Audrey Hepburn’s Moving Screen Test for Roman Holiday (1953)

When you think of Audrey Hep­burn, you think of Roman Hol­i­day, the 1953 film that launched her career. How can you for­get Hep­burn as Princess Anne? Orig­i­nal­ly, the part was writ­ten for Eliz­a­beth Tay­lor, then a major star. But some­thing hap­pened dur­ing the cast­ing that changed all of that. In his biog­ra­phy of Ms. Hep­burn, the author Bar­ry Paris writes:

Her Roman Hol­i­day test took place at Pinewood Stu­dio in Lon­don, Sep­tem­ber 18, 1951, under [Thorold] Dick­in­son’s direc­tion. “We did some scenes out of the script,” he said, but “Para­mount also want­ed to see what Audrey was actu­al­ly like not act­ing a part, so I did an inter­view with her. We loaded a thou­sand feet of film into a cam­era and every foot of it went on this con­ver­sa­tion. She talked about her expe­ri­ences in the war, the Allied raid on Arn­hem, and hid­ing out in a cel­lar. A deeply mov­ing thing.”

Lat­er, so the sto­ry goes, the direc­tor William Wyler watched the footage (shown above) in Rome and found it irre­sistible. He claimed: “She had every­thing I was look­ing for: charm, inno­cence and tal­ent. She also was very fun­ny. She was absolute­ly enchant­i­ng, and we said, ‘That’s the girl!’ ”

In watch­ing the footage, one thing will leap out. Hep­burn’s ado­les­cence was hard­ly suit­ed for a princess. Liv­ing in the Dutch town of Arn­hem dur­ing World War II, she expe­ri­enced the harsh Ger­man occu­pa­tion first­hand and suf­fered from mal­nu­tri­tion, acute ane­mia, res­pi­ra­to­ry prob­lems, and ede­ma by the war’s end. It was a for­ma­tive expe­ri­ence that lat­er made her a devot­ed activist for children’s rights.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mar­lene Dietrich’s Tem­pera­men­tal Screen Test for The Blue Angel (1929)

Mar­lon Bran­do Screen Tests for Rebel With­out A Cause (1947)

Bruce Lee Audi­tions for The Green Hor­net

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  • kinsast says:

    It’s cute, alas, to call that a ‘screen test’ is rather mis­lead­ing. It’s more like a com­mer­cial made after the fact.

  • scott lewis says:

    hel­lo, all.

    this is serendip­i­tous, i believe turn­er clas­sic movies and … some­body … are putting ‘roman hol­i­day’ on the big screen around the coun­try on nov. 29th and dec. 1st.
    i think some­body like ‘fath­om events” is putting it on with tcm.

    ear­li­er this sum­mer i saw ‘dou­ble indem­ni­ty’ as part of the same series.

    hap­py watch­ing.

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