'Judy' Director Responds to Liza Minnelli's Concerns About the Biopic (Exclusive)
By John Boone
Photos by Getty Images / LD Entertainment & Roadside Attractions
Early on in Judy, the legendary Ms. Garland (as played by Renée Zellweger) puts her young children to bed and slips off to a house party in the Hollywood Hills. As she sidles into the shindig, the crowd parts and she spots a young woman in a pink muumuu with an iconically cropped cut. It's Garland's eldest daughter, Liza Minnelli.
By 1968, when the biopic takes place, Liza was a star in her own right, and in the sequence, Judy offhandedly asks her if she's nervous about opening an upcoming show. "No," Liza (played onscreen by Gemma-Leah Devereux) replies, sipping her cocktail. "Should I be anxious?" Then she's off, headed to a party at "Andy's place." (That'd be Andy Warhol.)
"In an earlier draft, Liza [also] turned up in London," director Rupert Goold tells ET. "I felt it gave Judy too much consolation to have her daughter with her when we needed to keep her hemorrhaged from her family."
The brief cameo comes after the real Minnelli publicly disavowed the film, taking to Facebook to announce that she did "not approve nor sanction the upcoming film about Judy Garland in any way." At the same time, she expressed her concerns about how Hollywood would frame a biopic about her late mother to ET: "I just hope they don't do what they always do," she said.
"I mean, if somebody made a movie about my mum, I would go, 'That's not the story I'd tell!'" Goold laughs, then admits, "It's an invasion of privacy at some level, I suppose. And that's the complexity of being a child of a star, is it's somebody you want to own in an intimate, personal way, yet is sort of in a gaudy way, like, public property."
That Minnelli herself appears as a character opposite Zellweger's take on Garland is another wrinkle, to be sure. (This is actually the second time "Liza" has appeared onscreen this year, following Kelli Barrett's portrayal in FX's Fosse/Verdon.) Still, Goold hopes that Garland's children -- Minnelli and her half-siblings, Lorna and Joe Luft -- will see Judy and appreciate his intentions in making it.
"I've got a friend, he's a dancer and backing singer who had worked with Liza, and he said, 'The thing about Liza is she's incredibly passionate and emotional but also will really change her view,'" he says. "Not that Liza has been hostile to the movie, particularly, but I have every faith that she'll see it and find it celebratory."