NEVER ENDING STORY; A New TV Drama Is the Latest On-Screen Incarnation of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. but, Asks ROBIN TURNER, Have Any Film Portrayals of the Great Welsh Actor Ever Done Hollywood's Golden Couple Justice?

Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales), June 9, 2013 | Go to article overview

NEVER ENDING STORY; A New TV Drama Is the Latest On-Screen Incarnation of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. but, Asks ROBIN TURNER, Have Any Film Portrayals of the Great Welsh Actor Ever Done Hollywood's Golden Couple Justice?


THE dramatic pictures of Dominic West and Helena Bonham-Carter playing screen legends Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor certainly caused something of a stir this week.

And a relative of Burton's now believes it is time a Welsh actor to play his famous uncle.

Actor and director Guy Masterson, the son of Burton's niece Marian, decided to become an actor following his greatuncle's death in Switzerland in 1984 at the age of 58.

He said: "Uncle Rich has always been portrayed as the boozy Hollywood superstar but there's a lot more to him than that.

"They talk about the hellraising and the money but never about the charities he supported and the hospital wings he opened and the fact he had a wonderful intellect.

"I'm sure Dominic West and Helena Bonham-Carter will do a good job as they are very good, professional actors - but why not try a Welsh actor? "I don't why the film-makers could not have gone for Michael Sheen who has a long record of wonderful portrayals of real life characters. And of course he's from Port Talbot.

"I would love to have seen Michael in this role playing alongside Swansea's Catherine Zeta-Jones who has the sultry, sexy, high cheekbones look that Liz had. They would have been perfect."

The powder keg, jewel encrusted, vodka soaked romance between Burton and Taylor was the talk of the 1960s and much of the '70s.

He was the 12th son of a miner, born in Pontrhydyfen, Port Talbot and she was the impossibly beautiful, strong willed former child star born to American parents in London.

Having met on the set of the epic 20th Century Fox movie Cleopatra (while both married to other people) they only had eyes for each other. Their subsequent, tempestuous first 10-year marriage ended in 1974 only for them to tie the knot again in Africa for a short lived second marriage lasting just five months.

Burton died aged 58 in 1984 and Taylor in 2011 aged 79.

Now, Eton-educated, Shef-field-born Dominic West - Detective Jimmy McNulty in HBO's The Wire - and English actress Bonham-Carter play the leads in the upcoming BBC4 film Burton and Taylor about the twice divorced pair's reunion in Noel Coward's Private Lives.

The 90-minute drama follows 2012's critically mauled TV movie, Liz & Dick, with Lindsay Lohan as the ultra glamorous Taylor and New Zealand-born Grant Bowler as flawed Welsh genius Burton.

The critics did not hold back. David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle said the film was "so terrible, you'll need to ice your face when it's over to ease the pain of wincing for two hours".

Before Liz & Dick, actor Josh Richards won excellent reviews for portraying Burton in the Mike Jenkins stage play, Playing Burton Guy Masterson, who directed it, said: "Josh was brilliant and while he did not physically look like Richard you forgot that because he was so good.

"When playing somebody like Richard Burton, it's not so much the look it's the intensity of spirit you can bring to the role that counts.

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