But can she muster the fiery passion with which the late Hollywood legend pursued treatment and a cure for the disease?
Taylor starred in such films as 1951’s “A Place in the Sun” (opposite Montgomery Clift), the 1956 classic “Giant” with Rock Hudson and James Dean, 1963’s “Cleopatra” (with real-life love Richard Burton as Mark Antony) and Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” in 1966. But the movie will focus on the iconic star’s less-glamorous fight against homophobia and bigotry that permeated the culture and stymied research efforts, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The script is by “Slumdog Millionaire” and “127 Hours” screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, who last year told Metro that the project was “the story of the untold love of her life, which was her gay assistant,” Roger Wall, who killed himself in 1991 after being diagnosed with HIV. She called his death “one of the biggest losses of my life,” according to the Guardian.
Taylor — who helped found amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, in 1985 — said she was “furious” about the disease, believing more people needed to step up and help early in the fight. “How dare people consider themselves fully rounded human beings without compassion,” the legendary actress told Rolling Stone during a 1987 interview that went unpublished until 2011. “If they don’t have passion, it means they are incapable of love.”
In April, Taylor’s granddaughter, Naomi deLuce Wilding, told People magazine that her activism was “something that finally gave her a sense of purpose.”
“She spoke of being relatively ambivalent about her fame and her acting career,” she said. “She loved it, but when she found activism, it really made sense of her passion.”
And Taylor committed to the fight throughout her life.
“She always said her plan was not to die until there was a cure for AIDS,” said deLuce Wilding of Taylor, who died at 79 in 2011.
It’s that determination that Weisz will have to tap into — and it’s a characteristic that has been lacking in some previous portrayals of Taylor in biopics about various stages of her life. In 1995, “Twin Peaks” star Sherilyn Fenn played her with “softness and vulnerability,” according to Variety, in the NBC film “Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story,” which traces her starry rise as a teen actress and her many relationships and marriages. (Variety also said the project lacked “salaciousness.”)
In 2012, troubled actor Lindsay Lohan was perhaps fortuitously cast in the lead of the Lifetime biopic “Liz & Dick,” which examined the relationship between Taylor and her longtime love Burton. The Hollywood Reporter labeled Lohan’s performance “woeful” and the entire production “spectacularly bad.” Celebrities were no kinder in their assessments.
However, a 2013 BBC America biopic, “Burton and Taylor” — which starred Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West (“The Affair”) in the lead roles — fared better, with Carter landing an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie and a Golden Globe nomination. Vanity Fair called it a “more deserving” endeavor compared with Lohan’s loopy letdown.
Weisz, 49, is the right age for the era in which she’ll play the “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” star, who turned 50 in 1982. She also has the naturally-arched brows, full lips and ability to project a come-hither look that were a longtime trait in Taylor’s performances.
Plus, Weisz has the acting chops — and accolades — to take on the role. She nabbed her Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2005’s “The Constant Gardener,” and this year she was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her supporting role as Lady Sarah in the period film “The Favourite.”
This could be Weisz’s latest opportunity to find a place in the sun.
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