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Cary Grant's ex-wife Dyan Cannon wishes she could have ‘helped a man who was going through hell'

Cary Grant's ex-wife Dyan Cannon revealed her biggest regrets about her marriage to the Hollywood icon. Cannon executive produced the new miniseries about Grant's life, "Archie."

Cary Grant's ex-wife Dyan Cannon is looking back on their relationship and marriage.

The 86-year-old actress is the executive producer of the new ITV Studios/BritBox miniseries, "Archie," about the Hollywood icon. In an interview with Fox News Digital, Cannon, who was married to Grant from 1965 to 1968, shared her thoughts on what she would have done differently looking back at their time together.

"I wish that I could have then understood love as I understand it now," the three-time Academy Award nominee said.

"And I think I would have personalized less and been more understanding and then been able maybe to help a man who was really going through a lot of hell."


"Archie" chronicles the life and career of the legendary actor, who was born Archibald Leach. Over the years, Grant struggled to overcome a painful past that included an impoverished childhood in England with his alcoholic father Elias and mother Elsie, who battled clinical depression.

Elsie abruptly vanished when Grant was still a child, but the star discovered in his 30s that Elias actually had committed her to an asylum. The deception was "one overpowering lie that shaped his life," according to the miniseries' plot synopsis.

Grant was married five times but only fathered one child, daughter Jennifer, whom he shared with Cannon. In her 2011 memoir "Dear Cary," Cannon recalled that the pair first met after Grant saw her in the 1960 television series "Malibu Run." 

Grant called her agent to request a meeting, and the two began dating shortly after. The "North by Northwest" star and Cannon married in 1965 when he was 61 and she was 28. 

During her interview with Fox News Digital, Cannon reflected on what brought the former couple together despite their 33-year age gap.

"The measure of love, the measure of connection, the measure of understanding, the measure of safety. I didn't want anything from him," she said.

"As a matter of fact, when our marriage was on the rocks, he offered me to star in a movie opposite him called "The Old Man and Me," and I left. I couldn't breathe in that atmosphere anymore. But I didn't really want anything from him. I just loved him. There was no agenda there.

"After he pursued me for eight months — for eight months, I said no. And then his sweetness, because it was such a dearness about him, such a childlike adorableness that you saw on the screen. But when it came to entertaining family life, it just brought up too much in him. He couldn't digest it." 

WATCH: Cary Grant's ex-wife Dyan Cannon shares how she fell in love with him again decades after his death

In her memoir, the "Heaven Can Wait" star detailed her tumultuous home life with Grant, which she wrote was troubled by his controlling behavior, fiery temper and perfectionistic nature.

During her interview with Fox News Digital, Cannon reflected on why she believed Grant felt he could open up to her. The actress recalled that she made many changes to her appearance and behavior to try to please him.

"I think he felt safe with me, and he could. I loved him deeply and was committed to him," Cannon said. "So much so that when he wanted me to quit my acting career, I did. He wanted to change my hair, the way I dressed, the way I walked, the way I wrote. And I so wanted to make him happy.

"I was very young. He was older than my father. And when you're very young, you think you can make someone happy, and you can try all you want. But happiness is an inside job. You can't make anyone else happy. And so whatever I tried, failed.

"I would try and close the cupboards more gently," Cannon added. "I would try and drive with both hands on the steering wheel. I would try not to fill my drawers. I would try not to run when he came home to greet him, because it buzzed him up. But just after we were married, the rigors and pain of his childhood came rushing up. And he couldn't digest — he couldn't digest it anymore."

Grant's frequent use of the psychedelic drug LSD was another factor that played into the demise of their marriage. In 2017, The Guardian reported that he took LSD about 100 times in therapy sessions. Cannon wrote in her memoir that Grant claimed LSD helped him cope with his difficult past and provided stability to his life.

According to Vulture, Grant discussed his use of LSD in the 2017 documentary "Becoming Cary Grant," which was based on an unpublished autobiography.

"During my LSD therapy I learned a great deal," Grant said. "And the result of it all was rebirth. I got where I wanted to go — not completely, because you cut back the barnacles and find more barnacles, and you have to get these off. In life there is no end to getting well."

Grant, who said he learned of LSD therapy from his third wife Betsy Drake, explained that the drug helped him deal with his complicated feelings toward his mother and his distrust of women.

WATCH: Cary Grant's ex-wife Dyan Cannon reflects on what brought them together

"LSD made me realize I was killing my mother through my relationships with other women," he said in the movie, per Vulture. "I was punishing them for what she had done to me.

"I was making the mistake of thinking each of my wives was my mother."

Cannon told Fox News Digital that she didn't think using LSD was helpful for the troubled actor.

"I think he thought it was, but I didn't see that," she said. "And in order to save our marriage, I did LSD and I wound up in the cuckoo bin as a result. That's not in the miniseries, but LSD is a killer. I mean, it will whack you crazy.


"But he said that Betsy had introduced him to it. Betsy was his ex-wife and said that he wanted me to take it. And I said, 'Well, that's not a very good advertisement because you two divorced so well, why should I take it?' 

Cannon recalled Grant telling her, "‘Well, I love you differently.’" 

"And we've had a child, and we want to save our marriage. And I so wanted to save it. But you know something? If you go against your deepest feelings in order to please somebody else, you're screwed. It's not healthy to anyone. You can't go against your highest sense of right to please or make anybody else happy.

"Without bad results."

Grant and Cannon's daughter Jennifer was also one of the executive producers of "Archie," which stars Jason Isaacs as Grant and Laura Aikman as Cannon. 

Cannon told Fox News Digital she and her daughter "agreed on everything major" when it came to how Grant's story was told in "Archie." 

Jennifer also wrote a 2011 memoir about her life with Grant, titled "Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father Cary Grant." Cannon explained that "Archie" writer Jeff Pope read "Good Stuff" after picking the book up at an airport and later discovered her own memoir "Dear Cary."


"He read my book and called me and said, ‘I want to option your book. I want to make a movie out of it," Cannon recalled. "I said, 'Let's talk about that.' This is ten years ago. And it's taken that long to let an hour and a half idea become a four-hour miniseries, which involves so much more of his life and my life than would have allowed us to do with just a film."

The former beauty queen told Fox News Digital that welcoming Jennifer is a memory from her time with Grant that always makes her smile.

"Because we brought her into being," she said. "And she's a beautiful girl and a wonderful girl and our kid.

"And there are some happy memories with Cary," she added. "I'm grateful for the experience. It's brought me to be the woman I am today. And I have to say that it took me a while to find happiness, but I'm a happy puppy now."

Cannon recalled that she recently reread old letters from the two-time Academy Award nominee and found herself falling "in love with him again."


"About three months ago, I went into my closet, where I have a safe. And I brought some letters from him out from the safe," she remembered. 

"He used to write me notes, and he'd make drawings on them, adorable drawings. And I kind of fell in love with him again. It took me years to heal from it, but his adorableness and his sweetness are long-lived." 

"And I hope people, I think people watching this miniseries will love him more because they'll understand what he had to go through in order to be Cary Grant and in order to bring us all those years of happy memories on the film."

During her interview with Fox News Digital, Cannon shared what she hopes people remember most about Grant, who died in November 1986.


"That he was adorable. That he was one of the best actors, comedians that ever lived," she said. "That he had this walk, that he had this swag, that he had this accent, that he had this aplomb that it was gorgeous to look at.

"There's so much," Cannon continued. "We were sitting last night giving a Q&A to a large group of people. And Jeff said, 'Well, I think he's a combination of this one." And that's when I said, 'No, no, he's not a combination of anyone. There's never been anyone like him and there never will be.'

"He was special," she added. "And, you know, this miniseries is about so much more than Cary and me. This miniseries is about the fact that we — all of us — look out there and say, ‘Oh, isn’t their life wonderful? Look at them. Aren't they gorgeous? And they're so rich, and they're so famous and their life must be so wonderful.' When in fact, we've all got cracks that need healing, and nobody's life is any greater than anyone else's."

During her interview with Fox News Digital, Cannon recalled how she felt when she watched "Archie" and saw her love story with Grant play out on the big screen.

"It was so many things," she said. "I watched it at home because I'd see dailies. Being an executive producer, I was part of casting, part of all of it. I'd see dailies and that's one thing in my kitchen on my screen." 

"But when I watched it the first time in London a couple of weeks ago with a packed house of newspeople, it was like this," she said as she sunk down in her chair. "I kept going down in my seat. I didn't realize how personal it was. Because reading a book is one thing, but when you see a film, it's up there. 

"You're watching people act you out, which is weird in the first place. So, it's been frustrating. It's been tearful-making. It's been depressing. It's been enlightening. It's been filled with revelatory thoughts.

"And it's also brought a bit of a closure."

"Archie" began streaming on BritBox Dec. 7.

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