"Real movie stars bring to the screen a presence that's overwhelming. Faye is the last of that breed."
That assessment, by one of her closest friends, is perhaps the clue to understanding the distinctive quality that has made Faye Dunaway such a great and enduring star -- for in an era of intimacy and accessibility, she has remained aloof, a figure of mystery, larger than life. In Looking for Gatsby
-- a title which perfectly conveys the haunting pursuit of romance that has always been a part of her life -- Faye Dunaway has written a truly remarkable book. As she probes relentlessly for the truth about herself, she fearlessly confronts her demons, trying to set the record straight about her life, her loves, her work, searching for the events that shaped her, that gave her the drive -- and the blazing need -- to escape from a childhood of poverty and turmoil and to succeed so completely as an actress.
Faye Dunaway writes about her earliest years with fierce pride and a total lack of self-pity, whether about the strong women who shaped her character (her mother and her maternal grandmother), or her father who was never really a father to her (one manifestation of the Gatsby for which she has always searched). Acting was not just a way out -- it was a passion, the one thing she knew she had to do. She captures brilliantly her hard times in pursuit of that career, attending college on a patchwork of scholarships, as well as working at a variety of jobs to support herself, studying her profession with a painstaking thoroughness and an eye for detail that was to make her legendary, developing that inner sense of the person and the story that later enabled her to portray larger-than-life characters so convincingly.
Faye Dunaway confronts her reputation for being "difficult" (including struggles with such directors as Otto Preminger and Roman Polanski) and makes us understand not only the fact that she takes her profession seriously, but the way in which perfectionism in Hollywood is usually taken as praiseworthy in men and, unfairly, condemned in women -- even stars.
When she began her acting career, it was in the New York theater. Success came almost immediately, in Hogan's Goat, and fame soon after that, when in only her third film she was cast opposite Warren Beatty in Bonnie and Clyde. Her talent and her enigmatic beauty made her a major international star almost overnight and gave her at last the life she had only dreamed about as a child. But as Faye so openly admits, reality has a way of mocking dreams, and while success and fame came easily, happiness has proven much more elusive. She writes candidly of the men in her life -- costars, lovers, husbands -- and of the problems of competing needs and constant professional demands that frequently destroy relationships in the world of movie stardom. There have been affairs, of course, some of which have been public knowledge, others discussed here for the first time, among them legendary comedian and satirist Lenny Bruce (about whom she writes movingly) and Italian superstar Marcello Mastroianni (with whom she had a long, stormy affair). She writes intimately of two of her marriages, her first to rock icon Peter Wolf, lead singer of the J. Geils Band, and later to renowned photographer Terry O'Neill, with whom she saw her greatest triumph, their son Liam.
Her career has been scarcely less tempestuous, however brilliant. She has appeared in such major successes as Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown, The Thomas Crown Affair, Mommie Dearest and Network (for which she won an Academy Award as Best Actress) and experienced great disappointments, such as the failure of her 1993 television series.
With a candor remarkable in so private a star, she takes the reader behind the scenes of her own working life as an actress, including her relationships with -- and professional opinions of -- such actors as Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, Steve McQueen and Warren Beatty, as well as her feud with Bette Davis.
Moving, witty, fiercely honest, unsparing of herself, Faye Dunaway's Looking for Gatsby is an extraordinary book, as smart, clear-sighted and full of passion as the woman who wrote it.