Liza Minnelli Cried for 8 Days When Mom Judy Garland Died — and More Revelations from Her New Documentary

'Liza: A Truly Terrific Absolutely True Story' premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 12

<p>Hulton Archive/Getty</p> Liza Minnelli and Judy Garland in 1965

Hulton Archive/Getty

Liza Minnelli and Judy Garland in 1965

“Life is a cabaret,” Liza Minnelli sings in the title song from Cabaret, the 1972 movie musical that helped cement her status as a star.

But those lyrics didn’t always ring true for Minnelli herself. While the 78-year-old found incredible success on stage and screen, she had her fair share of heartbreak, too, including four divorces, three miscarriages and a well-documented struggle with addiction.

The ups and downs and everything in between are explored in the new documentary Liza: A Truly Terrific Absolutely True Story.

Minnelli, the daughter of The Wizard of Oz superstar Judy Garland and Academy Award-winning director Vincent Minnelli, grants director Bruce David Klein a rare interview for the film and also provides never-before-seen footage from her decades in show business.

The result is a fascinating portrait of a dynamic woman who’s “still loving, still kicking, still creating,” as she told PEOPLE in a statement after the film’s June 12 premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Read on for some revelations from the movie.

Minnelli was inconsolable when her mother died

Garland, who struggled with addiction herself, succumbed to an accidental drug overdose on June 22, 1969 in London, where she’d been living at the time. She was 49 years old.

Minnelli, who was 23, was in disbelief when she heard the news. “My mother? Nah. She’s never gonna pass,” Minnelli says she remembers thinking.

When it finally sunk in that Garland was gone, Minnelli cried — and “I didn’t stop for about eight days,” she continues. “It was just devastating to me.” Adds friend Michael Feinstein, “Her mother passing was a catastrophe.”

Related: Liza Minnelli's Family: All About Her Famous Parents and 3 Siblings

She was originally passed over for Cabaret

Minnelli’s performance as Cabaret’s Sally Bowles, a showgirl living in 1930s Berlin, was widely acclaimed by critics and peers: She won the Best Actress Oscar for her on-screen feat. But before the John Kander and Fred Ebb musical became a movie, it was staged on Broadway in 1966.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Liza Minnelli in 'Cabaret'
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Liza Minnelli in 'Cabaret'

Minnelli — who had become a Tony winner at age 19 in 1965 for her performance in another Kander and Ebb musical, Flora, the Red Menace — auditioned to play Bowles in the Broadway production. “I lost the role,” says Minnelli, who was passed over in favor of Jill Haworth.

Fast forward a few years: Minnelli’s star was on the rise and she “fought” for the screen role, she recalls. At a meeting with director Bob Fosse, she says he asked her, “How do you feel about going topless?” She said no — and got the part anyway.

<p>Bettmann</p> Liza Minnelli and her father Vincent Minnelli at the 1973 Oscars


Liza Minnelli and her father Vincent Minnelli at the 1973 Oscars

Her signature sequin outfits were born out of necessity

Over the years, Minnelli cultivated a performance look that is quintessential Minnelli: short black hair and bright spangly sequins. Her longtime collaborator, designer Roy Halston Frowick, known simply as Halston, was responsible for her shimmering ensembles. And there was a purpose behind the sparkles.

<p>Mario Notarangelo/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty</p> Liza Minnelli in 1987

Mario Notarangelo/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty

Liza Minnelli in 1987

As Ralph Rucci, who used to work for Halston explains, Minnelli was such an energetic performer she’d often sweat profusely on stage. With sequins, “you can’t see where the perspiration starts or stops.”

Minnelli and friend Mia Farrow first met in preschool

Rosemary’s Baby actress Farrow, 79, is interviewed throughout the documentary, offering insight into Minnelli’s life. Like Minnelli, her parents were also in show business: Her father was director John Farrow and her mother was Pride & Prejudice actress Maureen O’Sullivan.

<p>Ron Galella/getty</p> Mia Farrow and Liza Minnelli in 1977

Ron Galella/getty

Mia Farrow and Liza Minnelli in 1977

Farrow reveals she and Minnelli first met as toddlers, but became true friends as adolescents when they were both on a photo shoot for Seventeen magazine.

In 1966, at 21, Farrow married singer Frank Sinatra, who often performed with Garland and Minnelli, too.

She was one of the first stars to serve as a replacement on Broadway

When Gwen Verdon needed surgery and couldn’t perform the role of Roxie Hart in the original production of Chicago in the 1970s, Minnelli stepped in to help her old friends Kander and Ebb.

<p>courtesy everett</p> Liza Minnelli performing in 'Chicago'

courtesy everett

Liza Minnelli performing in 'Chicago'

Now it’s standard practice for established stars to step into shows already in production, but back then, A-list talent only originated roles. Minnelli didn’t care. According to Kander, she learned the part in just one week. “She saved the show,” he says.

Minnelli hoped to be a mother

The entertainer has had four husbands through the years: Australian showman Peter Allen, director-producer Jack Haley Jr. (the son of Jack Haley, who played the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz), sculptor Mark Gero, and late producer David Gest. An archival clip shows her telling interviewer Geraldo Riviera, “I desperately want a family.”

Sadly, Minnelli miscarried three times, once with Haley and twice with Gero. Though she never had kids of her own, Minnelli became a favorite aunt and godmother to her loved ones’ kids. Says friend Allan Lazare, “She would’ve been a great mother.”

<p>Getty </p> Liza Minnelli in an undated photo


Liza Minnelli in an undated photo

Sometimes she didn’t want to be treated like “Liza Minnelli” the performer

Friend and performer Jim Caruso says Minnelli didn’t always want to dazzle when she wasn’t on stage. He recalls her disappointment when she returned home from a party and told him, “I just wanted to be the nice lady at the dinner table.” Referring to her larger than life stage persona, she added, “ They wanted her.”

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