Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West to play Taylor and Burton

Dominic West in Life is a Dream

One of Hollywood's most turbulent love stories hit the rocks altogether when Elizabeth Taylor collaborated with Richard Burton for an ill-starred stage production of Noel Coward's Private Lives.

Now the behind-the-scenes dramas are to form the centrepiece of BBC drama, with Dominic West as Burton and Helena Bonham Carter as Taylor.

Directed by Richard Laxton, Burton and Taylor will chart the actors' fraught stint in the play, which opened at Boston Shubert theatre in April 1983 before moving on to Broadway. The 90-minute picture will screen on BBC4 in the UK and looks likely to be viewed as a swansong for the channel, which has had its drama budget axed as a consequence of wide-ranging BBC cuts.

Taylor and Burton were both married when they began an affair on the set of the 1963 epic Cleopatra, scandalising the Vatican, which described their behaviour as "erotic vagrancy". They were married between 1964 and 1974 and then again between 1975 and 1976. But their final reunion on the set of Private Lives reportedly offered proof to both actors that their union was irrevocably broken. Burton died the following year at the age of 58. Taylor died from heart failure in March 2011.

"It was probably the most chaotic time of life," Elizabeth Taylor would later say of her years with Burton. "It was fun and it was dark. Oceans of tears, but some good times too."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Xan Brooks, for guardian.co.uk on Tuesday 12th February 2013 18.26 Europe/London

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