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The Real Reason Audrey Hepburn Cried at the End of ‘Roman Holiday’

Photo Credit: roseashes / Paramount Pictures / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: roseashes / Paramount Pictures / MovieStillsDB

Arguably best known for her role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Audrey Hepburn is a true Hollywood icon. Her outfit from the movie, an elegant black dress and pearl necklace, is one of the most replicated looks in popular culture. But before starring in the Hollywood classic, there was another film that catapulted her into fame: Roman Holiday (1953).

The movie is considered by many to be a timeless romantic comedy, despite its tear-jerking ending. It’s this scene that’s one of the most memorable, when Hepburn’s character must bid a teary farewell to her love interest. As it turns out, the tears she shed while filming the scene were real.

Audrey Hepburn’s break into stardom

Eddie Albert, Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn sitting on a stationary moped
Promotional still for Roman Holiday, 1953. (Photo Credit: Zamolxes / Paramount Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

Audrey Hepburn was born Audrey Kathleen Ruston in Belgium, before attending school in England as a child. At the outset of the Second World War, her family decided to move to the Netherlands, as they believed the neutral country would be safe. As it turns out, it wasn’t, and the future actress was made to live through the German occupation while continuing to attend school and take dance lessons. She also worked with the Dutch Resistance.

When the war ended, Hepburn began working on some small productions, one of which took her to Monte Carlo. It was there that she met Colette, the author of the novel Gigiwhich was slated to be adapted for the stage. The author believed Hepburn was the perfect likeness for the lead, resulting in her being cast in the role. The play opened in 1951, and the actor was heavily praised for her performance.

Roman Holiday (1953)

Audrey Hepburn as Princess Ann in 'Roman Holiday'
Roman Holiday, 1953. (Photo Credit: roksana / Paramount Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

The same year she starred in Gigi, Audrey Hepburn was asked to do a screen test for the director behind Roman Holiday, William Wyler. He and the other producers thought she was the perfect fit and cast her in the role.

The movie was filmed throughout Rome and followed a princess, portrayed by Hepburn, who runs away from her embassy, only to meet and fall in love with an American journalist, played by Gregory Peck. Sadly, Hepburn and Peck’s characters never get their fairytale ending. This involved the two leads filming an emotional scene near the end of the film, where Hepburn let out real tears.

Audrey Hepburn’s tears were very real in Roman Holiday (1953)

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck as Princess Ann and Joe Bradley in 'Roman Holiday'
Roman Holiday, 1953. (Photo Credit: bigpix / Paramount Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

Initially, when they were filming their goodbye scene in Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn struggled to get any tears to fall at all. She told The Washington Post, “I couldn’t cry. I thought I was crying. I was pretending to cry, but it was no good at all.”

To remedy the situation, they tried to use glycerin, but it just didn’t work the way they wanted it to. When she recalled filming the scene, Hepburn said, “The night was getting longer and longer, and [Wyler] was waiting. Out of the blue, he came over and gave me hell. ‘We can’t stay here all night. Can’t you cry, for God’s sake?’ He’d never spoken to me like that … I broke into such sobs and he shot the scene and that was it.”

More from us: 7 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About ‘Schindler’s List’

Apparently, Wyler apologized in the end, saying he’d yelled at Hepburn because he needed to do something to make her cry. Despite how heartfelt and emotional the goodbye scene in Roman Holiday may look, you now know that the actor was crying because her director yelled at her.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.