Lloyd's of Hollywood
ELIZABETH TAYLOR RARE TEST PHOTOGRAPH 1962
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More than 400 costumes were prepared for the production, together with sets, ...
Elizabeth Taylor is Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen who seduces Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Trivia for Cleopatra (1963) * A clerical error on the part of the Academy cost Roddy McDowall an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. * Adjusting for inflation, this is the most expensive movie ever made to date (mid-1999). Its budget of $44 million is equivalent to 270 million 1999 dollars. * Elizabeth Taylor had 65 costume changes for this film, a record for a motion picture.

The figure is exceeded by Joan Collins, who had 85 costume changes in the TV movie "Sins" (1986) (mini). Coincidentally, Collins was set to star as Cleopatra before Taylor was signed. * In 1958 Joan Collins was cast in the title role, but after several delays she became unavailable.

Collins had previously starred in a similar role in Land of the Pharaohs (1955). After Collins' departure, Audrey Hepburn was considered as a replacement by producer Walter Wanger. Wanger then offered the role to Elizabeth Taylor. He called her on the set of her latest film, Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) and related the offer through Taylor's then husband Eddie Fisher who had answered the phone. As a joke, Taylor replied "Sure, tell him I'll do it for a million dollars." This then unheard-of sum was accepted and in October 1959 Taylor became the first Hollywood star to receive $1 million for a single picture.

* Soon after shooting began in England, Elizabeth Taylor became ill and could not work. As her presence was required for almost every scene production soon closed down. Director Rouben Mamoulian finally resigned on January 3, 1961. He was followed by stars Peter Finch and Stephen Boyd, who had to honor prior commitments. * Taylor's illness prevented her from working again in England's weather for at least 6 months. Therefore the production moved to Rome.

The sets and the footage already shot were scrapped. (See also Carry On Cleo (1964)). * Various employees of Rome's Cinecitta studios where this was filmed stole several millions of dollars worth of equipment and props while production took place. * A group of female extras who played Cleopatra's various servants and slave girls went on strike to demand protection from amorous Italian extras and their bottom-pinching fingers.

The studio eventually hired a special guard to protect the extras. * Rex Harrison had a clause in his contract stipulating that whenever a picture of Richard Burton appeared in an ad, so would his. A large sign was put up on Broadway showing only Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. After Harrison's lawyers complained, the studio fulfilled the contract by placing a picture of Harrison on one corner of the billboard.


* The original list of choices for the role of Marc Antony were Stephen Boyd, Richard Johnson, Michael David, Peter O'Toole, Peter Finch and Laurence Harvey. Boyd was cast as Antony while Finch was cast as Caesar. However, both men had to leave the project due to the lengthy delays and their obligations to other projects. Boyd was replaced by Richard Burton and Finch was replaced by Rex Harrison.

* Filming began in 1960. * John DeCuir rebuilt the massive set of Alexandria three times. * Joseph L. Mankiewicz hoped that the film would be released as two separate pictures, "Caesar and Cleopatra" followed by "Antony and Cleopatra." Each was to run approximately three hours. 20th Century-Fox decided against this, and released the film we know today.

It runs just over four hours. It is hoped that the missing two hours will be located and that one day a six-hour 'director's cut' will be available. * Widely regarded as one of the biggest flops of all time, reality is quite different: the film made its money back despite the horrendous costs, but not at all once--it took several years. It was one of the highest grossing films of the 1960s. According to the late director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, many of the best scenes were cut and there are between 90 and 120 minutes of character development and story missing. * At $194,800, the budget for Elizabeth Taylor's costumes in this film was the highest ever for a single screen actor.


Her 65 costumes included a dress made from 24-carat gold cloth. * Susan Hayward was the first choice to play Cleopatra. * Histories by Plutarch, Suetonius, Appian, other ancient sources, and Carlo Mario Franzero's book "The Life and Times of Cleopatra" are credited as the basis of the screenplay. * Among Elizabeth Taylor's demands were the requirement that the film be shot in the large format Todd-AO system.

She owned the rights to the system as the widow of Michael Todd. This meant even more money being paid to Ms. Taylor. * Elizabeth Taylor's contract stipulated that her million-dollar salary be paid out as follows: $125,000 for 16 weeks work plus $50,000 a week afterwards plus 10% of the gross (with no break-even point).

When the film was restarted in Rome in 1961, she had earned well over $2 million. After a lengthy $50 million lawsuit brought against Taylor and Burton by 20th Century Fox in 1963 and a countersuit filed by Taylor, the studio finally settled with the actress in 1966. Her ultimate take for the film was $7 million. * In 1966, ABC-TV paid 20th Century-Fox a record $5 million for two showings of the film, a deal that finally put the picture into the black. * Martin Landau was booked to play Euphranor, but when they could not find anyone to play Ruffo, Landau was recast * Marlon Brando was sought for the role of Marc Antony but was attached to Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).

* Originally Cleopatra was envisioned as a modest $2,000,000 project starring Joan Collins. However, once Elizabeth Taylor was cast, the film was transformed into a giant epic. * This film has been cited as one of the factors that brought an end to the Italian-made "sword and sandal"/"mythological muscleman" epics that had been popular since the late 1950s. Specialized suppliers raised their prices for goods and services supplied to this production.

The higher prices were beyond the budget of Italian producers so production values for their films dropped and audiences declined. * Twentieth Century Fox was in financial trouble in the late-1950s due to disappointing box office returns of some major releases. Orders were given to search the Fox script library for a proven property that could be remade. The project chosen was Cleopatra (1917), a Theda Bara film that had been a smash hit for the studio.

What the studio needed was a producer willing to handle the project. At about the same time, veteran producer Walter Wanger approached Fox with an idea for a project he had been planning for several years: the story of Cleopatra. In the words of David Brown, "We fell on him." * Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz was fired during the editing/post-production phase.

Since there was no actual shooting script (Mankiewicz was writing as he was shooting), Twentieth Century-Fox soon realized that only Mankiewicz knew how the story fit together. He was brought back to complete the project. * Martin Landau learned Italian during the shoot. * Robert Stephens said in a radio interview that most of his part was deleted from the final print. * Michael Hordern said on a chat show he was under contract for 18 months * During the making of the movie, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton started their love-hate relationship which lasted until his death.
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