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How an Impossibly Glamorous Photo of Audrey Hepburn Was Lost — Then Rediscovered

Never-used promotional film, an argument with Givenchy and an auction decades later makes for a tale fit for the movies.

<p>Douglas Kirkland © Kirkland Family Trust 2023</p> Audrey Hepburn 1965 how to steal a million

Douglas Kirkland © Kirkland Family Trust 2023

Audrey Hepburn 1965 how to steal a million

The very name Audrey Hepburn, calls to mind her one-of-a-kind style.

In Rome, the actress wore Ferragamo shoes and luxurious Valentino dresses and coats. In the Swiss countryside, where she lived her last years in an 18th-century farmhouse, it was all gardening jeans, Ralph Lauren polo shirts and soft cashmere sweaters.

But in Paris, Audrey Hepburn donned the most magical of couture confections, perfectly tailored for her slender frame, spun of lace, satin and tulle. Many were designed by her close friend and confidant Hubert de Givenchy and remain the stuff of fashion fantasies to this day.

“It was a peculiar situation,” Luca Dotti — Hepburn’s younger son from her second marriage to Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti — tells PEOPLE. “Much of her career revolved around Paris: her look, her best friends were all Parisian… but she never lived there.”

More than three decades after her death on Jan. 20, 1993, at 63 from appendical cancer, her renowned looks are still widely beloved. It is Hepburn’s celebrated style that sparked Meghan Friedlander, a Bay Area writer, to begin collecting photos for an archive of Hepburn’s most Parisienne looks.

Related: See Audrey Hepburn Live an Ordinary Life in Rare Photos Taken Before She Became Famous

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Sipa USA

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It all started when Friedlander created an Instagram account, Rare Audrey Hepburn, to document the many looks of the British actress. That, in turn, led her to a transcontinental friendship with Dotti. “Thanks to Meghan and other writers of her generation, I found a 360-degree view of my mother as a complete person,” Dotti says. “It was not always focused on the little black dress and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Their friendship became a collaboration and a new book, Audrey Hepburn in Paris, a collection of gorgeous photos and intimate stories from Hepburn’s travels and most fashionable films, including Funny Face, Sabrina, Charade and How to Steal a Million.

When they embarked on the project, Dotti told Friedlander, “I want you to feel like you are in Paris with my mother, following in her footsteps. That you can imagine you are with her, at her favorite flower shop and the Hôtel Raphaël, not far from the Arc de Triomphe and the little restaurants she loved.”

Related: 'I Didn't Know My Mother Was Audrey Hepburn': Her Son Reveals the Star's Private Side

Deciding which of the glamorous photos would grace the cover of the book was its own journey. When shooting promotional materials for How to Steal a Million, Audrey wanted to look the part, Dotti relays. "At a certain point, my mother said, 'I'm a thief, I need one with a mask.'" The designer Hubert de Givenchy, who was doing costumes for the film, didn't like the idea. "Nobody's going to see you're Audrey Hepburn," he replied. "Lose the mask."

After some back-and-forth, the makeup artist intervened, so the viewer could see Audrey's famously expressive eyes. He stuck tiny sequins to her eyes, one by one, so they would shine through the black lace. But the photo was never used in the film or its promotional materials. It was all but lost to history.

Then Friedlander came along. "I've been collecting Audrey Hepburn memorabilia for 15 plus years now," she says. "In 2017, I came across an auction on Live Auctioneers, and there was this really blurry picture and I could just make out that it was transparencies of Audrey from How to Steal A Million. I was like, 'Those look like Douglas Kirkland photos...I'm bidding on this.' And thankfully I won."

Years later, Friedlander remembered those transparencies and had them developed. After she sent it to Dotti, the pair reached out to the Douglas Kirkland Estate, which was shocked to hear the photo still existed. They negotiated for the rights to the photo and the rest, as they say, is history.

"The minute that Luca and I saw the photo, we fell in love," Friedlander says. "It had that femme fatale aesthetic to it. We were like, this is the cover."

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"It's like it's my mother's will," Dotti says, "That this fun photo dug its way through with its own life...It's a photo that has a life of its own."

For more on Audrey Hepburn in Paris, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, out Friday, or subscribe here

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