Audrey Hepburn was born Audrey Ruston in Brussels, Belgium on May 4, 1929. Her father was a banker and her mother was the descendant of royalty. Although Audrey was an only child, she also had two step-brothers from her mother's first marriage. When she was young, her father changed his last name to Hepburn-Ruston.
In her youth, Audrey went to private schools in England and the Netherlands. In 1935, her parents divorced and his father disappeared. She described this time in her life as the most traumatic and later sought her father and found him destitute.
By that time, the Nazi Party was in full control of Germany and beginning to flex its military muscle. When Germany began World War 2, she was living with her mother in the city of Arnhem in the Netherlands. Audrey decided to temporarily assume the fictitious name of Edda Van Heemstra in order to sound less English.
Throughout the early 1940s, Audrey and her mother lived under German occupation. The situation became increasingly difficult as the war raged on and food became scarce. During the Dutch Famine of 1944, she and her mother barely survived. Audrey suffered from constant malnutrition, sometimes resorting to eating flower bulbs to avoid starvation.
Once the war ended, Audrey moved with her mother to London. There, she enrolled in ballet school and started a successful modeling career. In 1951, she was also given her first acting role in "The Secret People". In the film, she played a ballet dancer and gained a great deal of acclaim for her dancing ability.
Later that year, she was selected to star in the play "Gigi", in which she played a Parisian girl who falls in love with a wealthy fashion magnate. The play debuted on November 24, 1951 and ran for six months. It was a massive success for both Audrey and Broadway, and she won a Theatre World Award for her performance.
In 1953, she was chosen by Gregory Peck to star opposite him in the film "Roman Holiday". In the film, she plays a young princess who goes to Rome, where she meets a reporter and falls in love with him. The film was a major box office success and resulted in her winning the 1953 Academy Award for Best Actress.
In 1954, she was selected to star in the film "Sabrina" alongside Humphrey Bogart and William Holden. In the film, she portrays the daughter of a family's chauffeur and goes to Paris, only to return very sophisticated. After her return, two brothers in the family end up falling in love with her.
Later that year, she also returned to Broadway to star in the play "Ondine" with Mel Ferrer. Her performance resulted in her winning a Tony Award for Best Actress in 1954. The two costars fell in love and married on September 25, 1954. Although the marriage managed to last fourteen years, the two reportedly had a falling out somewhere and only stayed together for their son.
In 1961, she starred in the film version of Truman Capote's novel "Breakfast at Tiffany's". She played the leading role of Holly Golightly, who meets a young man and falls in love with him. The film became one of the greatest of all time and she was nominated for that year's Academy Award for Best Actress.
In 1964, she was selected to star in "My Fair Lady", beating out both Julie Andrews and Elizabeth Taylor. The casting generated some media controversy and the tabloids tried to say that there was some resulting tension between Hepburn and Andrews. However, later claims indicate that those assumptions were unfounded.
Towards the end of the decade, she receded from the spotlight and acted only rarely. After divorcing Mel Ferrer, she married Andrea Dotti, an Italian psychiatrist. They had a second son, but later separated.
Over the next two decades, she made only minor appearances in very mediocre films. Her film career declined as she elected to concentrate on her family and her last film appearance was in 1988's "Always", which bombed. After the film, she was given the chance to become a special ambassador to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and took on the role with vigor. Over the next five years, she devoted herself to the organization and raised its profile.
In 1992, she developed cancer in her appendix that later spread to her stomach. It was partially removed, but the cancer continued to spread and she died on January 20, 1993 in Switzerland.