Edward Albee loves the blisteringly good current Broadway revival of his landmark play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but I had always heard he didn’t care for the 1966 movie version starring Richard Burton and Liz Taylor as the bickering campus marrieds George and Martha.
You know, the flick that was nominated for 12 Oscars and won four.
Well, The Gay & Lesbian Review asked Albee about it and he replied:
“I originally wanted Bette Davis and they promised me James Mason, for the parts.”
The interviewer, Michael Ehrhardt, points how how meta that casting would have been, since the very first scene has Martha quoting Bette Davis’s line “What a dump!” and then discussing it with hubby.
Ehrhardt then asks if it’s true that James Mason lost the role because he wanted too much money.
Replies Albee: “No, that’s bullshit.
“The perfectly simple reason is that Richard and Liz were getting married at the time, and the studio thought that it was a much more popular, more sensational choice. Taylor was 20 years too young for the part. She was brave, however, and I thought it was some of her best film work.”
That’s the understatement of the century. The Burtons were both splendid, and for once, a crass studio choice led to some true artistry.
As for being too young for the part, Albee’s current boyfriend is 24, but they’re happy, so I won’t bray about it!