Life stories: Faye Dunaway
The recent Oscars fiasco may have introduced her to a younger audience, but Faye Dunaway has lit up screens for the past 40 years, and flown in the face of convention along the way
Words by Michelle Davies
The closing minutes of the 2019 Oscars should have been a crowning moment in Faye Dunaway’s career. The actress and Warren Beatty were presenting the last award of the evening, for Best Picture, in honour of this year’s 50th anniversary of their heist classicBonnie And Clyde. But the entire world knows how the next few minutes panned out. It didn’t exactly go according to plan. While a lesser star might have slunk off home after inadvertently, and rather proudly, announcing the wrong winner, Dunaway instead took the opportunity to remind everyone what a truly exceptional performer she is. Wearing a Prabal Gurung gown that made every best-dressed list, the 76-year-old swept into the Governors Ball after-party like she owned it, witheringly shutting down anyone who dared mention the incident. ‘I am not going to speak of that,’ she haughtily told one reporter on camera disparagingly. It was a bravura performance befitting an actress renowned for her ‘take no prisoners’ attitude as much as her leonine beauty – Jack Nicholson, one of her many leading men, once nicknamed her ‘the gossamer grenade’.
She was born Dorothy Faye Dunaway on 14 January 1941 in Bascom, Florida. Her father, John, was in the army, her mother, Grace, a housewife. The marriage was strained and Dunaway used make-believe to escape the tension. Aged five, she performed on stage for the first time in a school talent show. ‘People who saw me that day [told] me I seemed right at home up there,’ she wrote in her 1995 memoir,Looking For Gatsby.
Faye Dunaway’s early years
At 13, when her parents divorced, Dunaway moved with her mum and brother Mac back to Florida from Utah, where they had been living on an army base with her dad. After high school, she went to college to study teaching. Her family assumed she’d marry her childhood sweetheart, a boy named Gene, but Dunaway had other ideas. ‘I didn’t want to marry and be consigned to a world where he made the money and my role was wife,’ she said. She broke up with Gene and transferred to Boston University to take up a degree in theatre. Two days after graduating, in June 1962, she landed her first Broadway role in the playA Man For All Seasonsaged 21.
Video: Faye Dunaway promotes 'Mommie Dearest' on Today Show '81
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