Spotlight: Anjelica Huston

The actress on family legacies and the effects of being tall in Hollywood

The third generation scion of an entertainment industry dynasty, Oscar-winning actress Anjelica Huston has been in Hollywood for more than 40 years, as a performer and director. Shortly before being honored with a star on the Walk of Fame, she sat down with The Hollywood Reporter's Zorianna Kit for a chat.

The Hollywood Reporter: You spent the bulk of your childhood living in Europe and didn't move to America until after your mother's death in 1969. What kind of impact did that have on you?

Anjelica Huston: It changed the course of my life. I had a great mother whose company I really enjoyed. She was very young, so we were more like sisters than mother and daughter. Her death caused me terrible grief. Had my mother not died, I wouldn't have left London when I did. But it did bring me to America and to a whole new way of life and to independence.

THR: The night you won the Oscar for 1985's "Prizzi's Honor," you became a third-generation winner after your father John and grandfather Walter. Is talent inherited or acquired?

Huston: Both, ideally. I might have been born with talent, but I was insecure about it when it came to proving myself. It took some great teachers -- like Peggy Furie, David Craig and Martin Landau, among others. Because of them, I grew as an actress.

THR: You didn't get that confidence from working with your father?

Huston: No. Your dad's approval is very specific; it doesn't really have to do with the rest of the world. It was hard for me to deal with what I considered to be handouts from my family. I didn't want it all to come from my name. I felt that I had to prove myself to everybody else.

THR: Most people would have died to have John Huston's approval.

Huston: Yes -- and some did!

THR: Was it hard to separate John Huston the father from John Huston the director when you worked together?

Huston: It was very hard for me to be directed by my dad, initially. The first film we did (1969's "A Walk With Love and Death") was extremely difficult because I was ultra-sensitive. His expectation of me was high. I was worried and reluctant. It wasn't a good time.

THR: But it didn't deter you from working together again.

Huston: It did for about 10 years.

THR: You inherited your father's great height --

Huston: -- and his linebacker shoulders. I think they get bigger every year.

THR: Did your height help or hinder you?

Huston: I've been cast so often as witches, maybe it has worked in my favor. (Laughs.) I don't know. I see how tiny most actors are and I'm really jealous. But it wasn't my lot.

THR: You speak out on some social issues. Does this get in the way of work?

Huston: It's very complicated to be political these days. Behind every inequity there are probably lies and other inequities. But there are a few things that I know: I know that big apes don't like to appear on television, so I speak out for the apes. I know that women and children in Northern Ireland suffer when their husbands are at war. I know that there are children in need who have to be provided for. There are certain obvious no-brainers.