The Big Break: Anjelica Huston First Debuted in Bond Classic Casino Royale 55 Years Ago

Actress-director Anjelica Huston may have been born into film royalty and may have fulfilled that royal destiny by becoming the third generation, after actor grandfather Walter and director-actor-writer father John Huston, to score Oscar gold, but her early innings were not the stuff cinema dreams are made of.

“Casino Royale” is the film where she first appeared, as an uncredited young teen 55 years ago this month. It is largely regarded as an overcooked comedy fiasco, or as Variety deemed it back then, “an attempt to spoof the pants off the James Bond.” The film had no less than five directors, including her father, John.

Variety was kinder to John Huston’s 1969 film “A Walk with Love and Death,” Anjelica’s first starring role, but most other outlets were tougher on the film and Huston’s performance, and it came and went with little notice.

In a vain attempt to overcome that fate, 20th Century Fox publicity took Anjelica and her costar, Assi Dayan (son of Israeli war hero Moshe Dayan) on a multi-city promo tour and ran this quirky early branded content item in Variety:

“Assaf Dayan romances his costar Anjelica Huston, under the watchful eye of her director-father, John Huston. ‘Bit of a bind, what?’ I asked. Assaf shrugged philosophically. “It would be a pleasure to pursue her under anyone’s eye,” he said. “Look at that ravishing brow! That elegant figure! That enigmatic smile!” I quivered. “I play a student who quits the university because he doesn’t feel related to what he is doing. The year is 1358 AD. but you think times have changed all that much?” I was too busy eyeing Anjelica to answer. Then her old man kicked me off the set.”

With “Death’s” quick demise, Huston’s acting career continued without great fanfare until 16 years later. While still in her early 30s, Huston scored her Oscar for her comic turn in the crime romp “Prizzi’s Honor,” which nabbed eight Oscar nominations, including one for her director dad, John.

The distinguished roles that followed brought Huston more acclaim as well as the opportunity to work with many of the most important film directors of the late 20th century. In addition to starring in Disney-attraction short film “Captain EO” with Michael Jackson for director Francis Coppola (1986) and her father’s final film, “The Dead” (1987), she was in Woody Allen’s Oscar-nommed “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989), was Oscar nominated as best supporting actress for “Enemies: A Love Story” (1989) for Paul Mazursky and was Oscar-nominated for her lead performance in Stephen Frears’ “The Grifters” (1990).

Huston also starred in Nicolas Roeg’s adaption of Roald Dahl’s “The Witches” (1990) and iconically reanimated Charles Addams wonderful cartoon character Morticia in Barry Sonnenfeld’s hit comedy “The Addams Family” (1991).

Emmy-nominated for the hit TV miniseries “Lonesome Dove” (1989), the Larry McMurtry western repped only one of her seven Emmy nominations, which include a win for “Iron Jawed Angels” (2004).

Something of a muse for indie film icon Wes Anderson for the past two decades, Huston has starred in five of his films, including “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001), “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004), “The Darjeeling Limited” (2007), “Isle of Dogs” (2018) and “The French Dispatch” (2021).

First film: “Casino Royale” (1967)

First project mentioned in Variety: “A Walk with Love and Death” (1969)

Breakthrough film: “Prizzi’s Honor” (1985)

Accomplishments: Three Oscar nominations, six Emmy nominations, two Spirit awards, three BAFTA nominations, one Golden Globe award (seven nominations)

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