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Elizabeth Taylor: James Dean 'was molested by his minister,' says late star in lost interview

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Rebel Without James Dean
Everett Collection

Elizabeth Taylor may have unfortunately passed on to the hot tin roof in the sky, but she’s still passing on gossip-y secrets from beyond the grave. Over at the Daily Beast, writer Kevin Sessums just released a delicious array of previously off-the-record statements from Taylor, dating from a 1997 interview that focused on the star’s AIDS activism. Some of Taylor’s statements just capture her charm: Upon being told that a prominent British politician has announced his support of gay marriage, Taylor says, “It doesn’t surprise me, really. When the English make a move, it’s usually a good one — though it does take them a while. Everybody thinks everybody is gay who comes from England anyway.” But Taylor also offers a bombshell about her fellow Hollywood legend James Dean, her co-star on Giant: “I loved Jimmy. I’m going to tell you something, but it’s off the record until I die. OK? When Jimmy was 11 and his mother passed away, he began to be molested by his minister. I think that haunted him the rest of his life. In fact, I know it did.”

Biographer Joe Hyman had written about that event in his 1992 book, James Dean: Little Boy Lost, but Taylor’s revelation reinforces a tragic subtext to the already-tragic Dean legend, to say nothing of offering an intriguing peak at the legendary megastars’ friendship. (“We talked about it a lot,” says Taylor. “During Giant we’d stay up nights and talk and talk, and that was one of the things he confessed to me.”)

Elsewhere in the same interview, Taylor claims to have rescued legendary playwright Tennessee Williams from the vagaries of Hollywood financing: “He thought he had himself a good deal. He was getting 5 percent of the profits of the films of his plays. So I said, ‘Tennessee, there is no such thing in the movie business as a profit, much less 5 percent of it. It’s about the gross.'” In short, even 60 years ago, Hollywood was a cesspool of beautifully damaged people and awful executives who would reinvent the entire economic system if it meant giving the writers less money. The more things change…

Read more:

Elizabeth Taylor dies at 79

Elizabeth Taylor: 11 Roles for the Ages

Lisa Schwarzbaum on Elizabeth Taylor: Icon, actress, activist

Elton John honors Elizabeth Taylor at Pittsburgh show

Elizabeth Taylor on ‘General Hospital’: Remembering the legend’s fascinating, and goofy, soap stint

Debbie Reynolds remembers Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor and ‘The Scandal of the Century’: A look back at the romance that rocked the world