What is it that can turn an actor into a star? An actor may possess an incredible talent or skill when it comes to conveying their performance, but I do not necessarily believe that is enough. Sometimes, I believe that there needs to be that perfect mixture of the actor’s performance and writing which gives them strong material to work with. The right mixture of both can give an actor the chance to rise above and be noticed for the skilled performer they are. It’s a situation that has happened time and again. For example, Johnny Depp may have had some status as a teen idol with his work on the television series 21 Jump Street, but it was his tender performance in the title role of Edward Scissorhands that brought him to leading man status. Bruce Willis has had a similar situation himself. He had received some acclaim on television thanks to the show Moonlighting, but what made him a star was his resilent and charming turn as John McClane in the film Die Hard. In both cases, these actors had well-written characters from which they could deliver wonderful performances that high-lighted their skills. Such was the case when Audrey Hepburn became a star overnight herself, thanks to her terrific performance in the 1953 film Roman Holiday.
While traveling across Europe as part of a goodwill tour, Princess Ann has grown frustrated with her life and duties. She longs to know the freedom had by the common people, unshackles from the responsibilities and minutely-planned schedules that come with her life in the royal family. One night, with the goodwill tour currently in Rome, she sneaks away from an embassy in a disguise to enjoy a night on the town. During her escape, she encounters an American journalist named Joe Bradley who doesn’t recognize her. Once he does, however, he comes up with a plan to take her around Rome and show her the sights while a photographer friend covertly takes pictures of their time together. For Joe, it’s the story of a lifetime. However, as he and Ann travel around Rome, taking in the sights and growing ever closer, he finds that maybe it’s not quite worth printing this story if it means hurting her.
This film is a delightful classic among romantic comedies. The direction is good, capturing the course of Joe and Ann’s trip around Rome well. In fact, the film was shot entirely on location in Rome, lending a realism to its setting that might not have been achieved with simply shooting on sets. The writing is well done, offering this tale of a journalist and princess falling in love during an adventure in Rome with a warm heart and natural touch. Even when their night grows more eventful thanks to secret police searching for Princess Ann and a night-time brawl, the charm of Joe and Ann is never lost and the ensuing tale maintains its magic along with a real world feel. Now, for any movie, the performances within it are an essential part of the storytelling process. Thankfully, this film does offer some wonderful acting that works for this charming story. For example, Gregory Peck works quite well in the role of Joe Bradley. He lends the part a real charisma to the part, a worldly charm and experience that works well as a counterpoint to Ann’s naivete and innocence. Of course, a romantic comedy relies on more than just one lead, and it is not only Gregory Peck who delivers a wonderful performance. Standing out more than him is Audrey Hepburn, playing the part of Princess Ann.
Starring in what was her first ever film, Audrey Hepburn is an absolute gem as Princess Ann. First of all, she captures the wonder in Ann as she discovers a world that she has never known before. Those things that most people take for granted, such as going to get their hair cut or enjoying a drink at a cafe, seem like wonderful experiences to the fresh eyes of Ann. Along with that, she also captures the weariness in her of her royal life. It’s clear watching her how stifling the endless parade of speeches, royal greetings, and tight schedules are to her. When she finally lets loose and throws a fit about the endless planning of every step for her life, it is so easy to feel for her. Most of all, Hepburn manages to capture the clash between these two sides of her. Finding this freedom in traveling around Rome with Joe offers her that dream of a normal life that she has held onto for a long time. However, it also becomes clear that she cannot just give up her life as a princess, that she comes to understand the duties she must fulfill for her people. Thus, we watch the conflict unfold between Ann’s dream of a regular life and her reality of being a princess and all that entails, with Hepburn’s performance being a stirring mixture of delight and sorrow.
A great script and a great actor is a combination that can make magic. When given the right script or character, an actor can really capture the inner core of their character and rise to the occasion. Sometimes, that can take an actor and make them noticed by the public, maybe even turn them into a star. That was the situation with Audrey Hepburn, thanks to her stunning performance and the great script she was given in Roman Holiday.