In the late '70s, Peter Turner didn’t know who Gloria Grahame was when they first met. The Oscar-winning actress (for 1952's The Bad and the Beautiful) was starring in a British stage production when she fell for the actor, who was nearly 30 years younger at 26. “It was the most wonderful relationship,” Peter tells Closer. “It changed my life enormously and resonates with me even now.”

Peter wrote a memoir about their romance, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, which has been turned into a new film with Annette Bening as Gloria. “I really admire the fact that when things weren’t going well for Gloria in Hollywood, she kept going and believed in her craft,” Annette told Closer at a recent Museum of the Moving Image tribute. “She was a survivor.”

Among the difficulties Gloria endured were four failed marriages, including to director Nicholas Ray and his son, Tony Ray. The revelation that Gloria had wed her former stepson caused a scandal in Hollywood. “It affected her big time, and I don’t think it’s anything she ever got over,” says Peter. “But she was brave, courageous, and continued trying to work as an actress.”

gloria grahame getty images

She also kept searching for a lasting romance, which led her to Peter. “The idea of love meant a lot to her,” he says. “She wrote me a lovely letter that said, 'In this life, when we die, it's only loving that’s important.’”

The couple remained together for more than three years, and after Gloria was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, she lived out her final days in Liverpool with Peter and his family. “She learned about love in her lifetime, and she was honest and true,” says Peter. “She would be terribly honored and proud by this film being made. It’s bringing a lot of attention back to Gloria, which is lovely, isn’t it?”

For more on your favorite stars, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!