well, playing the role was easy. It was heaven, and it became a whole way of life. We all became like a big family. It was the PR that took over. Nobody was prepared for—I mean it really was a phenomenon of its time.
'Part of me thinks I am Juliet' - Telegraph
You know, it really was. It was—I mean everywhere. We were on the covers of magazines all over the world. We'd be shooting fourteen hours a day. And lunchtime would be—the Paramount people would come and say, "You've got two interviews during this lunchtime. Each one half-an-hour long. And surreal moments like—didn't you dance with Prince Charles at the Royal premiere? Yes, I got to see—he asked to sit next to me at the dinner and we danced together, and my feet were hurting and I took my shoes off, and I put my leg up on his leg—because he was so sweet and so charming and you know, so lovely.
Now, you've always been very complimentary, of course, about the great Zeffirelli. But for all he did for you, his was kind of a tough love, wasn't it? He's a—well, he's a genius in my mind. He really can do anything, you know. He's got his demons like everybody else. But he's really—once you work with Franco, you're totally spoiled because he just demands so much. I just adore him. And he can be really hard to work with.
But it's only because he wants the best. He can be charming and nice to some people—I mean, with me, he was so comfortable—that, you know, he's completely himself. I just completely understood him. Even when we did Jesus of Nazareth , Franco only has to look at me for whatever role, and I just say, "I know, let me try. Let me do this. And then I'd say, "What was that like during, like, the balcony scene? What was that take like?
So after that, it was really, really tough. I couldn't work for two years after Romeo and Juliet because I just didn't want to. I was, at then, sixteen years old, almost seventeen. And we'd toured all over the world with this thing—opening the film all over the world. And you know, Paramount never so much as gave us like a little bonus check for personal appearances.
I mean, it was incredible. We were very, very underpaid. We had horrible contracts—seven-year contracts. The only clause that I liked was that if we didn't like scripts being sent to us, we couldn't be forced to do them. So of course I turned everything that came down. Which, in a way, I regret it now because my body of work would have been much bigger.
You know, one of the biggest things that happened to me—I'll tell you—that I really, really regret was that we were touring and we were so tired. You can remember how young we were. And we were in New York—we traveled—we'd gone to Canada the day before, and we'd flown in, and Hal Wallis, the big American producer wanted to meet me to talk about a couple of films he had in mind for me.
I was there promoting Romeo and Juliet , and I was in a bad mood because I didn't have anything nice to wear. You know, and so they put me—I went into this meeting and met Hal Wallis. He was a charming gentleman, and he said to me, "You know, I've got two projects in mind for you, Olivia, that I think you'd be perfect for. Of course, later I found out what a great producer he was.
But at the time, I didn't care who he was. I was in a bad mood, I was young, I was tired. And I said, "What are those? Oh thank you, I'd love that. Richard Burton's one of my favorites. I met him last month in London with Franco. And he was so sweet. And I would love to play that. The other project is a project called True Grit with John Wayne. And I said, "But John Wayne can't act. And I really blew it. And I didn't mean to. You know, now I'm older. And after that I said John Wayne's an American institution.
He's a great, you know, movie star. Who cares if he's not Richard Burton on the stage? He is who he is. But at the time I didn't know. You know, you get very opinionated when you're young—as I'm telling my fourteen-year-old now. You know, we all think we know everything when we're young and then as we grow older we realize we know nothing. But at the time—so I blew those two parts.
That was—I really regret that because those would have been two really good pieces of work. I want to ask about something that you maybe don't get asked about as much, which is actually the character of Juliet—playing the character. She's an everygirl in a sense, but what was Zeffirelli's thought about how the character needed to be played and how did you see her? No, he just said she needs to be like a young girl of fourteen who's found love for the first time. She has to be a spitfire—full of passion and full of the emotions a fourteen-year-old feels.
And just—"So basically Olivia, be yourself," you know?
And that's how it was. And then—at first I thought, "Well, this dialogue is difficult," but then once you actually—the thing about Shakespeare, the beauty of Shakespeare, is once you know the dialogue, then you can let all the emotions come in.
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And another thing that I found over the years, is nobody rewrites Shakespeare. One of the worst things is when you take a job and you approve the script—you take the job, especially on television here—you know, you show up for work and they say, "Well, we've decided"—usually the producers—"We've decided to rewrite the scene. The beauty of Shakespeare is that nobody can rewrite it. All they can do is delete. They can delete certain speeches or certain lines.
And they can't rewrite. Which is really—and he—once you actually get the dialogue down, then you understand it, and it's just—it's absolutely beautiful. And as an actor, it's very fulfilling to play. Because the dialogue is really, I think, not quite as important as the feelings. But if the dialogue is right, then it should come out at the right moment. And the feelings—it's the feelings that are more important.
I think the whole vibe of Romeo and Juliet was that they were two beautiful, young people who found love for the first time and were willing to die for it. And that's something that's ageless. I mean to this day—I think if Paramount re-released Romeo and Juliet , even in this jaded world of today, I think a lot of people would go see it again on the big screen and be moved all over again. From our enlightened perspective now, of forty years later, one thing looking back was about—you know, I think you were pressured at the time about your weight. Because I loved to eat. And I was a very compulsive person.
And so when somebody ate one plate of pasta, I'd have to have three. And all my life I battled you know—until I hit like forty and then I said, "You know what? I'm going to get healthy, and I don't care anymore, you know. I'm just not going to worry about it. And I said, "You know, you've got this one life. Just really enjoy every day and accept yourself the way you are.
Once you start to breathe deep and do that, you know, your weight will adjust. Everything adjusts as soon as you relax. You know, don't take it all so seriously. We're lucky if we get ninety years on this planet—. We're not here that long. But unfortunately, you have to, you know, live through a large portion of your life before that hits home.
For some people, it never does. One of the probably memorable parts of the experience that we haven't talked about of making Romeo and Juliet was the rehearsal period--living in the villa—Franco's villa. Did you feel like it was a good preparation—that time—or chaotic, or both?
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Oh, I had a ball. Franco was so colorful and so full of life. And you know, we were all sharing different stories, and people would come, and he always had lots of rooms in the villa—it was fantastic. And he just—for me, anyway, it was fantastic. I had a ball. And Franco had a reputation for seducing male cast members that would probably be considered harassment today. And I suppose because I was so young I wasn't exposed to that. And I've heard from a few people that it was tough on them. But, being a girl, I didn't have any problems at all. I just had a really good experience, you know?
I became really good friends with Bruce Robinson and, um, um, oh, Mercutio. I don't see either one of them now. It was a long time ago. But I loved them. We used to hang out a lot. And of course, Leonard. We became like a big family. Your co-star Leonard complained about the nude scene—at least after the fact. What was your attitude about that—I mean obviously you were so young—and the controversy that surrounded that. Well at the time, I don't think anybody this young in English cinema had ever done anything like that.
But it was done so tastefully that it really, you know, I mean—Franco shot it towards the very end of the film, so obviously we'd been working together for months on end. We all knew each other. And when the bedroom scene actually came around, you know, he sent Mauro, the makeup gentleman, to come up to my dressing room—and he said, "Franco wants you made up from head to toe.
And I said, "But why? I'm going to have a long nightgown on. It will be done in the best of taste. So then, it wasn't that difficult. And then the grips at that time, all the men in the crew, you know, got to know us all, and we were the youngest people on the set. So when we did the bedroom scene, a lot of the men, when they didn't have to, you know, be lighting something, they'd stand there with their backs to us. So they didn't have to watch what was going on in the shooting, which I thought was very respectful and nice.
At the time, you get caught up in the role. I don't know what the big deal was all about anyway. Well I think it's hard to imagine a nude scene that is more justified than that one, in a way. But you know, at the time—now, everybody does nude scenes. But at that time, nobody other than—Vanessa Redgrave did a nude scene in Blow Up. And it was such a counter-cultural film, and this was such a traditional one. You worked with Zeffirelli, as you mentioned earlier, about a decade later on Jesus of Nazareth. Was the process any different ten years on? Had he changed as a director? No, we have a really—it's like a bond we have.
You know, like every great director has their actor that works for them and they—and I'm his. I really believe that. And he has said it in articles and things as well. We just—you know, I, he—I don't know. We just have a bond. I sort of know what he wants and—I wish—in a perfect world, I'd love to work with him all the time. I wish that the last thirty years had been only with Zeffirelli, you know, because I just loved working with him. I want to ask about Lost Horizon , which was an international smash hit, right? People that loved the film, I've got to tell you, get very upset with me if I knock it.
But it was a great cast. I got to meet Peter Finch—the late, great Peter Finch. Liv Ullmann, who's a fantastic actress. Michael York again, you know. It was an incredible experience. And I was horribly pregnant during that shooting. So I was vomiting all day long. You know, it was awful. I was trying to pretend I wasn't. Well, it seems like a bizarre kind of torture to have a pregnant woman—.
Well, he didn't know. They would have replaced me if they had known. And I really didn't want to miss out on the role just because I was pregnant. And my costumes had to—you know, John Louis, the great designer—they had to keep letting the costumes out because I was getting bigger. And they were saying, "Olivia, are you eating a lot? And I loved to si—I loved to do the dancing. But unfortunately, I was so ill— ohhh. Well, I think you come off well in those scenes.
I think it's pretty impressive. It was just that I looked so big—because I was three months pregnant—three-and-a-half months. I was invited—actually this December, again—you know, poor Bob Clark died last year. And it's funny, because every year he'd call me and say, "Olivia, will you come to the screening of Black Christmas? It's like a cult classic. And every year I'd say, "Oh, Bob. It starts at midnight. I like to go to bed early. I can't stay up that late.
Why don't you just go this time? Any they've got pictures of Bob and I together. And what's really funny is that a few months later—two, three months later, he died. I was really glad that I had actually done that at the end. That's a—you know, when I met Steve Martin, years ago—I had just cut all my long hair off, trying to change my image again. And Steve Martin was doing a film called Roxanne.
And I was called in to go in and meet. And when he heard I was coming in, he stayed behind with the producer. And I went into the meeting with my really short-cropped hair and he said, "You were in one of my all-time favorite films, Olivia. He said, "I saw it twenty-three times, and loved it. They remade it, and Bob was one of the executive producers on it, but I heard it was horrible. It just became like a slasher movie.
Now, speaking of horror films, you also made horror film history by playing Norman Bates' mother. It would have really been along the lines of the original Psycho. I loved playing a meanie. Normally, I get cast as the vulnerable victim. Were you pleased then, with that experience and how it turned out? I loved working with Henry Thomas. I thought he was wonderful. Very professional young actor.
And it was—I was pleased—I wished the film had been a little—done a little better, I think. You know, I wish it had been in black and white. At least the flashbacks should have been—but I did get to work with Anthony Perkins, who is a wonderful, wonderful actor. And I think I did the best I could do with it.
You know, I certainly had a ball playing such a mean person. And you know, after some of the scenes I would say "Henry, please. I'm not like this. I'm a great mom, you know. In fact, I e-mailed Henry last year. He sent me an e-mail of his little girl. Because he and his wife Marie had a beautiful little daughter.
And he was in Germany somewhere. Really just a—he should have—he should be working all the time, Henry—he's such a good actor. Now, another little show-biz history that you brushed against was when you worked with Bette Davis on Death on the Nile. A never-ending film, I tell you. That was, out of all of my projects—I had the worst time on that film. I was fighting my own demons at the time and, you know, I have the agoraphobia that I've had all my life.
I cope with it. And it's just fine. But my panic attacks were awful at that time. You know, I had no business going on a set. I hadn't left my house for months before I did Death on the Nile. And so I took the part, but I was really in no shape to do it because of the agoraphobia. So I was on all kinds of like medication—Nardil, it was called.
And just, ohh, the whole experience. It was very hard. And John Guillerman, the director, was not the nicest person. So he'd like shout on the set. And all these seasoned veterans would be, like, quaking in their boots. And he was so charming and nice when you met him, but when he was on the set, I think the pressure got to him. But I hit it off really well with David Niven.
And Peter Ustinov, as well, was very special. David Niven had me in hysterics. And we couldn't look at each other without getting into giggling fits. You remind me of the two of them pushed together. And he said, "You know what, darling? I cannot make eye contact with you because you make me laugh.
Where are they now: Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet
So what should we do? I'll look at your chin, and you look at my forehead when we have close-ups together. And of course, John Guillerman—God forbid we should giggle on his time. But I loved working with David Niven. I read the whole book all the flight. I was on the floor in laughter. Such a brilliant book. Such a funny, nice gentleman. But I don't know why. We all said, "Oh my God. We get to meet the great Bette Davis. And yet, she's one of my favorite actresses. You know, she's classic, and we all couldn't wait to meet her.
And, you know, when one of the younger actresses had a close up, she'd sit behind the camera and try to psych you out. And by the end of the film, even the crew didn't like her. She was just not a nice, giving human being. But I think, to her defense, she came from that old Hollywood where, I guess, people didn't help each other, you know? And she was one of the greatest American actresses of all time. But, let me tell you. I wouldn't want to work with her again. Well, you got to play a —you've done a lot of films with a religious side to them.
You played the Virgin Mary. You did a film based on one of Pope John Paul's plays. Yes, The Jeweller's Shop. And then, you finally got to play, after over twenty years of thinking about it, Mother Teresa. Your beauty has a the power to melt people heart. Next day I came and I did a read your biography and I discovered you were mature and all grown up. I cried several times when I see your younger picture. Anyway, if by chance you are reading this. Thank you so much for a role of a life time. We love you for ever! God bless you and your family. You are very beautiful and an awesome actress, keep on working please!
I watched your film romeo and juliet 0more than a hundred times. I am one of your fans. Good luck and long life! Their chemistry was fabulous Wonderful movie, Michael York was wonderful I forgot he was in the movie, sorry Milo OShea waht is there to say wonderful preformance. And to agree with the other post.. Zac Efron does a similarity to Leonard Whiting.. My god she was beautifull and so natural. Very underated and alot better looking than any woman in hollywood today even angelina. About Olivia Hussey is a 67 year old Argentinean Actress. Contribute Help us build our profile of Olivia Hussey!
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