In a new interview with Variety, Liza Minnelli opened up about what it was like being raised by Judy Garland—and what she thinks about Judy, the latest movie to depict her mother onscreen.
First and foremost, Minnelli saw Garland as a mother, and it took her awhile to realize that others related to her differently. "My parents were my parents. I didn’t know that I had to dodge questions about Mama until people started asking me questions," she explained. While her father didn't seem to think it was a big deal when people prodded, her mother did. "Mama got angry. She was one who got angry at people for asking me questions about her."
Even today, she's not keen to engage with Hollywood's interpretation of Garland's legacy. Minnelli made it clear that she has no intention to see Judy, the Oscar-nominated movie starring Renée Zellweger as her late mother. "I hope [Zellweger] had a good time making it," was all Minnelli would say on the topic.
The actress described her mother as "funny, very funny, clear, incredibly intelligent," "protective and very strict" and "in the moment." And when Garland was feeling down, a five-year-old Minnelli would tickle her to get her spirits up.
Of course, Minnelli's childhood did like a little different from others'. Garland first brought her onstage when she was three, and when Minnelli was older, Garland would have her daughter dance to her rendition of "Swanee" from A Star Is Born. "I’d say, 'I don’t have a choreographer,' which made her laugh," Minnelli said. "She got such a kick out of it. It was like, 'Look what I made.' And I was so happy whenever she was happy."
Once Minnelli decided to become a professional entertainer, though, it was hard to get out of Garland's shadow. "I was absolutely concentrated on not doing what my mom did," she explained, noting that singer Charles Aznavour helped her work on her own distinctive style. And if the press did compare Minnelli to her mother, Garland became indignant. "She said, 'How dare they? You’re your own woman. Dammit! Can’t they see?' And she’d throw it down in the trash."
Minnelli did just fine in the end, racking up awards and acclaim for her iconic roles in Cabaret, New York, New York, and countless more films and stage productions. She no longer has her mother to compare notes with—Garland died in 1969—but Minnelli has found a way to keep her close.
"When I call on her, she’s there, and I call on her a lot," Minnelli said. "She’ll say, 'Ignore it' a lot. She’ll say, 'It’s one opinion. Who cares? Just keep going.'"
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