Acclaimed filmmaker Luchino Visconti scoured Europe in 1970 to seek out the ‘excellent magnificence’ to play the lead in his upcoming movie Dying In Venice.
The profitable candidate must have the ravishing seems an viewers might imagine could be adequate to drive Dirk Bogarde’s character, an ailing and ageing composer, to distraction.
However Visconti wasn’t searching for a lady, 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 12 months 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 stunning 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 grew to become an in a single day celebrity — the world’s most fawned-over face — just for his fame to grow to be a ‘residing nightmare’ that scarred him for all times.
Visconti’s ‘most stunning boy’ comment could have been primarily a advertising stunt but it surely grew to become a millstone round Andrésen’s neck for many years.
For as revealed in a brand new documentary movie, The Most Stunning 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 enjoying a sailor-suited Polish boy named Tadzio in Dying In Venice. He grew to become 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 grow to be a cult homosexual movie. Bogarde was brazenly 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 (based mostly 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 became a intercourse object whom Visconti took to homosexual nightclubs and who later grew to become 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 youngster 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 together with his long-suffering, on-off girlfriend and moving into bother together with his landlord for leaving his fuel range on.
Dying In Venice is hardly a movie one envisages Hollywood making now. The documentary consists of footage of Visconti sizing up traces of boys who filed previous him throughout a Europe-wide quest for a Tadzio that lasted years.
‘How previous 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, somewhat. He’s fifteen,’ the casting director replies. ‘Fifteen? Very stunning,’ Visconti observes. ‘Might you ask him to undress?’
Andrésen is clearly shocked however ultimately strips right 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 a superb 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 focus 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 advised the Mail in 2003 that the star was ‘at all times very courteous . . . very type and really British’
Now 66, he’s nonetheless placing — albeit these days trying extra like a rake-thin wizard with a nicotine-stained beard and white hair that comes half method down his again.Nonetheless, 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 advised him the id of his father (he nonetheless doesn’t know) and made no secret that she needed extra from life than being mom to Björn and his half-sister.
He recollects standing behind her as somewhat 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 prospect —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 stay with their maternal grandparents in Stockholm and the household by no means talked about their mom once more.
Younger Björn by no means needed to behave however as an alternative hankered to be a pianist. His grandmother, who needed at the least one of many youngsters 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 trade 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 advised the Mail in 2003 that the star was ‘at all times very courteous . . . very type and really British’. Bogarde, the one foreigner who bothered to learn how to pronounce his title correctly, instructed Andrésen bow to the Queen when he met her.
Two months later, the movie was proven on the Cannes Movie Pageant. After the pageant’s essential banquet, Visconti and his buddies took Andrésen to a homosexual nightclub the place he felt that waiters and friends leered at him and he drank himself in a stupor ‘simply to close it out’.
A lot to his discomfort, he grew to become a intercourse image and — for some — a homosexual icon. He acquired 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 appearing however struggled to shake off his ‘world’s most stunning boy’ moniker. In 1976, he got here to Paris for a movie. It by no means got here to something however he stayed a 12 months regardless of being penniless.
A string of wealthy males paid for every part, showering him with costly meals and presents, offering him with a flat and giving him 500 francs weekly pocket cash.
‘I will need to have been bloody naive as a result of it was kind of like: “Wow! Everybody’s so good,” ’ he says now. ‘I don’t suppose 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 advised 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 not likely my cup of tea. It wasn’t extra severe than that,’ he stated on the time.
Andrésen pictured now, in his 60s. His appearing profession proved so unsuccessful that he repeatedly broke off from it to work as a music trainer
He insists he’s at all times most popular ladies, though even right here he has had bother. After rising used to clicking his fingers and having ladies come working, he admits he by no means learnt flirt.
Even so, he managed to get married to a poet named Suzanna Roman after that they had a daughter, Robine, in 1984. Nonetheless, 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 consuming, whereas his spouse took their daughter to kindergarten.
Though it was a cot loss of life, he blames himself for the tragedy, saying he’d been an insufficient father. ‘Their prognosis is sudden toddler loss of life syndrome however my prognosis is lack of affection,’ he says. The household collapsed. ‘I descended into despair, alcohol, self-destruction in all methods conceivable — it was an ego journey. Poor me, me, me.’
Andrésen’s appearing profession proved so unsuccessful that he repeatedly broke off from it to work as a music trainer. He disappeared from public view so utterly that some thought he was useless till he re-emerged in 2003, when a photograph of him was used as an instance the entrance cowl of The Stunning 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 ladies — for adolescents was nothing to rejoice.
He nonetheless suffers from despair and, judging by the movie, is usually tearful.
If ever there was residing proof that magnificence generally is a curse it endures within the form of the boy whose childhood was stolen by a extremely manipulative movie director.
The Most Stunning Boy In The World is in cinemas from July 30.