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‘Liz & Dick’ & Lindsay & Vitriol

Published: May 16, 2012

LOS ANGELES — Nobody, Larry A. Thompson says, should have to endure the e-mails that he has gotten since deciding last month to cast Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor in a television film for the Lifetime cable channel.

API/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, above in 1965, are to be the subjects of a television film with Lindsay Lohan, below, as Taylor.

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Lindsay Lohan

Some, he acknowledges, are supportive.

But others — from friends of Taylor, people who claim to have known her and the public at large — are less kind.

“I’m an idiot” is one theme, said Mr. Thompson, who spoke in an interview this week at his home along the fairways of the Los Angeles Country Club.

“How dare you?” is another. And some of the correspondence asks, “Why are you rewarding Lindsay Lohan?” Computer repair Studio City data recovery service

His answer is simple: “I am a producer.” It is a way of saying that Mr. Thompson knows when a whole lot of attention is worth a little risk, and that in a cluttered media world, attention may be the most valuable commodity of all.

Something of a fixture in Hollywood, Mr. Thompson speaks with a Southern lilt that has become no less pronounced since he left the Cotton Belt town of Clarksdale, Miss., in 1968. On Aug. 23 of that year, he landed on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street — and wept on arrival, he said — in a classic quest for movieland glamour.

His mother, Ann, a grocer’s wife and an avid reader of Photoplay magazine, had bought a red dress in Memphis and put it under her bed, according to Mr. Thompson. She swore never to wear it until he went to Hollywood and invited her out to the Academy Awards.

He did not get her to the Oscars. But Ms. Thompson wore her dress in 1986 to the dedication of a Larry Thompson Center for Fine Arts in Clarksdale, in what used to be the Paramount Theater.

Mr. Thompson, meanwhile, had worked his way into show business, first as a lawyer for Capitol Records, then as a manager and confidant of television and recording stars like Jim Nabors and Sonny Bono. Later he was an executive with, and major shareholder in, an independent studio called New World Entertainment.

Though never a major presence in the movie world — his best-remembered film credit may be “Crimes of Passion,” a steamy thriller directed by Ken Russell in 1984 — Mr. Thompson eventually became a prolific producer of television films, with a particular weakness for celebrities of the old school. (Still a manager, he currently has clients including David Hasselhof, Joan Rivers and William Shatner.)

His first notable biopic, “The Woman He Loved,” which CBS broadcast in 1988, cast Jane Seymour as Wallis Simpson. It was partly inspired, Mr. Thompson recalled, by memories of his mother berating his father, Angelo, for his reluctance to fetch her a Coke.

“Edward gave up the throne of England for the one he loved,” he recalled her saying. “You’d think that you could get me a Coca-Cola.”

Mr. Thompson has often made films without the permission of a subject and has sometimes found it easier to portray the deceased. Within a day or so of Lucille Ball’s death in 1989, he got on the line to CBS and successfully pitched what became “Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter,” he said, by humming the first few bars of the “I Love Lucy” theme song. Computer repair Studio City data recovery service

That picture, with its portrayal of a stormy relationship, sufficiently annoyed Ball’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz, that she later produced a documentary, “Lucy and Desi: A Home Movie.” It presented a more loving view of the Ball-Arnaz home life and won an Emmy after running on NBC in 1993.

As for Taylor, Mr. Thompson reckons that he met her only twice, in some business dealings years ago. But he said he conceived of making a film about her famous love affair with Richard Burton — whom she married and divorced twice — some months before her death at 79 last year.

At the Emmy ceremony the August before she died, Mr. Thompson asked Christopher Monger, nominated as a writer of “Temple Grandin,” to consider writing “Liz & Dick,” which he is financing as an independent production and licensing for distribution in the United States by Lifetime. Mr. Monger’s father, it turned out, had long ago given Mr. Burton his start as a stage actor in Wales, so he was in.

But casting Elizabeth Taylor was more difficult.

Megan Fox, Olivia Wilde, Kate Beckinsale and Jennifer Connelly were on Mr. Thompson’s list, but none quite worked out.

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