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It’s hard to imagine anyone but Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but she wasn’t a shoo-in for the part. The studio considered Jane Fonda, Shirley MacLaine, and even Rosemary Clooney. In the mind of Truman Capote, who wrote the novella, there was only one person for the part.
“Marilyn would have been absolutely marvelous in it,” he said. In fact, Monroe wanted to be cast so badly that she performed two scenes for the author.
Capote remember, “She was terrifically good, but Paramount double-crossed me in every conceivable way and cast Audrey.”
According to him, the tough quality of Holly Golightly was something Hepburn couldn’t pull off.
“Holly had to have something touching about her – unfinished. Marilyn had that. Audrey is an old friend and one of my favorite people, but she was just wrong for the part.”
However, according to Paula Strasberg, Monroe’s acting teacher and wife of Lee Strasberg "father of method acting in America,” Marilyn would never have played a call girl.
Hepburn herself was hesitant about the part and nearly passed on it. But the role, as described to her, was complex and layered – and in fact, the film really only hints at Holly’s risqué position.
“I didn’t think I was right for it,” Hepburn said. “It was Blake Edwards who finally persuaded me.”
Still, the role required her to stretch herself in ways she hadn’t before.
“This part called for an extroverted character. I am an introvert. But everyone pressed me to do it… so I suffered through it all. I lost weight. Very often when I was doing the part, I was convinced I was not doing the best job.”
Years later, Hepburn would look back on the film and remember it as the “best thing” she had ever done because “it was the hardest.”