Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth Taylor for BBC America

Posted on July 16, 2013

The pictures and trailer have been dribbling out, so this is nothing new, but it looks like fun to us.


Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter star as the legendary acting couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

“Burton and Taylor stars Dominic West (The Hour, The Wire) and Helena Bonham Carter (Lone Ranger, The King’s Speech) as Hollywood’s most famous volatile on-again-off-again lovers, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. The 90-minute drama follows their private and public relationship played out against their ill-fated appearance in a 1983 revival of Noel Coward’s stage play, Private Lives. Burton and Taylor is one of the most fascinating, glamorous and tempestuous relationships of the 20th century – the two most famous movie stars of their day who played out every high and low of their love affairs, multiple marriages and divorces right in the public eye. Burton and Taylor premieres this fall on BBC AMERICA.”

Besides, the stench of Lohan needs to be pressure-washed off the Taylor name ASAP. We never would have thought to pick her ourselves, but HBC makes such an excellent choice for this version (early ’80s) of Liz that we’re ashamed we never thought of it. Granted, this is a somewhat cleaned-up version of the couple, who were looking quite a bit more, shall we say,  worn out than this by the time they appeared in “Private Lives” in 1983. If anything, HBC’s look here is more the late ’80s, cleaned up, amFAR version of Liz rather than the post-Warner, addiction-addled early ’80s version of her.

But we have to say, from what little we can see, HBC nails Taylor’s loopiness, which is probably the hardest thing for an actress to get right about her. She was an astonishing woman to look at and she lived a fairly kickass kind of life, but if you saw her in interviews and other videos, especially as she got older, the lady could be quite the flake. She and her co-star seem to have a very good understanding of that about her. She wasn’t a goddess or a temptress; she was something of a clown:

“I never met her, but I had lots of friends who did and there were a lot of bizarre coincidences. A really close friend of mine was her goddaughter, so she convinced me to do it and brought some photos of her.

“I didn’t realise she was such a clown, she was so funny. She was famous for being this extraordinarily beautiful woman and sexy, but she was also hugely powerful and fun and had great joie de vivre and strength of character to survive.”

West adds: “The great revelation for me was that she wasn’t this spoilt pain in the ass. Well she was, but she was also ballsy and great to be around, and that’s why Helena was perfect to play her. There are very few actresses in the world who could do it.”

It’s that wild-eyed wackiness that needs an actress like HBC to tap into it. We’re kind of sorry she’s only playing her during a short period in her life. She could easily play her from her 30s up to her old age, which would make one hell of a performance.



[Photo/Video Credit: BBC]

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  • veleri

    love the sophistication of her look.

    • Kate Andrews

      I feel like there are shades of Joan Collins in there.

      • mshesterp

        She would do a BANG up Joan Collins biopic. She has the perfect look combined with the campiness!

        • Kate Andrews

          I would die of happiness if that happened. So would the Fug Girls.

          • mshesterp

            Oh definitely – The Fug girls would explode in fugging happiness.

  • Sobaika

    This is going to be GOOD.

  • ushoda

    omg… those make up ARTISTS… bravo

    • ushoda

      PS: glad to se her out of the BURTON universe

      • Rand Ortega

        LOL! It actually took me a minute to realize what you meant. I initially thought, “But she’s playing Liz Taylor to Richard—OH! That Burton!”

        • veleri

          yeah, that’s tricky.

        • ushoda

          smart people on the internet! that’s why i’m here …. thank you for understand me guys <3333

      • Well, the TIM Burton universe, anyway…

      • eowyn_of_rohan

        Well, out of the TIM Burton universe and into the RICHARD Burton one.

      • Domo_Konnichiwa

        She says in her recent Vogue interview that her Burton is the better Burton, but she says it in Liz’s voice, so you never really know for sure 🙂

      • Knightley

        These pictures just illustrate what a stunningly beautiful woman HBC is, something that both she and Tim Burton never seem to want to show.

    • Emily

      Except for her mole being on the other side of her face…

  • Rand Ortega

    Bless you, TLo, for bringing this bit of delicious sunshine. This looks positively brilliant. I absolutely can’t wait. Though DW looks a little too…vibrant for Burton. He was positively ground beef by this time. HBC is dead on.

    • StellaZafella

      People also forget that Taylor was actually a rather tiny little thing with a lilting voice (and could suddenly swear the pants off a longshoreman)…Rooms went silent moments before she even rounded the door frame.
      I expect HBC capable of paying great tribute without parody or mockery.

      • Rand Ortega

        & that laugh! It could peel paint off the walls! HBC’s got this in spades. I’m very excited about this project.

      • Winter_White

        I remember her voice! When she was in a controlled or formal situation — awards show, short news interview, etc. — she affected that soft, breathy English-Rose manner of speaking. So ‘ladylike.’ But on chat shows, once she got going, she was loud and bawdy…and as Rand wrote, that laugh!

  • d4divine

    I can’t wait!

  • Diego!

    This is going to be great!!! In your face Lindsay Lohan!

    • xmixiex

      Go pound sand, linds!

    • Rand Ortega

      But I’ve got to give props to Grant Bowler for his impeccable Burton. Mr. Ortega is a Welshman, & even he said GB got “the voice”. He’s the only aspect of that horrible…movie that was bearable.

  • f_yeah_marie

    I’m such a fan of both of these actors. RIP The Hour 🙁

    • WendyD

      I pour one out for ‘The Hour’ as well. 🙁

  • xmixiex

    GOOD LORD she looks stunning!! Unbelievable make up work (on a hell of a canvas, of course)

  • gabbilevy

    Damn, HBC. She looks incredible. Definitely watching this.

  • Now This is something I could waste a few hours on.

  • decormaven

    Oooh! This is going to be glorious. HBC is going to nail this one for sure.

  • AC Simons

    She could also do the Joan Collins bio, if and when the ageless Ms. Collins meets her demise. HBC looks just like her in that 2nd photo.

    • filmcricket

      That was my thought; she looks a lot more like Joan Collins than Taylor.

  • Monday1900

    I really, really wish this had been a full blown bio of Liz rather than focusing on such a narrow time frame because I think Helena is going to nail the part. Can’t wait! I think the gentleman looks more like Christopher Plummer than Richard Burton but he’s a good actor so I’m sure it won’t matter.

    • algaechick

      Maybe it will become a miniseries. One can hope.

  • Belvane

    The still photos have her in Liz-colored contacts, but the trailer seems to show her with her own dark brown eyes. Odd.

  • Winter_White

    Has anyone seen the movie Toast, with HBC? It’s an odd little film — based on food writer Nigel Slater’s autobiography — that never quite finds a consistent tone. But Helena is hilarious as his kooky, scheming step mom…as usual she just goes all out! She’s supposed to be an unlikable character, but I loved her.

    She’ll certainly be able to bring both the beauty and the flaky to Liz.

    • Catiline

      My favorite “forgotten” HBC performance is the version of Twelfth Night that was made in the mid ’90s. With Ben Kingsley and Toby Stephens and Imelda Staunton (among others). It’s really low-key, charming, funny and kind of bittersweet. HBC’s chemistry with Imogen Stubbs as Viola/Cesario really makes the movie.

      • Whever

        Oh, HBC (or as I refer to her, HBC the HBiC) is absolutely incredible as Olivia. I wish more people would remember that performance- it was perfection.

      • Winter_White

        Thanks, Catiline — just added it to my queue. 🙂

        • majorbedhead

          Oooh, thanks for that rec! I like Nigel Slater and HBC is still my number one girl crush.

          • Winter_White

            You’re welcome. She’s the best part…the increasingly-ambitious dishes they cook up are fun to look at too.

      • Sarah Winningham

        Twelfth Night is wonderful and, for my money, the loveliest HBC has ever looked, wearing Pre Raphaelite costumes. Toast is kind of uncomfortable to watch, the movie tries to tell you that Nigel Slater’s stepmother was terrible, but it only shows her behaving basically fine and her stepson treating her horribly and judging her for being from a lower social class. Her hands are my favorite part of the publicity shot, HBC and Liz Taylor both have/had tiny little hands.

        • Winter_White

          I came away from Toast with far less respect for Nigel Slater. It’s HIS memoir-cum-movie we’re watching — did he/the filmmakers really expect us to see him as the good guy here? Perhaps they didn’t count on HBC’s performance, in which she is funny rather than ‘wicked’?

    • julnyes

      definitely an odd film, but enjoyable to watch.

  • imakeart

    Whooda thunk it? She looks amazing! This does look like it will be great fun.

  • Cameron Turner

    HBC looks fantastic and I can’t wait to watch this!

  • sweetlilvoice

    Can’t wait and the stench of Lohan definitely needs to be pressure washed off!

  • teensmom99

    I am always so jealous of HBC’s skin. Someone is going to tell me it’s photoshop and/or make up but I think it is her luminous, classic peaches-and-cream skin (with a little make up assist). And in the Private Lives poster the real Liz looks like Stockard Channing.

  • StellaZafella

    In 1983 I was doing a little Noel Coward revue at “Don’t Tell Mama” off 42nd street. Taylor and Burton were the talk of the theatre gypsies…including the fact that they had matching , separate Rolls Royces to take them wherever they went…including across the street.
    As I sat at the counter of a local Italian place one noon looking at the lunch menu, I realized the person sitting next to me was nursing a large something iced, I stuttered something of an inquiry about the food and Mr. Burton said: “Don’t order the Cannelloni.”

    I asked, “Why?”
    He replied, “’cause I’ve just had the lahst of it.”
    …I like to call that “My lunch with Richard Burton”

    Too bad the production was such a disaster…it seemed such perfect fit for the two of them with their thorny history and love of one another.

    • MilaXX

      Taking a limo to go across street is so Ab Fab!

    • Rand Ortega

      Best. Story. Maybe Ever!

  • Judy_S

    Looks like fun! Which is exactly what it should be.

  • JP

    I am DYING to see this, and so thrilled to see BBCA is going to air it. I still can’t believe that hot mess that was the Lifetime movie (granted, it being a Lifetime movie should have clued me in, but…).

  • Catiline

    Almost didn’t recognize Dominic West! Wow. Also, at first I thought of Dominic Cooper and was REALLY amazed by the makeup job, lol.

    As for HBC, I find it so, so refreshing to see her in a role that doesn’t reek of Tim Burton. Speaking of things that need to be pressure-washed off.

  • Poeta Paz

    I’m sorry to say that Lindsay Lohan looked more like Taylor physically, but I’m sure the acting will be much better with HBC.

  • beebee10

    Love both these actors and I think the casting is perfect. HBC is a perfect choice and Dominic has tremendous charisma like Burton.

  • kimmeister

    Never in a million years would I have recognized the woman in those pictures as being HBC. She has an amazing jawline.

  • Cathy S

    She looks fabulous. I thought that was Liz in the first picture at first glance.

  • I am sooooo happy about this casting. The casting of LL to play Taylor was such a disappointment. LL saw herself as someone who has a lot in common with Taylor. And I think that role was supposed to give her a career a boost. Anyway, I think casting should strive to find some physical similarities for the role of a well-known person. Wardrobe can’t just throw on a dark wig and transform a cute freckled girl into Elizabeth Taylor. That match was an insult to everyone, especially to LL.

    On to HBC who is a beauty, a dark-haired beauty with fair skin. The camera has always loved her in Howard’s End and other period pieces. She is an excellent actress, and she cleans up very well.

  • stubbornthoughts

    I can’t believe through all the LL hub-bub of Elizabeth Taylor casting I never thought of HBC as the perfect actress for the job. She is everything in this role – it just…makes sense.

  • MilaXX

    This looks so much more superior to the Lilo version. I agree HBC could have played her from 30 on and I would gladly watch.

  • majorbedhead

    Oooh, I can’t wait to see this! I hope BBC America streams it on their site because I am a cable-less Bitter Kitten.

    Am I the only one who remembers Liz Taylor’s brief stint on General Hospital, as the Cassadine Grande Dame? Oh, god, it was hilarious in retrospect. And there are outtakes on YouTube, where she flubs her lines. She was so funny and apologetic. It was great.

    • Rand Ortega

      She disrupted the famous Luke & Laura wedding! It was EPIC! I was a senior in high school. My mother & I held each other squealing like school girls when she made her incredible entrance.

      • majorbedhead

        I was in high school then, too. My friend and I watched it together, gasping and crying at all the right moments.

        • Rand Ortega

          Gotta go check YouTube stat! Thanks for the memories, MBH!

  • Randy Noak

    Seeing her all dolled up reminds me of what a beautiful woman HBC is. She just rarely plays a part these days that shows it.

    • akprincess72

      She IS lovely.

  • bxbourgie

    I MUST see this. Love HBC and Detective McNulty!

  • Introspective

    love this and totes tuning in with a big bowl of popcorn. can there be a TLounge for it??

  • Gwyndall

    That second photo looks like Elizabeth Hurley as Joan Collins!

  • LauraAgain

    HBC looks like Tiffani Thiessen to me. Not that that’s a bad thing.

  • Tracy Alexander

    I’m a veterinarian and every time I see the letters HBC I read them as “hit by car.” It sometimes makes for confusing reading.

    • Winter_White

      Of course it’s very sad that animals being hit by cars is so common as to warrant an acronym — but your post made me wonder what other celebrities’ initials work in veterinarian-speak. 🙂 (SJP, for example: “swallowed jagged pieces”?…”slurped jacuzzi puddle”?…)

  • Danielle L

    So happy to see Liz is getting a second chance. Lohan was a shit choice.

  • Strike while the bar is low! Or something like that.

  • Jeremy

    Does anyone else see Delta Burke? Just me?

  • mhleta

    My issue with anyone playing ET and RB is that, regardless of the acting skill involved, it’s ultimately impossible to capture this couple’s scary volatility without ACTUALLY living that precarious existence. The two of them were like the equivalent of two drunk pilots doing tandem acrobatics with 747s loaded with explosives. Scary, scary shit, but also kinda thrilling to watch, even though you know there’s going to be scads of shrapnel everywhere before its over. I applaud these two actors for attempting the impossible, but in the end this is a failing proposition.

    • ailujailuj

      agreed… I read a really great Vanity Fair article on their long-lived romance and it was so interesting and well-written – it felt voyeuristic. I wanted to know them.

      • mhleta

        Intrigued. I’ll have to find it. Thanks.

  • Holy cow! If you didn’t tell me that was Helena Bonham Carter I never would have recognized her. She nails Elizabeth – the voice is perfect. I never anted to watch the Lohan Liz (and didn’t) but this one I will definitely watch (even though it’s on BBCA).


  • demidaemon

    Thank god for HBC. Let La Lohan be wiped from our memories and HBC take her place!

  • Aurumgirl

    She looks amazing, but Dominic West is making me a little crazy in these pictures. Bravo on his look, and I am looking forward to seeing this soon.

  • SylviaFowler

    THAT is Dominic West?! Holy shit!! I saw the thumbnail and thought she was Delta Burke, but I’d never recognize Dominic here in a gazillion years.

  • Therese Bohn

    So sad that The Hour was axed — networks always take ratings over quality 🙁 And yes, may this bury the LL version forever.

  • AutumnInNY

    wow. HBC has never looked lovelier.

  • Shawn EH

    Now that is a couple that might have something to say about Liz and Dick! Can’t wait to (probably download) this.

  • lilyvonschtupp

    Luscious Liz…Angelina bow down

  • librarygrrl64

    Interesting casting. West is a fantastic actor but he looks nothing like Burton.

  • ailujailuj

    GASP! I cannot wait. I am in love with both of these actors and if I had them laminated, I could not possibly choose one over the other.