Just as people asked, in her time, "What was it like working with Elizabeth Taylor?," people today wonder, "What's it like working with Lindsay Lohan?" on "Liz & Dick," the Lifetime TV-movie (Sunday at 9 p.m.) in which lightning-rod Lohan portrays the equally tempestuous screen goddess.
It's not an unreasonable question, given Lohan's history of substance abuse, rehab, jail time, probation, and, on "Liz & Dick," a health scare on June 15 that prompted a 911 call when she reportedly could not be awakened.
"I was there in the room and asked the medic to call the paramedics," confirms executive producer Larry A. Thompson, speaking by phone from California. Why did you need to call? "She needed attention." What kind of attention? "She needed medical attention," he says, before a Lifetime publicist cuts short this line of questioning. Lohan, reportedly suffering from exhaustion, needed no hospitalization that day, but was briefly treated and released another time after her June 8 car accident en route to the set.
"We weren't naive," says Thompson, 68, a producer with numerous TV-movie credits as well as such films as Ken Russell's "Crimes of Passion" (1984). "We knew it wasn't without risk [to cast her]. But if we could survive the risk, the reward would be worth it."
Grant Bowler, 44, who plays Burton, is diplomatic when asked whether there were difficulties doing a production with Lohan. "Yeah, there were," he says -- quickly adding, "I imagine it was a lot like those two back then."
Some productions, he notes "have really easygoing personalities where everything gels and meshes and everyone has a dreamy time, and that's wonderful. But sometimes, you get what I like to call a redheaded-stepchild project, where everything seems to be challenging. And 'Liz & Dick' was such a monumental undertaking -- in 21 [shooting] days we managed to get decades of this relationship -- that it was always going to be one of those difficult children. To lay it just on one person is silly. At the end of the day, the only important thing is what happens in front of the camera."
Audiences will get their chance Sunday night to see for themselves what's in front of the camera. And many, indeed, are sure to tune in: Thompson, a grand old showman, knows any publicity is good publicity.
"Lindsay Lohan has brought so much attention to this movie," he says happily. "She has done her share, and I'm very appreciative of it."
In his review of "Liz & Dick," Newsday TV critic Verne Gay gave the Lifetime biopic a grade of C-, saying it "is not a complete disaster, nor entirely is Lindsay Lohan, though she is rusty and badly miscast." (Read the review at newsday.com/tv).
Here's what some other critics said:
* The good news: If you thought "Liz & Dick" would be lame, you aren't wrong. The bad news: It falls short of being laughably, irresistibly bad. -- Associated Press
* Lohan is woeful as Taylor from start to finish. -- The Hollywood Reporter
* While "Liz & Dick" is wobbly at times, the movie ultimately stands on its own. -- Variety
* dinky, tin-eared production. -- Entertainment Weekly