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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 May, 2004, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Should a Welshman play Burton?
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor starred in Cleopatra together
Sir Anthony Hopkins would be the ideal choice to play Richard Burton in a new film about his life, according to the late actor's brother.

Reports from the Cannes Film Festival suggest Hollywood is about to make a celluloid version of the screen legend's relationship with Elizabeth Taylor.

Irish-born actor Gabriel Byrne is being tipped to play Burton in the film.

But there have been calls for a Welsh actor to play the role rather than Byrne, who is best known for his part in the crime thriller The Usual Suspects.

According to reports the planned film will focus on Burton's tempestuous romance with Taylor - whom he twice married and divorced.

Burton's brother Graham Jenkins said he knew nothing of the new film but said Hopkins would be his preferred choice for the role.

Both were brought up in Port Talbot, south Wales, both were renowned hell raisers although Hopkins is now teetotal and both made the transition from stage to Hollywood icons.

Gabriel Byrne
Dublin-born actor Gabriel Byrne is tipped to play Burton

Names such as Ioan Gruffudd, Matthew Rhys and Michael Sheen - who also comes from Port Talbot - have been put forward.

But Mr Jenkins said for him there was only one choice.

"Ideally it would be Anthony Hopkins - you can do wonders with make-up these days. He would be my choice."

Berwyn Rowlands, chief executive of Sgrin Cymru - the media agency for Wales, said his own personal feeling was that Matthew Rhys would be ideal.

But he pointed out casting would depend on which era in Burton's life the film focused on and said the role should not just be limited to a Welshman.

"I would like to see the best person in the role and that does not necessarily mean a Welshman," he said.

Michael Sheen
Port Talbot-born Michael Sheen is one name suggested

"Anthony Hopkins would be more than capable of bringing Burton to life - I don't think there is any question of that.

"If it was a film that looked at the whole of his life perhaps they would look at more than one actor."

Burton biographer Paul Ferris agreed that being Welsh should not be prerequisite of the role.

He said early on in Burton's life his mentor and schoolmaster Phillip Burton, whose surname he took, worked hard on refining his accent.

"Even someone who knows as little about acting as me would recognise immediately that the one thing they would have to bring to it would be his presence - but it was not a particularly Celtic presence," he argued.

Talk of turning the Burton/Taylor story into a movie has been circulating Hollywood for several years.

The pair worked together on the epic Cleopatra and their on-screen relationship soon flourished off the set.

Former EastEnder Martine McCutcheon has been mooted to play Taylor although there are rumours Swansea's Catherine Zeta-Jones has also been approached.

Burton and Taylor, arguably Hollywood's most famous couple at the time, went on to star opposite each other in Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and again in The Taming of The Shrew.

They married, divorced, married again and then separated for good before he died in 1984 in Geneva.

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