Vivien Leigh played tough-as-nails survivor Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, but in real life, she was emotionally fragile and was crushed by the pressure of her career-making role.
Hysterical and buckling under the pressure of relentless production, the 25-year-old beauty began popping sedatives as she struggled to cope — and nearly killed herself with an accidental overdose on the Hollywood set in 1938.
Vivien’s alarmed lover, actor Laurence Olivier, 32, wrote, “How dare you take four pills like that!”
Producer David O. Selznick became so concerned, he begged Olivier to fly in from New York and calm the bipolar actress, who’d deserted her lawyer husband and their young daughter to shack up with the Brit, who’d ditched his actress-wife and their son.
Olivier and Leigh met for a sex-filled weekend in Kansas City.
“I’m so grateful to you,” Leigh later told Selznick. “Larry met me in the hotel lobby, and we went upstairs, and we f**ked, and we f**ked, and we f**ked the whole weekend.”
But Olivier, praised as the world’s greatest actor, also cruelly pressured the fragile hottie. He wrote Vivien becoming successful was “essential for your self respect and our ultimate happiness.”
If she flopped, the snotty cad added, “I am afraid you may become just — well, boring.”
Fortunately, Vivien won an Oscar for her role — and another later for 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire. Gone with the Wind became the highest-earning movie for years at $1.8 billion in today’s bucks.
Sadly, Leigh was destroyed by emotional demons, her 20-year marriage to Olivier crashed and she was hospitalized for electroshock treatment. She died from tuberculosis at age 53.