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Monday, April 12, 1999 Published at 07:32 GMT 08:32 UK


A Taylor-made award

Elizabeth Taylor: "I don't think of myself as an actress"

Movie icon Elizabeth Taylor came home to London for the first for the first time in seven years to be acclaimed by the British film industry on Sunday night.

The 67-year-old screen veteran was honoured with a standing ovation at the British Academy Film Awards at the Business Design Centre, London.

Michael Caine presented her with Bafta's Fellowship Award for a lifetime of achievement in the film industry.

Elizabeth Taylor: "I've never thought of myself as an actress"
But she told the audience: "I don't think of myself as an actress and I don't think any of you did - quite rightly too.

"It makes me want to act again, but nobody will have me."

She used her acceptance speech to highlight what she now calls her "full-time job" - fundraising for Aids charities.

She said: "The epidemic is not getting better, it's getting worse in certain areas and age brackets.

"To be given this award by you, my peers, I never thought that would happen to me because I've never thought of myself as an actress. I haven't tried to act for God knows how many years."

Missing pub crawls

[ image: Famous friends: With Michael Jackson]
Famous friends: With Michael Jackson
Later, Ms Taylor was asked backstage what she missed most about the UK.

"It's a bad thing to say - but the pub crawls. I can't go on pub crawls any more, anyway," the reformed alcoholic quipped.

On arrival in London on Friday, she said the UK's quarantine laws - which will soon be reformed - had kept her out of the country for so long because they would separate her from her dog Sugar.

She added she would love to return to film-making, but said she was "uninsurable".

Born in London to American parents, Taylor shot to stardom as a teenager as Velvet Brown in National Velvet in 1945 - three years after her film debut in There's One Born Every Minute.

Since then she has received more than 5,000 awards, including best actress Oscars in the 1960s for Butterfield 8 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Other celebrated performances included a sultry part in 1958's Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and the title role of Cleopatra in 1963.

Her career dried up in the 1970s but during the 1980s she rededicated herself to fundraising for Aids charities.

Turbulent private life

[ image: Larry Fortensky: Taylor met him in a rehab clinic]
Larry Fortensky: Taylor met him in a rehab clinic
But her turbulent private life has also kept her in the public eye - marrying eight times, including twice to Welsh idol Richard Burton.

General ill-health as well as drink and drug problems also took their toll - she even met her last husband, Larry Fortensky, in a rehabilitation clinic.

She now says: "No way am I ever getting married. Never, ever again.

"I only recommend marriage for those who haven't tried it 200 times."

She joins a select group of actors admitted to the Bafta fellowship. Last year Sean Connery was given the honour.

Bafta chairman Tim Angel said: "With a career spanning six decades, Elizabeth Taylor is one of the world's most respected and best-loved actresses. She is truly the most deserving of this accolade."

For a full list of Bafta winners, click here.

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