Long before the coronavirus pandemic, and long before the fires forced her to move down to “town”—also known as Los Angeles—from her ranch, Anjelica Huston found herself dancing inside a mystical 16th-century monastery in the Umbrian countryside. Alessandro Michele had been looking for an authentic, priestess-like woman to conduct a ritual in his new Gucci fragrance campaign, and Huston fit the bill perfectly. So did the designer Susie Cave, the actor Jodie Turner-Smith, and the singer Florence Welch, though none managed to look quite as witchy as the former Morticia Addams herself.
Bloom Profumo di Fiori is Gucci’s first fragrance fully developed by Michele, and Huston took her role as spokesperson seriously. She’s barely looked in the mirror during the pandemic, nor stuck to any semblance of a beauty routine. And yet, she’s still wearing Gucci Bloom constantly. “It started as a dutiful thing,” Huston said on the phone last week. But “now I’ve really gotten a bit addicted. I kind of need it to feel like me.”
Huston has found herself longing for the parallel, flower-filled universe she imagined with Cave, Welch, and Turner-Smith. (Not to mention the laughs they had during their downtime, in tents outside the monastery.) But she’s relieved they wrapped well before the era of social distancing; doing press for the campaign has even been a highlight of her work-from-home life. Here, Huston talks Profumo di Fiori, her love of Charlize Theron-style short hair, and her life in quarantine—which at one point involved caring for 21 kittens.
Where are you right now?
I’m in my bedroom in the Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles. It rained last night, and I can’t tell you the relief. The air has been so bad and the atmosphere is so close. I’ve had the fires up at my ranch up north and at one point, the sky was just blood red—there was no sun, and the smoke. I think the visibility was about three miles. It was terrible. But today is nice here in the Palisades, so I’m feeling quite joyous.
Is that where you’ve been quarantining?
I’ve been up at my ranch, and then it got so bad up there about a week and a half ago that I had to come down to town. But I’ve been quarantining up there for the last five or so months, and actually quite happily, because it’s the country and I’ve been able to walk outside and make a garden and play with my animals. I haven’t felt trapped at all. It was actually kind of liberating to not even barely look in the mirror, drag a brush through my hair, put it in a ponytail, walk outside, and not have to think about how I look or what anyone thinks.
What kind of animals do you have?
I have horses, pigs, goats, chickens, cats, dogs, ducks… pretty much everything.
You should be. [Laughs.]
I want a dog so bad.
Oh, they’re wonderful. Get one immediately. I have a lot of cats because we have these females that haven’t been fixed, and oh my god. Every spring, these tomcats arrive. And all of a sudden, all of my female cats got impregnated. At one point, we had 21 kittens. But then a bobcat came along and, I’m afraid, did away with a few of the kittens. I got very upset about that. And so I took two of the kittens when I had to come down to town. I have them with me now and they’re really cute. They’re teenagers now, so they’re little devils. But they’re adorable.
It must feel like a lifetime ago when you shot this Gucci Bloom campaign.
Yeah, it definitely feels like the full year ago that it was. It was a sort of outstanding time. It was very, very hot, and it was a long drive from our hotel to the location, but the location was really quite extraordinary. It was a 16th-century monastery that two extremely fanciful architects bought after the war, and transformed into something quite mystical and surreal. So it had a lot of layers of sort of mysticism and, I’ll be honest, weirdness. [Laughs.] It was very odd. But it was very fun to work there and dance around in that space with those women. When I wasn’t dancing around, I was laying down with my feet up in one of the tents we each had. We’d go and visit each other and have some laughs. I had a great time with the girls. They were fabulous.
Had you met any of them before?
No, and I kind of fell in love with them all. I have to say, I was smitten. They were all very different. We were different ages, sizes, shapes, and colors, but we felt like a unit. They were all kind of fearless, and I loved that. No one was self-conscious, and it’s such a nice atmosphere when nobody’s really holding back.
You’re each supposed to embody four different ways of being a woman. Has your concept of femininity changed as you’ve gotten older?
I’ve always been a romantic, and that goes a lot with femininity. For me, femininity is an interior thing. It’s not so much to do frills and bells and whistles as it has to do with heart and gender and something deep and procreative. I think that this campaign really embodied a lot of my perceptions of femininity—what it is to be a woman and what it is to be in touch with the more mystical side of life. I mean, if you think about it, women are miracles. My assistant is eight months pregnant right now, and I look at her every day and I think, how amazing that that happens—that a woman can actually contain another life. I don’t know, I just think women are fantastic. [Laughs.] Guys are great too, but oh my goodness, what women are capable of? It’s phenomenal.
It must be so hard to be pregnant at a time like this, too.
I know. I say to her, “How are you?” She goes, “I’m fine,” and I’m like, “How?!” [Laughs.] How could you possibly be fine in this year of Covid, carrying what looks to be quite a large baby? But she just has this serenity about her. She’s able to sort of spread this feeling of contentment without being overly pushy about it. She makes me feel like everything is okay, and that’s a lot to ask.
I know you haven’t been looking in the mirror, but have you been wearing any fragrances?
I’ve been wearing Gucci Bloom, shockingly enough. I’ve worn [Jean] Patou Mille for 35 years or something, but I haven’t really had a reason to wear another perfume. In a way, it started as a dutiful thing as a Gucci Bloom spokesperson, to wear it and see how I live with it. And now I’ve really gotten a bit addicted. I kind of need it to feel like me. Initially when it comes out of the bottle, it smells a bit sweet, but it’s become more about me. I feel like it belongs to me now.
Has fragrance ever helped you get into a role?
Oh yeah. I did a play called Tamara and a friend of mine gave me Sublime. I wore it for the whole of that play and it did somehow transform something in me. I think it’s useful to give yourself another scent when you’re in character. It sort of takes you out of who you are and places you in a new aura.
What’s your first scent memory?
I’d have to say marzipan, which was as much smell as it was taste. I remember these little cakes we used to have when I was growing up in the south of France, and being really into the kind of perfume-y almond smell and taste. And then my mother’s scent was Shalimar, so I have a lot of attachment to that scent. She gave me my first scent, which was an Elizabeth Arden one called Blue Grass. I think it was the young girl scent of the day. The bottle had a girl riding bareback on a blue horse with a lot of flowers in its mane, and I thought that was really great. It was sort of lily of the valley. Very romantic. And then there was Vetiver in the ’60s. All through the ages, I’ve had certain scents that really resonate with me.
Have you been cutting your own bangs in quarantine?
Yes, sadly. [Laughs.] They’re a little jagged. I like when my bags are cut all the way sharp, to the temple. I don’t like when they kind of do that oval thing. And it’s hard to get it right. Sometimes you over clip a bit, and you end up looking like the Lion King. It’s come dangerously near a mullet a couple of times.
Do you have any tips?
Don’t do it with the nail scissors. It will be a disaster. You can do it with normal straight scissors, but don’t go near those little pointy ones with the curve. And stay away from your eyelashes. Those would be my two main tips.
What does working at home look like for you?
One of the beauties of having done this campaign is I can do interviews from home. I’ve done some voiceovers. I’m practicing my ceramics, which I can’t really describe as work. It’s more kind of an adventure. But, you know, work proper has been difficult because we’ve been quarantining.
Do you miss getting dressed up for events?
Um, no. [Laughs heartily.] I don’t, really. Although I think it’ll be great when it all starts up again. We’ll have new ideas about what to do and how to look at stuff, and I was getting a bit bored with the old looks and the old ways. I wish everyone would cut their hair. That would be a good opening stroke, if you ask me. I’m a bit sick of all of that way long hair. Rippling hair, I think, has to go. I’d like to see some more adventurous looks. More gamine stuff, and more kind of shape. I always love to see Charlize Theron’s head because I think it’s so beautifully shaped. It makes me think like, how do people’s heads look without all of that hair coiling around down on their backs and shoulders? Like, what do their necks look like? I’d like to see more of that.
Somehow this comes up in every interview I’ve done since, but I shaved my head at the beginning of quarantine and I highly recommend it.
I think it’s a great thing. I love it. And it’s also really good for your hair.
Would you take the leap and take part in that change that you want to see?
Absolutely not. [Laughs.]
That’s for the rest of us.
That’s for everyone else. [Laughs.] I’d be tempted, but I don’t know that I’m that gamine a girl. I think it might be a bit much, but I might take off a good five-inch chunk.
What have you been watching while you’ve been at home?
Well, I confess: I watched Tiger King. [Laughs heartily.] Very recently, with my jaw somewhere on my chest. I was very wrapped up in My Brilliant Friend; I think the show that I found really wonderful and that I really enjoyed was My Brilliant Friend. It was a beautifully made miniseries and I hope it comes back. And I’ve enjoyed documentaries, but I’ve found myself resorting to reality shows and stuff. Those English shows are quite entertaining. I watched The Big Flower Fight, where people make great creatures out of flowers.
Did you watch the Emmys? Have you been tuning in to any virtual events?
I watched part of it. I had my family over and I was feeding them spaghetti, so it was a bit of an interrupted evening. But I have to say, I take partial responsibility for [the success of] Schitt’s Creek. I think I was the first person to fall in love with that show and tell everyone to watch it. Somehow I felt like one of the people who’d invented it, which of course is ridiculous. I’m crazy about Catherine O’Hara‘s work in it, and the Levys are great. It was a real tour de force that sort of came out of nowhere, and then it developed into this huge, wonderful thing.
In general, how do you think the industry is handling trying to stay afloat?
I think brilliantly, given the fact that we’ve been so compromised by this pandemic. There were so many obstacles to overcome. I think it’s been amazing how inventive television has been and how resilient people are. And good for everybody. If dialing back is what we have to do and it helps us along, so much the better. I hope that we learn from it.
Do you know when you’ll next be on set?
I’ve been asked to do a few things, and I’ll be there when things start up. But I think we have to be really careful about not rushing into it. I know everyone’s impatient, but I think we have to take our time and be sensible. That’s no. 1—safety first.
Are you eager to get back?
I do miss being on set to a degree, but you know, vacations are nice too. As much as I love my work, it can be very stressful and demanding. There’s something quite liberating about not being under that particular pressure all the time. I definitely don’t really miss the stress part.
You mentioned doing voiceovers, and I know you narrate The French Dispatch. Were you on set for that?
No, I wasn’t on set. With Wes, it’s always an adventure. I’m sure it’s going to be great.