The film and fashion worlds fall for Hepburn all over again

By Anna Holmes
Updated April 05, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

Needless to say, Sydney Pollack’s remake of Sabrina didn’t go as planned. Not only did the film fail to create a new era of Hollywood romance, it didn’t launch newcomer Julia Ormond into a screen-princess stratosphere all her own. But in the nearly four months since Sabrina was released, one clear beneficiary of the hype has emerged: Audrey Hepburn. Three years after her death from colon cancer at 63, filmdom’s most famous gamine has found a surprising afterlife.

Recently, her elfin persona has been evoked in everything from fashion collections (her look appeared in recent runway shows from Valentino, Prada, and Calvin Klein) to top 10 hits (Deep Blue Something’s ”Breakfast at Tiffany’s”) to novels (Pocket’s newly published Audrey Hepburn’s Neck) and print ads (Hewlett-Packard’s printer-copier spots feature a Hepburn look-alike wearing a spoof of her signature Givenchy hat).

”We’re in such a fast-paced world we’ve lost touch with that dignity, that radiance,” says Patricia Rogo Davis, VP of program scheduling at American Movie Classics. ”You always felt good after you saw Audrey Hepburn.”

To be sure, Hollywood is adding to the Hepburn renaissance with a number of film projects. Among them:

Meg Ryan and Carrie Fisher are revamping this 1967 Hepburn-Albert Finney vehicle for Twentieth Century Fox. Fisher is fine-tuning the screenplay while Ryan is slated to star. But Cathleen Summers, one of the film’s producers, promises that this remake has less to do with cashing in on Hepburn than it does with the strength of the story. ”The film is about very strong issues,” she says, ”even if the presentation is witty.”

Hepburn devotee Steven Spielberg (the two worked together on 1989’s Always) has chosen this comedy as one of the first film projects for his fledgling DreamWorks. Tea Leoni (ABC’s The Naked Truth) is set to star as a woman obsessed with the actress, with shooting scheduled to begin this summer.

Producer Robert Evans is reportedly developing this comedy about a young woman fixated on the Breakfast at Tiffany’s charmer Holly Golightly.

Director Wayne Wang (Smoke) bought the rights to Alan Brown’s novel about a young Japanese man smitten with you-know-who. They are at work on a script.

Reg Grundy Productions has optioned Diana Maychick’s 1993 biography for a possible miniseries. The project may be on hold, however, since the author is being sued by Hepburn’s son Sean Ferrer, who claims that the biography was not authorized. Ferrer also disputes some of Maychick’s revelations (i.e., that the actress’ father was a Nazi sympathizer). ”We believe that [Maychick] didn’t even have an interview with my mother,” Ferrer says. Maychick was unavailable for comment.

But that’s far from the end. There are also plans to market Hepburn apparel lines, collectibles, and even a commemorative coin. Too much? According to Roger Richman, the Beverly Hills agent who oversees the licensing of Hepburn’s estate, every effort is being made to keep the actress’ cachet intact. ”We’re extraordinarily selective about where her name and image appear,” says Richman, who has okayed ads for J.P. Tod’s shoes and a line of Hepburn-themed scarves from Nicole Miller. A portion of the profits will go to the Audrey Hepburn Hollywood for Children Fund, a nonprofit organization founded by Ferrer that continues her children’s charity work around the world.

And how would the Fair Lady herself feel about all this devotion? Perhaps a bit daunted. ”I don’t think she’d like being deified,” says Hollywood Reporter columnist and Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne, who was a close friend. ”She felt that she was not someone who should be worshiped” Nevertheless, her son thinks she’d handle it with her usual grace. Says Ferrer: ”She would be very moved.”