It’s been 50 years since actress Olivia Hussey shot to fame in her role as doomed lover Juliet in 1968’s Romeo and Juliet and now the legendary star is opening up about memories, both happy and painful, in a new book, The Girl on the Balcony.
“It’s been quite a life,” Hussey, 67, tells PEOPLE of her journey. “I feel grateful that I survived it all.”
Born in Buenos Aires and raised in London, Hussey was just 15 years old when she nabbed the coveted role of Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s film, which became an international hit.
“So much happened so fast,” says Hussey. “It was overnight superstardom and I wasn’t prepared for it.”
Overwhelmed by the fame and attention, Hussey took a step back and focused on her budding relationship with Christopher Jones, a young actor whom she had met through her agent, Rudi Altobelli.
But soon after they began dating, Jones began to abuse her. “We were talking and his eyes glazed over and he punched me in the stomach,” Hussey says. The physical and emotional abuse continued, but Hussey stuck by him. “I was young, and I loved him,” she says. “I was very loyal.”
Around the same time, Hussey recalls her brief conversation with a pregnant Sharon Tate, who, along with her husband, Roman Polanski, were renting the Los Angeles home of Altobelli in the summer of 1969.
“I said to Sharon, ‘Rudy said we’re going to be best friends,’” Hussey says of their phone call. “She told me, ‘I’m so looking forward to meeting you, my baby is coming soon.’ She was so sweet.”
For more about Hussey, check out this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Hussey was planning to move to Los Angeles and into the guest house. “I was going to stay there and I’d get to help Sharon with the baby,” she says. “Then Rudi got the call.”
The call was to deliver the shocking news that Tate, along with four others, were murdered at Altobelli’s home on August 9 while he was away.
“I’ll never forget Rudi telling me,” says Hussey. “He said, ‘They’re all dead.’ It was terrible.”
But just five weeks after the murders, Hussey, who had summoned up the courage to break up with Jones, moved into the house.
“People would say, ‘How could you live there?’” she says. “I’d say, ‘In England, most of the houses have horrible memories. It’s not that big of a deal.’”
Says Hussey: “All I felt was Sharon’s vibration. And it was lovely. She’d left an orange scarf and I kept it on my prayer table for years.”
But Hussey’s own nightmare had yet to happen.
One night, Jones showed up at the house and brutally attacked and raped her. “I didn’t know if he was going to kill me,” says Hussey. “My face was like a balloon. I had a bloody nose, my lip was split open, and I had a black eye. It was terrifying.”
Weeks later, Hussey, who told very few people about the attack (Jones died in 2014), discovered she was pregnant.
“I decided I could not have the baby,” she writes in the book of having a subsequent abortion. “It broke my heart…although I have never regretted it.”
Still, Hussey says now that the silver lining was falling in love with her future husband, Dean Paul Martin, the son of singer Dean Martin.
“I fell for him because of the way he treated me and took care of me,” says Hussey. The couple wed in 1971 and had one son, Alex, now 45. They split in 1979 but remained close friends until his tragic death in a plane crash in 1987.
Hussey had another son, 35 year old Max, with her second husband, Japanese singer Akira Fuse, before meeting her current husband of 29 years, rocker David Glen Eisley, with whom she has a daughter India, 24.
“Everyone has their issues and their problems,” Hussey says of getting through dark times. “But I’m so happy to be where I am now.”