Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
April 14, 1940
1960s - 1970s
Currently Known For:
Billy Liar, Darling, Doctor Zhivago and Away from Her
“I prefer real life, whatever real life is. I no longer have a career to build and I can get by. I consider myself a lucky woman.” A legendary British actress with dozens of awards to her name, Julie Christie will forever be known as the icon of the “swinging London” era—a youth-driven cultural revolution in the 1960s—thanks to her incredible career on the silver screen. After getting her start as an actress in the late 1950s, Christie’s performance in Billy Liar in 1963 turned enough heads that she quickly rose to international fame two years later for her Academy Award-winning performance in Darling. The same year, she wowed audiences once again as the stunning Lara Antipova in Doctor Zhivago, which is one of the highest grossing films of all time. Going on to star in Fahrenheit 451, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Shampoo and Heaven Can Wait throughout the 1970s, Christie did the unthinkable and took a step back from her fame at the height of her career with only a handful of credits over the last four decades. Although her recent work has been award-winning, let’s take a look at the 77-year-old’s shocking decision and why she’s always felt she couldn’t “hack Hollywood.”
The eldest child of a painter and a tea plantation owner, Julie Frances Christie was born on April 14, 1940 in Chabua, Assam, British India amid a devastating war that tore across the country. Because of the war, Christie’s parents sent her to live with a foster mother in England where she attended the Convent of Our Lady school. Christie hated the fact that she was away from her mother and was soon expelled from the school after telling an inappropriate joke in class. During this time, her parents separated and Christie was reunited with her mother in a rural area of Wales where Christie blossomed as a young adult and even enjoyed her time at the all-girls Wycombe Court School where she participated in the theater program.
Going on to study at the Central School of Speech and Drama, Christie was 17 years old when she made her acting debut on British television. Although she was passed over for the part of Honey Rider in Dr. No, she honed her talents in Crooks Anonymous and The Fast Lady before giving her breakthrough performance in the 1963 flick, Billy Liar, which earned her a BAFTA Award nomination. She soon found international fame in 1965, which Life magazine later dubbed “The Year of Julie Christie,” when she starred in Darling and earned an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress at 24 years old. On the heels of her success, she starred in the most iconic role of her career when she wowed critics with her performance as Lara Antipova in Doctor Zhivago.
Christie rode the wave of fame from Darling and Doctor Zhivago straight to Hollywood where her reputation as an icon of Britain’s swinging sixties followed her as she gave stellar performances in The Go-Between, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Shampoo, Heaven Can Wait and Don’t Look Now. During this time, she started a high-profile relationship with Tinsel Town’s most infamous womanizer, Warren Beatty, who described Christie as “the most beautiful and, at the same time, the most nervous person I had ever known.” For Christie, she was enamored with Beatty saying, “I met such interesting people with Warren who I would never have met otherwise.”
Ending her relationship with Beatty in 1974, Christie appeared in a handful of films over the next few years before leaving Hollywood and returning to Wales in 1977, a decision that shocked many as she turned down leading roles in award-winning films like Anne of the Thousand Days, Nicholas and Alexandra and Reds. For Christie, the decision was easy. “I thought I was going mad there. You do fall into LA, you slip into it,” she said. “Hollywood was against everything I had been brought up to appreciate. My late mother Rosemary was wise and frugal, quite austere. She was conscious about the environment, even in those days. I always hang up my washing outside or even on pulley. It’s a complete waste of energy to use dryers. My mother’s hate of waste has filtered down to me probably because I was a war baby… My introduction to Hollywood was a society which used it, sniffed it and threw it away… The world of celebrity didn’t mean a single thing to my mum. Her attitude filtered down to me, which is why I take all the celeb stuff with a pinch of salt.”
Finding peace with her life in rural Wales, Christie spent the 1980s and 1990s working in lesser known projects like The Return of the Soldier and Heat and Dust with only sporadic appearances in mainstream films including DragonHeart, Hamlet and Afterglow, the latter of which earned her an Oscar nomination in 1997. The same year, she was recognized for her stellar contributions to British cinema and received the BAFTA’s highest honor, the Fellowship Award, but not even that could lure Christie back into the spotlight. “I like a peaceful existence,” she said. “Films have caused me an enormous amount of anxiety because I don’t have a lot of confidence…. I’m very quiet and do not like to talk to more than two people at the same time. Filming and being with film actors is like being in one long cocktail party without the drinks. Acting took me away from real life to a pretend life. I want the real life back…”
Only returning to the silver screen on her own terms, Christie made a handful of cameos in 2004 in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Troy and Finding Neverland. Two years later, she starred in Away from Her and took home a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Genie Award for her performance. In the years since then, she’s appeared in Red Riding Hood and The Company You Keep but remains adamant about staying out of the spotlight after years of battling anxiety caused by her fame. “I realized that you can choose your own spotlight,” the 77-year-old says. “Whenever I hear anyone complaining about the strains and stresses of fame, I always think, ‘You can stay at home if you don’t like it.’” After all, that’s what Christie has chosen time and time again over the last three decades as one of Britain’s finest leading ladies.