Rachel Weisz to Play Elizabeth Taylor

Rachel Weisz will play Elizabeth Taylor in A Special Relationship, detailing her crusading activism to bring awareness to the AIDS epidemic.

Rachel Weisz in The Favourite
Photo: Fox Searchlight

Elizabeth Taylor became a movie icon in the 20th century like few others due to her glamour, her penchant for starring in grandiose, and often lusty, productions, and her string of husbands. However, she also became one of the most visible activists and proponents for AIDS research during the height of the virus’ epidemic in the 1980s. And it is that specific period in Taylor’s life that Rachel Weisz will seek to portray when she dons the violet hued contact lenses in A Special Relationship.

The project was announced Monday by See-Saw Films which will produce the film. The movie will specifically unpack these crucial years in Taylor’s life by studying her relationship with Roger Wall, a gay man she hired as her personal assistant in the 1980s. Having grown up himself in the homophobic and segregated Deep South, Wall came out of poverty and helped enforce for Taylor the horror of AIDS during the mid-1980s when President Ronald Reagan spent years refusing to even speak its name in public. Taylor was also of course affected by friend and fellow movie star, Rock Hudson, coming out as HIV positive.

The film already has a completed screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, who won an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire, and is additionally set to be directed by Bert&Bertie, the women directing duo behind Troop Zero.

“Audiences are clearly fascinated by the private lives of iconic Hollywood stars,” said producers Iain Canning and Emile Sherman. “There is no one more iconic than Elizabeth Taylor, and Simon Beaufoy has written a role that shines a light on Elizabeth’s humor and humanity, which will be beautifully brought to life through the extraordinary talents of Rachel Weisz.”

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Taylor was one of the biggest names during Hollywood’s original Golden Age, coming to popularity for her childhood and teenage roles that included National Velvet (1944) and Courage of Lassie (1946). She would go on to star in major 1950s hits like Giant (1956) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958); and she infamously starred in the decadent 20th Century Fox disaster, Cleopatra (1963), which has its admirers for its kitschiness. It’s also where she met Richard Burton who became her fifth of seven husbands. She and Burton were also famously married and divorced twice.

Taylor won two Academy Awards for Butterfield 8 (1960) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? (1967). But her humanitarian work may be one of her greatest achievements, and it is something Weisz will undoubtedly shine new light on after earning her own second Oscar nomination for last year’s The Favourite. (She won the prize for her first nomination in 2006’s The Constant Gardener). She also can be seen as the villain in next year’s Black Widow movie.

David Crow is the Film Section Editor at Den of Geek. He’s also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. Read more of his work here. You can follow him on Twitter @DCrowsNest.