RUSSELL Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones should play Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the forthcoming movie of their tempestuous romance, according to the film’s author.
Nancy Schoenberger, on whose book Furious Love the movie will be based, plumped for the New Zealand-born, Australia-raised Gladiator star for his “smouldering charisma”.
But while Crowe can boast a tenuous Welsh connection – with his paternal grandfather hailing from Wrexham – Burton’s brother Graham Jenkins called for homegrown talent Michael Sheen to play opposite Zeta-Jones in the biopic.
Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese is in talks over the film with Paramount Pictures, who have bought the film rights to Furious Love.
Nancy, co-author of the biography with Sam Kashner, told Wales on Sunday: “At the top of our list has always been Russell Crowe to play Richard Burton.
“He has that wounded intensity, that smouldering charisma that Burton possessed.
“Other possibilities are Clive Owen, Daniel Craig, and [42-year-old Spanish actor] Javier Bardem for their sheer masculinity.
“As for Elizabeth...it’s much more difficult to cast that famous face ... certainly Catherine Zeta-Jones, for her passionate nature as well as her beauty.
“Also there is Natalie Portman, or her nemesis in Black Swan Mila Kunis [the 27-year-old Ukrainian born actress]. Or the exquisite [35-year-old French actress] Marion Cotillard? Of course, the beauty of having Martin Scorsese slated to direct is his genius for casting, so we put our faith in him.”
Taylor and Burton married and divorced twice over a 13-year period, after meeting on the set of Cleopatra in 1963. At the time, she was married to American singing star Eddie Fisher, while he was married to first wife Sybil.
But both Fisher and Sybil fled the set after it became clear Burton and Taylor had eyes only for each other.
The diamond studded, whiskey-fuelled powder keg of a relationship between Port Talbot-born miner’s son Burton and stunning actress Taylor filled front pages and magazine covers across the world in the 1960s and ’70s.
Taylor died in March this year at the age of 79 while Burton died in Switzerland in 1984 aged 58.
Speaking at his home in Pontrhydyfen, Port Talbot, where his older brother Richard Burton was born into a family of 13, Graham Jenkins said: “I don’t really want to see Russell Crowe playing Richard.
“If anyone can do it, it is Michael Sheen. He’s a Port Talbot boy and will have no trouble with the accent.”
Graham, 83, Burton’s only surviving brother, added: “I would love to see my great friend Anthony Hopkins, another Port Talbot boy, playing a part.
“He’s around 10 years younger than me now but maybe we could have Michael playing the younger Richard and Anthony as the older Richard...that would be something. As for Elizabeth Taylor, I think Catherine Zeta- Jones from Swansea would be ideal for the part.”
Industry experts, meanwhile, had their own views on who should star in the movie.
John McGrath, artistic director of National Theatre Wales, says the role of Burton should go to a Welshman – and a man from Burton’s native Port Talbot at that.
He said: “I think Michael Sheen would make a great Richard Burton – and the timing would be great, given his contribution to the campaign to give Burton a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I’m sure he’d do him justice.”
Film Critic Juli Weiner of Vanity Fair is another Russell Crowe “believer”.
She said: “Russell Crowe has a certain intensity about him.”
But she also suggested Michael Sheen and his Canadian actress girlfriend Rachel McAdams in the lead roles “for real-life, on-and-off-screen- lovers consistency.”
And she said Eric Bana and Natalie Portman were “possibles”, adding: “They have both perfected the cinematic art of the smouldering gaze.”
Ryan Gilbey, the New Statesman film critic suggested LA-based welsh actors such as Matthew Rhys, Ioan Gruffudd and Michael Sheen should be considered for the Burton role.
He said: “Clive Owen and Colin Farrell may be possible Burtons.
“But why, when there are so many suitable Welshmen around (even if most of them live in Los Angeles)?”
Sheers on Sheen: page 25