Anjelica Huston admits that her latest film, John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, is not in her favorite genre. “I don’t like violent movies,” she says. “But I like this movie.” Huston plays a small but memorable role as the Director, a heavily bejeweled Russian ballet instructor and one of only a handful of humans to appear onscreen who are not immediately stabbed, shot, impaled, julienned, or otherwise ingeniously killed by Keanu Reeves’s titular bounty hunter. All things considered, it’s a perfect role for her — dignified enough for a 67-year-old Oscar winner and trustee of a four-generation show-business dynasty, and, given all the potential sequels, a nice break for an actress who still needs to work for a living, as Huston says she does. John Wick may be ultraviolent, yet it’s a franchise made for dog lovers. “This is a movie about a guy who’s basically avenging the death of his puppy,” she says. “Jesus, I’m passionate about dogs. It’s a huge thing.” She has three that she dotes on as well as a sheep, 13 goats, and five horses residing at the ranch she’s owned for 35 years in the foothills of California’s Sequoia National Forest. I meet Huston — in jeans, a crisp, starched white blouse, and a chunky tinted pair of Persols — for a three-hour lunch at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, ten minutes from her Pacific Palisades home.
Andrew Goldman: Your dad, John Huston, was a magical presence in your life but also largely absent. I was reading an old interview with him where he talked about growing up the son of Walter Huston. He said that his father’s occupation as an actor simply meant that he never saw him. It’s sounds like it was similar growing up with a director father.
Anjelica Huston: Right. Yes, Dad was away working to keep us all in food and clothes. It’s more than a mission — this is what your dad does first. It’s a bit more important than his being your father. I remember being backstage at an interview that he was having in London — I hadn’t been on a set before and I must have been 5 or 6 — and I remember the interviewer saying, “What is the most precious thing to you on earth?” And he said, “My children.” And I thought, Really? The truth of the matter was that Dad could be a lot of fun but he was also irascible. He also, I’m sure, was susceptible to the common hangover, which colored his moods.
Was he an alcoholic?
I don’t think he was an alcoholic, but he was someone who liked his drink at the end of the day. Is that an alcoholic? I’ve never known. To an AA-er, he was probably an alcoholic. For an Irishman, he was a drinker.
And a smoker.
He was a smoker.
Did he continue to smoke after he needed an oxygen tank?
At first, when he was taking a whiff of oxygen here and there, he was probably still smoking. He never, I’m sure, suspected that something would, as he put it, break inside him.
You once recalled smoking at the hospital where your father was being treated for emphysema.
Yeah, Danny and I were up on the roof with the Marlboros. But guess where the highest incidence of smoking is in any hospital? Respiratory-intensive-care nursing. The nurses! I found that out at Cedars.
You were 17 and your brother Tony was 18 when your mother was killed in a car accident in France.
You know, Tony and I’ve never even discussed our mother’s death. Still haven’t.
You grew up together but now apparently don’t speak. Why?
We never got on. Well, actually, that’s not fair to say, because we got along momentarily. And then it would kind of fall apart again. Tony could bully me, and I found ways of shielding myself. I could look at him in a particularly withering way. It would just make him crazy.
You wrote that he set up a fight between you and a neighborhood boy. That’s a little weird.
There wasn’t much to do in Ireland.
Your father cast you as the lead in your first film, A Walk With Love and Death, about young love during the Hundred Years’ War. But at the same time, Franco Zeffirelli was interested in casting you as Juliet. Why didn’t your father want you to do Romeo and Juliet?
I think he wanted to be the one to introduce me.
Did you have a burning desire to be a film star at that point?
Not for my dad, I didn’t. I didn’t want to be told what to do by him. I wanted to be off in Italy having a romance on set with Franco Zeffirelli.
A Walk With Love and Death was not well received. The critic John Simon wrote, “There is a perfectly blank, supremely inept performance by Huston’s daughter, Anjelica, who has the face of an exhausted gnu, the voice of an unstrung tennis racket, and a figure of no discernible shape.” I had to look up what a gnu is.
Wasn’t that pretty? That’s good, isn’t it?
Coming as it did when you were 18, did it stick with you?
It sticks with you. And now that you’ve reminded me, it will stick with me for another ten years.
I probably wouldn’t have quoted it had you not included it in your memoir.
No, I completely accept that. I think the news there is he’s dead and I’m not.
You think he’s dead?
He must be.
I was curious myself. I looked him up. He’s 93 years old. He’s alive.
He’s dead as far as I’m concerned.
Anyway, do you think your father felt guilty about putting you in A Walk With Love and Death and nearly ending your career before it started?
No, not for a second. He thought he was doing me a big favor. What he probably felt badly about was, he was very unsympathetic when we were making that movie. He came down really hard on me when I lost my lines in a scene. He let me have it so bad in front of the crew.
Penny Marshall gave you an acting job a few years after A Walk With Love and Death. Did you remain friends with her?
Not at the end, because her habits conflicted with mine.
What do you mean?
She stayed up all night smoking cigarettes in subzero temperatures.
What do you mean by “subzero temperatures”?
Her rooms were freezing. Like air-conditioned, way up. She stayed up all night, followed QVC for beanbag dolls and stuff. She had this collection of sports memorabilia. She had a sort of museum in her basement full of signed baseballs and Lakers shirts. I just couldn’t relate. And also, frankly, she took a lot of coke.
All the way to the end?
I don’t know about the end, because I didn’t see her the last couple years. But when I worked on Laverne & Shirley, I was so impressed by her. She was a great comedian, and she could do anything. She was so inventive.
It’s interesting, because it sounded like her friend Carrie Fisher had relapsed before she died.
From what I understand, Carrie was taking a lot of drugs. I don’t want to die from drugs, God! What a grim way to die. Unless you’re debilitated and need to get out of here. But to go accidentally on drugs, I’d hate that.
You still do any drugs?
I smoke weed, but I don’t consider that a danger to my health. I don’t like edibles. Too slow and you don’t know where it’s going. You could end up having to go to bed for three days. I don’t do anything wildly dangerous anymore. I wasn’t ever attracted to the acid. I like to have a good time, but I don’t want to lose my mind.
I remember reading that Jack Nicholson supposedly had what he called upstairs and downstairs cocaine. Downstairs was good enough for guests, but upstairs was the good stuff for him and his intimates.
I don’t know that that’s a true story. But there was a type of cocaine in the ’70s that I would’ve classified as upstairs cocaine — pharmaceutical flake — that was kind of effervescent, not that it was fizzy, but it was light and uncut.
What is the difference between good cocaine and bad cocaine?
Bad cocaine makes you feel shitty. Probably makes you run for the loo because it’s laced with laxatives. Pure cocaine gives you a very light, airy, clear, and extremely pleasant feeling. But really, there’s no such thing as good cocaine. I don’t believe that people should take it recreationally.
Was there a low point when you decided it wasn’t good anymore?
Yeah, but actually it wasn’t a low point. It was more of a high point, when I decided it was ridiculous and bad for me. I’d just met my future husband, and it was something I didn’t want to share with him and I didn’t want to continue doing, so I gave it up fast.
Jack supposedly liked his cocaine. Was he a functional user?
Very much so. Never took overt amounts. He was never a guzzler. I think Jack sort of used it, probably like Freud did, in a rather smart way. Jack always had a bit of a problem with physical lethargy. He was tired, and I think probably, at a certain age, a little bump would cheer him up. Like espresso.
You were actually arrested for cocaine possession at Jack’s house in 1977. What did your father say?
Not a thing. He was a prince. Never mentioned it. It was like, “You need my help, honey?” Princely.
Was the arrest embarrassing to you?
Oh, awful. So embarrassing, humiliating. I was really ashamed.
You were arrested because you happened to be in Jack’s house when Roman Polanski raped 13-year-old Samantha Geimer. How did you feel about that?
Well, see, it’s a story that could’ve happened ten years before in England or France or Italy or Spain or Portugal, and no one would’ve heard anything about it. And that’s how these guys enjoy their time. It was a whole playboy movement in France when I was a young girl, 15, 16 years old, doing my first collections. You would go to Régine or Castel in Paris, and the older guys would all hit on you. Any club you cared to mention in Europe. It was de rigueur for most of those guys like Roman who had grown up with the European sensibility.
Among a lot of Hollywood men, it was acceptable at that time to treat women as though they were disposable.
I think they’re still doing it. I was at the hairdresser’s yesterday, and I heard tales of such horror from women. There was one other client and two girls who were working in this rather small hairdressing shop. And one of the girls had been passed a Mickey Finn in a bar and had woken up on a couch with a guy ejaculating wildly all over her face. And as she was telling the story, another girl who worked in the salon came in and said, “The weirdest thing happened to my friend last night. She was found at four in the morning in the Wilshire district, coatless, shoeless, with scratches and bruises all over her body. She doesn’t know whether she was raped. So, I’m trying to stop her from having a bath because we need to get her to the police.”
So you don’t think anything has changed?
No, I don’t. And frankly, I think there’s a whole element of guys who will get up to what they want to get up to. I didn’t think Brett Kavanaugh was all that believable. And yet this whole thing continues to be whitewashed and whitewashed and whitewashed. On the other hand, there is a thing called a male imperative, and it is maybe stronger than any #MeToo movement, because it happens at birth. I have a great 3-year-old nephew who made his way over to my umbrella rack the other day and pulled an Irish walking stick out and said, “I am the leader of the universe.” Girls don’t do that.
Did you have what would have qualified as #MeToo experiences?
You’d have to ask me that on a daily basis, practically. That’s how often it happens, that you’re objectified, or misread, or put down. I think men do it a lot, and I don’t really think half the time they know what they’re doing. That’s how inured they are.
You were certainly objectified. Elia Kazan wasn’t great to you when he was casting The Last Tycoon.
He said, to a random woman waiting at a bus stop, “Do you think she’s beautiful?” She said, “I wouldn’t say ‘beautiful.’ Interesting, maybe.” I watched the part fly out the door. It was the “right girl” in The Last Tycoon,the part Ingrid Boulting got. I got the “wrong girl” part. But that was mild, compared to some shit that goes down.
You were in two Woody Allen films, Crimes and Misdemeanors, alongside Mia Farrow, and then Manhattan Murder Mystery. Woody Allen is basically unable to make films now because of the outcry about the molestation allegations.
I think that’s after two states investigated him, and neither of them prosecuted him.
Well, the industry seems to be treating him as though he’s guilty. Would you work with him again?
Yeah, in a second.
Jeffrey Tambor, whose girlfriend you played on seasons two and three of Transparent, was accused by his former assistant and an actress on the show of behaving inappropriately toward them. Did you know the two women?
I’ve met them both. At least insofar as I was concerned, nobody did or said anything inappropriate. I do think in this work we have to feel freedom. We have to feel as though we can say and do things that are not necessarily judged, particularly by the other people in the cast or crew.
So you think what happens on the set should stay on the set, and there are processes that make the rules of behavior a little different from what you might find at a corporate job?
That’s absolutely what I’m saying.
So would it be fair to say this is a defense of things that Jeffrey might have said that were possibly misinterpreted?
Yes, that is fair. He certainly never said or did anything inappropriate with me.
How did you come down on Polanski when people were signing petitions to have him readmitted to the U.S.?
My opinion is: He’s paid his price, and at the time that it happened, it was kind of unprecedented. This was not an unusual situation. You know that movie An Education with Carey Mulligan? That happened to me. It’s about a schoolgirl in England who falls in love with an older dude, Peter Sarsgaard. My first serious boyfriend I met when he was 42 and I was 18.
The photographer Bob Richardson. It wasn’t illegal though.
He was way older than me. I mean, old enough to know better. But these things happen, that’s what I’m saying. These things weren’t judged on the same basis that they’re judged on now. So you can’t compare them.
He was abusive, correct?
Yeah. In modern terms. We wouldn’t have known what to call it then. I don’t think he set out to be abusive, but he was manic-depressive. He was schizophrenic. So you can’t really say that schizophrenic is abusive, although to live with a schizophrenic is about as difficult.
You wrote that you once made him a steak and he threw it against the wall because it took too long.
At first I said, “What have I done?” And then at a certain point, I just had to get away. My mother had just died, so I think I was looking for someone to take care of me. And not take care of me at the same time. It was very dramatic. He also was extremely controlling, so he hated when I worked with other photographers.
I understand you only got paid scale for Prizzi’s Honor. Did you ask for more money?
Yeah, I did. I remember I was in my agent Yvette Bikoff’s office, and I liked Yvette because she was the only person in this entire town who would represent me. And I said, “So what am I getting for the movie?” And she said something like $14,000, and I went, “Really, no more? Can you call them on the phone and ask for more money.” She called this producer up and he said, “Go to hell. Be my guest — ask for more money. We don’t even want her in this movie.”
In your memoir, you wrote that a production guy said, “Her father is the director, her boyfriend’s the star, and she has no talent.” So for you this was a challenge.
I thought, Watch me. That’s where the title of my book came from. Watch my ass.
You, your father, and Jack were all nominated for Oscars for Prizzi’s Honor, but only you won. Do you relish the fact that you alone were recognized?
I don’t relish the fact. No, it would’ve been the more, the merrier. I was disappointed Dad didn’t get it because he made it out to the awards. That was a big deal for him to be off oxygen for that long. It should’ve been all three of us, right? Although I kind of wound up alone and a bit depressed at the end of that night. Because I felt lonely. Jack and I were already kind of disengaged.
I’d forgotten that you won over Oprah for The Color Purple. As I was watching the footage of you collecting the Oscar, my blood went a little cold thinking, There’s got to be some repercussions for beating Oprah.
She never had me on her show, ever. She won’t talk to me. The only encounter I’ve had with Oprah was when I was at a party for the Academy Awards, a private residence. I was talking to Clint Eastwood, and she literally came between us with her back to me. So all of the sudden I was confronted with the back of Oprah’s head.
Do you think it’s fair to say it’s because you beat her?
Well, nobody else would dislike me so much as to literally, physically come in between the person I was talking with that way. But I admire Oprah. God knows, she’s made some big steps.
Let’s talk about John Wick: Chapter 3. How does a director lure an actor of your stature to a movie these days?
Oh God, it’s so easy. Quite honestly, I’m looking for movies that impress me in some way, that aren’t apologetically humble or humiliating like, “Band of cheerleaders gets back together for one last hurrah,” you know. An old-lady cheerleader movie. I don’t like that kind of thing. If I’m going to be an old lady — and I’m sort of touching old lady these days — at least I want to be a special old lady. I don’t want to be relegated to some has-been making a comeback. I hate comebacks.
Are your agents good enough that they don’t come to you with stuff that’s insulting?
No, they come to me with everything. And a lot of it is insulting, but I’m at a place where I don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to work without a trailer.
You did Daddy Day Care with Eddie Murphy. He apparently had a fortress of trailers on that.
He did, a fortress right in the center of everyone else’s. And Eddie’s fortress actually had barbed wire on top. It was serious. It was as though there was going to be an invasion.
He’s such an appealing presence onscreen, but he’s got this reputation of being difficult. How does that happen?
Well, if you’re playing all seven parts in your own movie, you probably get a little delusional. I worked on that with Regina King, by the way, who’s a perfectly lovely person and a really good actress and I’m happy to see she was recognized finally this year. We remarked that the day Eddie was most approachable was the day he’d received some really bad reviews for some other movie that had just come out while we were working on this one. Suddenly, he had this humility and sweetness. He talked about boxing that day, and he was very affable with both of us.
So, everybody had to be on set before he would appear, correct?
The fact was it was very hot down on set and they didn’t have a way of keeping you cool. You’d be waiting for over 15 minutes in a California summer, so you’re not appetizing by the time you get on-camera. Maybe he didn’t recognize that factor. So I requested to at least know when he was traveling to set. His reply, through the grapevine, was “Ladies first.” Frankly, a lot of male movie stars behave in an offhand manner, like they’re just more important than you are.
You’re generally complimentary of actors you’ve worked with. Except for Bill Murray, who played opposite you in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.
He was a shit to me on Life Aquatic. The first week I was there, we were all in this little hotel, and he invited the entire cast to go and have dinner, except me. And everyone came down for dinner, a little dog-faced about my not being invited, and they were all like, “Oh, you know, we don’t really want to go.” That was worse than anything.
Am I missing something? You seem like such a nice person.
You never know. I was really hurt. And then I think we met again in Florence, because that movie was shot all over Italy, and we were doing a scene at Gore Vidal’s house in Ravello, and he said, “Hey, how’ve you been? I missed you.” I said, “You’re full of shit. You didn’t miss me.” He looked all confused for a moment. He’s been a little nicer to me since. He showed up at my husband’s funeral. He couldn’t have been nicer that day. He showed up. A lot of people didn’t.
Did you really base your characterization of Morticia Addams in The Addams Family on your friend Jerry Hall?
Yes, on her sweet indulgence of her children. I just came upon the idea that the worse the children behaved, the more delighted Morticia was. I find Jerry incredibly beatific, she has that great accent and her children come before anything. I was trying to imagine Jerry bringing up the spawn of the devil, and how she’d still be indulgent and loving and understanding.
It’s kind of jarring that she went from Mick Jagger to Rupert Murdoch.
The frying pan into the fire.
Could you be with an 88-year-old man?
If he was, you know … who knows? It would depend on the man.
Your father had five wives, but he left his last wife, Cici, and ran off to Mexico with the housekeeper, correct?
Right, Maricela. The whole Maricela-Dad thing was kind of weird. Dad was making The Man Who Would Be King, and I think he expected Cici to come visit him, to spend more time with him, and at some point Cici sent Maricela and Collin, Cici’s son, to be there. I don’t really know what happened, but when Dad came back, he called me and said, “Will you come and have lunch with me at the Brown Derby?” I watched him come in, and he was a broken man. His cough was horrible. He looked transparent, and I said, “Are you okay, Dad?” He said, “It’s Cici. She’s accused me of having an affair with Maricela.” And I said, “Well, is it true?” “Absolutely not!” He was outraged. And then he went on to spend another 12 years or so with this woman.
He left his kids only a token amount, but the vast majority of his estate went to Maricela.
Yes. I wouldn’t call his money vast at the time, and his property was basically leased from the Indians who had this section of land where he lived in Puerto Vallarta. I call them Indians because that’s how they referred to themselves. I don’t know if there was any serious money in property or anything like that. Dad had bought her a small house in Hollywood. But I don’t know how much money he had at the end of his life. And you know what? I mean, it’s lovely to inherit, but you can’t expect it.
But did you interpret that as a kind of “Fuck you” to his heirs?
I did, a little, but I think, in full honesty, he was not happy going into that good night. He was just not happy with everyone and how things had unfurled. I’m not sure about her, because I haven’t heard from or seen her since the weeks following his death. She hasn’t stayed in touch. At one point, she resurfaced in Hollywood. She tried to sell a painting to Jack, a Tamayo that my father had owned, but Jack was reluctant to buy it. I would say that his children were not first and foremost in his mind when he made up his last will and testament, or if they were, there were revisions. Revisions were made. I don’t know that anyone’s in really sound mind when they’re dying.
It’s sad, because it sounds like you were actually a very good daughter when he was sick.
I think I was. Yeah, I mean, I didn’t go to live with him, but on the other hand, he was a challenging man. And there was, for instance, the last Christmas, which he was disappointed I didn’t go down and spend in Puerto Vallarta. I know the kind of contentious stuff that comes up with certain family members, and I didn’t want to get into it. And so maybe I disappointed him there.
I think people would assume with generations of Hollywood fame that—
That Hollywood fortune will follow close behind.
Yes. But your father does not sound like he was a sound businessperson. And he was a gambler, correct?
He was a gambler, and he didn’t hold on to money, and he had no real respect for it. It could give people what they wanted, and he was perfectly happy to spread it around, though. He wasn’t a hoarder, although he’d hoarded art a little.
It sounds like, as a youngster, you understood that finances were tight at certain points.
Are you able to relax if there are unpaid bills?
No! I have big anxiety about it. But I’ve had to deal with it, and quite recently I had to deal with it, and it’s spooky as hell. When my husband died, I was left with no money, less than no money. I always thought how great it would be to be a woman of leisure — you could do exactly what you wanted. But I have to work, I have to stay with it. I’ve never really been able to sit back.
Why were you broke after your husband died?
He didn’t have medical insurance. It was like a sword of Damocles that came out of the blue.
Oh, really? He was treated for a horrible disease I’d never heard of. I gather he spent ages in the hospital.
So if he didn’t have insurance, who pays for all that? [Huston raises her hand.]
I would have to say, apart from a few days directly following my mother’s death, that it was the worst time of my life, partly because everyone thought that I had lots and lots of money. It was a difficult moment, yeah.
Your father was serially unfaithful to your mother, and she eventually strayed too. You said her attitude was “Well, if you’re gonna do this, so am I.” Is that what happened when you cheated on Jack with Ryan O’Neal?
No, Ryan swept me off my feet. He called and asked me if he could take me out and that was pretty much it.
He drove a Rolls-Royce back then.
A big maroon Rolls-Royce. You won’t see that car today. It was eye-watering, that car. Ryan was a great beauty. If I were to say to you that this red-gold burnished god walked in the door while I was at this party and went on one knee and said, “You’re the most fantastic, wonderful, amazing person I’ve ever had the privilege to be in a room with,” you’d have responded, believe me. Especially at a moment when your boyfriend told you he was going off to get the keys to the City of New York with Bob Evans and that none of the wives would be there. I was just in the mood, you know.
You wrote in your memoir that you kissed Ryan O’Neal on his dining-room table for six hours. I was trying to picture it, and I concluded that this couldn’t factually be true.
But your back. What about your back?
I was young. My back was like liquid amber.
Why didn’t you move? Did the man not have a sofa?
No, I think we were just too enrapt. But it could’ve been four hours, quite honestly. You can shave a couple hours off that. I’m prone to exaggeration.
Ryan sounded like he was a psychopath with you.
Yes, I think he was. He head-butted me. He took my head in his hands and hit it with full force against his head because he couldn’t find me at a party. He’s a deeply disturbed — or at least was then; I can’t vouch for now, but I think he was — deeply disturbed person.
You once wrote that you feel like people physically become the people that they are inside.
It’s the opposite of The Picture of Dorian Gray. They become what is inside.
Do you think people also get the careers they deserve? He was on top of the world and then his career disappeared.
Yes, I do. And I think you also get the face you deserve. Have you seen it lately?
In your memoir, you mention that Ryan O’Neal was sleeping with one of his daughter Tatum’s friends. Your father became involved with a woman you considered a friend, Zoe Sallis. Our culture has an incest prohibition, but friends of daughters …
Well, when I was growing up in Ireland — I think I was about 12 — a very pretty girl came to St. Clerans. I don’t think my mother was there that summer. But I remember Zoe was sweet and friendly, let me wear her stockings and showed me how she did her makeup. She was maybe in her mid-20s, closer to my age than to my father’s. I didn’t know anything further about Zoe until I was summoned to Rome the next year by my father. He said, “Great news.” The great news was I had a little brother. I didn’t think it was great news. I was shocked.
Did you feel like it was a major betrayal from Zoe?
More than a major betrayal from her, I felt it was a major betrayal from my father and from Betty O’Kelly, who looked after St. Clerans, was my very special friend, and took care of me when Mom wasn’t there. She happened to be in Rome. She picked us up from the airport and I thought, Wow, what is Betty doing here? Betty had on a three-quarter-mink jacket, which my father had given her that year for Christmas. And he kind of made me mistrustful of him and every woman around him.
So you think your father was compelled to have sex with any woman who happened to be around?
Yeah. I think so. Maybe not Gladys, his longtime assistant–co-writer–secretary. But I would say probably everyone else.
You talked to your father about Jack’s cheating, and he basically said it doesn’t mean anything.
He said, “It’s absolutely meaningless.” Yeah.
The way your father announced you had a brother doesn’t sound all that different from how Jack told you he was having a baby with Rebecca Broussard.
Well, Jack didn’t exactly introduce it as, “This is the greatest news.” He said, “Someone is having a baby.” And before that moment, there had been a strange unspoken tension in the air that I didn’t quite know what it was. He asked me over, and we had a very sweet dinner, and he was playing things close to the vest, and I didn’t want to push. I’ve never liked these announcements, or discovering unwelcome truths. And then he kind of laid it on me. And I was really nice about it. I remember we had a hug, and I maybe had a little cry, but by the time I got home, I was really furious.
So you broke up with him that night, but then you showed up at his office. I guess you beat him up pretty good.
Yeah. But I didn’t kick him. It’s the only thing I didn’t do because I figured he might come back at me. He got my meaning.
It must have been particularly hurtful because you’d been trying to have a baby for years.
That was a certain moment where I was trying to get pregnant, which didn’t really work out. But the truth is, I could never imagine [being a mother]. I can imagine lots of things, but I could never imagine carrying a baby.
The breakup sounded very sad. I know that you were bothered when a bunch of your friends in common spoke to magazines about how happy he was with Rebecca.
That was what I thought was really despicable. People I’d cooked dinners for, his pals, would come out all of a sudden talking about how he’d found true love. It was odious. It demonstrated a tremendous lack of loyalty as far as I was concerned.
Like Bob Rafelson?
Oh, all those guys. I can’t say all those guys, but yeah, those guys. Cronies. I hung around these people for 15 years, and so much of it ended that day. People I’d seen, I mean, practically, maybe not on a daily, but certainly on a biweekly basis, I never heard from again. Friends of Jack’s who could’ve picked up the phone and said, “This is really fucked up, but I’d love to see you or take you to lunch.” Not a bit of it.
But you did hear from his business manager about the financial terms of the breakup?
Oh, yeah. He was great. His business manager and his lawyer took me to lunch in the garden at Ma Maison. And the lawyer said, “Picture this. You’re a parking-lot attendant. And I drive into your parking lot and I give you $2 to put my car away, but you don’t feel that’s enough because I’ve got a big fancy car.” That’s how he introduced what he had to say.
Didn’t you feel like you were entitled to something?
I asked for my house, and I got my house. It was never my intention to make money off Jack. All I wanted was to be able to be self-sufficient.
You married Robert Graham in 1992, correct?
Yeah. I kind of thought I should. Every woman should be married once.
Bob died in 2008. Do you think about him a lot?
I miss Bob a lot. I think about him very often, yes.
You wrote that your marriage wasn’t perfect.
No, nothing is perfect, particularly when you’ve had a life like mine and the imperfections are as interesting as the perfections, if not more so. It wasn’t that Bob wasn’t perfect, because he was close to perfect, but he was an artist.
One of the things that I really liked about Bob was I thought, Well, if I croak tomorrow, it certainly wouldn’t be the end of his life. There was a lot that Bob had that did not depend on me. He was off on his own plane in a way. I could look at something that Bob made and go, “How the fuck did he do that?”
I think that many writers have made comparisons between Jack and your father, that they’re similar. They liked each other. They were philanderers. They were incredibly—
Yes, charismatic and fun. I mean, did you recognize when you were dating Jack that he was so like your dad?
No. No. They didn’t look alike. They were just my kind of guys.
I guess you didn’t like guys who were—
Dependable. Secure. Yeah. No. I never found those ones to be sexy. I like the difficult ones.
It sounds like there was a lot of pain with Jack. I mean, when you think back on it, would you have spent those 17 years doing something else?
No. I had a good time, too. My life has always been a bit extreme in terms of the people that I’ve hung out with.
The rumor was that Rebecca left Jack for a younger guy.
I think, probably, but I don’t know that she left for a younger guy.
Sometimes that happens incidentally, but it doesn’t just mean that something younger with more vibrant plumage passes by. Maybe you’re flirting with someone who’s attractive, who finds you fun and amusing and tells you you’re beautiful. Maybe it’s better than being with Grumpy.
But when Jack was with her, she was very young, like 24 or something. After seeing this happen so many times in Hollywood, do you find it satisfying when an older man finally hits a wall and, despite his wealth, doesn’t have the appeal that he once did?
I don’t know that you can make a blanket statement about any of that. I think there are some younger women with older guys who love them and stay with them forever. I don’t know. I think it depends on the case.
He came to your 60th-birthday party. When’s the last time you talked to him?
A year or so ago.
You got this great role in the new John Wick movie. Why doesn’t he work anymore?
If he’s not being offered anything as delicious as he has done in his past, why would he? He has enough money to live three lifetimes more, and particularly in the way that he lives; he doesn’t go out and spend tons of money buying fur coats for girls. I don’t even know if he buys art anymore. Also in terms of the work that’s out there, what are they going to give him, The Bucket List? That’s an insult. I told him, you don’t have to do The Bucket List stuff. Why don’t you play a great villain?
It really is sort of disappointing to see people whom I personally idolized doing the kind of movies that Robert De Niro’s willing to take now.
You don’t want to see Jack do that. I don’t want to see Jack doing Meet the Fockers. I already get depressed if I see him in perfectly good Nancy Meyers movies. I like to see Jack in full rebellious feather, and that’s how I love him best on film. I loved him in Terms of Endearment, where he plays this incredibly romantic no-goodnik.
Do you think needing money is what keeps a lot of older actors working on substandard stuff?
Is this why we see Robert De Niro in terrible movies?
Although, how big can his nut be?* I guess he has maybe a couple of ex-wives, right? Not many, but what does this fellow spend his money on? He’s got Nobu. He’s got the Tribeca Film Festival — he’s not spending the film money on that.
Al Pacino’s done some unfortunate straight-to-video stuff too.
Pacino does some schlock. But in some way he’s forgiven, because he always goes out on a limb and does Salomé all by himself. Pacino is more experimental, I think. But Bobby, I don’t know the last thing that I’ve seen him in that I thought, Wow, he’s really cracking it.
I don’t know who if anyone Jack’s with now. Why don’t you two hang out?
Because he doesn’t call me enough and I’m not gonna [Huston mimes dialing a rotary phone].
*Due to a transcription error, the line ‘Although, how big can his nut be?’ originally appeared as ‘Although, how big can this nut be?’. This interview has been edited and condensed from two conversations.
*This article appears in the April 29, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!
a fashion show wearing an Eiffel Tower hat. Huston and Nicholson’s relationship began in 1973, when stepmother Celeste “Cici” Huston brought Anjelica to
his birthday party and she ended up spending the night with him. The Mexican-born artist Robert Graham, known for his massive bronze public sculptures, including one in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. Richardson, whose schizophrenia was diagnosed in the ’60s and exacerbated by drug and alcohol abuse, was periodically homeless, and often living on Southern California beaches. His son, the photographer Terry Richardson, got him off the streets in 1984. He died in Manhattan in 2005 at 77. When Huston filed a 900-page memoir to Scribner, the publisher insisted she split it into two books. A Story Lately Told, about growing up in Ireland and modeling in Europe and New York, was published in 2013. Watch Me, about her years in Los Angeles, was published in 2014. Though nominated 15 times, Huston won his only two Oscars for 1948’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. He and Walter Huston were the first father and son to be awarded an Oscar at the same ceremony. Nicholson has been nominated for 12 Oscars, winning Best Actor for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1976) and As Good As It Gets (1998) and Best Supporting Actor for Terms of Endearment (1984). Other nominees for 1986’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar: Margaret Avery for The Color Purple, Amy Madigan for Twice in a Lifetime, and Meg Tilly for Agnes of God. John Huston died on August 28, 1987, in a rented house in Middletown, Rhode Island, close to the set of his son Danny’s first feature film, Mr. North, which he executive-produced. Granulomatosis with polyangiitis, formerly known as Wegener’s disease, is a rare condition that causes inflammation of the blood vessels in the nose, sinuses, throat, lungs, and kidneys. Ricki Soma gave birth to Allegra Huston in 1964. At 12, stepmother Cici explained that her father was not John Huston but historian John Julius Norwich, who died in 2018. Actor-director Danny Huston was born in Rome on May 14, 1962, to actress and author Zoe Sallis. Model and actress Rebecca Broussard was a waitress when she began an affair with Nicholson, with whom she had two kids. They split in 1992. She married actor Alex Kelly in 2001. Following 2007’s The Bucket List, Nicholson’s most recent major role was as a corporate criminal in 2010’s commercial and critical bomb, How Do You Know, a comedy directed by James L. Brooks.