Charming, funny and romantic, the 1953 film 'Roman Holiday' immortalised the city of Rome and catapulted Audrey Hepburn to cinematic stardom. A new, remastered version of Roman Holiday is the closing night film of the Italian Film Festival around Australia, in celebration, we look at some of the lesser-known facts about this Hollywood masterpiece.
The American production company Paramount Pictures originally wanted to shoot Roman Holiday in Hollywood but director, William Wyler steadfastly refused, insisting that the film be shot on location in Italy. Eventually, an agreement was reached but Wyler was handed a much-reduced budget and it meant the film had to be shot in black and white, not the conventional and more expensive Technicolor. It also meant, much to his chagrin, that Wyler was forced to cast a then-unknown actress as the Princess, Audrey Hepburn.
Such was the universal appeal of Roman Holiday that the movie was credited for introducing America to the delights of the Italian Vespa. Dashing footage of Peck and Hepburn cruising the streets of Rome kicked off a trend of American college students, academics and aspiring artists adopting the scooter as a distinct avant garde mode of transport.
It is allegedly reported that during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy requested a private viewing of the film at the White House as he sought distraction from the tense political and military stand-off.
In the early seventies, Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn were approached with the suggestion of shooting a sequel that would have seen Princess Ann and Joe reunite, but the idea never came to light.
Roman Holiday was the first American film to be filmed entirely in Italy.
The Embassy Ball scenes featured bona fide Italian nobility, all of whom donated their salaries back to charity.
Cary Grant turned down the role of chivalrous reporter Joe Bradley, presuming he was too old to play Audrey Hepburn’s love interest (although ironically he was eventually cast opposite her ten years later in Charade (1963).) Other sources say Grant declined because he was concerned all of the attention would be directed towards the glamorous Ms Hepburn.
During the filming of the sequence where the Princess says her goodbyes to Joe, Hepburn was unable to produce the requisite tears, eventually forcing director William Wyler to soundly criticize her for the number of wasted takes. With the camera still rolling, Hepburn allegedly dissolved into tears and the scene was successfully filmed.
Roman Holiday was remade for television in 1987 starring Catherine Oxenberg and Tom Conti.
Once filming had concluded, Gregory Peck advised the producers to feature Audrey Hepburn’s name above the title of the film because he believed she would go on to win an Oscar for her mesmerising performance. The producers agreed and as predicted in 1954, Hepburn won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role.