Iconic Queer Celebrity May-December Romances as Audrey Hepburn Movies

Feature image photo of Ariana Debose and Sue Makkoo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images / photo of Holland Taylor and Sarah Paulson by Emma McIntyre /VF19/WireImage via Getty Images

If there’s two things I love, it’s a romantic comedy and a gay May-December romance. I’ve just come off watching nearly all of Audrey Hepburn’s romantic comedies (follow me on Letterboxd, I’m watching a romcom a week!), and I couldn’t help but notice that throughout her career, Audrey Hepburn played opposite men who are much older than her.

A leading man being older than his romantic opposite is kind of standard practice, as far as Hollywood goes, but it’s especially blatant in Audrey’s films. Fred Astaire and Humphrey Bogart, two of her leading men, were literally born in the year 1899! Not only were they 30 whole years older than her, they were born in an entirely different century! I have a lot of thoughts about why this was, first and foremost of which is that Hollywood wasn’t quite sure what to do with Audrey Hepburn’s wide-eyed, “innocent” look, so they often cast her in roles that infantilized her, making her the perfect match for a Protective and Paternal romantic lead. (Hit me up for more on this, for real, I’m working on some real theories.)

But I digress. We’re here today because we are gay, not for my hot Old Hollywood takes! And because I am me, and because I am obsessed with celebrity relationships, I also have some thoughts about how some iconic celesbian May-December relationships are represented by these iconic Audrey Hepburn films.


My Fair Lady (1964)
Audrey (35)/Rex Harrison (56)
Ariana Debose/Sue Makkoo

In the movie My Fair Lady, Audrey Hepburn us wearing a pink dress and standing. Rex Harrison is sitting at a table set for tea service and leaning away from it while folding his arms.

US actress Ariana DeBose, with the award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in "West Side Story", poses with Sue Makkoo as they attends the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party following the 94th Oscars. They are both wearing black dresses.

Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Assigning the classic musical to Ariana DeBose might seem like a gimme, but hear me out. This is a musical, ultimately, about the comforts of being in the house even when you have access to a whole glittery society, is it not? Which, from the profile about their cottage home, seems to fit these two to a tee. And though it was obviously miles away from the horse races and “Come on Dover, move your bloomin’ arse!,” wasn’t Ariana’s Oscars speech a delightful breath of fresh (and genuine!) air on a (normally…) stodgy night?


Charade (1963)
Audrey (34)/Cary Grant (59)
Stephanie Allyne/Tig Notaro

In the movie Charade, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn stand near water and a bridge. Cary is wearing a black suit and tie, and Audrey is wearing a red dress and a white hat and white gloves. She holds an ice cream cone.

Stephanie Allynne and Tig Notaro attend the premiere of Amazon Instant Video's 'One Mississippi' at The London West Hollywood. Stephanie is wearing a white shirt with a striped blazer and matching pants. Tig is wearing a blue buttondown and a gray blazer. They have their arms around each other and are smiling at the camera.

Photo by Tara Ziemba/FilmMagic via Getty Images

This movie relies on banter! From their very first meeting on a vacation, Cary and Audrey’s characters are whipping bon mots at each other, building recurring bits together and making each other chuckle, all while on the run from some murderous assassins looking for a lost $125k. Cary Grant literally showers while wearing all his clothes, and it’s delightful. I have to imagine that all Tig and Stephanie do is laugh constantly, all while looking dapper and cool in the process.


Roman Holiday (1953)
Audrey (24)/Gregory Peck (37)
Robin Roberts/Amber Laign

In the black-and-white film Roman Holiday, Gregory Peck wears a suit while looking at Audrey Hepburn, who is wearing a white collared dress.

TV anchor Robin Roberts and Amber Laign attends 11th Annual GLSEN Respect awards at Gotham Hall. Robin is wearing a black jumper over a white collared shirt and smiling. Amber is wearing a black dress and smiling.

Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage via Getty Images

Of meeting her wife, Amber, Robin writes in her memoir: “I liked that she had no idea who I was.” In Roman Holiday, Gregory Peck meets Audrey Hepburn’s character (a full on PRINCESS) after she sneaks out of a palace while on sedatives. He has no idea who she is, and later she has no idea who he is (a journalist, out for a scoop on the princess’s life). Can you imagine the international incident it would cause if a princess went missing for a night these days? And who would do the morning-after interview upon the princess’s safe return? None other than Good Morning America‘s living legend, Robin Roberts, that’s who!


Funny Face (1957)
Audrey (28)/Fred Astaire (58)
Portia/Ellen

In Funny Face, Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire sit in the back of a car. Audrey is wearing a poofy blue dress, and Fred is wearing a suit with bowtie.

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi attend the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards. Ellen is wearing a pattnered overcoat over a black top. Portia is wearing a patterned dress.

Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy via Getty Images

Fred Astaire has become near-synonymous with romance in the mainstream, in the same way that, arguably, Ellen became synonymous with lesbian. The film takes place mostly in Paris, where Audrey Hepburn’s character is thrust into a high-profile modeling career, not unlike how Portia’s relationship with Ellen thrust her even further into the limelight. It’s fashionable, charming and witty, all adjectives you could use to describe Portia and Ellen, who also collect and sell art (Funny Face is a very artsy movie!). And while I acknowledge how mostly lovely this movie is, you do have to watch through rose-colored glasses (least egregious among a few sins in this movie is that Audrey Hepburn is called ugly so frequently…ugly where!), not unlike the more complicated relationship many have understandably come to have with Ellen over the last few years.


Sabrina (1954)
Audrey (25)/Humphrey Bogart (55)
Sarah Paulson/Holland Taylor

In the black-and-white movie Sabrina, Audrey Hepburn sits in a car next to Humphrey Bogart, who is driving

Holland Taylor and Sarah Paulson attend the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party. Holland is wearing a black dress, and Sarah is wearing a pink poofy dress and holding a pink clutch.

Photo by Emma McIntyre /VF19/WireImage via Getty Images

Humphrey Bogart plays a very taciturn, stern businessman in this one, similar (though obviously less fun) to the type we’ve come to know and love from Holland Taylor in The L Word, Legally Blonde, DEBS, or The Morning Show! And honestly, the idea that Audrey Hepburn needed a two-year sojourn to Paris to make her worthy of notice is absolutely absurd, but echoes the level of recognition we’ve been fortunate enough to see Sarah Paulson reach over the last decade (thank you Ryan Murphy — a sentence I truly never say), after years of steadily working her butt off! It’s a romance that is unexpected but I still ended up losing it over this pairing by the close of the film, just like how one time I let Holland and Sarah cut me in line at a movie theater and also really lost it.


Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Audrey (32)/George Peppard (33)
Sarah Paulson/Cherry Jones

George Peppard is wearing a trenchcoat and sitting next to Audrey Hepburn in a car in Breakfast At Tiffany's

Cherry Jones and Sarah Paulson attend Opening Night for THE AMERICAN PLAN. Cherry is wearing a black coat, and Sarah is wearing a light blue turtleneck under a black coat.

Photo by – AMBER DE VOS /Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

George Peppard was only one year older than Audrey Hepburn, and these two are no longer together (obviously) so this doesn’t belong on this list for many reasons. But I had to include this erstwhile couple if only for the coded acceptance speech Cherry gave when she won a Tony in 2005 for her role in Doubt, thanking “Laura Wingfield,” the role Sarah Paulson was playing during that season. Something something New York blah blah culture whatever all that matters is I LOVE YOU CHERRY JONES.


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Analyssa

Analyssa is a co-host of the To L and Back podcast: Gen Q edition. She lives in LA, works at a TV studio, and can often be found binge-watching an ABC drama from 2008. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or her social media of choice, Letterboxd.

Analyssa has written 41 articles for us.

11 Comments

  1. I love that…have watched audrey films on tv as a kid , preteen and teen countless times but dubbed in german unfortunalely.
    thank goddess for the invention of dvds.
    I wonder who would play the queer roles in ariane- love in the afternoon and two for the road or wait after dark
    What do you think analyssa?

    • I have had a hard time finding some of these online, too, so I’m very thankful for my roommate’s extensive DVD collection!

      I actually haven’t seen any of the Audrey’s that you’ve listed above, but I’m excited to check them out!

  2. Analyssa:

    Thanks for this article if just to highlight some wonderful old Audrey Hepburn movies. I have seen nearly all of these and there is nothing like watching one of these classics wrapped in an afghan, with a hot drink (tea).

    I knew that large age differences in romantic leads was common back then but never really thought about it as especially blatant in the Audrey Hepburn films. So thanks for that tidbit of hollywood history….

    Just as an aside: Portia de Rossi always looks so pretty in just about every photo I have ever seen her in……

    • Re: on analyssas comment,april 11th,6.33 pm:
      Analyssa,you should def check them out, often the old hollywood classics dvds come at a low price)or a library is a good bet if you dont wanna pay.drew, your film buff can surely help too 😉

      Two for the road is not so well known, but great, more modern,with albert finney, a road movie.
      but love in the afternoon is a classic, audrey having an affair with a man but pretending to have had many lovers,but gary,her paramore,is her first,is also a big age gap.

      emily gilmore referenced the moviein a very entertaining way when she caught her husband’s mother who is widowed kissing a man
      ( gilmore girls)
      And wait after dark is a thriller,audrey as a blind woman fighting off burglars …
      Yeah i would love if you would suggest more queer couples and would update that article with more audrey films
      I love that concept old classic hollywood transfered into queer couples ,make it into a series🙏

  3. To second the point about libraries, chances are your local library does have a good collection of multiple copies of these classics.

    I know because several years ago I donated a large collection (200+) of classic movies on DVDs from the 1930-1960s to my local library so they would be more accessible rather than me just hoarding them.

    I am sure I am not unique in doing that……

    All of the films highlighted here are worth watching…..

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