Rachel Weisz to play Elizabeth Taylor in biopic about gay icon’s activism

elizabeth taylor rachel weisz biopic a special relationship hiv aids roger wall
Photos: (left) SMU Central University Libraries/Flickr, (right) Neil Grabowsky/Montclair Film

Actress Rachel Weisz has been cast as Elizabeth Taylor in a new biopic chronicling Taylor’s pioneering HIV/AIDS activism.

The film, titled A Special Relationship, will focus on Taylor’s pivot from movie star to activist in the 1980s, in particular her relationship with assistant Roger Wall.

Wall was a gay man raised in the Deep South, surrounded by homophobia. The pair shared a deep friendship as Taylor took a courageous and passionate lead in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

In 1985, Taylor helped found amfAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the same year her friend Rock Hudson died of AIDS-related complications.

She lobbied successive US Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H W Bush to take notice of the AIDS crisis as it ravaged the queer community.

“I don’t think President Bush is doing anything at all about AIDS,” Taylor famously said in 1991.

“In fact, I’m not even sure if he knows how to spell AIDS.”

That year, Roger Wall died by suicide after his HIV diagnosis. Taylor described her friend’s death as “one of the biggest losses of my life”.

Taylor founded the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1991 to provide care for people living with HIV and education on HIV prevention.

Before her death in 2011, Taylor raised millions of dollars for the cause.

Biopic is ‘never-before-seen portrait’ of Elizabeth Taylor

The screenplay for A Special Relationship is written by Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire scribe Simon Beaufoy.

Beaufoy said he’s based his screenplay on hours of conversations with Taylor’s close friends.

The film’s producers describe the project as a “never-before-seen portrait of the real woman behind the violet eyes”.

“Audiences are clearly fascinated by the private lives of iconic Hollywood stars. There is no one more iconic than Elizabeth Taylor,” producers Iain Canning and Emile Sherman said in a statement.

“A Special Relationship is a celebration of how friendships can change people’s lives, and how Elizabeth helped change the world.

“Simon Beaufoy has written a role that shines a light on Elizabeth’s humour and humanity, which will be beautifully brought to life through the extraordinary talents of Rachel Weisz.”

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