Last year, Vanity Fair ran this fun little question and answer in their March issue.
In it, the ever-sublime (and surprisingly cheeky) Joan Fontaine shares her thoughts on life, death and virginity. (Honest!) Joan, 91, has long been retired from public life and leads a quiet and contented life up in Carmel, California, so this questionnaire is certainly an unexpected treat for all her fans. (We love you, Joan!)
Seven decades after she began her Hollywood and stage career, Academy Award–winning actress Joan Fontaine, 90, leads a quiet life at her California home, Villa Fontana. Here, the former screen darling ruminates on her beloved dogs, chastity, and doing it all over again.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Working in my garden while my five A.S.P.C.A. dogs smell the roses … or water them.
What is your greatest fear?
As I lost my Brentwood, California, house and its contents in a firestorm in 1964, I fear the same might happen to Villa Fontana.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Eleanor of Aquitaine, as she was my all-time favorite role, in The Lion in Winter, and which gave me the best reviews of my career.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Buying a car just for my canines.
What is your favorite journey?
Portofino to Capri.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
On what occasion do you lie?
When being tactful … or evasive.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
The English language.
What is your current state of mind?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Gossiping, denigration, chitchat, disloyalty.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Peace and tranquillity.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Losing a child.
What is your most treasured possession?
My house and its three acres of gardens, in the woods.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Independence, sense of humor.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Knowledge and respect, affection without demands.
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Intellect, honesty, openness, loyalty.
Who are your favorite writers?
Du Maurier, Shakespeare, Dickens, the Brontës, Gwendolyn Brooks.
Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
D’Artagnan, from The Three Musketeers, who taught me some things were going on in Milady’s boudoir. My mother, when I questioned her at 10 years old, said, “You’ll have to ask someone else.”
Who are your heroes in real life?
Winston Churchill. Alas, no “greats” today, except Mother Teresa.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Me again. “Get it right this time!”
What is it that you most dislike?
How would you like to die?
What is your motto?
“Free at last!”