Michael Feeney Callan's biography documents Julie Christie's life up until its publication date, 1984. Julie has long been one of my favourite actresses so I was very interested to learn more about her life. This is not an in depth biography but Callan does give a good overview of her career and personal life, touching on her relationships with Don Bessant and Warren Beatty, as well as her involvement in environmental movements.
Her initial start in films was frustrating, contracted to make a number of silly comedies where she was nothing more than the 'sex object' Julie was desperate for more serious parts. Early on she realised that her strengths lay in dramatic roles. Her breakthrough in Billy Liar had a huge impact on both her professional and personal life. Suddenly she was catapulted to fame and was considered to be one of the major faces of Swinging London. Her following films Darling and Doctor Zhivago, cemented this status.
Unlike many stars who exude a sense of confidence, Julie has always been quite nervous and self effacing about her talent. Refreshingly she has also always maintained her privacy, rarely giving interviews and often retreating to the seclusion of her Welsh farmhouse.
It always amazes me how poorly Far From the Madding Crowd did upon its release, it is my favourite film and I think Julie is wonderful as Bathsheba. I think sadly people were expecting another Doctor Zhivago, and couldn't appreciate the film for what it was (which is just to say everyone should go and watch it!!)
It is interesting to see how Julie's personal life received such great scrutiny and media attention. She endured particularly intense scrutiny whilst dating Warren Beatty during the 1970s but Julie remained tight lipped about this aspect of her life. Around this time she also became involved with several environmental causes, including protesting against nuclear weapons and against laboratory testing on animals. I found this side to her life fascinating and would like to learn more about it. Her activism was criticised by the press who constantly doubted her sincerity and knowledge of the causes she was fighting for. For too long she was regarded as little more than a beautiful actress, and people were often surprised by her intelligence and interests. As a woman in the film world the press believed her personal life was more interesting than anything she had to say on activism or even acting, in stark contrast many male actors were listened to when speaking about their concerns, and were praised for their interests outside of film.
This is an easy to read account of Julie's life and I think it is a good starting point for anyone wanting to learn more about her and her fascinating body of work.
"Julie Christie rummaged through a drawerful of old photos and letters in her Kensington flat. She found a picture of a young Richard Burton, a dashing, dark-eyed publicity handout. Maybe, fanlike, she had written away for it, maybe she borrowed it from a school chum. On the back was scrawled: Please don't touch. Very private property. Very precious property." p. 15
"When they told me I might have to go to Hollywood because they might give me an Oscar I...I was overcome, terrified. I was persuaded to go at last. I got on the plane and, suddenly, found myself in that enormous theatre, with all those famous people, stars, the President's daughter. I felt out of place, ridiculous, among all those people so different from me. Then I heard my name called. That was worse than anything. I kept wondering, Why me? I stood up and I didn't know where to go or what to do. I only felt a great wish to laugh. No, to cry...no both."
-Julie, p. 90
"I've always been choosy about my films and I've turned down scripts I didn't approve of sometimes, even with directors I wanted to work with. It's so difficult to be sure that a film will have a positive effect on people-but you can easily see which will be negative."
-Julie, p. 161
"One of the sharpest things I remember about childhood in Sussex was an overwhelming response to nature. The incredible wonder, the order of it all, the seasons with something changing every second. The pattern of natural life is so stunning..."
-Julie, p. 165