Julie Christie took the world by storm when she appeared in Darling and, of course, as Lara in Doctor Zhivago. The British actress became one of the most famous people in the industry, cementing herself a place in film history.
Christie was on top of the world when, suddenly, she decided to leave Hollywood for good. Instead, she settled down in a place few people would ever have predicted.
So what made Julie Christie leave in the middle of her successful career? And what is she doing today? This is all you need to know about her!
Being a celebrity can be challenging. Sure, fame, glamour, and money can make it seem appealing, but at the same time, it’s all-consuming; high-profile figures are always supposed to be accessible to their fans somehow, whether via working or making other appearances.
For many celebrities, their biggest wish is simply to be able to walk down the street, perhaps buy some milk at the local grocery store and then walk back home. Of course, that often isn’t possible due to the millions of people who would recognize them and then want a picture or an autograph.
In short, being the face everyone thinks they know is difficult. Some people decide to accept it and incorporate that fact into their everyday lives, though others decide that enough is enough and seek to leave the stress of being in the spotlight behind for good.
That was precisely what Julie Christie – the glamorous blond Brit said to have had the sharpest jawline in cinema -– did.
Julie Christie – early life
After becoming a star, Christie turned her back on Hollywood stardom. Her career has been long and very successful, yet while her professional life always was in the spotlight, her personal life was not.
Julie Christie was actually not born in the UK, as many might think. Instead, she was born in colonial Assam in India on April 14, 1941, where her father owned a tea plantation. Her mother was a painter, and at that point, it seemed she was set to follow in her mother’s footsteps.
Julie’s educational career didn’t start that well. She was sent to a boarding school in England at age six. Over the following years, Christie was expelled from several schools.
“It would be shocking for you to know how little it took to get expelled in those days,” she said in 2007.
“Once, it was because I had my school dress tucked in my knickers and was accused of enticing village boys.”
Over the years, Julie has never been interested in speaking too much about herself or paying herself compliments. Although she later understood that she possessed good looks, that was not the case as a youngster. This probably wasn’t made any easier when a nun – by Christie’s recollection – told her, “Stop making faces—you’re ugly enough as it is.”
Julie went on to study in Paris, France, before returning to England and acting studies at London’s Central School for Drama. She always wanted to become an actor, and in 1957, at age 16, she made her stage debut as a member of the Frinton Repertory of Essex. After that, the promising talent began touring with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Julie Christie – ‘Darling’ & ‘Doctor Zhivago’
Christie debuted on screen in 1961, appearing in the sci-fi BBC series A for Andromeda. It might not have been her most impressive role – but it sure caught the interest of directors and producers. Julie had her trademark expression, the “sweet smile,” and it was clear that she was very talented.
After years of performances (and many more parts) Christie got her breakthrough in 1963 when director John Schlesinger cast her in his film Billy Liar. Then, just two years later, she was to get her big, international break as the promiscuous model Diana Scott in Darling.
Not only was it the start of a new, glamorous, Holywood life for Christie, but she also won an Academy Award for best actress. That, of course, elevated her profile in the eyes of many other directors and film companies, and it didn’t take long before another hit came her way.
Christie was cast as Lara in the 1965 romance Doctor Zhivago, starring alongside Omar Sharif. The film earned cult status and certainly turned Julie Christie into a colossal star. She was one of, if not the most promising actresses from the UK since Vivian Leigh, and everyone wanted a piece of her.
Now, filming and being on set might seem like an extraordinary, exciting environment. At that time, though, it was the opposite for Julie and the rest of the cast as they were filmed in both Russia and Spain.
“St Petersburgh in mid-Winter in fact was Madrid in a heatwave. We were all waiting, this multi-million dollar epic, was waiting to be made while we were all sweating away in our furs in 100 degrees heat, waiting for the snow which never came,” she told Express.
“I didn’t use to want to be a great star”
“Finally we were saved by the props and set dressers. So they covered the whole of the set in mountains of marble dust and for the long shots, the fields were covered by miles and miles of bed sheets.”
Before Doctor Zhivago aired, director David Lean projected that Christie would become an international star, and he was right. Yet even at that point, Christie had no interest in becoming a celebrity or being famous.
In a 1965 interview, Julie revealed that she had turned down several prominent roles so that she could tour Eastern Europe and the US with The Royal Shakespeare Company instead. She felt frightened by the thought of being famous and staying with friends, sleeping on an air mattress in their home.
“I didn’t use to want to be a great star. But I must confess it’s becoming quite attractive to me now. However, I’m afraid I might become unbearable. In fact, now I am sometimes downright rude to people,” Julie said.
“I’m beginning to get spoiled. I’m starting to expect things. When people start predicting big things for you, then you really get terribly spoiled.”
She continued: ” I don’t feel I am a celebrity. No one ever recognizes me wherever I go and I’m just as glad. Success is a trap and you get caught up in it. I’m an incredibly selfish and insecure person.”
But Christie continued her journey towards Hollywood stardom, whether she liked it or not. She appeared in films such as Far from the Madding Crowd, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Shampoo, and Heaven Can Wait. In some of those productions, Julie appeared alongside her then-boyfriend.
Julie Christie – relationship with Warren Beatty
It wasn’t just any person, but Warren Beatty. The Hollywood legend had a wild private life and dated plenty of women.
Christie and Beatty began their relationship in 1967. They had first met at the Royal Command performance of the film Born Free a year earlier. When the actor saw Christie shaking hands with the Queen Elizabeth II, he had reportedly fallen head-over-heels for her.
It didn’t take long for Christie to reciprocate the feeling, and shortly after that, the pair started dating.
By all accounts, Christie was very much dedicated to making the relationship with Warren Beatty work. At the same time, people around her tried to warn the young actress about the womanizing actor. He was known for his high-profile love affairs with women. Besides Julie, he had affairs with Jane Fonda, Carly Simon, Goldie Hawn, Joni Mitchell, Jackie Onassis, and Madonna.
Director John Schlesinger, who had cast Julie in Billy Liar, urged her to break up with Warren Beatty. He reportedly said the actor “gets through women like a businessman through a dozen oysters.”
Julie and Warren starred together in several films. They both appeared in McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Shampoo, and Heaven Can Wait. The latter two were mostly filmed after their breaking up in 1974.
Why Julie Christie suddenly disappeareed from Hollywood
Despite the relationship not working out, when looking back, Christie didn’t regret her time with Beatty. In an interview with The Guardian, she claimed that it improved her life.
“He gave me a political perspective, which I am very grateful for. I loved the way, say, that he would go to baseball matches and stand up in the interval and talk about getting rid of guns,” Julie said.
“He would be this little tiny figure in this big baseball stadium, and I would be looking down at him, I thought he was wonderfully courageous for doing that.”
Indeed, Christie and Beatty remained great friends despite breaking up.
“When she and her husband come to Los Angeles, they stay in our guest house. We’re very close and she’s a remarkable person,” Beatty told People in 2016.
In 1977, Christie had had enough of fame, despite becoming an icon in Hollywood. She decided to leave Los Angeles and move back to England.
After taking a short break, the actress appeared in several smaller films and low-budget productions. But it was clear that acting in blockbusters wasn’t a priority.
Settled at a farm in Wales
“I was perfectly happy not doing them,” she told the New York Times. “There were just no roles that really appealed to me.”
Christie settled at a farm in Wales, where she lived with a couple and their children. They became her family as she didn’t “really have no family of my own.” Moreover, she also found other passionate causes, including feminism and protecting the environment.
After moving back to the UK, Christie didn’t even have a car and would bake her own bread. In short, she lived an effortless life. Then, in 1979, she engaged in a relationship with journalist Duncan Campbell. They tied the knot, though the couple never revealed the specific date of their marriage.
Fame and status never controlled for Julie, but she would eventually return to the film industry gracefully. In 2006, she starred in the film Away From Her, playing an Alzheimer’s patient older.
The outstanding performance landed her her fourth Academy Award nomination, this time for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. Yet even though she was, and still is, a major star, Christie doesn’t place much meaning on fame and fortune.
Decades after leaving Hollywood, she still maintains that the reason for her return to England remains the same.
This is Julie Christie today – net worth
“I understand the need for icons,” she said . “I have had idols and there are still people whom I am in awe of because of their talent, so I try to be understanding. But I so hate being a public person rather than a private person – I’m just not as nice as I should be.”
Now 82, Julie previously revealed that she underwent cosmetic surgery in the past. At the same time, she claims having a good make-up artist is the secret to looking fabulous.
After she was forced to have her neck taped while filming, she had a neck lift.
“It saved having to be pinned up and held back with sticky tape,” Julie said. “It was practicality as much as vanity.”
Julie Christie will forever be a true Hollywood icon, even if she’s desperate not to be a part of it. To this day, she looks as beautiful as ever, and is said to have a net worth of around $10 million.
Now, however, Christie says she has “no connection at all” with her young self who portrayed so many good characters during her early work in the film industry.
“That person has gone,” she added.