Anjelica Huston is known for many things: for being the Grand High Witch to Morticia Addams, for her turbulent love life and for being the daughter of legendary director John Huston. She was born into Hollywood royalty, so making it big in show business was pretty much a given.
But that doesn’t mean she had it easy. Huston has had one wild ride of a life, with highs, lows, and curveballs. This is the life of Angelica Huston, whose fate was to end up chasing the kind of men who made her miserable.
The News of Her Birth Was Pretty Epic
It was in 1951 when a telegram was sent from LA to the a small Ugandan town of Butiaba. A local man then took the message from the post office and ran – simply ran – barefoot for two days. Finally, he reached Murchison Falls (on the Nile River) where he found director John Huston.
Huston was filming The African Queen on location with Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. The exhausted messenger gave the director the piece of paper. He glanced at it and put it in his pocket. To those around him, it was obvious that this special note was a big deal. Hepburn cried out, “For God’s sake, John, what does it say?” Huston’s reply: “It’s a girl. Her name is Anjelica.”
Daddy’s Little Girl Developed Some Daddy Issues
John Huston was as much a legendary director as he was a legendary husband and womanizer. He had a way with women like he had a way with his hands. There were moments when he hit the teenage Huston for being a little too provocative. In the end, daddy’s little girl developed some daddy issues.
As an adult, Huston seemed to find men that were, unsurprisingly, like her father – in the best and worst ways. We’ll get to her long love affair with Jack Nicholson, but before we do, you should know about her whirlwind fling with Bob Richardson, a fashion photographer known for his erotic and dangerous photoshoots.
She Ran Off With the Seductive Photographer
Before becoming an actress, Huston was a model and during her first shoot with Richardson, she became smitten with him. Richardson managed to seduce Huston, who was still a teenager, leaving his wife and infant son. The 18-year-old model then embarked on a risky four-year relationship with the 42-year-old photographer.
At first, she was entranced by him. “I felt that he could see into my soul almost in a psychic way,” she wrote in her memoir, A Story Lately Told. “I believed that he would be my champion and teacher and protector.” Turns out, her lover was actually “bipolar, schizophrenic, and bisexual.”
“What Have I Done?”
Her older lover had a history of hallucinations, suicide attempts and a stint in a mental facility. One night, after filming her first-ever Tonight Show appearance, she walked into their hotel room and found Richardson on the couch surrounded by her clothing and jewelry – all shredded or smashed to bits.
Huston begged him for forgiveness before even knowing what she had done to deserve such a dramatic act of revenge. “What have I done?” she cried out to him? What did she do? She finally learned that her “crime” was not unpacking her bags when she arrived the night before.
She Was on a Mission to Save Him
Many women would run. Not Huston; she decided it was her mission to save the “wounded soul.” Things only got worse (of course), and at one point, four days into one of his meltdowns, Huston slashed her own wrist with a razor blade.
“I ran back into the bedroom, blood spurting from my veins, crying to him, ‘Will this make you love me?’” It’s sad, really, but at least she’s being honest about it. Finally, thankfully, the trauma ended when one morning she dodged a tequila bottle flying in the direction of her head. She had enough, telling him, “That’s the last time this will ever happen.”
She Packed Her Bags and Left
So, she packed her bags, endured a night of Richardson calling her every name in the book while also begging her to stay, and by the next morning, she was ready to go. Richardson knew he had no choice but to let her go. He reached to shake her hand.
“If you were the last person alive, I wouldn’t shake it,” she said to him in what would be the last exchange the two ever had. But Huston wasn’t done with wild and womanizing men. She would later learn just how much her father impacted her adult love life.
Her Stepmother Introduced Her to Jack Nicholson
In need of some centering after a traumatic four years with Richardson, Huston spent time riding horses, in nature, and avoiding her stepmother Cici’s matchmaking attempts. But one day, Cici invited her to a party hosted by this young, newly popular actor named Jack Nicholson.
Huston knew him from Easy Rider and had a crush on the guy. Seeing him in the flesh just made her crush on him official. Despite being freshly single, Huston couldn’t help but start a new romance with the actor.
A Love Triangle (and Friendship) With Michelle Phillips
Early on in their relationship, there were signs that this would be a rollercoaster ride of a romance. She caught Nicholson on a date with his ex-girlfriend, musician Michelle Phillips (from the Mamas and the Papas).
It was something of a love triangle, but the two gals actually became friends. Huston learned the delicate game of balancing Nicholson’s romantic past with their developing relationship. Maybe she was a bit naïve, as Nicholson was making a name for himself as a true ladies’ man.
Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater
As Huston’s modeling career was flourishing, so was Jack’s acting career. She was working in London and he was off making a movie when Huston discovered that Nicholson was two-timing her. A friend of hers confessed to sleeping with Nicholson mere hours before leaving for the airport.
But “Jumping Jack” Nicholson had a way with words. He got himself out of the hot seat by claiming it was simply an act of “mercy.” She let it go, but she wasn’t going to forget about it so easily. She found that she just couldn’t trust him.
The Creepy Chinatown Connection
Whether she was traveling or living with him, whenever she had a suspicion that Nicholson was cheating on her, she found evidence to prove it. It’s not like he put much effort into being careful about his affairs, either.
And with each affair, she stuck around. In a creepy and ironic turn of events, Nicholson landed a role in Chinatown, opposite John Huston. His character sleeps with John’s character’s daughter. Art imitating life or life imitating art? Funnily enough, Nicholson and Huston’s father got along well.
She Wanted to Make It on Her Own
It was around this time that Huston tried her hand at acting again (she had some minor roles in her teens). But she didn’t want to be getting roles through nepotism (being the daughter of a director) or because she was dating Hollywood’s biggest star. She wanted to make her own way.
What that meant was it was a very difficult beginning to her acting career. More often than not, she found herself sitting home alone at Nicholson’s home, just as her own mother had when she was still married to her father. Then one day…
I’m Leaving You Jack
During another one of Nicholson’s trips, Huston went to a party, where Ryan O’Neal approached her. it was now Huston’s turn to fall for someone. When Nicholson came home a few days later, Huston gave him the shock of a lifetime.
She was in love O’Neal, and she was leaving. She managed to amaze even herself when she told him. While she was dating O’Neal, she got a role in The Last Tycoon (but not as the lead role, like she wanted because the director told her she wasn’t beautiful enough). Nicholson was also in the film. She just couldn’t get away from the guy.
Her Date With Roman Polanski Took Her Down a Dark Path
To say this period of time was dramatic would be an understatement. Huston was about to fall in the middle of one of Hollywood’s most notorious crimes. It all started when director Roman Polanski asked her out on a date. The two went to a dinner and a movie.
The next day, she went to Nicholson’s house to get some of the stuff that she had left behind. There, she noticed Polanski’s jacket. That’s when she saw Polanski come out with a teenage girl. He told Huston that they were taking pictures for Vogue.
She and Polanski Were Arrested on the Spot
The very next day, Huston saw a group of men outside with flashlights looking in on Nicholson’s house, which she was in (it’s not clear why she was there). They were plainclothes detectives and had Polanski with them. After telling her that they just wanted to look around, she let them in.
While there, the police found some pot and a bag of white powder in Huston’s purse. Both Huston and Polanski were arrested on the spot. But the incident involved a lot more than just recreational drugs…
The Girl Was Only 13
It was later that Huston learned the real reason they came to the Nicholson household. When she came to the empty house that day to get her stuff (Nicholson was away on a film project), Polanski was in the bedroom with the 13-year-old girl, whom he assaulted.
Authorities detained him, and a trial was on its way. Everyone expected Huston to testify in the case against him as she witnessed them together. But she never ended up taking the stand. Her account from that day was considered controversial.
The Victim Remembers Otherwise
Huston denied knowing for sure that anything criminal had happened that day. In her account, she never saw Polanski with the girl, named Samantha Geimer, in the bedroom, only outside of the house as they were leaving. Plus, she didn’t notice the girl’s age.
Geimer, on the other hand, told a very different story. According to Geimer, Huston was obviously suspicious of Polanski as she was banging on the door while Polanski was assaulting her. When Polanski reassured Huston that it was only a photoshoot, she left them alone.
Turning to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide for Some Company
Because of Polanski, Huston was arrested for drug possession and involved in a sexual assault case. In the end, the charges against her were dropped as the search and seizure were illegal to begin with. Luckily for her, she never had to testify in court (Polanski fled the country before his sentencing).
Huston was distraught by the whole series of events, and spent most of her time with O’Neal, who kept her company. But time with him was like hanging out with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. O’Neal, like Richardson and her father, had a tendency to be violent.
A Head-Butt and a Tough Decision
O’Neal was physically abusive towards Huston throughout their relationship. One night in particular was especially terrifying when he head-butted her. Why? Because he couldn’t find her at a party. She escaped him and ran to an upstairs bathroom.
She told the party’s security that she was fine, and soon enough, O’Neal entered the room and attacked her again. The man was bad news, yet she still found it hard to leave him. The thing is, she had no one to turn to as she kept her relationship with him a secret.
The Good News and Bad News
To make things worse, most of her friends at the time were also Nicholson’s. The person who ultimately gave her the advice she needed to hear – whether she liked it or not – was her 13-year-old half-sister, Allegra.
Allegra had two words for her older sister: “Leave him.” The good news is that she did leave. The bad news, though, was that she went back to Nicholson, who decided to buy her a house nearby. Their reunion proved to be a positive thing. But, what goes up must come down.
Keeping an Eye on the Prize
Huston took a five-year hiatus from acting, but when her friend Bob Rafelson offered her a part in a movie Nicholson was starring in – The Postman Always Rings Twice – she accepted the offer.
The way she saw it, she could keep an eye on Jumping Jack as he played opposite Hollywood’s newest bombshell, Jessica Lange. After the film wrapped, Huston was involved in a near-death accident. As she was driving down the road, an oncoming car crossed over into her lane…
A Near-Death Accident and an Epiphany
The car hit the one ahead of her and since she didn’t have her seatbelt on (let this be a lesson to all of us!), Huston was thrown into the windshield. Within seconds, she was convinced that she was blinded. Blood was pouring down her face.
Before paramedics could get to her, her friend drove her to the Cedars-Sinai hospital, where doctors operated on her nose and face. There is a silver lining, though, and in this case it came in the form of an epiphany. Huston was done waiting for things to happen for her.
With New Love Comes New Luck
By 1990, her longtime romance with Nicholson was officially over. At that year’s Cannes film festival, she met Prince Albert of Monaco. But their one date wasn’t impressive enough for her. It was another man who soon swept her off her feet.
Her friend fixed her up with a sculptor named Robert Graham. He had everything she loved about Nicholson – the charm, the spontaneity – but without the affairs. She found herself truly in love with this man, and eventually good luck followed in the form of movie roles.
Playing Morticia Addams Was No Walk in the Park
Huston had always loved the Addams Family cartoons and dreamed about playing Morticia one day. Finally, her dream came true. But the role proved to be difficult for the actress. The corsets were so tight that she couldn’t even sit down.
The makeup artist even glued fabric tabs to Huston’s face that were then taped to the back of her skull. It would constrict her whole head and gave her intense headaches and rashes. At the end of the day, the movie was a success and her hard work paid off.
She Based Morticia Addams on Her Friend Jerry Hall
Huston revealed that her model friend was the inspiration behind the iconic character. Aside from being over the moon happy about being cast in her dream role, Huston felt she needed a muse to bring Morticia to life.
“I decided on my friend Jerry Hall, the beautiful Texan model, feeling that her kind, gentle disposition and utter devotion to her children might lend some warmth to Morticia’s chilly, unflappable nature,” Huston explained. The two gals became friends in 1970s London.
She Wanted to Have Kids but Couldn’t
Huston and Graham got married in 1992 (her bridesmaid was Jerry Hall). The couple remained married until Graham’s death in 2008. They never had any children, but it wasn’t by choice. She was diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition that makes having kids extremely difficult.
Feeling inadequate and angry, and after failed attempts at fertility treatments, it was only natural that Huston fell into a depression. What helped her was her career; it was a healthy distraction. The ‘90s happened to be a successful decade for the actress.
It’s for the Best, She Says
She and Nicholson had tried to conceive when they were together, long before Graham came into the picture. But these days, Huston says not having kids was probably for the best. “I would probably have been miserable,” she admitted.
“When I talk about my mother and not wanting to echo that relationship, I think it would’ve probably been very much the same way.” Huston imagined being a stay-at-home mom… “And that’s never really been me, either. I’m too noisy. I suck up too much air, myself.”
A Lonely Childhood in Ireland
Most of Huston’s adult life can be explained, and understood, by knowing her childhood. By her own admission, she was a lonely child. She wasn’t close with her brother, Tony, either in childhood or adulthood, but since they were the only two kids, Huston was bound to him.
“We were forced to be together because we were really quite alone,” she wrote. They grew up in the Irish countryside and didn’t see many other kids. Their dad was away most of the time and they were homeschooled. Her dad moved their family to Ireland in 1953.
All Those Hours in Front of the Mirror
“I spent quite a lot of time in front of the bathroom mirror,” she said. Huston was a little girl when she realized she could make herself cry, easily, on the spot. For her, looking in the mirror so often wasn’t about narcissism; she was learning about herself and what she could do with her face.
When her dad was around, she and Tony would have breakfast with him in his room. Their maids would carry the heavy trays from the kitchen, and they would sit on the floor, eating their boiled eggs and toasted bread with tea.
A Sudden, Confusing Move to London
By 1961, her parents separated and Huston and her brother moved to London. But they never officially told the kids of their split. On holidays, she and Tony would fly back to Ireland to spend time with their father. Christmas time was always sprinkled with their father’s different girlfriends and wives.
“It wasn’t long before I realized that my father was making love to many of the women who I thought were my friends at St. Clerans,” Huston wrote. She only learned later on that he had been married three times before her mom, a prima ballerina named Enrica Soma, came into the picture.
Her Mother’s Truth Came Out
In London, Huston’s mother told her she was pregnant. But Huston knew that her mother hadn’t seen her father in over a year. Eventually, the truth came out: her mother was sleeping with another man, but that man refused to leave his wife. Allegra was born in 1964.
When Huston was in school, Romeo and Juliet was being adapted to a film and producers were looking for their Juliet among students in her school. She was hoping to audition, but her father told her that if she wanted to be an actress, she would have to debut in one of his movies.
Suddenly Losing Her Mother
And so, she appeared in her father’s 1969 film, A Walk with Love and Death. It proved to be a major mistake. Making the movie with her dad made her miserable, and critics weren’t pleased with her performance, either.
To make matters worse, Huston was woken up at night by one of her mother’s friends. He told her that her mother, who was away in France, had been in a car crash. She didn’t make it. Not only did she leave Huston and Tony behind, but also four-year-old Allegra.
A New City, a New Chapter
It was all too much for Huston to bear. So, she ran away to New York and started a new chapter in her life. That’s when she got into modeling. While it was new and exciting, it brought her directly into the hands of Bob Richardson, the first man to traumatize Huston.
Richardson was the first in a string of unstable and emotionally unavailable men – men who would emulate her father in all the wrong ways. It’s a miracle she finally made it out of the woods and into a proper man’s arms.
She Was Lost and Without Balance
Robert Graham succumbed to kidney failure in 2008. Huston never remarried. After he died, she felt lost. After years of helping him and his illness, having him suddenly gone meant she no longer had anything to do.
She also lost her equilibrium in a way. For a long time, Graham was her balance – he was the “steady one.” Without him, she would “fret and worry and get lazy and eat too much.” She eventually returned to the dating scene, which she found “Inhibiting. Embarrassing. I felt like 16 again.”
She Was Told to Get a Nose Job
Now 70, she says the idea of plastic surgery terrifies her. “I don’t want to happen to me what happened to Joan Rivers. Also, she didn’t look young to me; she looked like she’d had a hell of a lot of surgery.”
Back when she was in her 20s, the famous modeling executive Eileen Ford suggested that Huston get a nose job. Huston, resisted the idea, though. She said it wasn’t because of what her father would think – that it was his nose she was changing – but rather it would have been “vulgar.” And, she said, “I would’ve looked weird. It wouldn’t have suited my face.”
A Lifelong Feeling of Being Unattractive
For most of her life, Huston said she felt unattractive. Of course, being cheated on by Nicholson – who told her nonchalantly that he was having a baby with another woman – didn’t help. But she got over her self-consciousness and Nicholson eventually.
In fact, the two are still friends to this day. He also had no qualms over her writing her memoir, which was obviously going to feature his name in more than one chapter. All Huston wanted at the end of the day, with writing her memoir, was to set her record straight.
Remember The Witches? Huston Would Rather Forget It
The 1990 dark fantasy starred Huston as Eva Ernst, aka the Grand High Witch. The making of the film was treacherous as she had to sit in the makeup chair for hours – up to 11 hours each day! It took about six to seven hours putting the make up on, and another five to take it off.
In her memoir, Watch Me (she wrote two), she wrote about how the director, Nicolas Roeg, was her saving grace during one of the hardest moments she faced on set…
The Director Was Her Saving Grace
“I won’t forget how [Roeg] helped me with a difficult monologue when I was so uncomfortable and tired of being encased in rubber under hot lights for hours that the lines had ceased to make sense to me and all I wanted to do was cry.”
As in most cases such as this, the hard work, pain, and long hours paid off. The way she looked in that disgusting witch costume was both terrifying and terrific at the same time.
Her Small but Memorable Role in John Wick III
Huston plays the mysterious Director in 2019’s John Wick: Chapter 3. She admitted that she was initially scared about playing the part. “I had to do a Russian accent, which I’ve never done. I’ve done Polish, but not Russian.”
She said that she only had a few days to learn the accents since they were still making her contract up until the last moment. For both director Chad Stahelski and Keanu Reeves, Huston was their only choice to play the Director.
Slapping Gene Hackman Was the Real Deal
In The Royal Tenenbaums, Huston played Gene Hackman’s character’s estranged wife, Etheline. It turns out Hackman was the set grump and didn’t get along with most people on the set. On the first day of shooting together with Huston, she had to slap him across the face for a scene.
She later revealed that the slap was real. She knew he was in a bad mood before the cameras even started rolling. “In rehearsal, I think I slapped his lapel, and then we went ahead and shot it, and I hit him a really good one.”
She Thought He Was Gonna Kill Her (but Not Really)
When she saw the imprint of her hand on his cheek, she thought, “he’s going to kill me.” Hackman didn’t kill his co-star, of course, but what he ended up doing was directing his anger and frustrations against director Wes Anderson.
Huston recalls Hackman telling the then-still-young director to “pull up your pants and act like a man.” It goes without saying that the actor and director never worked together again. But many believe the tension on set made the movie even better.
The Role That Earned Her an Oscar
1985’s Prizzi’s Honor (directed by her father) won her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and it’s because she stole every scene as Maerose Prizzi, the daughter of the son of a Mafioso and former lover of the family’s hitman, which was played by Nicholson.
Two years later, her father directed her in what would be his last film, The Dead. John Huston had been ill for over a decade with emphysema and ended up passing away a week before the film premiered in 1987.
Her Father’s Sickness Made Her Sick
Huston recalled how her father was so sick, “but he could literally do it with his eyes closed.” Still, she was stressed about his failing health during the production – so much so that she contracted the virus Epstein-Barr.
“It was the constant strain,” she remembered of the time. “I was just exhausted when I made the movie. I think it had to do with the burden of watching him struggle on a day-to-day basis and being part of this struggle. But he never gave up. I think his work became a savior to him.”
She Was Left High and Dry
Her father left his children only a token amount of his estate; most of it went to the latest woman in his life, a housekeeper named Maricela. For Huston, it was a bit of a “f*** you” to his heirs, but she learned to accept it.
“He was just not happy with everyone and how things had unfurled,” Huston revealed about her father. As for Maricela, she didn’t keep in touch with Huston or her siblings after his death.