Amid an eclectic cast, Anjelica Huston upholds her title as Hollywood royalty in the new Gucci Bloom Profumo Di Fiori campaign.
Anjelica Huston was destined to work with Gucci and its creative director, Alessandro Michele. It all began at her home in Los Angeles. Mourning Cloak butterflies, known for their purple-black wings with a bright yellow border, had arrived in the city from Mexico. “I had cocoons all over the front of my house and they hung there for longer than they should have,” recalls Huston. Finally, they broke free but clung to the outside of their cocoons rather than flying off. Huston began to worry. She was due in Italy to film Gucci’s Bloom Profumo Di Fiori campaign in three days. “At one point I took one of the butterflies, which was clutching onto its cocoon, down to the bottom of my garden and into the sunlight,” she says. Opening her hand, the butterfly flapped its wings and shivered before flying away. “I did it with about 13 butterflies,” she says, “It was a total success story.” When she arrived to set at the historic La Scarzuola in Montegabbione, Italy, Huston was taken to her tent. “Alessandro was there, and we had to decide what I was going to wear,” she recalls. One garment stood out from the rest. “It was exactly like the butterfly. It was a black cloak with gold on the wings and as I put it on, a butterfly flew out from the collar. I couldn’t quite describe my surprise, it was extraordinary. But for me, it was meaningful, and I think Alessandro understood that.”
Huston is no stranger to extraordinary moments. The daughter of director John Huston and prima ballerina and model Enrica Soma, she was born in California in 1951 and moved to Ireland with her family as a child. “I grew up in the west of Ireland, which is about as remote from the spotlight as you can get, and that was my father’s intention. He wanted to keep his children as far away from the drama of Hollywood for as long as he could,” she says. Huston later moved to England, where she went to school. “I had a wonderful education in terms of how my mother taught me. It was much more unconventional than a lot of kids. She took me to the theater and ballet; she took me to movies and the opera. It was because of her that I was attracted to the arts,” she says. At 16, she made her film debut in A Walk with Love and Death (1969), directed by her father. “It wasn’t a pleasant experience for either of us,” she notes. After Huston’s mother passed away a year later, she decided to move to the US to pursue a career in modeling. Today, at 69, Huston is an Oscar winner, producer, director, author, and beauty icon. She is most well-known for her roles in Prizzi’s Honor (1985), for which she won the best supporting actress Academy Award, as well as The Grifters (1990), The Witches (1990), The Addams Family (1991), and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).
Famous for her jet-black locks, striking dark eyes, and aquiline features, she helped shake up the industry’s beauty standards. “At the time I hated that idea as it represented having a big nose. I always wanted to look like Barbie. I envied those girls who were more conventional beauties,” Huston says of her icon status. “I’d never felt like a beauty but something in me was determined to be beautiful. I am still not a believer in my own beauty but if that’s what people see, so much the better. I’ve deceived them,” she laughs.
In an industry notorious for ageism, how has Huston survived the spotlight for more than five decades? “I take things as they come. Age is one of those things; you can’t battle against it. You have to accept it,” she says. “I don’t care for surgery. I’ve had a certain amount because I’ve had to, but I’m not prone to elective surgery. I think it’s a slippery slope. The friends I have that have had surgery, at some point have to have more surgery, so let’s just say I don’t bury myself in the mirror these days.” On the other hand, she laughs, “I think enjoying your life, smiling a lot, that’s the way to go and if the wrinkles have to be there, they should at least come from smiling.”
Beauty standards have continued to change in the industry, with Gucci leading the way. Cue Michele’s debut beauty campaign in May 2019 that featured punk singer Dani Miller’s idiosyncratic gaptoothed smile. “It used to be that women would have to have a full face of makeup, the hair had to be perfect, and the presentation had to be exact,” Huston says. “I think there’s a more carefree approach to looks and beauty. There’s not such pressure anymore.”
For the Gucci Bloom Profumo Di Fiori campaign, Huston is joined by singer-songwriter Florence Welch, actor and model Jodie Turner-Smith, and designer Susie Cave – four contemporary women showcasing diversity. Directed by award-winning photographer and director Floria Sigismondi, the campaign is dreamlike. Exploring the abandoned theaters and passages of La Scarzuola, the protagonists come across a wishing well, picking flowers and throwing them into the water. What ensues is a flurry of flowers and petals falling from the sky, with the women dancing. “I think that beauty is what makes our lives bearable. Beauty caresses the eyes, it’s the essence of harmony, the combination of love, magic, and the purity of authenticity,” says Huston. For this new chapter in Bloom, she says, “It has all the notes I like. It’s got tuberose and sandalwood, it’s sort of sweet and musky at the same time. It has stronger, more woody notes and a lot of femininity.” And how does she apply her perfume? “Oh, I do it the old-fashioned way – behind the ears, on the wrists, and behind the knees. The way my mother did.”
Originally published in the December 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia