It may well be that she was playing herself when she played Cleopatra, because if Hollywood ever had a real-life queen, Elizabeth Taylor was it.
Even as a child, the camera adored the London-born beauty. And from the moment her face lit up the silver screen in National Velvet, it was clear to everyone that this 12-year old was a true movie star.
She showed the world she was serious about her craft by gaining weight for a deliberately dowdy appearance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and walked away with her second Oscar®.
But Taylor's legendary status went beyond her on-screen accomplishments. She was stunned to learn that her Giant co-star and good friend, Rock Hudson, was stricken with AIDS.
"AIDS is real life. Acting is make believe," Taylor said.
Taylor became a staunch crusader in the fight against the disease. Meanwhile, she'd battled a lifetime of debilitating ailments, beginning with a back injury she suffered after falling off a horse while filming National Velvet, and she needed an emergency tracheotomy after the filming of Butterfield 8.
Taylor discussed her health issues with Barbara Walters in 1999, saying, "I've had seventeen falls. I broke ribs, I broke my ankle."
Taylor also underwent surgery for a brain tumor and was plagued by heart problems, but she never complained.
Friendship and loyalty were everything to Elizabeth Taylor. Until the day he died, Michael Jackson could always count on her support.
And when her acting days were behind her, Taylor was hugely successful as a perfume pitchwoman. She was a true professional, who once humorously provided the words for her own epitaph:
"Here lies Elizabeth. She hated being called Liz," said Taylor.