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Consider: Top Ten Actors, Actresses for Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton in Scorsese's Furious Love

by Sophia Savage
June 21, 2011 5:39 AM
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Who could possibly play Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Martin Scorsese's adaptation of Furious Love? They are iconic roles and the field of thesps that could play them is limited by age, ability, celebrity and physicality. We've scoured the web for casting chatter. Many names have been thrown in the mix. Some we like, some we don't. We've added some of our own picks for who could pull off these roles.

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.

Vote in our poll below.

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.

Thompson on Hollywood

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.

Thompson on Hollywood

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.

Thompson on Hollywood

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.

Thompson on Hollywood

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.

Thompson on Hollywood

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.

Thompson on Hollywood

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.

Thompson on Hollywood

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.

Thompson on Hollywood

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.

Thompson on Hollywood

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.

Thompson on Hollywood

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.

Casting Elizabeth Taylor
Mia Kirshner
Olivia Wilde
Evangeline Lilly
Rachel Weisz
Kate Beckinsale
Natalie Portman
Scarlett Johansson
Rachel McAdams
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Anna Friel free polls
Casting Richard Burton
James Purefoy
Eric Bana
Karl Urban
Clive Owen
Russell Crowe
Gerard Butler
Tom Hardy
Leonardo DiCaprio
Colin Firth
Julian McMahon free polls


  • Gus | February 21, 2012 9:05 PMReply

    Courtney Cox

  • Raquel | January 21, 2012 2:58 PMReply

    Camila Belle would be a reat choice as well..

  • Indira | December 10, 2011 8:44 AMReply

    My first choice: Amy Manson & Clive Owen. Scottish actress Amy is relatively unknown but a dead ringer for Liz Taylor, and that's rare! Clive represents Richard Burton's dark character very well.

  • martin | October 28, 2011 7:36 AMReply

    Are you guys forgetting Daniel Craig?? He IS Richard Burton!

  • srle | October 19, 2011 6:21 AMReply

    anne hathaway and russell crowe/gerard butler!

    also, there's streep to consider, cause the woman can do anything :D

  • Seymour | June 29, 2011 1:09 AMReply

    How about Michael Sheen or Colin Farrell for the role of Burton?

  • mj | June 27, 2011 8:29 AMReply

    um, well neither of them were much of an actor(you want to argue Burton you need to go soak your head. He was a construct of hollywierd--maybe diCraprio is a good choice for the same reason)

    I don't know if they make them like these two any longer. They sort of WERE Kate and Petrucchio--two brawling tasteless drunks who couldn't remember a good day if they had one. You'd need someone really stunning like a young Sherilyn Fenn for Taylor. Actually Russell Crowe is a pretty good choice for Burton, looks wise. I can't quite recall EVER seeing Burton young. He must have been once but the boozing really took it's tole on him.

    As someone else said this is a project I hope never gets made. Let them lay in peace. We don't need to rehash their lives.

  • Rebel 901 | June 24, 2011 12:53 PMReply

    David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson get my vote too! They have major chemistry

  • cb | June 24, 2011 6:09 AMReply

    i'm glad i was able to see Liz Taylor's biopic on BIO.. i can finally join in the discussion.

    Leo should be an easy Richard Burton(a possible reunion with Scorsese after what would be their long hiatus. Hugo Cabret, Silence, The Irishman, Sinatra)

    but for Liz Taylor, for inspired casting, i really hope Jennifer Lawrence. she has a sex appeal needed for the role. she's fresh, and has acting chops. make up would be a big matter here as her gap with DiCaprio is much larger, but i'm sure both actors can make it work. plus just the idea of Scorsese flirting again with 60s to 70s hollywood is already a must see. the look of much earlier hollywood in the Aviator is unforgattable

  • Kel | June 23, 2011 7:53 AMReply

    Russell Crowe and Rachel Weisz. Crowe needs another hit to stay afloat in Hollywood

  • eden L. | June 23, 2011 7:08 AMReply

    I think Eva Green is a great choice to play Liz.
    see her look in Bazaar UK this June and you will know!

  • Michelle | June 23, 2011 7:04 AMReply

    As someone already pointed out, there is not one actress on this list who can touch Elizabeth Taylor's legendary beauty and sensuality. Olivia Wilde? Have you seen her, she is a very big woman. She is built like a swimmer....are you serious? Taylor was petite, lush and ultra feminine.

    I hope they get an unknown to play Taylor...or never do this at all.

  • Brian | June 23, 2011 4:39 AMReply

    Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens:

  • Anna | June 22, 2011 12:07 PMReply

    Before this project was even announced, I came up with three likely candidates for both Burton and Taylor (with a few similarities with your choices).



  • erniesouchak | June 22, 2011 10:39 AMReply

    JOEL EDGERTON, totally.

  • HairyLime | June 22, 2011 7:49 AMReply

    It's probably impossible to get someone as iconic as Elizabeth Taylor exactly right, but Michael Fassbender (who didn't make the cut for some reason--Julian McMahon, really?) would be a perfect Burton, both in looks and intensity.

  • Jane | June 22, 2011 6:32 AMReply

    Can't believe no one has thought of Michael Sheen. He can play anything, is very sexy and intense, and will have no trouble with the accent - he's from the same town in Wales as Burton. He's an inch too short, but he's 42 and the bone structure works.

  • Jason | June 22, 2011 4:45 AMReply

    Daniel Craig and Anne Hathaway.

  • Lynne | June 22, 2011 4:23 AMReply

    Colin Firth would be a really interesting choice. He has the charisma and of course the talent to do it.

    Also I am never interested in watching Clive Owen. Good looking but for me, lacking the watchability.

    Would love to watch Marion Cotillard paired with Firth. No reason why makeup can't help her capture the look; Cotillard didn't look like Edith Piaf either.

  • Brian | June 22, 2011 3:37 AMReply

    Megan Fox, all right! Marcy, you're my new heroine.

    Ditto on Michael Fassbender, too, mentioned twice above. Now we're gettin' somewhere.

  • Marcy | June 22, 2011 3:19 AMReply

    I think either Sherilynn Fenn or Megan Fox even though they're not in the poll (although Fox would have to be able to act). They both have the looks. Either Russell Crowe or Gerard Butler for Richard Burton. Both are really good actors and their eyes look sharp and similar to Burton's. Even though Russell Crowe might be too old, they do work wonders with makeup to in Hollywood.

  • Lo | June 22, 2011 2:16 AMReply


  • Kevin | June 22, 2011 1:46 AMReply

    Clive Owen would be my first choice, he is a solid actor and he totally looks like Burton. Rachel Weisz for Liz Taylor because she is the best actress of the listing and has the looks.

  • elemacd | June 21, 2011 11:51 AMReply

    I think Colin Firth has a bit of a chameleon in him and could do Burton. It would be interesting to see him attempt it. Zeta Jones has alot of on-screen charisma.

  • Bab | June 21, 2011 11:34 AMReply

    The only one in that group of men who even remotely resembles Burton in looks is Crowe. He also has the acting chops to pull off the part. He may be older than Burton was at the time, but he could do it.

  • Debra Levine | June 21, 2011 9:54 AMReply

    This is a fun post and I note that the male contenders are stronger across the board than the women, whose insipid beauty (they all look alike!) cannot hold muster to the incomparable sizzle of La Liz ... good (and sad) evidence of the dis empowerment of strong, individual women in Hollywood film.

    p.s. my vote: Clive Owen and ME

    Cheers, Anne, Debra L.

  • Brian | June 21, 2011 9:25 AMReply

    There isn't a single actress in that poll who's even a fraction as beautiful as Taylor was. And not a single actor listed who's even remotely as handsome as Burton was. These people are jokes compared to Liz and Dick.

    This is one project I hope NEVER gets off the ground. Let's just all watch some actual Taylor and Burton classics. How many of you have seen THE BRAMBLE BUSH or EXORCIST II or WHERE EAGLES DARE with Burton or ELEPHANT WALK, RAINTREE COUNTY, or REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE with Taylor? Or THE VIPS and THE SANDPIPER, with both? Hey, I can hear you guys heckling in the back. Don't listen to them, take my word for it, EXORCIST II is a masterpiece!

    I admit I have yet to see WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, THE COMEDIANS, TAMING OF THE SHREW and BOOM with Liz and Dick, so I have some catching up to do.

  • EricaC | June 21, 2011 8:58 AMReply

    Intense chemistry between the actors is imperative for this film, and while they aren't A list movie names, Gillian Anderson & David Duchovny could do an amazing job with this. Haven't seen chemistry like theirs since Hepburn & Tracy!

  • Brian | June 21, 2011 8:03 AMReply

    Selena Gomez and Freddie Highmore

  • sp | June 21, 2011 7:55 AMReply

    I definitely can see Tom Hardy, Karl Urban, and Russell Crowe ( too old ) as Richard Burton . Please , no to Rachel McAdams , the poor girl has repeatedly squandered the talent . Plus, she doesn't take risks.

  • Remy | June 21, 2011 7:18 AMReply

    Kate Beckinsale and Ewan McGregor.

    And I agree that Catherine Zeta-Jones would be a sensational choice, maybe the perfect choice, but more a few years ago than now.

  • Talie | June 21, 2011 6:48 AMReply

    James Purefoy is a great choice.

  • RuthAnn Raycroft | June 21, 2011 6:17 AMReply

    I can get behind Evangeline Lilly--I think she has the bone structure to pull off the look and is not so immediately identifiable as to overwhelm the role. But for Burton? What about Matthew Rhys? He can pull off the look and there would be no accent issues as he's actually Welsh.

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