Filmmaker Ian Woodward’s best-selling biography of Hollywood superstar Audrey Hepburn, originally published in Britain in 1984 – the first major study of the captivating star of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, The Nun’s Story and My Fair Lady – celebrates its 30 anniversary of continuous publication on 6 July.

In the ensuing three decades the 448-page book, Audrey Hepburn: Fair Lady of the Screen, has remained permanently in print and been published worldwide in numerous languages and in every possible format, from hardback, trade paperback and mass-market paperback editions to large-print and Braille editions and audio books. World-exclusive serialisation rights were sold to the National Enquirer and second rights to the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, resulting in the serialisation of the book in hundreds of newspapers and magazines throughout the United States.

Audrey Hepburn, which is also available on and (USA) as an eBook kindle edition ( inspired the musical Fair Lady of the Screen. Composed by Rudi Dobson, one-time globe-trotting keyboardist with the legendary Bee Gees band, it was subsequently released on CD by President Records.

Audrey Hepburn, with Elizabeth Taylor, was the highest paid female star in the world. Today she is ranked by the American Film Institute as the third greatest female screen legend in the history of American cinema and regarded by some to be the most naturally beautiful woman of all time; and for 30 years, as if to mirror such statistics, the author has been receiving letters on an almost weekly basis from Audrey Hepburn admirers around the world, which he finds both amazing and pleasurable.

Below:  Japanese edition

“The Japanese, in particular, absolutely dote on Audrey,” he says, “but I’m not really surprised by all the letters from Japanese readers because for many years Audrey Hepburn was firmly entrenched in the box office Top Ten in Japan.” There might be one the reasons, as Audrey herself admitted: “Maybe I look Japanese.” Says Ian Woodward: “Whether or not Audrey looked Japanese when filmed and photographed, the Tokyo publishers of Audrey Hepburn certainly filled the book with many photos where she looks very Japanese indeed!”

Over the years, Ian Woodward has received many thousands of letters from Audrey readers, and yet the letter he most treasures came from Laura, a 15-year-old girl in Lincolnshire. Like all the other letters, it was forwarded by either his agent or his London publisher – “she will be 35 now!” – and it is one he still holds dear.

Laura, an Audrey Hepburn devotee, was on her way home from school, sitting at the back of the bus on a seat facing a seat on the other side where an elderly woman was sitting. She tells how she had got to a part of the book, towards the end, where the movie star is at her home in Switzerland, succumbing to appendiceal cancer, and where her two ex-husbands (film star Mel Ferrer and Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti) and present partner Rob, and her two sons, Sean and Luca, have come together to be by her side. It is the middle of January 1993 and, as snowdrops and crocuses are pushing their way through frosty flowerbeds to herald a new year, Audrey begins to sink and the family prepare themselves. In March of that year she will be awarded an honorary Oscar – the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award – for her work as UNICEF’s “ambassador to the world’s children”.

Mother Theresa, mirroring the emotional needs of a universal family, orders a two-hour prayer vigil at her Calcutta mission where nuns take turns to pray in three-hour shifts for the star who, like them, has devoted years to helping the hungry and homeless. As she starts to fade, Audrey looks up at Rob, who is holding her frail hand, and calls him “the best husband ever, but there’s no piece of paper”. 

Laura then turns the page of the book she is holding and, in her letter, she explains how she felt her own life was also slipping away as she read the author’s words:

A whipping wind raged outside when, at seven o’clock in the evening, surrounded by Rob, Mel, Andrea, Sean and Luca, the light of her life finally went out. My Fair Lady had at last found that ‘room somewhere, far away from the cold night air’. The pain which had ravaged her skeletal frame was suddenly no more and those qualities of serenity, beauty, dignity and compassion which had been her hallmark now returned in death to lie peacefully on her face.

Laura writes in her letter: “When I read your words on that page in the book, I broke down. I felt so sad and grief-stricken and I just couldn’t help myself: tears streamed down my face. The old lady opposite came and sat next to me and gave me a tissue to wipe my face. 

“‘What’s the matter, dear?’ she asked.

“I said ‘Audrey’s just died.’ 

“She saw the cover of your book and she understood immediately. 

“‘We all loved Audrey – God has a most beautiful new angel now,’ she said. 

“And I sobbed ‘Yes, and she’ll know just what to do in Heaven.’”

“Thank you, Mr Woodward, for writing your book,” she ended her letter. “It has shown me in such a beautiful way how Audrey Hepburn was so much more than a beautiful, talented movie star, loved by all – she was a brilliant comet, someone who gave out a great light.”


Two Amazon reviews:

“What a wonderful book on a wonderful screen actress and person. The author has done such great work to bring out Audrey’s personality through the pages and should be commended for it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her life on an off the camera especially her work with UNICEF in the final chapters. The book is carefully choreographed into five parts and researched with great thought and integrity. It is the only book I have ever read about Audrey, but I feel if I read another then Ian Woodward’s book will always be judged against it. A fascinating read which I would recommend to everyone.”

“I must say this is the best Audrey Hepburn book to date that I have read. It was absorbing reading and I had a job putting it down. Although I am an Audrey fan I am always careful what I read as some people just sensationalise but I was totally swept along with the written word. What came across was the life of a great person who cared so much about people, a gentle soul and a loving mother. The author is to be commended for the way he put her life story across. A very good read about a great human being.”


“As Ian Woodward demonstrates in this well-researched biography, she was every bit as charming and delightful off screen as on” – The Mail on Sunday


Audrey Hepburn – here’s to the next 30 years!