Burton And Taylor: The script had me hooked

Monday 22 July 2013, 15:29

Lachlan MacKinnon Lachlan MacKinnon Producer

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Scripts like Burton And Taylor don't come along often.

What made Billy Ivory’s script so special was that it was both an intimate portrayal of two of the most famous film stars that ever lived, and a very universal tale of the perils of dysfunctional love which everyone can identify with.

What happens when a love story ends but you are not quite ready to let that person go?

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‘Plenty of people told me not to do this, don’t let me regret it’

It’s about two people who love each other deeply but cannot be together without destroying one another. We can all identify with that, that's why I was so passionate about producing it.

We all wanted to aim high with casting. What would be better than having two film stars playing two film stars?

I'm delighted we were successful in securing my first choices of Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West.

Everything moves so fast when you're working on a low budget, with no room for error, no second chances.

So filming in 18 days was a huge challenge to keep the creative standards up, especially in light of it being a period film, set in 1983, and also the vast majority being set in New York.

We had to make sure all the London locations we used to recreate New York felt right, even down to the street furniture, plugs and light switches.

If you have a good script and the right creative people, you can achieve almost anything. It's of course a drama, but authenticity was very important to us.

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Richard (Dominic West) arrives at Elizabeth's (Helena Bonham Carter) 50th birthday party

So for example we knew Richard attended Liz's birthday party while he was in London for a poetry recital and returned to her townhouse following the party.

It was mentioned in numerous newspaper articles, as well as Alexander Walker’s biography of Elizabeth Taylor.

The critics’ reviews Liz quotes in the scene in the diner are a small excerpt from one of the many reviews of the play published at the time.

The big question I always had was why did Richard agree to take part in the play with Elizabeth?

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Richard and Elizabeth deny rumours of a third marriage at the Private Lives press conference

He was after all in a happy relationship with the woman who will later become his wife, Sally, and professionally he was also doing well.

Much has been written about Elizabeth’s larger than life personality, her joie de vivre, her charms and power which made it impossible to say no to her.

But I think the answer perhaps lies in their addictive personalities: when one is addicted to something, the lure, the temptation to go back is always there. Which is why they couldn’t ultimately be together.

Having seen the film, would you agree?

Lachlan MacKinnon is the producer of Burton And Taylor.

Burton And Taylor is on at 9pm on Monday, 22 July on BBC Four. For further programme times, please see the upcoming broadcasts page.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    This is one of the finest things I've seen on the BBC, ever. It offered an immensely true and unforced portrayal of a complex, fraught, and in its way perfect lifelong relationship, a relationship both defined and weakened by fame. This story could so easily have descended into melodrama but even in electrifying moments it never lost its intimate tone. The projection of emotion through and actually beyond the startling embodiments of these stars by Dominic West and Helena Bonham-Carter deserves the most emphatic praise. Every second of this script and its realisation commanded total identification from viewers. I simply had to shout all this from the rooftops (or in a post at least).

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Simply brilliant, the best thing on TV this year by far.

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    Comment number 3.

    This depiction of Buton and Liz was great and makes lifetime TVs version look like a shameful waste of time and money. Helen and Domenic were incredible, I wish I could have said the same about Lindsey Lohen the walking bar-station and train wreck.

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    Comment number 4.

    Congratulations to Lachlan and all the cast and crew on a fantastic production. I'm sure it will be deservedly nominated for several awards. Nothing against BBC FOUR but having seen the end result a decision should have been made to move the programme to prime-time BBC ONE regardless of what channel commissioned the show so that a much wider audience could see what fantastic talent we have in this country. Go on BBC play a repeat prime-time 8.00pm on Sunday night!

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    Comment number 5.

    I can't remember Helena Bonham Carter ever making a bad film and full marks for casting her as Liz Taylor I fell in love with her instantly which is more than can be said of Dominic West although this might be because I had just seen the aforementioned West in Johnny English with Rowan Atkinson.Visually the makeup for HBC was spot on but once again fell short from Mr.West.Very difficult parts to get exactly right I felt I had eavesdropped on them both from the start and missed their earlier days when they met each other and intelectually got inside each other's head.The script centred on ET insecurity and RB zest to be a Shakespearian King of the Theatre the glamour of the pair was never shown this was more about what went on behind closed doors when two highly volatile human beings connected with each other.

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    Comment number 6.

    Not as good as it could have been . Its allways dangerous to make up scenes that never happened , a bit like rewriting history . And there wasn't enough emphasis on Burtons genius .

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    I totally agree that this outstanding drama with two incredible performances should be shown on prime time on BBC1 - but I'd go further - this should have been made as a feature film and released in cinemas - the Americans would love it, and I think it would get Oscars - because you simply won't see better acting his year - and Helena as Liz? A shoe in for Best Actress - what a great piece of acting!! Truly, the most high quality drama produced by the BBC for years - and that's saying something!!


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