Liz & Dick Interview: Lindsay Lohan’s Transformation Into Elizabeth Taylor

Liz & Dick Starring Lindsay Lohan & Grant Bowler (1)

Lifetime’s Liz & Dick has had both Elizabeth Taylor fans and the blogosphere alike wagging their tongues for months now, and it’s now time to see the television movie everyone’s been waiting for! TV Equals was able to talk to the film’s executive producer, Larry Thompson, during a conference call. During the call, Thompson discussed his and his mother’s love for Taylor, the casting process and what it was like on set.

Thompson’s love for Taylor

Thompson started off the call with a story about how his mother’s love of Taylor was passed on to him. He also talked about how he followed the film controversy surrounding Cleopatra and the personal controversy of Taylor and Richard Burton’s love affair.

“…All of my life, ever since I was a kid, my mother would say to me every year, ‘Today is February 27. It’s my birthday, and it’s also Elizabeth Taylor’s birthday, and she’s the most beautiful girl in the world.’ So every year up until the year she died, my mother would remind of how her birthday happened to be the same day as Elizabeth Taylor’s,” said Thompson. “So, I became quite fascinated about Elizabeth Taylor and would follow her career and of course, [I followed] when the scandal broke out and Cleopatra was being shot along with Richard Burton–the most famous couple in the world–and their antics were so international, and the fact that she was denounced in public by the Pope, wow. I thought, ‘This is pretty exciting!’ I mean, you know, today, when somebody gets a DUI or gets in a little trouble, we talk about how bad they were, but none of them were denounced by the Pope! So, in many ways, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton lived outside the norm, had no rules and lived a life of excess, whether it was drinking or spending or just sort of fairy tale or crazy–or both–type of life. So I was always fascinated when this period of their life was happening. I, along with the world, was glued to what was going on even though I was young enough to not even understand it all…”

On casting Taylor and Bowler

Thompson said Lohan had the right amount of personal experience to expertly play Taylor in the film.

“[She has] parallels in many ways to Elizabeth Taylor’s life, in that she, moreso than most actresses, can understand relate to what Elizabeth Taylor was going through during the time that our movie’s taking place” said Thompson. “…Elizabeth Taylor…had been a child star, didn’t know much about the outside world, had been under the scrutiny of what became known as the paparazzi…and while everything they did was…exacerbated, correctly or incorrectly reported–and not to mention that she and Richard Burton did a little drinking of their own…I think the lifestyle of what Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton Lindsay could relate to it substantially. And the combination of her being a gifted actress, sensing this as an opportunity to show people that she really has great chops at playing an actress that she could relate to, those were the converging elements for us [that] made the risk, the obvious risk of hiring her, worth the potential reward, because if you want to make a movie about Elizabeth Taylor, you damn well want some great magic and we felt that Lindsay Lohan can bring that to our movie.”

Casting Burton was equally important, especially for the right chemistry needed for the film.

“The search for Dick was very important because we needed the chemistry. And while I looked everywhere– especially in Wales, especially in the UK to find our Richard Burton, since he is Welsh–in true Hollywood style, we hired an actor who is from New Zealand…” he said. “Once [Grant Bowler] got into the room with Lindsay and they read for us the first time, the chemistry was so obvious and his testosterone matching her estrogen–the chemistry just exploded right there in the room in front of everybody, just like Fourth of July firecrackers going off.”

Working with Lindsay Lohan

There have been rumors circulating about the difficulties with Lohan during the filming of Liz & Dick. Thompson diplomatically talked about what it was really like to work with Lohan on set.

“Well, listen, I’ve certainly worked with actresses on productions whose behavior on set was less problematic than Lindsay, but I can say that she has truly has been, was thought to be, and I think the audience will finally see, the perfect person to play Elizabeth Taylor and her performance is pretty riveting,” he said. “But we did have challenges, that’s for sure. But, we worked through them and we now have a great movie.”

When asked to get more specific on the types of challenges presented, Thompson was both frank and careful when speaking about the particulars.

“Let’s say producing a movie with Lindsay Lohan is not for the faint of heart,” he said. “I turned 50 shades of white, actually, during the production. But that happens on most productions. On this particular one, we did have a couple of…incidents that forced us to readjust production, but overall, my Gosh…the risk was worth the reward, the pain was worth the pleasure and the audience is going to benefit from the risk we took and the reward that was gained.”

Will fans like Lohan as Taylor?

For months, fans have been analyzing how well Lohan might be at playing such an icon as Taylor and Thompson gave his opinion on how he thinks fans will react to the film, especially to Lohan playing Taylor.

“Well, I think pretty much the same way any father and mother think about who their daughter wants to marry. Nobody’s ever going to be good enough to marry your daughter or your son and I think that people who love Elizabeth Taylor will believe there’s no actress who could possibly play Dame Elizabeth Taylor. And I love them for thinking that way because that shows the ultimate respect they have for Elizabeth Taylor,” said Thompson. “But the truth of the matter is that when you’re making a movie, somebody has to play Elizabeth Taylor and somebody has to play Richard Burton. And I think when the movie’s over, notwithstanding what they may be predestined to think, I think they will be delightfully surprised. Not everybody–you’re not going to please everybody–but I think the majority will be totally shocked and surprised and pleased.”

Liz & Dick airs on Lifetime Sunday, November 25 at 9/8c on Lifetime.