Acclaimed filmmaker Luchino Visconti scoured Europe in 1970 to search out the ‘good magnificence’ to play the lead in his upcoming movie Dying In Venice.
The profitable candidate must have the ravishing seems to be an viewers might imagine can be ample to drive Dirk Bogarde’s character, an ailing and ageing composer, to distraction.
However Visconti wasn’t searching for a girl, he was searching for an adolescent boy. He discovered what he was searching for, casting a 15-year-old Swede, Björn Andrésen, to play a sailor-suited Polish boy named Tadzio.
A yr later, in London, for the movie’s world premiere in entrance of the Queen and Princess Anne, Visconti proclaimed Andrésen to be ‘the world’s most lovely boy’, a shocking accolade echoed by some movie critics who hailed his blond-locked, nearly unearthly magnificence as on a par with Michelangelo’s David.
He turned an in a single day celebrity — the world’s most fawned-over face — just for his fame to turn out to be a ‘residing nightmare’ that scarred him for all times.
Visconti’s ‘most lovely boy’ comment could have been primarily a advertising stunt but it surely turned a millstone round Andrésen’s neck for many years.
For as revealed in a brand new documentary movie, The Most Lovely Boy In The World, that delves deep right into a desperately tragic life, Andrésen would have been a lot happier if he’d by no means met Visconti, whom he describes as a ‘cultural predator’ who cynically exploited and objectified his youth and appears.
Björn Andrésen, a 15-year-old Swede, pictured taking part in a sailor-suited Polish boy named Tadzio in Dying In Venice. He turned an in a single day celebrity — the world’s most fawned-over face
The documentary revives unsettling questions concerning the ethics of a manufacturing that has turn out to be a cult homosexual movie. Bogarde was overtly gay as was Visconti, who stated his male lovers included Italian director Franco Zeffirelli and Umberto II, the final King of Italy.
He was 63 when he made Dying In Venice (primarily based on a novella by German author Thomas Mann, additionally homosexual) with a largely homosexual crew, too. However Andrésen wasn’t homosexual — and even when he had been, he had solely simply turned 15 when he auditioned.
Far too younger, he says, to be changed into a intercourse object whom Visconti took to homosexual nightclubs and who later turned a trophy for wealthy Paris males who lavished him with presents and meals so they may parade him round.
To make issues worse, he was an orphan — a shy little one whose grandmother had a deadly habit to fame that made her the final one that ought to have been trusted to guard him.
Having spent years battling alcoholism and despair, Andrésen stays a troubled soul. He now lives alone in a squalid flat, chain smoking, bickering along with his long-suffering, on-off girlfriend and entering into hassle along with his landlord for leaving his gasoline range on.
Dying In Venice is hardly a movie one envisages Hollywood making now. The documentary contains footage of Visconti sizing up strains of boys who filed previous him throughout a Europe-wide quest for a Tadzio that lasted years.
‘How outdated is he? Older proper?’ Visconti asks a Swedish-speaking casting director as Andrésen poses self-consciously for them at a casting name in Stockholm one chilly day in February 1970. ‘Sure, a little bit. He’s fifteen,’ the casting director replies. ‘Fifteen? Very lovely,’ Visconti observes. ‘Might you ask him to undress?’
Andrésen is clearly shocked however finally strips all the way down to his trunks, as a photographer snaps away and a delighted Visconti makes clear he has discovered precisely what he was searching for.
It was a defining second in Andrésen’s life and never one, he and his household now say.
‘It felt like swarms of bats round me. It was a residing nightmare,’ says Andrésen of the celebrity and a spotlight for which he was woefully underprepared. ‘I used to be a intercourse object — Massive Sport.’
Curse of fame: Björn Andrésen with Dirk Bogarde within the movie. Andrésen’s relationship with Bogarde isn’t tackled within the documentary, though the previous informed the Mail in 2003 that the star was ‘all the time very courteous . . . very form and really British’
Now 66, he’s nonetheless putting — albeit these days wanting extra like a rake-thin wizard with a nicotine-stained beard and white hair that comes half manner down his again.Nevertheless, because the haunting documentary reveals, Andrésen’s life had been marked by tragedy some years earlier than he got here into the orbit of Visconti.
His bohemian mom, Barbro, by no means informed him the id of his father (he nonetheless doesn’t know) and made no secret that she wished extra from life than being mom to Björn and his half-sister.
He recollects standing behind her as a little bit boy as she stared silently out of a window and pondering: ‘Once I develop up, I’m going to save lots of Mum.’ He by no means bought the possibility —when he was ten she disappeared and police discovered her six months later in woods after she’d apparently taken her personal life.
The youngsters went to dwell with their maternal grandparents in Stockholm and the household by no means talked about their mom once more.
Younger Björn by no means wished to behave however as an alternative hankered to be a pianist. His grandmother, who wished at the very least one of many kids to be well-known, had different concepts.
He’d already appeared in a movie, a 1970 Swedish romantic drama, when he auditioned for Dying In Venice. He was paid $4,000 for his position within the movie.
Regardless of the frequent lingering glances that Andrésen and Bogarde change within the movie, Visconti publicly performed down any notion there was something sexual between them. ‘It’s a love story, one which’s pure. It’s neither sexual nor erotic,’ he stated unconvincingly.
Andrésen’s relationship with Bogarde isn’t tackled within the documentary, though the previous informed the Mail in 2003 that the star was ‘all the time very courteous . . . very form and really British’. Bogarde, the one foreigner who bothered to learn the way to pronounce his identify correctly, instructed Andrésen the right way to bow to the Queen when he met her.
Two months later, the movie was proven on the Cannes Movie Competition. After the competition’s primary banquet, Visconti and his associates took Andrésen to a homosexual nightclub the place he felt that waiters and company leered at him and he drank himself in a stupor ‘simply to close it out’.
A lot to his discomfort, he turned a intercourse image and — for some — a homosexual icon. He obtained sackfuls of fan mail from besotted youngsters and grown males alike.
He later visited Japan the place he was mobbed by followers in scenes similar to Beatlemania and, in actual fact, recorded a few songs.
Again in Europe, he continued performing however struggled to shake off his ‘world’s most lovely boy’ moniker. In 1976, he got here to Paris for a movie. It by no means got here to something however he stayed a yr regardless of being penniless.
A string of wealthy males paid for every little thing, showering him with costly meals and items, offering him with a flat and giving him 500 francs weekly pocket cash.
‘I should have been bloody naive as a result of it was form of like: “Wow! Everybody’s so good,” ’ he says now. ‘I don’t assume they handled me out of the kindness of their coronary heart . . . I felt like [a] wandering trophy.’
The documentary doesn’t sort out the query of whether or not he ever succumbed to any man’s advances. He informed the Mail 18 years in the past that he felt a fleeting confusion about his sexuality in his 20s and had one gay expertise. ‘I did it kind of to have the ability to say I’d tried it but it surely’s probably not my cup of tea. It wasn’t extra critical than that,’ he stated on the time.
Andrésen pictured now, in his 60s. His performing profession proved so unsuccessful that he repeatedly broke off from it to work as a music instructor
He insists he’s all the time most popular girls, though even right here he has had hassle. After rising used to clicking his fingers and having women come working, he admits he by no means learnt the right way to flirt.
Even so, he managed to get married to a poet named Suzanna Roman after that they had a daughter, Robine, in 1984. Nevertheless, tragedy once more struck three years later when their nine-month-old son Elvin, died. Andrésen had been mendacity in mattress beside him, insensible after an evening out ingesting, whereas his spouse took their daughter to kindergarten.
Though it was a cot dying, he blames himself for the tragedy, saying he’d been an insufficient father. ‘Their prognosis is sudden toddler dying syndrome however my prognosis is lack of affection,’ he says. The household collapsed. ‘I descended into despair, alcohol, self-destruction in all methods possible — it was an ego journey. Poor me, me, me.’
Andrésen’s performing profession proved so unsuccessful that he repeatedly broke off from it to work as a music instructor. He disappeared from public view so fully that some thought he was lifeless till he re-emerged in 2003, when a photograph of him was used as an instance the entrance cowl of The Lovely Boy, Germaine Greer’s ode to the fantastic thing about younger boys.
Andrésen publicly complained he’d by no means given permission and stated, having been uncovered to it, grownup lust — by males or girls — for adolescents was nothing to have a good time.
He nonetheless suffers from despair and, judging by the movie, is usually tearful.
If ever there was residing proof that magnificence could be a curse it endures within the form of the boy whose childhood was stolen by a extremely manipulative movie director.
The Most Lovely Boy In The World is in cinemas from July 30.