“Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” with Audrey Hepburn
's sweetly iconic performance as Holly Golightly at its core, hid some bitter behind-the-scenes secrets that The National ENQUIRER
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, who sold the rights to his novella of the same name to Paramount Studios for $650,000, wanted screen siren Marilyn Monroe
— whom he called “that sweet, dear baby” — to play Holly, a naive small-town girl who makes her living in the big city by keeping company with wealthy men.
But Monroe’s adviser and acting coach, Paula Strasberg
, told producers the blond bombshell would not play a “lady of the evening.” “Vertigo” star Kim Novak
had also been offered the part of Holly but turned it down, as did Shirley MacLaine
, who calls the refusal one of her biggest regrets.
When Paramount finally hired Audrey — who’d charmed audiences in 1953’s “Roman Holiday” — furious Capote said the studio had “double-crossed me in every way.” Audrey herself initially had doubts about playing extroverted Holly.
“I didn’t think I was right for it,” she said about her most memorable role
. She only signed on after the studio replaced director John Frankenheimer
with Blake Edwards
(left) and agreed to tone down some of the film’s sexual innuendo. “It was Blake Edwards who finally persuaded me,” recalled the star, who died of cancer in 1993 at age 63.
While Blake was happy with Audrey being Holly, he was fully against George Peppard as her leading man! He allegedly dropped to his knees and begged producers Martin Jurow and Richard Shepherd not to bring him on board to play neighbor Paul Varjak. Truman himself wanted to star as Paul, but was quickly shot down.
Meanwhile, Blake was desperate to cast tough guy Steve McQueen
, but the actor was still under contract with CBS for “Wanted: Dead or Alive” — and the network refused to give him time off. The director’s next choice was Tony Curtis
, and while Tony was game, the producers weren’t interested and insisted George was their man.
The pair repeatedly clashed on the set, with George refusing to listen to Blake’s direction when he didn't agree with it. And Audrey didn't get along with George either! "There wasn't a human being that Audrey Hepburn didn't have a kind word for," said co-producer Richard, "except George Peppard. She didn't like him at all. She thought he was too pompous."
Worried about how censors would react to Holly's morally questionable line of work, writer George Axelrod — who'd penned "The Seven-Year Itch" — reworked the screenplay to lose Truman's unhappy, unresolved ending, and added bedroom scenes for Paul that he had not intention of keeping. Censors fell for the set-up, focusing on promiscuous Paul and paying little mind to Holly.
Two actors from the film had cartoon connections: Alan Reed (left), the original voice of Fred Flintstone, played Holly's mobster pal Sally Tomato; while Mel Blanc, the voice behind Bugs Bunny and countless others, was the uncredited voice of Holly's drunken overeager date.
Although beloved by many, the film remains reviled by some for Mickey Rooney
's offensive portrayal of Japanese character Mr. Yunioshi. Mickey wrote in his 1991 memoir "Life Is Too Short
" that he was "downright ashamed" of the performance.
In a 2006 interview, director Blake looked back on Rooney's hiring and acknowledged, "I wish I had never done it...and I would give anything to be able to recast it."
In addition to boosting Audrey's starpower, "Breakfast at Tiffany's" also revived the career of fading 1930s song-and-dance-man Buddy Ebsen
. who had a small but notable part as Holly's ex-husband, Doc Golightly. His performance helped earn him his best-remembered role — Jed Clampett on "The Beverly Hillbillies
Despite the film's enduring appeal with audiences, it failed to win over its toughest critic — Truman. Asked what he thought was wrong with it, the outspoken author replied: "Oh, God, just everything ... It was the most miscast film I've ever seen. It made me want to throw up."