Why Lindsay Lohan Was Cast as Elizabeth Taylor


By Jeremy Kinser

'Liz & Dick' producer Larry Thompson defends the controversial casting of the troubled starlet as the late screen icon in the upcoming Lifetime film biography.

Some of the dialogue in the film must have really rung true for Lindsay, like when she's complaining about the bad photos of her being printed in the newspaper. Was this discussed on the set?

Well, of course, yes, it's certainly not lost on us. Meaning, the script by Christopher Monger was written before Lindsay Lohan was cast. So all the dialogue existed prior to Lindsay coming on board. But one of the reasons we wanted Lindsay to come on board was because we felt she was that person. I mean, that's why when she read the script, she just got it, she understood it. It's one thing to say the lines like, “Oh, you paparazzi, you want more shots. Don't you have enough of us?” It's another thing that you've lived that and you know what that means.

How do you think Elizabeth would fare if she was a young actress today, with the press so much more invasive, without a studio like MGM to protect her?
Well you know what, I'd have to pray for her, because she managed to become the most famous person in the world when there were restrictions. I can't imagine her today without any restrictions. She would just, you know, be Lindsay Lohan.

Scandals seem to have really enhanced Elizabeth's fame, yet they've obviously hurt Lindsay's considerably. Why the dichotomy?
Because I think you're judging Lindsay in the short term. I think that fame is the accumulation of all the falsehoods, truths, goods, bads, rights, wrongs, accolades, scandals that you accumulate around a person and a name in your life, that suddenly you become who you are. Meaning, in our movie, at the age of 29, going through her fourth divorce, she was scandalous and, as I said, denounced by the Pope and a lot of people thought she was a wanton woman and a danger to the institution of marriage. That's some pretty bad stuff. Yet, by the time she was a more mature lady in the winter of her years, when she's suddenly Dame Elizabeth Taylor, and most people who are young today think Elizabeth Taylor is some woman sitting in a wheelchair next to Michael Jackson. She mellows out, her image mellows out, and you start to oversee her entire life, and now you think, Wow, she's Dame Elizabeth Taylor. I think the same thing with Lindsay.

I think if you're judging Lindsay at this moment in her life, you tend to focus on that which is surrounding her stardom at this moment. I think that the jury is still out on whether she'll ever be Dame Lindsay Lohan. Lindsay Lohan is a young girl who's doing things right, making a lot of mistakes, dealing with her own life and at the same time trying to be an actress. So I'm hoping that our audience can take a quiet breath and judge her by her artistry as opposed to her antics, and enjoy a riveting story and learn about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and maybe a little bit about themselves.

Before Elizabeth died, when there was talk about another film project, she said, “Nobody is going to play Elizabeth Taylor but Elizabeth Taylor herself.” What do you think her reaction would be to this film, if she had seen it?
I think Elizabeth Taylor would be very intrigued and tickled by it. Meaning, I think the only thing that would make Elizabeth Taylor turn over in her grave is that we hired someone who the public didn't care about. Because I think Elizabeth Taylor did everything big and she did everything loud, and that's certainly what we're doing.

What would you like to say to people to convince them to watch the film?
I think Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were the most famous royal Hollywood couple that has ever lived, and you see two people who suffered from an undying but impossible love. And while you may think of them as the guy who bought her all this jewelry, I think you'll find that their love for each other shined brighter than any piece of jewelry he ever bought her. The truth of the matter is that diamonds may be forever, but love is eternal.

Liz & Dick premiers on Lifetime November 25.

Tags: Television