Scorsese Challenges Himself with Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor Love Story

COMMENTARY | Martin Scorsese, the director of such films as “Gangs of New York,” “Casino,” and “Taxi Driver,” is now mulling a film depicting the love story of actors Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

To that end, Deadline reports Scorsese has bought the rights to an account of the tempestuous Burton/Taylor love affair called “Furious Love.” Negotiations are ongoing with the estates of Burton, who died in the mid 1980s, and of Taylor, who recently passed away.

The love affair is certainly the stuff of Hollywood legend. The two met on the set of “Cleopatra,” the historical epic that featured Burton as the Roman general Marc Antony and Taylor as the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Though each were married to other people at the time, the onscreen romance was soon paralleled by an off-screen affair that created a celebrated scandal during the early 1960s.

Burton and Taylor eventually divorced their respective spouses and married in 1964. They became one of the most famous power couples in Hollywood, making a number of films together, most notably “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?,” in which they played a feuding married couple. As it turned out, the roles were something of a type cast of reality.

Burton and Taylor were one of those couples who were madly in love with one another but could not long stand to be with one another. They were divorced in 1974, remarried in 1975, but divorced again in 1976. When Burton died in 1983, Taylor was prominent among his mourners at the funeral.

Scorsese’s main problem with doing a movie about Burton and Taylor is casting the roles. Which modern actors in all the world can match the on and off screen charisma and presence that the two exuded in life?

Burton, for example, rocketed to fame due to his performance of “Hamlet” at the Old Vic in London in 1953. He brought to his roles, even schlocky ones, a kind of charisma with his body language and his deep, sonorous voice that has not been matched.

Taylor, of course, was indescribably beautiful in her prime and dignified to a fault in her older years. Who in the 21st century can fill her shoes?

Still, it will be interesting and perhaps entertaining to see Scorsese try.

Sources: Martin Scorsese Eyes Film About Elizabeth Taylor And Richard Burton Love Affair, Mike Fleming, Deadline New York, June 1, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, Her Greatest Role, Mark R. Whittington, Associated Content, March 23, 2011