Grant Bowler as Richard Burton

Grant Bowler Richard Burton Liz & Dick
Grant Bowler / Richard Burton: Liz & Dick

Grant Bowler as Richard Burton in Lifetime’s fall movie Liz & Dick looks less convincing than Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor. Burton met Taylor at the time the two were making Cleopatra for 20th Century Fox.

A troubled production, Cleopatra was initially to have starred Taylor, Peter Finch, and Stephen Boyd, under the direction of Rouben Mamoulian. Mamoulian left, Taylor fell seriously ill, nearly died, and had to have a tracheotomy performed. The end result was a Best Actress Academy Award for her troubles (and for Butterfield 8) and brand new leading men for Cleopatra: Richard Burton as Marc Antony and Rex Harrison as Julius Caesar. By then, Cleopatra also had a new director: two-time Best Director Oscar winner Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

A respected stage and screen actor in the ’60s, Richard Burton was nominated for seven Academy Awards. Best Supporting Actor for My Cousin Rachel (actually a leading man role, opposite Olivia de Havilland), 1952, and Best Actor for the following: Henry Koster’s The Robe, 1953; Peter Glenville’s Becket, 1964; Martin Ritt’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, 1965; Mike NicholsWho’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, 1966; Charles Jarrott’s Anne of the Thousand Days, 1969; Sidney Lumet’s and Equus, 1977.

Of Burton’s dozen movies or so with Elizabeth Taylor, only Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was considered a truly prestigious production. Also, Cleopatra had its admirers (the mammoth epic received a much-derided Best Picture Oscar nomination) and so did Anthony Asquith’s all-star ensemble drama The V.I.P.s.

Grant Bowler has appeared in only a handful of feature films, among them the box office and critical disaster Atlas Shrugged: Part I, released last year. Bowler has been luckier on television, landing recurring roles in Blue Heelers, Adrenaline Junkies, Something in the Air, All Saints, Canal Road, Outrageous Fortune, Ugly Betty, and True Blood.

Directed by Lloyd Kramer (the TV movie David and Lisa) and written by Christopher Monger (the TV movie Temple Grandin / Hugh Grant’s The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain), Liz & Dick airs in October 2012. Also in the Liz & Dick cast: David Hunt, Tanya Franks (as Sybil Burton, Richard Burton’s wife at the time Cleopatra was made), Massi Furland, Taylor Gerard Hart, and Henri Hereford.

Liz & Dick / Grant Bowler as Richard Burton picture: Lifetime.

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