By Lisa Drader-Murphy
“The real things in life, you cannot touch. Anything you can touch is replaceable. Happiness is the real thing. And nobody’s going to put a shadow on my sunshine.” ~ Amanda Eliasch’s opening line in her self-written and produced docu-drama, The Gun, The Cake And The Butterfly.
During the winter of 2011, I was presenting my collection in Hollywood at a celebrity lounge honouring nominees and special guests of the Golden Globe Awards. Among the many recognizable faces and names, in walked a woman that I did not recognize. She was Amanda Eliasch. She appeared confident and incredibly stylish, and had a playful, mischievous presence. She was introduced as an actor and writer from England who was researching for her column for Genlux Magazine, as their fashion editor.
A few weeks later I received an email containing her media coverage of her experience in our lounge and was thrilled to see her complimentary mention of our brief encounter. What intrigued me moreover, was her command of language and her wit and intelligence. This prompted me to research her and what I discovered was a treasure trove of her writings including poetry and plays, as well as numerous interviews and stories highlighting her dramatic life as a bon vivant celebutante in Britain and Hollywood.
Our paths crossed again years later again in Hollywood at a red carpet event during 2015 Oscar Week where Amanda enthusiastically described her recently released docudrama – a hybrid of documentary and directed drama. The Gun, the Cake, and the Butterfly is an emotional rollercoaster account of Amanda’s perception of events from her life, woven into a tale of truths, allegory and dreams. Amanda has a larger-than-life persona and socializes with influencers including royalty, artists, and celebrities. Her movie alludes to and even appears to detail some of these encounters.
Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Amanda was raised in Wiltshire Downs by her mother, Caroline Brown (Gilliat), an opera singer and teacher. Her father, Anthony Cave Brown, who was largely absent during her childhood, was writer and Foreign Correspondent for The Daily Mail in Beirut, and penned the novels Bodyguard of Lies, Willliam J. Donovan, and Treason in the Blood. As the daughter of a writer, her “double-threat” literary and film-making talents come honestly as she is also the granddaughter of famed filmmaker Sidney Gilliat best known for his work with Alfred Hitchcock.
After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, the Black and White Photography School and the Moscow Arts Theatre, Amanda went on to assist fashion editor Rushka Bergman at L’uomo Vogue.
Considered one of Britain’s most fashionable, Amanda is rarely seen not wearing couture designer clothes, almost exclusively in black. Among her favourites are famed British designers Vivienne Westwood and Pam Hogg who make cameos in her movie. “Vivienne Westwood and Pam Hogg are both shown, because for me they are the true British Designers. The rebels. From a child I have loved clothes, as a fashion editor I work with clothes, but I look like a punk nun.” ~ Amanda Eliasch
In The Gun, The Cake, And The Butterfly, Amanda takes her viewer on a journey, beginning with recollections of her childhood, as a bright private school student though often sad, teased and lonely. She bravely exposes early insecurities and her own abuse as a child. She goes on to share her feelings and experiences around her oft tormented relationships with men, including that with her own father and the father of her two grown sons, Johan Eliasch. To meet Amanda, her presentation immaculately curated, dressed to couture perfection, it would seem in stark contrast that her alter ego allow for the darker more intimate secrets of her life be exposed in such a public medium. “When a woman confronts her loneliness, she’s free.” ~ Amanda Eliasch, in The Gun, The Cake, and the Butterfly.
Amanda’s glamourous, fashionable life, writings and the jarring transitions and imagery in her movie are fascinating. What is more interesting, though, is her self-awareness and ability to weave anecdotes of her personal comedy and tragedy into a story that reminds us that things are not always as they appear; at our core we all feel pain and we all hunger for love.