"Pretty much Elizabeth Taylor reincarnated.”
That's what Grant Bowler, star of the biopic “Liz & Dick" (which airs Sunday night on the Lifetime network), says about Lindsay Lohan, who plays opposite him as the raven-haired child star turned vixen turned diva turn HIV activist.
In the same trailer in which Bowler gushes, Lohan agrees that she and Taylor do indeed have a lot in common.
“I personally understand Liz because you’re living your life for everyone to see, and that people are growing with you,” she says. “You get to a point where you become numb to it and you live your life the way that you feel you need to live it.”
It's an interesting idea, and Lohan is currently at a crossroads that Taylor successfully navigated: moving from ingenue star to respected adult actress. But taking all the much-trumpeted similarities into account, can the "Mean Girls" star actually transition into the legend who won best actress Academy Awards for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and "Butterfield 8"?
Some things are obvious. For starters both actresses achieved fame as a child star, with Taylor first appearing onscreen at the age of 9 in “There’s One Born Every Minute” and becoming an international celebrity at the tender age of 12 thanks to a starring role in “National Velvet.” Lohan spent a year on the TV soap “Another World” when she was 10 before making her big screen debut in Disney’s 1998 remake of “The Parent Trap.”
Both also had questionable relationships with the media.
“It was the start of the exploitation of celebrity,” says Bowler in the promotional trailer. During one scene, Lohan-as-Taylor screams at the gathered paparazzi: “Do you have your pictures? Can’t you leave us alone?” For all her complaints, it was widely reported Taylor often tipped off the paparazzi to her whereabouts.
And of course Lohan has had her share of unfavorable media coverage. Just in the past few weeks: the troubled star has been constant tabloid fodder thanks to multiple run-ins with the law in New York (Hit and Run!, Assault!), health scares (Asthma Attack!) and on-again, off-again appearances on television talk shows.
Then there are the battles with substance abuse.
Certainly not as publicized as Lohan’s struggles with alcohol and drugs, Taylor battled her own demons, including abuse of booze and prescription medication – the latter stemming from pain management due to a broken back early in her career and ongoing illnesses throughout her later life. "Im a survivor - a living example of what people can go through and survive," Taylor is quoted as saying in the London Telegraph.
Lohan’s struggles often appeared to arise from adolescent partying. "It is clear to me that my life has become completely unmanageable because I am addicted to alcohol and drugs," the then 20-year-old actress said in a 2007 statement, adding "I very much want to be healthy and gain control of my life and career and have asked for medical help in doing so. I am taking these steps to improve my life.”
But biographer David Bret, author of “Elizabeth Taylor – The Lady, The Lover, The Legend – 1932-2011,” says that Taylor had something of an epiphany about all this later in life -- something only time will tell for Lohan.
“There were two Elizabeth Taylors,” explains Bret. “The first was the greedy, selfish, arrogant one. There was that side to her and then all of a sudden it changed. I think it really started with her friend Rock Hudson, when he became ill and died [from AIDS]. She changed overnight and became this really, really caring person. For once others were in the spotlight, not her. She raised so much money for AIDS charities. That’s when I started calling her Saint Elizabeth.”
Taylor began her humanitarian work in the 1980s when the specter of HIV and AIDS loomed large over the Hollywood community. In 1985 she co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and also founded the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1993. One of the first celebrities to publicly acknowledge and work to heighten awareness about the disease, Taylor helped raise more than $270 million for the cause during her lifetime.
It’s that version of Taylor that Lohan (who has done scattered charitable work, including a 2009 documentary on sex trafficking in India) can claim no comparison to. And what ultimately may be the biggest hurdle to overcome in the eye of a public who have already written her off thanks to the constant media coverage of her legal scrapes and personal troubles.
"Liz & Dick" will air on the Lifetime network on Nov. 25 at 9 p.m. ET