Why Lindsay Lohan Was Cast as Elizabeth Taylor
By Jeremy Kinser
Earlier this year when it was announced Lindsay Lohan would portray beloved screen star and AIDS activist Elizabeth Taylor in Liz & Dick (premiering on Lifetime November 25), a look at the legendary romance between the actress and two-time husband Richard Burton, a mini-brouhaha erupted. Taylor’s fans wondered if there was a more dignified choice to play the actress (who died in 2011) than Lohan, once a promising starlet in hit films such as Mean Girls but lately better-known for court appearances, arrests, and stints in rehab than for challenging acting roles. Liz & Dick producer Larry Thompson, a veteran of numerous other biopics, defends his controversial casting choice and tells Out about any regrets he later felt about the decision, the parallels between the two women, and what he feels Taylor would think of his film.
Out: What is it about Lindsay Lohan that made you feel she was the right person to play Elizabeth Taylor?
Larry Thompson: Well, to make a movie about Elizabeth Taylor required something exceptional, and while we could hire other actors who could give us a competent performance, we felt that Lindsay could bring magic to Elizabeth Taylor. We felt that, while it probably was risky on paper, that the reward she could bring if it happened right would be wonderful. And I'm guardedly optimistic that the audience will feel the same way. I do think that there was an inner essence about Lindsay Lohan that allowed her to understand Elizabeth Taylor maybe better than some other actresses of her age. And I don't know how many young actresses have that...have been divorced four times at 29 and have lived such a public life‚ living to excess and all that. Lindsay Lohan could relate to Elizabeth Taylor, and we felt that with the combination of her acting talent with her personal experiences similar to Elizabeth Taylor‚ she could bring a level of maturity and understanding to the role that maybe others might not.
While there are certainly parallels between Lindsay's life and Taylor's personal life, there's not really a physical resemblance, although in makeup, she does resemble her. Are there physical attributes that made you want to choose her for the role?
When you're making a movie about iconic figures, I'm quite aware that the first thing people ask is, "Oh, do they look like them?" Having made a movie about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and having made a movie about Sonny and Cher and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, I know that the first thing people want to know is, "Do they look like them?" But at some point, shortly into the movie, if all you've got is someone who looks like them, but can't make you feel that they are that person, they could be identical and it won't work. So what's important is to do a combination of the right look with the right talent. We're not out to do an impersonation. We're out to do an impressionistic portrait of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
What was Lindsay's work ethic on the set?
I think that she recognized this as an opportunity to show her many fans and dissenters that she still had it and that she was on her game and committed to deliver the performance of her life.
What kind of research did she do? Did you ask her to watch Elizabeth 's films?
Oh, I gave her everything we had, from books, magazines, movies. She devoured Elizabeth Taylor. She channeled Elizabeth Taylor. She was obsessed with Elizabeth Taylor. She became Elizabeth Taylor.