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Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor & Grant Bowler as Richard Burton: 'Liz & Dick'

Lindsay Lohan Elizabeth Taylor movie Liz & Dick

Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor in the Lifetime movie Liz & Dick. Lohan, 26 next July 2, plays Elizabeth Taylor (apparently) at about the time she met Richard Burton in the early '60s. (Though the Lohan/Taylor picture above looks like something out Richard Brooks' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, with Lohan as Maggie the Panther.) Grant Bowler, best known for True Blood and the box office and critical cataclysm Atlas Shrugged: Part I, plays Richard Burton.

The make-up job looks quite impressive, helping to transform Lohan into Taylor. We'll see – or rather, hear – if Lohan is able to reproduce Taylor's tones as well.

A tabloid queen in her heyday, Elizabeth Taylor won two Best Actress Academy Awards: Daniel Mann's Butterfield 8, 1960; Mike Nichols' Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, 1966. Taylor was nominated three other times: Edward Dmytryk's Raintree County, 1957; Brooks' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1958; and Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Suddenly Last Summer, 1959.

Lindsay Lohan hasn't been nominated for any Oscars yet, but … well, she has won an MTV Movie Award for her performance in the 2004 hit Mean Girls. And let's not forget that she's a Gotham Award and SAG Award nominee as part of the ensembles in, respectively, Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion and Emilio Estevez's Bobby.

Directed by Lloyd Kramer (the TV movie David and Lisa) and written by Christopher Monger (Just Like a Woman / 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 of Cleopatra), Massi Furland, Taylor Gerard Hart, and Henri Hereford.

Elizabeth Taylor tried to stop 'Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story'

In Kevin Connor's 1995 TV movie Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story, Sherilyn Fenn played Elizabeth Taylor. Nigel Havers was husband no. 2, British actor Michael Wilding; William McNamara was Montgomery Clift; Angus Macfadyen was Richard Burton; Corey Parker was Eddie Fisher; Katherine Helmond was Hedda Hopper; Daniel McVicar was Rock Hudson; Ray Wise was husband no. 3, Michael Todd; Judith Jones was Debbie Reynolds; Eric Gustavson was husband no. 1, Nicky Hilton; Patricia North was Richard Burton's then-wife Sybil Burton; and Kevin McCarthy was producer Sol Siegel. At the time, Taylor unsuccessfully sued to prevent the showing of Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story.

Not that long ago, Catherine Zeta-Jones was to have played Elizabeth Taylor in a Montgomery Clift biopic. Zeta-Jones looks as much like Taylor as, say, My Week with Marilyn's Julia Ormond looks like Vivien Leigh. (I think Jennifer Connelly would've been a better choice for either Taylor or Leigh.) But then again, if Michelle Williams could be transformed into Marilyn Monroe, anything is possible. (This is no putdown on Williams, who is remarkable in her own way.)

Now, is Lesley-Anne Down available to play Elizabeth Taylor in her later years? Or maybe Elizabeth McGovern?

Lindsay Lohan Elizabeth Taylor movie Grant Bowler Richard Burton
Lindsay Lohan Elizabeth Taylor movie Liz & Dick (Grant Bowler as Richard Burton)

Lindsay Lohan's Elizabeth Taylor movie Liz & Dick, to be shown on Lifetime, has its first official photo. Lohan does look like Taylor; whether or not Atlas Shrugged: Part I's Grant Bowler passes for Richard Burton is unclear, as he seems to be playing Christopher Lee in the above pic.

Much has been said about how absurd it was to cast Lindsay Lohan, of rehab and courtroom notoriety, to play one of the most glamorous stars Hollywood has ever produced. What those people seem to forget – or be ignorant about – is that Elizabeth Taylor, long before she became a Dame of the (now-moribund) British Empire, long before her AIDS Foundation, and not that long before her two Oscar wins, was considered by many to be a selfish, reckless “whore.”

True, Taylor received four back-to-back Oscar nominations in the late 1950s – including a 1960 win, for surviving a tracheotomy (and for Butterfield 8) – but her personal life had tongues wagging, fingers pointing, prudes proselytizing, and the media busy selling the latest “dirty” gossip item.

Elizabeth Taylor: The gossip rags' Lindsay Lohan of the '50s and '60s

Shortly after the death of her third husband, Around the World in 80 Days producer Michael Todd, 26-year-old Elizabeth Taylor became involved with family friend Eddie Fisher, who at the time just happened to be married to All-American Girl Debbie Reynolds of Singin' in the Rain and Tammy and the Bachelor fame. A couple of years after “stealing” Fisher from Reynolds, Taylor began an affair with Richard Burton while filming Cleopatra on location in Italy.

Partly as a result of Taylor and Burton's demands and overall behavior on the set, costs on Cleopatra – already a troubled production – soared. Things got so out of control that the nearly-bankrupt 20th Century Fox sued the couple for $50 million.

Now, it's also worth remembering that Lindsay Lohan can be quite an effective actress. As far as I'm concerned, Lohan is the best thing about Robert Altman's last movie, A Prairie Home Companion.

Directed by Lloyd Kramer (the TV movie David and Lisa) and written by Christopher Monger (Just Like a Woman / The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain), Liz & Dick premieres in October. Also in the Liz & Dick cast: David Hunt, Tanya Franks (as Sybil Burton, Richard Burton's wife at the time of Cleopatra), Massi Furland, Taylor Gerard Hart, and Henri Hereford.

Lindsay Lohan / Grant Bowler / Liz & Dick photo: Lifetime.

Liz & Dick's Lindsay Lohan / Elizabeth Taylor picture: Lifetime.

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 Nichols' Who'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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