As the story goes, Colin Farrell was at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for the birth of his son, Henry, in 2009 when he bumped into Elizabeth Taylor’s manager who was visiting the legendary star after a heart procedure. Days later, Farrell found himself thinking of Taylor and wanting to send flowers to wish her well.
He called his publicist who reported that she happened to be staring at an orchid that Taylor had delivered for Farrell. Thus began a close but short friendship with many late night phone calls, which continued until Taylor passed away in March 2011.
While Farrell didn’t share those details from the stage on Thursday night as he received 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 with a particular actor.
“I loved Elizabeth. I was lucky enough to be her friend for the last years of her life. It was very clear to me in the conversations we had, what she loved CSI, and anything with a crime scene or Mark Harmon in it,” Farrell said to hearty laughter from a black tie-clad crowd, including fellow honorary Sheryl Lee Ralph and guests such as Taylor’s goddaughter Paris Jackson, actors Jennifer Tilly, Alexandra Shipp, Lisa Ann Walter and Evan Ross. “But it was very clear that her life’s work was not what we have all fallen in love with over the years, as we have seen 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 deep 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 won the Best Actor Award at the Venice Film Festival for his critically acclaimed work in Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherinpraised Taylor’s “courage of her humanity” in dealing with the crisis and work to care for people who could easily fall through the cracks due to their socioeconomic status.
“Elizabeth knew this, and being at the core she wasn’t someone who just loved repentance, but was actually a deeply human person,” Farrell explained. “Whoever, at a time when no one would come close, would enter the same room as someone with AIDS, Elizabeth said, ‘Fuck that. You’re missing the whole point. This isn’t just an opportunity to help each other, but it’s also an opportunity to showcase what we are. A global community that cares about how well the person on your left and the person on your right is doing.’”
To conclude his speech, Farrell shared a short story about one time Taylor got mad at him. “I came back from wherever I was, to Los Angeles, and something was up. Life pissed me off, as it can, and it started to take hold of me a little, and I didn’t call Elizabeth. I waited about five or six weeks,” he said. When he had finally put out a few fires and was feeling a little better, he called her. ‘She said, ‘Why didn’t you call?’ And I said, ‘Because things are going on. My head was broken. I was in a bad mood.’ And she said, “Well, that’s not the kind of friendship I’m interested in, as long as you’re going to bring me your sunny days.” I swear to God I was like, oh shit. Good state of affairs. Now I have to re-evaluate 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 that started now four decades ago. I am 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 as there’s still a lot of work to do.”