In 1967, iconic actor Audrey Hepburn “quit” acting because she could not bear to be away from her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer. “She had waited her whole life to have a family,” Sean told The Sun in 2020. “It’s what she wanted out of her life.” The following year, Hepburn divorced her first husband, fellow actor Mel Ferrer, who was known to be a “neurotic” perfectionist, as Sean told The Sun. Then, Hepburn met the Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti on a cruise and married him on January 18, 1969, as noted by Harper’s Bazaar.
Could Hepburn’s second marriage help build up the family she so badly wanted? At first, it seemed so: the retired actor settled with Dotti and Sean in Rome, Italy, and Hepburn fell pregnant just four months into the marriage. On February 8, 1970, she welcomed her second son, Luca Dotti. She seemed to finally be living the life she had longed for, away from Hollywood and her controlling first husband, with her time fully devoted to mothering her two children. According to Sean, Dotti was also a doting father, at least at first. Sadly, he failed to fulfill the role of the devoted husband.
Andrea Dotti became an unfaithful husband and absent father
Audrey Hepburn’s eldest son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, told The Sun that the star’s second husband, Andrea Dotti, had been a “fantastic” stepdad, cooking up games and experiments to keep Sean entertained. But Hepburn and Dotti had married as the 1960s ushered in the 1970s, and with the new decade came a continuing rise of progressive ideals like “free love.” According to The Sun, Dotti regularly went out clubbing in Rome while Hepburn stayed at home with her sons. To make matters worse, Hepburn had a history of miscarriages, which continued during her marriage to Dotti when she suffered another miscarriage in 1974. The trauma only added extra grief and stress to an already precarious union.
Throughout the 1970s, rumors swirled about Dotti’s many alleged infidelities, including with much younger women. The psychiatrist was photographed with up to 200 women during his marriage to Hepburn. One day, Hepburn’s maid revealed that Dotti would regularly entertain women in their home while Hepburn was traveling. “She was as delicate as she could be and my mother had suspicions already,” Sean told The Sun, “and this was the ’60s sexual revolution.”
Hepburn’s marriage to Dotti officially came to an end in 1982, after 12 years. At first, she remained in Italy so Dotti could see their son Luca, but according to Sean, Dotti never made use of his visitation rights.
Andrea Dotti had unrealistic expectations for Audrey
Hepburn didn’t shy away from telling her sons harsh truths. She told Sean Hepburn Ferrer, only 12 at the time, that Dotti had been unfaithful to her. He remembers her bloodshot eyes as they had this difficult conversation. As a child, he says, he “did not know how to help her” (via The Sun).
In addition to Dotti’s infidelity, another source of conflict in their relationship was his expectations for Hepburn. According to People, he expected her to stay home while he went out, playing the role of the traditional Italian housewife who was entirely dedicated to the home and children. After their divorce, Hepburn spoke out about the lack of help she received from Dotti during their marriage. “Doctors are great with their patients, but they never want to take care of their families,” she said (via The Guardian).
According to her son Sean Hepburn Ferrer, Hepburn may have had slightly unrealistic expectations of her own in marriage. He commented that she was “looking for a father figure” in a husband, because she had been abandoned as a child by her own father. Hepburn considered that abandonment a defining moment in her life because of its impact on her. Though she pursued a relationship with her father later in life, he wasn’t interested, according to The Guardian.
Audrey had a fulfilling life after Andrea
Since Dotti wasn’t interested in parenting, Audrey moved with her two sons to Tolochenaz, Switzerland, near Lausanne on Lake Geneva. She had lived there previously in the late 1960s. She found a respite there from the paparazzi. According to Swiss Info, she enjoyed the town because she could go out and about without being hounded. She also enjoyed speaking French — one of five languages she knew — with other town residents.
After acting a bit more in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Hepburn retired for good. By then, she had fallen in love with fellow actor and businessman Robert Wolders, who, like Audrey, was Dutch. He was the widower of British actress Merle Oberon (via People). Although they never married, Hepburn considered him her husband, according to The Sun.
Hepburn dedicated the last years of her life to working with UNICEF, becoming a Goodwill Ambassador in 1988 (via Harper’s Bazaar). Over the next five years, she went on 50 trips for UNICEF, including to Sudan, El Salvador, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Somalia. After her death from cancer in 1993, she was buried in Tolochenaz.
Andrea Dotti’s marriage to Audrey Hepburn was marked by infidelity and unmet expectations, but Hepburn found fulfillment in her later years, dedicating herself to her children and humanitarian work.