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As the story goes, Colin Farrell was at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in 2009 for the birth of his son, Henry, when he bumped into Elizabeth Taylor’s manager, who was visiting the legendary star following a heart procedure. Days later, Farrell found himself thinking about Taylor and wanting to send flowers to wish her well in her recovery.
He phoned his publicist, who reported that she happened to be staring at an orchid delivered for Farrell from Taylor. Thus began a close but brief friendship that featured many late night phone calls, continuing until Taylor passed away in March 2011.
Though Farrell did not recount those details Thursday night from the podium while receiving a special trophy at the Elizabeth Taylor Ball to End AIDS in West Hollywood for his commitment to the cause, the actor did offer a few Taylor tidbits, including her love of procedural dramas featuring a specific actor.
“I loved Elizabeth. I was fortunate enough to be her friend the last few years of her life. It was very clear to me in the conversations that we had, that she loved CSI, and anything that had a crime scene or Mark Harmon in it,” Farrell said to hearty laughter from a black-tie clad crowd that included fellow honoree Sheryl Lee Ralph and guests like Taylor’s goddaughter Paris Jackson, actors Jennifer Tilly, Alexandra Shipp, Lisa Ann Walter and Evan Ross. (For the record, Harmon is the long-running star of the NCIS franchise.) “But, it was very clear that her life’s work was not what we’ve all, through the years, fallen in love with as we’ve witnessed her bare her soul, her mind and her heart on celluloid. Her life’s work that gave her journey real meaning, lasting meaning, significant and profound meaning, is the work she did at the forefront when the AIDS epidemic came like a thief in the night and stole so many lives.”
Farrell, coming off a best actor win at the Venice International Film Festival for his critically acclaimed work in Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin, credited Taylor’s “bravery of her humanity” in facing the crisis and putting in the work to care for people who could easily fall through the cracks due to socioeconomic status.
“Elizabeth knew this, and being at her very core, not someone who was just into proselytizing, but was actually, a deeply human person,” Farrell explained. “Who, at a time when nobody would go near, would enter the same room as somebody with AIDS, Elizabeth said, ‘Fuck that. You’re missing the whole point. This is not only a chance to help each other, but it’s a chance to show what we are. A global community that cares about how well the person to your left and the person to your right are doing.’”
To close out his speech, Farrell shared a brief story about a time when Taylor got upset with him. “I came back from wherever the hell I was, to Los Angeles, and something was going on. Life was pissing me off, as it can, and it was getting on top of me a little bit, and I didn’t call Elizabeth. I waited about five or six weeks,” he shared. Then when he finally put out a few fires and felt a little better, he rang her up. “She went, ‘Why didn’t you call?’ And I said, ‘Because, stuff is going on. My head was wrecked. I was in a bad mood.’ And she said, ‘Well, that’s not the kind of friendship I’m interested in, if you’re only ever going to bring me your sunny days.’ I swear to God, I was like, ‘Oh shit. Good fucking going.’ Now, I have to reevaluate friendship.”
He added: “That’s the kind of friend she was on a personal level, and that’s what she did in the face of HIV and AIDS starting four decades ago now. I’m very honored to be here. Thanks again. I hope you have a great evening, and it’s important to keep Elizabeth’s energy and spirit alive, because there’s still a lot of work left to do.”
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