Queen Elizabeth II’s surprising link to Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra | Films | Entertainment

The Hollywood epic began filming almost three years before it was released with a budget of $5 million. But by the time of its release in 1963, Cleopatra’s costs had ballooned to $44 million (an earth-shattering $430 million today) after going through two directors, a couple of casts and periodic filming in Egypt, Italy, Spain and England. All the while stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton began their love affair which would result in two failed marriages. Yet long before the Mark Anthony star filmed his first scene with the leading lady, she fell seriously ill on set.

Cleopatra initially began filming at Pinewood Studios in England on September 28, 1960 after Taylor had requested a record-breaking contract of $1 million plus 10 per cent of box office gross.

At this point in the production, Burton’s Anthony and Rex Harrison’s Julius Caesar were played by Stephen Boyd and Peter Finch. They only left the film due to other commitments when delays forced them to.

At one point Taylor was filming Cleopatra in 40 degree heat and fell sick with a sore throat, being unable to work for two weeks.

Filming on Cleopatra was set to resume on April 4, 1961. However, a month prior Taylor had been hospitalised again for pneumonia, with one news agency reporting that she had died. In fact, she would recover after having a tracheotomy performed on her throat. 

Yet still not being in a fit state to resume filming, 20th Century Fox suspended production with sets being dismantled at an eye-watering $600,000.

When the movie was finally released in 1963, Taylor ended up making $7 million, which would be over $68 million today. And the film itself, the most expensive ever made at the time that almost bankrupted the studio, didn’t break even until a decade later.

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