Roman Holiday is a 1953 American romantic comedy film directed and produced by William Wyler. It stars Gregory Peck as a reporter and Audrey Hepburn as a royal princess out to see Rome on her own. Hepburn won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance; the screenplay and costume design also won.
It was written by John Dighton and Dalton Trumbo, though with Trumbo on the Hollywood blacklist, he did not receive a credit; instead, Ian McLellan Hunter fronted for him. Trumbo's credit was reinstated when the film was released on DVD in 2003. On December 19, 2011, full credit for Trumbo's work was restored. Blacklisted director Bernard Vorhaus worked on the film as an assistant director under a pseudonym.
Ann (Audrey Hepburn), a crown princess on a state visit to Rome, becomes frustrated with her tightly scheduled life and secretly leaves her country's embassy. The delayed effect of a sedative eventually makes her fall asleep on a bench, where Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), an expatriate reporter for the "American News Service", finds her without recognizing who she is. He offers her money so she can take a taxi home, but she is too woozy. Thinking she is intoxicated, Joe finally lets her spend the night in his apartment.
The next morning, Joe hurries off late to work and gives his editor, Mr. Hennessy (Hartley Power), false details of his press conference with the princess. It is only when Hennessy informs him that the event had been cancelled and shows him a news item about her “sudden illness” that he realizes who it actually is in his apartment. Seeing an opportunity, Joe proposes getting an exclusive interview with the princess and Hennessy agrees, offering $5,000 if the interview is all Joe claims it will be, but betting Joe $500 that he will not succeed.
Joe hurries home and, hiding the fact that he is a reporter, offers to show his guest "Anya" around Rome. He also surreptitiously calls his photographer friend, Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert), to tag along and secretly take pictures. However, Ann declines Joe's offer and leaves. Enjoying her freedom, she explores an outdoor market and, on impulse, gets her long hair cut short. Joe follows and ‘accidentally’ meets her on the Spanish Steps. This time he convinces her to spend the day with him and takes her to a street café, where he meets up with Irving. Later, when she tries to drive the Vespa on which he has taken her for a ride, they are arrested and only get away with it when he and Irving show their press passes.
That night, at a dance on a boat, government agents called in by the embassy finally track Ann down and try to force her away. Ann takes part in the fight that breaks out, during which Joe is ambushed and falls into the river and Ann jumps in to save him. After they swim away and police arrest the agents, they share a kiss as they sit shivering on the riverbank. Later, knowing her royal responsibilities must resume, Ann bids a tearful farewell to Joe and returns to the embassy. Her minders there try to lecture her upon the sense of duty a princess must display, but she retorts that without such a sense she would never have returned.
Meanwhile, Hennessy has come to suspect that the princess was not ill as claimed and tries to get Joe to admit what he knows about it. Joe, however, has decided not to write the story, although he later tells Irving that he is free to sell his photographs if he wishes. They then leave for the postponed press conference at the embassy, surprising Princess Ann. When asked by a reporter which city on her European tour was her favorite, Ann first starts with a diplomatic "all were equally good" answer, but then impulsively replies, "Rome! By all means Rome."
At the end of the interview, the princess unexpectedly asks to meet the journalists, shaking hands and speaking briefly with each. As she reaches Joe and Irving, the latter presents her with an envelope containing the photographs he had taken. The two men make it clear to her (but no one else) that they will keep silent about her adventure. After the interview comes to an end and the crowd of newspapermen disperses, Joe walks away alone.
Wyler first offered the role to Hollywood favorite Cary Grant. Grant declined, believing he was too old to play Hepburn's love interest (though he played opposite her ten years later in Charade.) Other sources say Grant declined because he knew all of the attention would be centered around the princess. Peck's contract gave him solo star billing, with newcomer Hepburn listed much less prominently in the credits. Halfway through the filming, Peck suggested to Wyler that he elevate her to equal billing—an almost unheard-of gesture in Hollywood.
Wyler had initially considered Elizabeth Taylor and Jean Simmons for this role, but both were unavailable. Wyler was very excited to find Hepburn, but he did not choose her until after a screen test. Wyler was not able to stay and film this himself, but told the assistant director to ask the cameraman and the sound man to continue recording after the assistant director said "cut" so that she would be seen in a relaxed state after having performed a dignified, subdued scene from the film. The candid footage won her the role; some of it was later included in the original theatrical trailer for the film, along with additional screen test footage showing Hepburn trying on some of Ann's costumes and even cutting her own hair (referring to a scene in the film). Roman Holiday was not Hepburn's first acting appearance (she had appeared in Dutch and British films from 1948; and on stage, including the title role in a Broadway adaptation of Gigi) but it was her first major film role and first appearance in an American film. Wyler wanted an "anti-Italian" actress who was different from the curvy Italian maggiorate like Gina Lollobrigida, and said that "She was perfect .... his new star had no arse, no tits, no tight-fitting clothes, no high heels. In short a Martian. She will be a sensation".
|Eddie Albert||as Irving Radovich|
|Hartley Power||as Hennessy, Joe's editor|
|Harcourt Williams||as the Ambassador of Princess Ann's country|
|Margaret Rawlings||as Countess Vereberg, Ann's principal lady-in-waiting|
|Tullio Carminati||as General Provno|
|Paolo Carlini||as Mario Delani|
|Claudio Ermelli||as Giovanni|
|Paola Borboni||as the Charwoman|
|Laura Solari||as Secretary|
|Alfredo Rizzo||as Taxi Driver|
|Gorella Gori||as Shoe Seller|
The film earned an estimated $3 million at the North American box office during its first year of release.
Due to the film's popularity, both Peck and Hepburn were approached about filming a sequel, but this project never got off the ground.
* Award was initially given to Ian McLellan Hunter, since he took story credit on blacklisted Trumbo's behalf. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences later credited the win to Trumbo. In 1993, Trumbo's widow Cleo received her late husband's award.
The film was remade for television in 1987 with Tom Conti and Catherine Oxenberg, who is herself a member of a European royal family. An unofficial Tamil-language adaptation, titled May Madham, was released in 1994.
The Richard Curtis film Notting Hill has been likened to "a 90's London-set version of Roman Holiday". There are a number of allusions to it in the film, in which the princess character is replaced with "Hollywood royalty" and the commoner is a British bookshop owner.
Paramount Pictures has since licensed three adaptations of Roman Holiday into musicals:
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