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Elizabeth Taylor: The Lost Interview

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In Paris not long ago, I happened to see two of your best films — Reflections in a Golden Eye and A Place in the Sun — the first of which also starred Marlon Brando, the second Montgomery Clift.
For some reason the French think I'm a good actress; and I think that's really nice.

I've come across some excellent reviews of your work recently in 'this' country.
Oh, that's bullshit! That's probably in due deference to my age or something like that Come on! I don't keep clippings of any kind, but if I had them I would. Some reviews I consider to be bitchy for the sake of being bitchy.

Well, I wanted to know what you thought of the notion, once expressed by a European director, that Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift are the two antithetical sides of great American acting.
To me, they tap and come from the same source of energy. (Oh God. Marlon will kill me!) They both have this acute animal sensitivity and the other more animalistic. But it's the same thing. Because, if you think about it, they both have the vulnerability. God, you don't even have to think about it — you can feel it, especially when you're working with them.

I always felt it in their work. I think Monty was at a more refined state early on. But Marlon developed it, and wasn't as self-destructive. Marlon is still a great actor. You know, we can't speculate what would have happened to Monty's career. He's safe now. But then he wasn't safe. He was one of the best actors, innovators that the acting world has ever known. His death came at an untimely, unheroic, unpoetic moment in his life. So instead of being revered, he's kind of shuffled aside. But, good God, all you have to do is look at some of his old films. Just look at him. Open a little door of your consciousness and you can be on his wave length so easily. He just takes you along. That's a great art. Actually the Big Daddy of them all, for me, was Spencer Tracy, with his simplicity and honesty and directness. They were all spawned by Spence, who did it instinctively and naturally. He was a highly polished actor, and he had that kind of quietness that is part of the acting of a Method actor. They call it being introspective. But I call it a kind of quietness.

Do you miss the golden age of the movie star?
Today a "name" no longer carries a film. People used to go to the cinema to see a "John Wayne film." And you don't have that thing happening now except in the rock world, which has taken the event out of movies. The "event" is where the "star" is, and that's in concert. I think that this has to do with the pace of things and with "pushing buttons" instead of getting dressed, getting behind the wheel and making an event of going to the cinema. The superstars are in concert. And I think that's why very few of them have made successful transformation to film. Very few, I happen to love David Bowie and think he's a brilliant actor, onstage, and I love his movies. But I don't think he has been given artistic control in his films. But I think he's got great, good taste.

What about Madonna?
I haven't seen her films so I can't make a comment. But I think her adoring public may love her so much, that they may not be special enough "events" for them. She's highly gifted, highly talented. She's beautiful, she's sexy. She's charismatic. I love to listen to her music. She is a star of her craft. But I don't think the public really wants her as a movie star — unlike with Bette Midler, who's a great comedienne and dramatic actress, but Bette is no longer a concert star, come to think of it; she's switched to acting. Name me one that does both, a star in both circuses? It has nothing to do with talent. It has to do with the public's desire concerning where they want them.

Are you a rock and roll fan?
I love going to rock concerts, by the way, I love to lose myself in that vast wave of rhythm and body heat and get on the same vibe. And kids will say, "Hi, Liz." And I'll say hi, back. I get an outrageous kick out of the concerts.

You're not thinking of forming a band, are you?
Don't worry, I promise. I tried it, and I've listened to my singing voice, and I've promised myself that I'm really too generous a human being to do that to the populace. [laughing] Nobody can make it sound like me, believe me.

Why did you name your new perfume "Elizabeth Taylor's Passion?"
It's called Passion because an interviewer asked me what quality it was in me that made me the survivor that I was. And I had I'd never thought about it before. I think it's my passion. My passion for life, for people, for caring...my passion for everything. I'm not fascinated by things. I dive into them. One is fascinated by fire. But when I was a toddler and crawling, I was so fascinated by it that I reached out and touched it. That's the difference between fascination and passion for me. I get totally — as you can probably tell by my rambling — involved. You cannot have passion of any kind unless you have compassion. That's one of the reasons why I get so furious about AIDS. How dare people consider themselves fully rounded human beings without compassion. If they don't have passion, it means they are incapable of love. That passion has just always been there and I've taken it for granted. I still have that childlike ability to get diverted by my own thoughts. Because I'm not afraid. Life is just such an adventure to me.

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