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The producer on his Hollywood heyday, courting Grace Kelly, and what makes an original.
Written By Lesley M.M. Blume
A Moment in Time | THE VIOLET FILES | @violetgrey
  • ROBERT EVANS AND ALI MACGRAW
  • PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF ROBERT EVANS
A Moment in Time | THE VIOLET FILES | @violetgrey
  • A VIEW OF EVANS’ SWIMMING POOL WITH THE ESTATE’S ORIGINAL OWNERS, 1960
  • PHOTOGRAPHY BY SLIM AARONS
In this town, everyone gets called a “legend” (the NYC equivalent is “genius”), but producer Robert Evans is among the few who have actually earned that title. He has made iconic movies (The Godfather, Love Story, Chinatown, and Marathon Man, to name a few), attends the best parties (occasionally with a princess on each arm), and has a tendency to marry drop-dead-stylish women (for your consideration: Ali MacGraw).

Earning an invitation to Evans’ Beverly Hills estate is the Los Angeles answer to scoring an invite to Louis XIV’s court. “It used to be like Gatsby around here,” he tells me. Thousands of roses encircle his famous backyard pool; over the years, countless unrepentant Hollywood stars and other luminaries (Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Richard Gere, Sharon Stone, Richard Pryor, and Ted Kennedy, to name a few) have gotten up to no good in the house’s art-filled halls.
This week, I was summoned to a somewhat less trafficked area of Evans’ home: the bedroom-and-boudoir quarters, his longtime favorite part of the house. “I feel most myself in that bed,” he says, pointing to a towering, rather Gothic affair covered in a mountain of black pillows. While undoubtedly the site of more scandalous activities, Evans also famously takes meetings on those covers. Everyone from humorless execs to aspiring starlets has perched on the edge of his duvet, scripts and contracts in hand. So famous was this ritual that Evans even hosted a Sirius XM radio show in the early aughts while lounging under said linens.

Evans’ boudoir essentially constitutes an entire wing of his estate. It boasts a sprawling dressing room with a wall of illuminated mirrors and another nook with its own barber chair. Not only is he a connoisseur of female beauty, he also clearly takes his own presentation very seriously. From the comfort of his inner sanctum, the ever-quotable Evans shares his musings on life, love, and show business, and—in honor of Oscars week—his ultimate awards date. Spoiler alert: It’s not MacGraw.

IN BED WITH
ROBERT EVANS

The preeminent producer chats with The Violet Files contributor Lesley M.M. Blume.
  • ABOVE: EVANS AND BLUME AT THE PRODUCER’S BEVERLY HILLS HOME
  • EVANS’ FRAMED PHOTOS, FEATURING FRIENDS ROMAN POLANSKI AND JACK NICHOLSON
  • ALL PHOTOGRAPHY BY MOLLY BERMAN FOR THE VIOLET FILES
LESLEY M.M. BLUME: You’ve worked with some of the most famous—and most complicated—actresses in Hollywood. What do the best of them have in common?
ROBERT EVANS: It’s hard to explain. They have a kind of a fourth dimension to them.
L.B.: Some people say that extremely fine diamonds have a fifth dimension, called presence. Is that sort of like what you’re talking about?
R.E.: There’s a mysterious side to them. That mystery is what sets them apart.
L.B.: What else?
R.E.: Originality. When you’re seeing something you haven’t seen before. You might not be able to put your finger on what is setting the person apart—maybe it’s a seductiveness, maybe it’s a toughness. Originals are very hard to find.
L.B.: But you’ve always surrounded yourself with originals. Look at the photos in this house: Jack Nicholson, Stanley Kubrick, Mia Farrow. And, of course, Ali MacGraw.
R.E.: Ali was one of the most original people I’ve ever met. Everyone knew it. She could wear a safety pin as a ring and it would be fashionable. There was a time when every woman in the country wanted to be her and every man wanted to be with her.
L.B.: But she was with you. That must have been pretty satisfying.
R.E.: (Laughs) Well, I never said being surrounded by originals has made me happy. It hasn’t made me happy at all. I haven’t had peace of mind for a minute.
L.B.: What do you think would give you peace of mind instead?
R.E.: I’d love to just be on a beach under a tree and go swimming. I’ve given up actresses. They’re a tricky breed. The ride is like a roller coaster.
The best company in town isn’t a WOMAN; it’s a man, and his name is OSCAR.
– Robert Evans
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L.B.: Who is the most beautiful actress you’ve ever met?
R.E.: Grace Kelly. You tell me who’s more beautiful than her. I’d like to see a girl today who’s as beautiful. I went with her for a while.
L.B.: Well, you had to work pretty hard to get to her.
R.E.: Yeah, back in the early 1950s, a friend and I had a hundred-dollar bet over who could meet her first. We stalked her digs at the Barbizon Hotel for Women, tried to bribe her doorman. No luck. Then I met her on my third callback for a juicy part in Fourteen Hours. Grace was also on her third callback. She got her part. I didn’t get mine. But I got her instead. We spent many nights dancing at the Plaza.
L.B.: Describe her beauty.
R.E.: Serene.
L.B.: Sexy?
R.E.: Charlize Theron is sexy.
L.B.: What makes an actress sexy?
R.E.: If she feels dangerous and secretive.
L.B.: Of the actresses you’ve known, who’s been the best company?
R.E.: The best company in town isn’t a woman; it’s a man, and his name is Oscar.
L.B.: Someone with whom you’re well acquainted. What was your own best red carpet moment?
R.E.: Going to The Godfather premiere with Ali. She had been down in New Mexico filming with Steve McQueen and flew up to New York to be there. It was the highest moment of my life. Here we are: I had a beautiful woman who I thought was madly in love with me, dancing all night, with the biggest picture ever. But then I found out that I wasn’t really there; I wasn’t with the beautiful woman; it wasn’t the best night of my life. That night, Ali made me feel eleven feet tall, but she was madly in love with Steve McQueen.
L.B.: Actresses are a roller coaster ride.
R.E.: You said it.
  • A SAMPLING OF THE PRODUCER’S ARCHIVES AND MEMORABILIA


CONTRIBUTOR
PROFILE

LESLEY M.M. BLUME
CONTRIBUTOR STATS
Name: Lesley M.M. Blume 
Occupation: Journalist, author, editor, and biographer
Years in the industry: 30+ (she was a newsroom brat)
Known for: It Happened Here; the Let’s Bring Back series, and the forthcoming Everyone Behaves Badly
Where to find her: Los Angeles and NYC
Website: Lesleymmblume.com
Beauty essential: Oversize Mason Pearson brush, Chanel red lipstick, and Tom Ford cat-eye sunglasses for days when no amount of undereye concealer is enough
Mentions in The Violet Files: Mary Tyler MooreAnjelica & Jack

VIOLET
MUST

One of Evans’ seminal films, the Jack Nicholson- and Faye Dunaway-led Chinatown.
NECESSARY
Film

WATCH ON ITUNES

ANJELICA ON
JACK NICHOLSON

Anjelica Huston speaks to Lesley M.M. Blume about her relationship with Nicholson, dressing for the Oscars, and more.