Anjelica Huston’s memoir recounts youth unlike any other
TORONTO — Academy Awardwinning actress Anjelica Huston says she owes a debt of gratitude to … a pencil?
True, it’s not the type of shout-out usually found in the acknowledgments section of a book, but the Prizzi’s Honor star is unabashed in her praise for the writing instrument she used to create her new memoir, A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York.
“The Paper Mate Sharpwriter No. 2. A wonderful pencil,” Huston, 62, said recently. “It’s just a beautifully created object. It works really, really well. I didn’t grow up typing, to tell you the truth. … I like the flow of brain to hand.”
Indeed, the actress says the memoir itself evolved organically after a period of self-reflection following the 2008 death of her husband, sculptor Robert Graham.
“I was writing for myself anyway and I thought, well, maybe this is a good time. So that’s sort of how it initially came about.”
The actress — the daughter of legendary film director John Huston and his fourth wife, ballerina Enrica (Ricki) Soma — soon found she had a lot to say. So much, in fact, that her editor at Scribner (Simon & Schuster) decided that she’d need two volumes to tell her story.
A Story Lately Told chronicles Huston’s e a rly life in Ireland, her teen years modelling in swinging London and — after her mother died in a car accident in 1969 — a stint in New York City living at the Chelsea Hotel with her much-older photographer boyfriend Bob Richardson.
John Huston looms large in the book, which opens with a remarkable anecdote about news of his daughter’s birth reaching him in the Belgian Congo on the set of The African Queen, where Katharine Hepburn urged him to share the contents of a telegram heralding the news.
The director had a colourful life — he was called the “eccentric’s eccentric” by actor Paul Newman — and was a boxer, a Lothario and a gambler. He was away working on films for long stints of Huston’s childhood.
“There’s a line that comes up a lot around my father,” she said. “People refer to him as Hemingway-esque. I think he really merits a description of his own. He was, yes, larger than life, an adventurer, a hunter, a Renaissance man. I think it’s very easy to come up with comparisons to other people, but he was very much himself. He was an original.”
Despite a four-decade film career that has earned her a host of honours, Huston says she was nervous about her memoir, calling the positive reviews “thrilling.”
“You hope people will approve, but basically if they don’t, it’s not about a movie, it’s about you,” she said.