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Truman Capote never wanted Audrey Hepburn to play Holly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”; his choice was Marilyn Monroe

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is undisputedly one of the most memorable American romantic comedy films of all times.

This can be said to be down its leading star, the actress Audrey Hepburn and her portrayal of the naive and eccentric socialite, Holly Golightly. Hepburn claimed that playing Holly had been one of the most challenging roles throughout her career, particularly because she was an introvert and Holly Golightly an extrovert type of character.

Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly. Photo from the trailer of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” photo credit


Hepburn in the opening scene of the movie, photo credit.

The cult classic was loosely based on Truman Capote’s novella under the same title, but little did we know that Capote imagined the main character somewhat differently. The iconic writer who sold copyrights for the filming of his novella to Paramount Studios was not so pleased in the end, as his preference was that Marilyn Monroe portrays the main character, Holly. Author and journalist Barry Paris, notable for his biographies of film stars such as Greta Garbo and Audrey Hepburn, had cited Capote’s personal comments on the choice of the actress, “Marilyn was always my first choice to play the girl, Holly Golightly.”

Although the screenwriter, George Axelrod at first tailored the screenplay for Monroe, there were ongoing speculations that Holly Golightly was, in fact, a call girl. The speculations caused controversy despite Truman’s remarks that the character was not a prostitute but what he referred to as an “American geisha.” Monroe was eventually advised by actor and director, Lee Strasberg, that playing a prostitute-like character would not serve her image well, and she turned down the offer. Instead, she accepted to play in The Misfits. When Hepburn was cast next instead of Monroe, Capote had remarked, “Paramount double-crossed me in every way and cast Audrey.”

Truman Capote, 1959. Photo credit

In the early drafts of Capote’s story, Holly was first named Connie Gustafson. Later, the writer decided to change the name to Holiday Golightly. It has been a big debate as to the true identity of the woman who inspired the creation of the character; claims have been made for at least seven different women, the majority of whom were dark-haired and fine, beautiful ladies like Audrey Hepburn. Some of the names suggested are writer and actress Carol Grace, writer Maeve Brennan, and models Dorian Leigh and her sister Suzy Parker.

However, Capote has asserted that his model was a blonde girl, and much closer in character also to Marilyn Monroe. Capote’s biographer, Gerald Clarke wrote, “half the women he knew… claimed to be the model for his wacky heroine”. The biographer additionally noted similarities between the author himself and the character, as well as between the lives of Holly and Truman’s mother, Nina Capote.

Photo of Marilyn Monroe from the 1952 film, “Clash By Night.”

Breakfast at Tiffany’s was released in 1961 and was directed by Blake Edwards. The director was a further subject of change, as producers had first picked John Frankenheimer to direct the film.

Read another story from us: The iconic “Flying Skirt” – The trouble Marilyn Monroe’s little white dress had caused

However, Hepburn had commented that she never heard of John, and he was replaced supposedly on her request. The film brought an Academy Award nomination for the actress, as well as winning Best Original Score and Best Original Song for “Moon River” at the 34th Academy Awards in 1962.



Stefan Andrews

Stefan is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to The Vintage News. He is a graduate in Literature. He also runs a blog – This City Knows.