FEBRUARY 12 2013
Nearly three months after Lifetime aired its attempt at an Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton romance biopic, BBC 4 has announced its own original movie about the famous couple. Unlike Lifetime, the British TV channel has opted to cast a less-publicity-stunt-ish lead: twice-Oscar-nominated actress Helena Bonham Carter, who will play the iconic beauty opposite BAFTA-winning actor Dominic West.
Like the campy Liz & Dick, the similarly titled Burton and Taylor will chronicle the famous couple’s mercurial relationship, specifically when the pair starred in a 1983 Broadway production of Noël Coward’s Private Lives seven years after their second divorce. The three-act play ironically centers on a divorced couple who realize that they still have feelings for each other while honeymooning with their respective new spouses at the same hotel. At the time, many critics dismissed the production, which paid Taylor and Burton $1 million each, as a transparent attempt to profit off their famed relationship. Audiences, meanwhile, wondered if the collaboration—which was their first onstage—would spur them to reunite.
Since the casting announcement, Bonham Carter has made it clear that she will not be trying to impersonate Taylor in a superficial sense. “I look nothing like her for a start,” she told the Daily Mail, “but it’s about capturing the essence of [Taylor and Burton] at a particular time . . .There’s no one comparable around now.” Bonham Carter, who is 46, added, “Elizabeth was fifty-one, still every inch a star, still beautiful and they still needed each other but this was professional.”
The 90-minute Burton and Taylor is expected to premiere this fall in the U.K.