In an exclusive excerpt from How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood, William J. Mann reports on Elizabeth Taylor's life and the role she was born to play.
The day before shooting began on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Mike Nichols had mused with producer Ernest Lehman about Elizabeth Taylor playing Martha. “It’s like asking a chocolate milkshake to do the work of a double martini,” he’d lamented.
Press were forbidden on set. There was a reason: For the first time, Taylor would not be glamorized. She was not at all comfortable with the idea, at least not at first. She complained about being forced to consume “a lot of cream and butter and sweets—though one suspects she didn’t find such gourmandizing as odious as all that. One day, just before shooting began, she buttonholed Lehman and turned on all her charm. “Listen, Ernie,” she said, eyelashes batting, “you must be sure to tell the press from here on in that you and Mike have ordered me to get fat for this picture. I don’t want them to get the idea that I’m overweight and sloppy simply because I don’t know any better.” Lehman was impressed with her savvy. And then, her talent.