Burton, Taylor & Me; Drinking Sessions with Richard Burton and Fleeing from Elizabeth Taylor Are Just Some of the Memories of under Milk Wood Director Andrew Sinclair. but He Tells Abbie Wightwick That Making the Movie Was One of the Best Times of His Life

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 22, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Burton, Taylor & Me; Drinking Sessions with Richard Burton and Fleeing from Elizabeth Taylor Are Just Some of the Memories of under Milk Wood Director Andrew Sinclair. but He Tells Abbie Wightwick That Making the Movie Was One of the Best Times of His Life


IT could have been daunting for a young director - Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole lined up to shoot Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood.

Three decades on Andrew Sinclair admits it was a "miracle" the film, shot on location in Wales, was ever made.

The then 36-year-old director didn't have Hollywood's golden couple in mind when he wrote the screenplay.

So when his old friend Peter O'Toole rang to say Taylor and Burton would do it, Sinclair kept his cool - something that would prove essential in future dealings with them.

Looking back he says magic was at work. The West Wales weather held, everyone remembered their lines and all the stars turned up, if occasionally a little late and under persuasion.

Wisely, Sinclair also kept his nerve during initial meetings with the famously volatile Burton/Taylor duo.

"Stars can be very difficult. You have to stand up to them," Sinclair says.

"I went to Richard's house in Hampstead and he said: 'You know Andrew, I am the best actor in the world'.

"If I had said 'yes' it would be the end as I could not have directed the film, if I said 'no' he would walk out. So I said 'bleee' and he just laughed.

"I got on incredibly well with Richard."

Sinclair - who will be attending a special screening of the film in Wales tomorrow to mark the 25th anniversary of Burton's death - had been an Oxbridge don and Richard liked what he regarded as "clever people".

They got on so well that later Sinclair and the late Ryan Davies, who played Second Voice in the 1972 film, were invited to Burton's house.

"We were getting pretty plastered and Richard decided we were his new best friends," Sinclair recalls.

The actor decided to give them two silver cups belonging to Taylor.

"At that moment in walks Elizabeth," Sinclair remembers with mock fear.

"She was dressed in a yellow hot pants suit with a mink coat over it, the tails dripping to the floor."

He mimics her icy voice: "She said 'what are you doing with those cups?'.

"Well, we just put one each into the hands of the swaying Richard and fled into the night."

On set Taylor wasn't keen to look like Rosie Probert, the Welsh whore she was cast as. When she arrived in Cleopatra-style eye make-up for shots at a London studio Sinclair wasn't sure what to do.

"I said: 'you can't look like Cleopatra you're a Welsh whore'. She said: 'I am always Cleopatra'."

Later O'Toole, who played the blind mariner Captain Cat, announced more trouble.

"He told me, 'you've just lost your film. Elizabeth's not going to appear again'.

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Burton, Taylor & Me; Drinking Sessions with Richard Burton and Fleeing from Elizabeth Taylor Are Just Some of the Memories of under Milk Wood Director Andrew Sinclair. but He Tells Abbie Wightwick That Making the Movie Was One of the Best Times of His Life
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