Their love affair entranced the world. Now Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West are to recreate the magic between Hollywood golden couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in a new BBC film.
Miss Bonham Carter, 46, said: “Elizabeth was fifty-one, still every inch a star, still beautiful and they still needed each other but this was professional. They were doing Noël Coward‘s Private Lives on stage playing a couple who used to be married. People wondered if they were still in love and whether they’d be playing themselves or their characters in the play.”
At the time Burton and Taylor were paid $1 million each for the limited run playing Coward’s Elyot and Amanda, a maddening and magnetic couple who divorce after enduring a turbulent short-lived marriage. They rediscover each other years later when each has a new spouse. They chuck their new partners and run off with each other.
“It sounds familiar and has echoes of their own marriages and relationship” Helena observed.
Burton and Taylor fell in love on the set of the movie Cleopatra.
Both had partners but they were eventually married in 1964 and after ten tempestuous years of living it up they exhausted each other and divorced in 1974. But they were soul mates and within a year they were hitched again only to break again fifteen months later in 1974.
Taylor went on to marry Senator John Warner and Burton made Suzy Hunt his wife but they split and BBC assistant producer Sally Hay subsequently became his girlfriend, and later his wife. “But Elizabeth and Richard still cared for each other”, said Miss Bonham Carter.
“It’s about this sliver of their lives together. They were huge stars and they’d never been on stage together before”, Miss Bonham Carter added.
The actress won a BAFTA award for her portrait of the Queen Mother in The King’s Speech and can currently be seen in the film version of Les Misérables.
She said the idea of the BBC film isn’t for her and Mr West, who has starred in The Wire and The Hour on TV, to impersonate Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
“I look nothing like her for a start but it’s about capturing the essence of them at a particular time. She was and continues to be a fascinating woman and she was a huge star. There’s no one comparable around now”, she said.