John Schlesinger’s film, Darling, made Julie Christie a star at 24, won her an Oscar and turned her into one of the idols and icons of the sixties, epitomising the new cool, classless, freewheeling, fashionable spirit of that decade. She was the classic overnight success – lionised by the critics, courted by Hollywood and consumed by the media with dizzy relish. It was, in the end, a shattering experience but one that Julie Christie came through to become a star of a new kind – determined to keep her independence both on and off screen, and to be judged on her work, not on her private life.
Her work has always been distinguished. Roles in Billy Liar and Darling propelled her into great experiments, from Dr Zhivago, which cast her as a conventional love interest, to Nicholas Roeg’s darkly memorable Don’t Look Now and Merchant and Ivory’s Heat and Dust. But in protecting her private life, Christie has been less successful. The long-term, headline love affair with Warren Beatty created a media momentum that she found hard to shake and her subsequent relationship with journalist Duncan Campbell – a social activist with whom she shared many causes – was shadowed by constant intrusions.
Callan charts Christie’s life in this bio-filmographical work that concentrates on her accomplishments as an actor, and discusses her film choices in detail.