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

Rebel-Without-James-Dean

Image Credit: 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


Comments (40 total) Add your comment
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  • Stacie

    I miss her already.

    • Twitter sucks

      She is a jerk, he probably told her that in confidence and it was not her place to pass on gossip even after she died. It goes to show you cannot trust anyone

      • Stacey

        It was held in secret until she died. She has unfortunately died. Of course the secrets are now going to be leaked… I am sure there will be a whole new market of books related to the gossip Elizabeth knew but kept secret. At least she kept it secret while she was alive. And to tell, she got a promise to not tell…And for a person to keep it a secret for so long; is very impressive…JMO!

      • Sawyer

        everyone dies, at least she made it to old age, famous, wealthy, had a family – there is nothing unfortunate about her dying. as for the secret – it was not her place to tell anyone including that writer she mentions.

      • Monty

        “Biographer Joe Hyman had written about that event in his 1992 book, James Dean: Little Boy Lost, but Taylor’s revelation reinforces…”

        This is old news, just brought up again because she said it off the record in an interview in the 90’s. Let it go.

      • lori

        She is NOT a jerk, it helps people understand her GOOD FRIEND, James Dean.

      • Lee

        Oh. Give me a break people. Were any of you guys there when James Dean made this confession to Elizaeth Taylor? How do you know Dean made Taylor promise not to tell anyone? Get over yourselves. A lot more good can come from that statement than bad, such as the hypocrisy of the church.

      • flowergal007

        OMG…..lets digg her up and make her die all over again…I bet everyone on his has leaked a secret and James Dean is dead and he wasn’t and angel either….I can’t believe some of these remarks….

      • Bebe

        “he wasn’t and angel either”

        That’s putting it mildly. It’s well known that he was extremely promiscuous and bisexual. Aren’t those both traits of people who were molested in their youth?

      • superfan

        bebe you’re an idiot. check your grammer/spelling. and be advised just because someone was molested, doesn’t mean they are bisexual or trampy.

      • shaye

        umm, bebe’s statement doesn’t contain any mistakes except for the quote that seems to be a typo.
        Anyway, promiscuity and sexual confusion are symptoms of molestation. Bebe is not saying that everyone that is molested shows those behaviors. (And neither of us are saying that bisexuality only comes from being molested).

      • Tom

        well just remember when someone starts writing about her now that she has passed away.. and you ppl complain how it is unfair..

  • Matt W

    Wow…James Dean is such a legend, this only adds to his legacy in a weird cruel way. R.I.P. Liz.

  • tracy bluth

    From the biographies I’ve read on him James Dean’s entire life was so incredibly sad; he went through a lot as a kid. Elizabeth and James were two of my all time favorite actors, and it’s lovely to hear that they got along so well. I am going to watch Giant later today, and I’m sure it will make me sad that Liz, James, Rock, and Dennis have all died.

    • Carla in Houston

      @ Tracy: agreed. Add Sal Mineo to your list. RIP, Giant cast!

      • CC

        Sal Mineo just makes me think of Natalie Wood…and in turn brings me back to James Dean and Dennis Hopper. Makes me want to watch Rebel without a Cause and Giant today…

    • Bocoe

      I agree with you. Also Sal Mineo is dead. He was gay and died a brutal death. Not to mention so many of the cast members in the movie “Giant” are dead. Sad indeed.

  • Lauren

    I grew up in James Dean’s hometown (Fairmount, IN) not far from his Uncle’s farm. Its disturbing to know that a pastor in the area was a child molestor. We celebrate James Deans celebrity at a festival in September. It seems like the festival just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year.

  • Huh

    This incident has also been talked about by residents of Dean’s Indiana hometown for years. Some of the local bigots cited it repeatedly to justify their reluctance to honor Dean there. Interviews with the locals discussing this and more have been published nearly every year in Indiana newspapers. Liz Taylor didn’t betray Dean; she just confirmed what has been widely known and acknowledged by his hometown for decades.

    • Jen

      They cite the fact that he was MOLESTED AS A CHILD as a reason not to honor him? Did I read that correctly?

    • steve

      Yes, Jen, you read that right. Did you also read the word ‘bigots’ in that statement? Bigots don’t really need a valid, sensible reason for their bigotry, now do they?

      • Jen

        No need for the snark, Steve. I know what a bigot is, and they are usually bigoted towards racial or ethnic groups. I’ve never heard of ANYONE being biogted against molested children, ok?

      • poor kid

        You’re right, Jen, steve is using the word incorrectly. I doubt there’s much truth to his statement, anyway.

      • poor kid

        I mean I doubt there’s much truth to Huh’s statement…

  • Avonjax

    Elizabeth Taylor was a breathtaking beauty – one of Hollywoods most beautiful of all time – and even though there were some movie clunkers, she was a tremendous actress. Virginia Wolfe erased all doubts as to her acting, and she was a great MOVIE STAR, one of the greatest that ever lived. But possibly her greatest legacy will be her humanitarian spirit. She was a wonderful person, beloved and respected by so many. There are only a handful of stars that would be big enough to interrupt the morning shows to announce their death, but ET was one of those giants. She was simply my all time favorite Movie Star.

  • Sanjay

    Fascinating stuff. Love Taylor. Love Dean. Love all the old stars. And what a sad state of affairs it is now. No magic left.

  • dana

    Poor guy. Mother died at 10, sexually abused at 11. By anyone’s standards, that’s a tough life

  • Wow

    A “delicious array of previously off-the-record statements.” Wow. I have to say I find it offensive that you would say something like this was “delicious.” Something like this isn’t even reporting. This is simply gossip, and it has to be hurtful for family members and friends to hear. Bravo, all around.

    • Lee

      Whose family is it hurting? The hypocritical minister’s family.

  • free2drm

    There is no way to prove or disprove this. However, what I know of Elizabeth Taylor, she did not seem like the type that would kiss and tell, even to direct that it be revealed after her death. just doesn’t fit with her character. SO, I tend not to believe this. Further, if she were going to do that, why would she tell a reporter that she hardly knew? How could she trust him? It seems to me that if she were going to do this, it would have been done with someone more reputable like Barbara Walters or Oprah. I just do not believe this reporter. This is just not the way Miss Taylor was. Those that describe her say she was the most loyal friend. Loyal friends do not do this. I think this reporter is lying. further, it is not because I have a gay-fear. I am gay myself.People should not believe everything they read.

    • steve

      You are welcome to believe this or not believe it, but your belief doesn’t make it real or not real. You don’t know Miss Taylor (neither do I, but then again I’m not claiming to), so quit trying to speak for her.

  • jasmine

    I guess James Franco is going to have to remake “James Dean” now (YES!)

  • GaryC

    James/Jimmy told her in confidence…….it should have went no further………..she should have taken it to the grave.

    If someone tells you something in *CONFIDENCE* It means just that. totally agree with Twitter Sucks

    • LAJackie

      I don’t believe it says in the article that JD told ET this “in confidence”. It just says they talked about it a lot.

  • Bocoe

    Well some people want to know about the legends we adored for so long. It gives us an insight we never knew. James has been dead for over 50 years. It is all ancient history, but it is still interesting. I wish she would have told more about the tortured soul of Montgomery Clift.

  • KB Sex

    The James Dean story was put forth in the poorly written and disregarded aforementioned book.

    Until I hear the tape of this interview with her saying those words I call Bullsh!t.

    She’s gone, she can’t correct any errors or deny saying it. Neither can Dean and both create buzz and attention and can’t defend themselves.

    Sensational, media bullish!t.

    • JoeC

      Bullsh!t? What could that word be? Hmmmmmm…

  • Elissa Mac

    Yeah, this is definitely no newsflash. Jimmy had an incredible talent, but it was a talent borne of so much pain. Why are people trying to deny that something horrific happened to him? Does this somehow taint his legend? His legacy? I find it to be extremely disrespectful.

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