Olivia Hussey became an international celebrity at the young age of 17 when she landed the role of Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. She was perhaps the most famous teenager in the world in 1968.
Born in Argentina but raised in Wimbledon, England, Ms. Hussey was totally unprepared for the shooting stardom that would accompany that one “little” role.
She does an amazing, and amusing job of sharing her experiences with, and recollections of, filming that now famous Shakespeare piece.
Hussey says, “While it brought me fame—for whatever that’s worth—and glamour, it also thrust me into a spotlight that, while intoxicating, was at times too bright and too revealing.” After all, she had limited experience when she began filming at 16.
That singular role led her to meet numerous famous people such as the Queen of England (where she peed herself from fear), Bridget Bardot, and Liza Minelli. There was a famous poet in Moscow, and she shared a cab ride and a kiss with Paul McCartney before he married Linda Eastman.
She met her first husband, Dean “Dino” Paul Martin (of Hollywood royalty) in London, while both were still in their teens. She was reluctant at first, but “the elevator doors opened and out poured American sunshine.”
On a movie set with Robert Mitchum, he was known to host dinner parties where everyone complimented his excellent cooking skills, though not everyone knew he cooked with hashish.
On that same movie set, she had an abusive relationship with troubled actor Christopher Jones, who later visited her in Hollywood, and beat and raped her. Her residence at the time was the same house where Sharon Tate was killed by the Manson family, though Olivia moved in five weeks afterward. It was her agent’s home.
Hussey eventually got engaged to Dino Martin when she heard rumors he might marry Candice Bergen. Dino’s father, Dean Martin “was like watching a movie and knowing it would become one of your favorites.”
She had her first son, Alexander, with Dino, but they shortly divorced when Olivia was 23. She took to a meditation group to help her cope with the split. This led her to her guru, the Swami Muktananda, who would hold a vital, almost cosmic relationship with her until he passed in 1982.
Olivia met her second husband, Akira Fuse, when she was working in Japan. He was a famous singer and they married in 1980. Hussey had her second son, Max, in 1983. Living between Japan and Hollywood took its toll on their relationship and although they remained friends, they divorced a few years later.
Dino, with whom she still had a close relationship because of son Alex, was killed while flying an Air National Guard airplane in 1987.
The two years between 1987 and 1989 were traumatic for Olivia who had to deal with the divorce from second husband, Akira Fuse, the death of Dino Martin—her first husband, and the death of her mother in England as a result of emphysema.
She met her third husband, David Eisley—this time a Harley-riding, leather-clad rocker—in the late eighties at Jerry’s Famous Deli in L.A. “This man could not have been more different from the men I was used to.”
Yet something clicked and they are together still, having been through feast and famine, including being swindled out of millions by managers she trusted.
Her third child, India Joy, was born in 1993 but Olivia was forced to return to work a month later because all her money was gone. They were forced to downsize several times, casting aside the Hollywood glitz for life in the valley and a growing menagerie of animals including horses, potbelly pigs.
A much-desired role as Mother Teresa in 2003 somewhat helped Hussey back on her feet. But she felt ill during the shoot in Sri Lanka and just attributed it to be the weather and poor environment.
“For five, maybe more, years it grew—ignored, undiagnosed, and unchecked.” She was finally diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in 2008 and subsequently had surgery. While combining conventional medicine with holistic medicine, Olivia has been in remission for ten years now.
Her husband, David, and actress daughter, India Eisley, have helped Olivia get back on her feet.
A final scene in the book shows Juliet (Olivia) reunited with her Romeo, the actor Leonard Whiting almost 50 years later in London during a happy visit with his family, while India was shooting a movie there.
With a seemingly magical mysticism about all aspects Hussey’s life, this book will be a draw for both old and young hippies alike.
Love, loss, deaths, births, travel, coping with agoraphobia and fighting cancer—these all sound like a soap opera but this is the life that Olivia Hussey, now in her late sixties, has led.
The Girl on the Balcony: Olivia Hussey Finds Life After Romeo and Juliet is a must for international movie buffs with an interest in films of the latter half of the 20th century. Be prepared for a colorful tour around the world, as well as lessons learned, in words and pictures.