New feature documentary Faye provides an intimate portrait of one of Hollywood's most iconic leading ladies of the 20th century, as Faye Dunaway looks back at the highs and lows of her era-defining career.


Throughout the '60s and '70s, the actress was one of the most in-demand names in Hollywood. The actress built her reputation through critically acclaimed performances in movies such as Chinatown, Network and Bonnie and Clyde, which showcased her signature emotional depth and untameable spirit.

Behind all the fame and success, Dunaway was struggling with erratic behaviour and mood swings. The actress revealed during the documentary that she sought medical attention and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after suffering from the condition for many years.

Speaking at a roundtable during the Cannes Film Festival, Dunaway said she felt it was important to be candid and open about her mental health struggles as it may explain certain behaviours she has exhibited in the past, but it may also reach people who are suffering from these "imbalances".

"You're still responsible for your actions so [the bipolar] may explain them but it doesn't excuse them if they've been painful for other people," said Dunaway.

"It was good to know it and then try and find a way to cope with it and find a way to control whatever impulses I was having and to have medication and have help to understand what was happening. It was part of my process and part of my evolving into what I've become today."

Faye Dunaway has had an incredibly successful career and has achieved wide critical acclaim for her performances, including the Academy Award for Best Actress for Network in 1977.

The actress seamlessly transforms into each character and she believes that her bipolar disorder has helped tap into the emotional complexities of various characters and enhance her performances.

"It helped the performances because that kind of emotional scope is something that you can pull on and draw on for the character," she said. "It's such a mixed bag, you don't want it in life but in my particular world, you need it. You need the ups and the downs and the complexities in between."

The actress added: "[The bipolar] was a necessary part of my craft. That's what we do, we use those emotions. It was a curse and a blessing. It's just as well to curb it in your life and to understand it and make your behaviour conform more to other people and I've learnt to do that."

Side-on shot of Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Cross-Mulwray in Chinatown, wearing a hat with a neutral expression on her face.
Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Cross-Mulwray in Chinatown. Bettmann/Getty Images

While her bipolar disorder may have certain benefits as an actor, there have been some high-profile instances where mood swings have caused Dunaway to clash with co-stars or crew members.

For example, in 2019, the actress was fired from the Broadway-bound play Tea at Five – in which she was portraying Katharine Hepburn.

Dunaway reportedly lost her temper with the crew before a performance, which led to the producers cancelling the show.

"I felt like I needed to do it for the experience back on the stage but I didn't feel like I was right for it," said Dunaway during the documentary. "Katharine Hepburn was from New England and I'm from the South so there was such a different sensibility that I was worried about me being able to play it. I began to be more and more irritated and I knew that was the bipolar kicking in."

Faye Dunaway wearing a dark purple jacket and standing in front of a glitzy red and gold backdrop.
Faye Dunaway. Stephen Lovekin/WWD/Penske Media via Getty Images

There were also instances in the past where famous actors had spoken about the difficulty of working with Dunaway, including Bette Davis.

During an appearance on The Johnny Carson Show, she was asked if there was any person in Hollywood that she wouldn't work with again. The All About Eve actress quickly responded: "One million percent Faye Dunaway! Everybody will tell you exactly the same thing. She is totally impossible and uncooperative. Miss Dunaway is for Miss Dunaway."

During the Cannes roundtable, Dunaway was asked how she felt about Bette Davis's comments and she responded: "It happens. I didn't feel anything in particular about it. I'm sorry that she said it but it was not a good relationship and these things happen."

Laurent Bouzereau captured the incredible life story of Faye Dunaway from her Southern roots to Hollywood stardom. The French filmmaker believes that the appeal of the documentary comes from how relatable her struggles and personal battles are to a wider audience.

"When I was sitting across from Faye, everything she was saying was generating deep, deep emotions in me," said Bouzereau. "I caught myself crying a few times and caught myself being speechless. I thought that if half of what I was feeling could be conveyed in the film and the audience can feel the same way, then we have something interesting going on."

Dunaway admitted that she is in a much better place mentally now, as she has medication to help with her disorder and the people around her know how to deal with her mood swings.

She didn't rule out the possibility of making a comeback to acting but admitted she currently has other priorities, particularly spending quality time with her son and grandson.

For anyone affected by bipolar disorder, you can find information and support at Bipolar UK, as well as a range of useful contacts on Mind's website.

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Faye will arrive on HBO and Max in the US later this year, with UK launch details yet to be confirmed.


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