When I spoke with Larry Thompson, executive producer of Lifetime’s upcoming Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton biopic Liz & Dick, this afternoon for our November cover story on the opulent and much-debated film, he revealed just how deeply connected his screenwriter Christopher Monger is to the project.
Seated next to Monger at the 2010 Humanitis Prize awards ceremony, where the Monger-penned HBO film Temple Grandin and Thompson’s Lifetime-produced Amish Grace were both nominated in the 90-minute category, Thompson told him that he was about to embark on a project about Taylor and Burton and asked if Monger would like to be involved.
“He looked at me and he said, ‘You’re kidding,’ Thompson recalls. “I said, ‘No, I’m serious.’ And he said, ‘Someone put you up to this — you’re joking.’ And I said, ‘Well, your agents might think I’m joking, because as hot as you are from Temple Grandin, I’m sure they want you to write features now. And he says, ‘You know I’m Welsh [as was Burton]?’ And I said, ‘Of course I do — that’s why I thought it might interest you.’ And he says, ‘But I guess you don’t know why this also might draw my attention?’ I said no.
“He said, ‘My father gave Richard Burton — then known as Richard Jenkins — his first acting job. In my little home town in Wales, in my little home, in our little hallway, there was a playbill — my father, who had never produced anything, produced this local little play, and Richard Jenkins was in it, this young actor. And so my dad’s claim to fame was always that he gave Richard Burton his first acting job. And everyone in my hometown in Wales tried to do their hair and dress like Elizabeth Taylor. So this story is innately in my DNA — nobody can write this story but me.”
But as adamant as Monger was about tackling the job, Thompson says, he wasn’t without concerns.
“He said, ‘The only thing that scares me is that if I don’t do a good job, I can’t go home!’”
Liz & Dick stars Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor and Grant Bowler as Richard Burton and premieres on Lifetime in November. See the trailer here.