New York Magazine

Anjelica Huston

The actress on growing up in Hollywood, the price of beating Oprah at the Oscars, and why Jack Nicholson doesn’t make movies anymore.

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.1 I was reading an old interview with him where he talked about growing up the son of Walter Huston.2 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 mother3 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. Tony4 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.5

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

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