The story behind Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Marilyn Monroe
In early drafts of the story Holly was named Connie Gustafson; Capote later changed her name to Holiday Golightly. He apparently based the character of Holly on several different women, all friends or close acquaintances of his. Claims have been made as to the source of the character, the “real Holly Golightly”, in what Capote called the “Holly Golightly Sweepstakes”; including socialite Gloria Vanderbilt, Oona O'Neill, writer/actress Carol Grace, writer Maeve Brennan, writer Doris Lilly, model Dorian Leigh(whom Capote dubbed “Happy Go Lucky”), and her sister, model Suzy Parker. Capote’s biographer Gerald Clarke wrote “half the women he knew …claimed to be the model for his wacky heroine"Clarke also wrote of the similarities between the author himself and the character. There are also similarities between the lives of Holly and Capote’s mother, Nina Capote; among other shared attributes both women were born in the rural south with similar "hick” birth names that they changed (Holly Golightly was born Lula Mae Barnes in Texas, Nina Capote was born Lillie Mae Faulk in Alabama), both left the husbands they married as teenagers and abandoned relatives they loved and were responsible for going to New York, and both achieved “café society” status through relationships with wealthier men, though Capote’s mother was born two decades earlier than the fictional Holly Golightly.Capote was also unsuccessfully sued for libel and invasion of privacy by a Manhattan resident named Bonnie Golightly who claimed that he had based Holly on her.
Capote, who sold the film rights of his novella to Paramount Studios, wanted Marilyn Monroe to play Holly Golightly, whom he had described perfectly in the book. Barry Paris references a quote by Capote: “Marilyn was always my first choice to play the girl, Holly Golightly.” Screenwriter Axelrod was hired to “tailor the screenplay for Monroe”. When Lee Strasberg advised Monroe that playing a prostitute would be bad for her image, she turned it down and performed in The Misfits instead. When Hepburn was cast instead of Monroe, Capote remarked: “Paramount double-crossed me in every way and cast Audrey”. Originally producers Martin Jurow and Richard Shepherd had picked John Frankenheimer as the director, but Hepburn said: “I’ve never heard of him” and he was replaced on her request.