You mention at the front of ‘Audrey at Home’ that you wrote the book so that your 3 children would know their grandmother, Audrey Hepburn, better. What have your children’s responses to the book been? My children are 14, 5 and 4, so they will need to wait a little bit of time and I knew that from the beginning, but it will get them started. I wanted them to know about their grandmother. My mother never met her 6 grandsons; I have 3 sons and so does my brother. They will enjoy the book in years to come. When my eldest son was 11 – 12 years old there were so many icons and images of his grandmother. He had never met her. I wanted to make something for my children for them to know who their grandmother really was – about her life and home. That’s something unique that I could do. It’s a memoir of my memories.
Which are your favourite images in each of these books? In ‘Audrey at Home’ the ones of our garden, in Switzerland with my mum’s hair tied back because that is exactly how I remember her. In the ‘Audrey in Rome’ book, it would be the photos of my mum when she was in the Congo filming ‘The Nun’s Story’. This was role was very challenging and was before she was a mother. She looks so young and happy.
What are some of the most interesting things you discovered when writing these books? Visiting my mother’s best friends, fellow actors, people who worked with her and cooked with her to make this book was very emotional. The most beautiful and touching thing was that everyone who knew her talked about her as the same person I remember – doing the groceries, socialising, having picnics with the kids. This was wonderful that my memories of her were the same as other people’s memories of her. It was a strong lesson my mother taught me – to be who you are no matter who you are with.
Do you have a favourite recipe in ‘Audrey at Home’? They are all favourites, but I suppose my very favourite is more connected with my father and it is Pasta alla puttanesca; the quicker you make it, the better it turns out. It’s made with available ingredients – it is healthy, quick and cheap and it was about being together.
What was one of the best things that happened because of this book? The readers and the many joyful comments I received. Many said that it was a discovery, but not a surprise. Like if they too could finally close the same gap between the star and the real person.
What do you choose to do in your time off? I love being with my family and my kids. We have dogs and cats and I enjoy being with them, but when I need to be by myself I love gardening very much.
You were a graphic designer for the last 20 or more years. Were you involved with the design of your books? I had input before and after the book, but I refused to get too involved with the design. I have a very good relationship with my publishers, HarperCollins. I knew how they worked and very much respected their publications. They were very respectful of the images. One thing I did say was that I wanted it like a family scrap book and for them not to be too perfect, too clean, too dry – to show them life, overlap images, cut images. I am very happy with the result.
Can you tell me a bit about the work you are doing with the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund? This Fund started after my mother died. We know she did lots of work for Unicef, but this fund was set up when family and friends, fellow actors sent money in her memory. My brother and I were still very young – Sean was 32, I was 22 – when she passed away. I then had my life and became a graphic designer which is a job very much in the background; not in the limelight. I then needed to forge a life of my own, not necessarily as the son of Audrey Hepburn. After my mother passed away, my brother and I wanted to do something, to protect her legacy so this was an opportunity. It’s like an analogy – in the garden the soil is good, so you should be planting flowers. Now I work full time on the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund and try to carry on my mother’s work. My mother’s name, when it is mentioned – and this is the greatest compliment to her – simply by mentioning her name – people are willing to make a donation. One of the things I remember was when we were together in Rome and I was with her, following her around on her daily business, I said ‘Aren’t you supposed to be talking about Unicef to people?’ and she said ‘Luca, people are busy with their own lives, they have worries of their own. You have to interest them and get their attention – maybe by talking about my life, my fashion, my film’. That’s the attention grabber. She realised that she was part of the entertainment industry. Bob Geldolf Live Aid was a revelation to her – the mass media and making people aware. She watched Live Aid and said ‘these people are entertaining us, doing their job and they are raising money by doing that’. She realised that the entertainment industry could raise people’s awareness. She’s like Mary Poppins and her spoon full of sugar – you say her name and it makes the medicine go down easier! My mother used to say ‘We know exactly what is needed in those countries, but we need the money’. Selling these books is a way to get the money.
What are you working on next? Now I’m working on the book launch of ‘Audrey at Home’ and I have been busy helping with the promotion of a wonderful exhibition in London at The National Portrait Gallery which is a great honour for my mother. Next projects will be some more books, exhibitions and restoring the archives. My mother kept a lot of things – like many people who went through the war. We have an extensive collection of things she kept.
Is there something you would like to do in the future? I’d like to do something with the blogging industry – people blog on my mother about things I didn’t know about her and images I didn’t know of her. I am now in contact with some very, very good bloggers about my mother. They are mostly young people and there is a great exchange of information. I’ve learned so much from them.