With “Smash” behind her, Anjelica Huston is free to do press rounds for her new memoir, “A Story Lately Told.” In the book she dishes on her childhood growing up in Ireland, her famous philandering director father John, how she coped with her mother’s death in a car crash, and her experience meeting her half-brother Danny when he was already two years old.
Huston invited CBS to her ranch in Northern California, where she rides horses (watch it here). On Charlie Rose (watch below), she credits “charming” Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter with
pressuring her to write the book. A second book is in the works, with more challenging material for her to grapple with. Why? “More of the people are alive,” she tells Rose, asserting that she
has no intention of hurting anyone.
I met Huston in Cannes in 1996 when she was promoting “Bastard Out of Carolina,” her excellent but tough directing debut that wasn’t widely seen. She
has directing chops, as well as being sophisticated, elegant, smart and charming, much like her father John and brother Danny. What I got from interviewing John around the time of 1985’s “Prizzi’s Honor,” which scored father-daughter Oscar nominations–she won for playing the memorable Maerose Prizzi, the third Oscar winner in her family; John won for writing and directing “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” starring his father Walter, who won supporting actor–was that he cared deeply about telling stories. He cared about many other things too, but at that stage of his life he put his all into his next and last film, “The Dead,” starring Anjelica and co-written by her older brother Tony). It’s one of the great holiday films.
In Toronto this year I also met another charming Huston actor from whom I expect great things: he’s Anjelica’s nephew Jack, son of Tony, who played key roles in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” David Chase’s “Not Fade Away” and the recent Allen Ginsberg tale “Kill Your Darlings.”
It’s a pity her memoir fails to make those experiences come
alive on the page because she’s so emotionally remote and detached from her own
story. There’s no life in this life story.
Far too often the story simply devolves into a recitation of
places she went and people she met — more diary than memoir. She spends far
too much time on her early childhood in Ireland, where her parents owned an old
country house in County Galway.
When Anjelica as a very young woman gets involved with much
older men, anyone with a smug and limited understanding of psychology might
think they understand what draws her to them. And of course the complex and
not-quite-gettable older man figures largely in her inner life, though she is a
smart and subtle enough writer not to aim for a pop diagnosis, but instead,
once again, to go for something truer, deeper and richer than that. Again and
again in this stirring memoir of a highly unusual life, Anjelica Huston just
tries to show what it’s been like, being her.
Anjelica Huston grew up in such a bedazzlingly beautiful
place that she couldn’t see beyond its magic. At least that’s the impression
created by “A Story Lately Told,” the first half of Ms. Huston’s life story. In
this charm-filled but often oddly opaque book, she writes of life at St.
Clerans, the grand estate in County Galway, Ireland, full of pets, flowers,
exotic treasures and her parents’ famous friends. Ms. Huston presents lovely
inventories of the things that made St. Clerans special, but she never says
much about the elephant in the room.
Her lovely, novelistic writing carries the book, whether
she’s sharing a teenage kiss ”between marshmallows” by the bonfire,
auditioning for modeling gigs with a girl who’s ”like a wet kitten” in a fur
coat, or flying in a 12-seat plane with the Monkees. As a storyteller, she’s
having more fun than a monkey in a lingerie drawer. And if she hasn’t mentioned
her famous exes yet (Jack Nicholson!), that just means there are more juicy
tales to come.