Elizabeth Taylor lived a fascinating life in the Hollywood spotlight, but by far the “happiest” time in her life was during her marriage to Mike Todd. “I can tell you that very certainly,” Nanette Burstein, director of the HBO original documentary Elizabeth Taylor: The Lost Tapes, exclusively told Closer at the film’s North American premiere on June 11 during the Tribeca Film Festival.

“I think that was her true love,” Burstein said of Taylor and Todd’s marriage. “I think that he made her confident. I think he made her feel special. I think she felt like she could do anything in the world and I think he would’ve been and continued to be – he was and would have continued to be – the great love of her life, but then he died in a plane crash.”

Taylor and Todd were married for only one year before his tragic death at age 50, leaving her heartbroken.

“God, I loved him. My self-esteem, my image, everything soared under his exuberant, loving care,” the Cleopatra actress wrote in her 1988 book, Elizabeth Takes Off.

“I honestly didn’t think I would survive and didn’t much care if I did not,” she said of grieving after her husband’s death.

Taylor was married eight times to seven men throughout her career. The Academy Award winner was divorced from Larry Fortensky upon her death in 2011 at age 79 from congestive heart failure.

Elizabeth Taylor Was 'Happiest' During Marriage to Mike Todd
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Elizabeth Taylor: The Lost Tapes will premiere on HBO on August 3, and offers a closer look at the life of the film icon as told in her own words.

“Elizabeth recorded these tapes with the intention of doing an autobiography with a ghostwriter so she felt she had control over whatever was being said,” Burstein explained. “She was speaking very candidly as a result of that and she had creative control over the book. Some of the shocking things was A, how insecure she was. She was this megastar and she worried that people didn’t respect her.”

“She wasn’t considered to be a good actress, that she was thought of just as a pretty face and a sex symbol, which had a lot to do with the sexism of the time,” Burstein continued. “Another thing that was interesting was that she liked men that would dominate her, that she had this more traditional idea of relationships and I think the other thing was how much fame plagued her.”

Through all of the ridicule, Taylor “figured out that she could use her fame to do good, which was raising millions of dollars for AIDs and also just speaking out about it when no one else would.”