Smash Star Anjelica Huston

Born of Hollywood royalty, longtime grist for the tabloid mill, and no stranger to tragedy, the actress, at 61, has found a new inner confidence.

Anjelica Huston

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Anjelica Huston Illustration
Born of Hollywood royalty, the Smash star, now 61, has found a new inner confidence. Illustration by John Jay Cabuay.

When Anjelica Huston enters a room, she commands your attention just as she does on screen. She’s an imposing presence, even a little intimidating—she’s just so tall!—until she breaks into that charming, mischievous grin. It’s quickly obvious that the actress is nothing like the scheming, tough-as-nails producer, Eileen Rand, whom she plays on the NBC series, Smash.

As Huston speaks, revealing a self-deprecating sense of humor that’s thoroughly endearing, it’s hard to separate the drama in her life from the memorable characters she’s brought to life, from the mob wife in Prizzi’s Honor to Morticia in The Addams Family.

Huston was born into Hollywood royalty. Her dad was legendary director John Huston. Her mother, John’s fourth wife, was Italian ballerina, Enrica “Ricki” Soma. Houseguests ranged from Marlon Brando to John Paul Sartre and John Steinbeck. She began acting in small roles, mainly in her father’s films. Then, just as she was coming into her own, her mother was killed in a car accident. That changed the direction of her life.

She moved to New York, and as a young woman, her grace, stature, and angular good looks led her to modeling. Richard Avedon photographed her for Vogue. The big change in her life came when her father cast her in Prizzi’s Honor, a part that earned her an Oscar and made her a star. She co-starred with her longtime love Jack Nicholson. They were together for 16 years, but once she got famous there was a lot more interest in them as a couple—always talk about the ups and downs of that relationship.

Finally, they split—another big life-changer.

When she and Nicholson parted company, Hollywood watched to see if she’d ever find her Mr. Right. The answer came when she walked down the aisle with celebrated sculptor Robert Graham–known for works like the Olympic Gateway at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in D.C., and the Duke Ellington Monument in New York’s Central Park. The handsome artist and the beautiful actress were a standout couple in the arenas of entertainment and art.

Graham also loved to draw beautiful women and their bodies. There was one star-studded showing of his work where people teased him about nude drawings that looked an awful lot like Anjelica. She casually deflected the questions by talking about “my fantastic husband” and playing up his many other accomplishments. The two were inseparable, so his sudden death from a heart attack four years ago left her shattered. Her many friends within and without Hollywood rallied around her, but she credits Smash—her first venture into series television—with coming at a “vital time” and finally filling a void in her life.

Question: I have known you for years. I listen to the laugh in your voice and you’ve got the greatest smile. Why do they keep casting you as these stern women like Eileen in Smash?
Anjelica Huston: [Laughing] Well, Eileen does have a good sense of humor. But it’s true, they like me to be these slightly sinister characters. It’s good to play against type, I guess.

Anjelica Huston
“Sometimes I’m a wimp, and other days I think I can conquer the world.” Photo courtesy NBC Universal.

Q: And what would you say your type is?
AH: I really don’t match any stereotype. I never felt like I “fit in.” That’s probably what makes me a great observer.

Q: But doesn’t your character’s feistiness reflect you maybe just a little?
AH: I would like to be as scrappy as Eileen. I can certainly wrap my brain around her scrappiness. But sometimes I’m a wimp, and other days I think I can conquer the world. I wish I could plan it out a bit better.

Q: You get some steamy romantic scenes on the show. Do you get a kick out of that?
AH: It all depends on who with. But it certainly livens things up—particularly at my age. I remember at the very outset, two years ago, I said to the producers, ‘Please, give me a love interest.’ I think it’s important to see strong women who also have a very vulnerable side and who are allowed to have a sexy side.

Q: As the years pass, what has changed for you?
AH: The older I get, the more I look for a good time. I remember when I was in my 20s and 30s, I was always in some fight with a boyfriend or involved in some drama, something to feel bad about. I feel so the opposite of that now. I just like to have a good time, smile, and be with my friends. You know, tell a story, have a drink. I’m certainly not looking for angst.

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