The first time Taylor and Burton met, recounts Vanity Fair's 2010 excerpt from Furious Love (written by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger), was in 1952 at a Bel Air pool party. Welsh-born Burton was 26 (and already had a reputation as a drinker, raconteur, and irresistible lover) and Taylor was just shy of 20. Burton later wrote in his diary: "a girl sitting on the other side of the pool lowered her book, took off her sunglasses and looked at me. She was so extraordinarily beautiful that I nearly laughed out loud...She was unquestionably gorgeous...She was laivsh. She was a dark unyielding largess. She was, in short, too bloody much, and not only that, she was totally ignoring me." Ten years later they would meet on the set of Cleopatra and their furious love story would ignite.
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Burton stood 5'10'' and Taylor, English-born to American parents, 5'2''. Taylor's beauty, intensity and sensuality are crucial, and for a petite actress to contain those traits is no common feat. Burton, while not the largest man, needs to be rugged, powerful and uncompromising in his masculinity.
Names worth mentioning for Taylor (but in our opinion not appropriate due to either ability [including accent], age or physicality) include: Megan Fox, Sherilyn Fenn, Anne Hathaway, Ashley Judd, Rose Byrne, Gemma Arterton, Jennifer Connolly, Zooey Deschanel, Marion Cotillard Mila Kunis, Keira Knightley, Marisa Tomei, Jessica Lowndes, Carla Gugino, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron, Kate Winslet and Angelina Jolie. Jolie is arguably the Elizabeth Taylor of our time -- and too huge a movie star in her own right to play Taylor. While she does have an equally inspiring sexuality and presence, it's as unique as Taylor's was.
For Richard Burton, we considered but did not include: Colin Farrell, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Hugh Jackman.
The following ten actresses are the serious contenders. Some need to gain a few pounds or dye their hair (they would all need contact violet lenses), while others need to get in touch with their sexuality. Some may not have shown their acting chops yet, but there's hope. The following ten actors were likewise chosen for ability, age and physicality. We've paired them up into what we think are potentially strong combinations. Vote in the poll below and we'll report the top three actresses and actors next week.
Mia Kirshner, 36, 5'3'' (Canadian) | James Purefoy, 47, 6'2'' (English) | These two fit the bill perfectly, if Kirshner can pull off the accent. In The L Word and Rome TV series, respectively, they were both show-stealers. Kirshner was also the best part of Brian De Palma's otherwise flawed The Black Dahlia. She's got the delicate/petite/sensual combination.
Olivia Wilde, 27, 5'7'' (American) | Eric Bana, 42, 6'2'' (Australian) | We're not sure Wilde has shown the ability to tackle a role like this, but she's beautiful. Bana is a great actor with a dark side; this would be the role to reveal it.
Evangeline Lilly, 31, 5'5'' (Canadian) | Karl Urban, 38, 6'1'' (New Zealander) | Both of them are recognizable (Lilly from Lost; she's also just been cast in The Hobbit; Urban has had supporting roles in LOTR, The Bourne Supremacy and Star Trek) but neither comes with movie-star baggage the way a Russell Crowe or Angelina Jolie would. These would be challenging but potentially career-defining roles for them both-- if they have the ability to dig deep.
Clive Owen, 46, 6'2'' (English) | Rachel Weisz, 41, 5'7'' (English) | These two are a no-brainer. Both are excellent actors, the trick would be to finding the right chemistry-combo for either of them.
Kate Beckinsale, 37, 5'7'' (English) | Russell Crowe, 47, 5'11'' (New Zealand born, Australian-raised) | Kate Beckinsale needs something juicy to put her back on the map and this could be it. If she had the right chemistry with Crowe, his brashness could soften her and bring out her buried sexuality.
Natalie Portman, 30, 5'3'' (Israeli) | Gerard Butler, 41, 6'2'' (Scottish) | Ditto for these two. If anyone can raise Portman's temperature, it would be Butler. He'd have to step up and bring some depth to the rugged masculinity he so easily depicts. Portman probably has this in her, but it won't come naturally.
Rachel McAdams, 32, 5'5'' (Canadian) | Leonardo DiCaprio, 36, 6' (American) | At first glance these two may be too polished, but both are supremely gifted and could rise to the challenge. McAdams does adorable like no other, but the right Burton (and hair dye) could bring out a different side of her. This is a role where DiCaprio could relinquish boyishness and transition into being a less-controlled and more domineering man.
Catherine Zeta-Jones. She, 5'6½'' and 41 (Welsh) | Colin Firth, 50, 6'1½'' (English) | This is casting on the older side, but could potentially work. Zeta-Jones has the right look and depth, but it may be five years too late. If Firth can be less proper, which we think he can be, Burton would be a fascinating character for him to embody.
Scarlett Johansson, 26, 5'4'' (American born, of Polish and Danish descent) | Tom Hardy, 33, 5'10'' (English) | This is casting on the young side. Johansson has made a career of cutesy-sexy without having to find much emotional depth in her work. That doesn't mean she can't, and we'd be curious to see her prove naysayers wrong. Both she and Hardy possess the unabashed sexuality that is so essential to the Taylor-Burton story.
Julian McMahon, 42, 6'2'' (Australian) | Anna Friel, 34, 5'2'', (English) | Use your imagination. McMahon (of Nip/Tuck) and Friel (Pushing Daisies), like Urban and Lilly, are familiar enough but far from movie stars. If either of them could muster the right chemistry the physical transformation could come easy.