Judy Garland‘s performances months before her death at the Talk of the Town nightclub in London in 1969 — the focus of a new biopic starring Renée Zellweger — were never recorded. Or so it was long believed. But it turns out Garland’s fifth husband, Mickey Deans, snuck a microphone under his seat one night, and the tapes he made ended up in the hands of Judy producer David Livingstone.
“I’ve got it and it’s reel-to-reel,” the Calamity Films producer told The Hollywood Reporter at the Judy L.A. premiere Sept. 19. “It has never emerged and is not public.” Livingstone got access to it thanks to Garland’s determined Talk of the Town handler, Rosalyn Wilder, played in the film by Jessie Buckley. “She had the truth [about Judy] and all the details. She introduced us to people who hadn’t spoken about Judy in 40 years.”
All of the details helped inform star Zellweger in crafting Garland’s presence, both onstage and off. “Renée studied anything and everything, and the thing with Renée is that you throw things in her path and she just absorbs them — mannerisms, everything — and it becomes part of her performance.”
So how is the secretly recorded performance? “Her voice did crack and it wasn’t what it was at Carnegie Hall, but my God, it was still better than almost anybody you’ve ever heard. It had a strength and emotion to it. She still had it right up until the end.”
This article originally appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.