Rachel Weisz to Play Elizabeth Taylor in Biopic From 'King's Speech' Producers

'A Special Relationship,' to be directed by Bert & Bertie from a script by 'Slumdog Millionaire' writer Simon Beaufoy, will examine Taylor's AIDS activism in the 1980s.

In a project that comes loaded with Oscar-winning pedigree, Rachel Weisz is set to play Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor in a new biopic from the producers of The King's Speech and the writer of Slumdog Millionaire

A Special Relationship, which lands as the awards buzz around Renee Zellweger's portrayal of Judy Garland in Judy continues to grow, is set to explore Taylor's journey from actress to activist through the lens of her friendship with her assistant Roger Wall and is being produced by See-Saw Films (The King's Speech, Lion) from a script by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours). The project will be directed by fast-rising female filmmaking duo Bert & Bertie (Troop Zero).  

Shifting the focus away from the glamorous and scandalous life most associated with Taylor, A Special Relationship will examine the late star's role in the fight against AIDS and how much it personally meant to her. 

In the mid-1980s, Taylor hired a new personal assistant, Wall, a gay man who grew up in poverty in the homophobic Deep South. Despite their different backgrounds, they developed a deep friendship that would alter the course of both of their lives.

Beaufoy’s script, drawn from hours of interviews and exclusive conversations with the people who knew Taylor, forms what the filmmakers have described as a "never-before-seen portrait of the real woman behind the violet eyes." As governments ignored the epidemic, the acting legend gambled her reputation and career to speak out in the face of silence emanating from President Ronald Reagan's administration. Taylor went "toe to toe with the leader of the free world," and in doing so helped create a public call to arms against ignorance, bigotry and homophobia, according to a description of the film.

A Special Relationship is being produced by See-Saw Films’ Iain Canning and Emile Sherman. Simon Gillis, See-Saw’s COO of film, and former StudioCanal U.K. head Danny Perkins are executive producing, along with Barbara Berkowitz, Tim Mendelson and Quinn Tivey, trustees of the Elizabeth Taylor Estate/House of Taylor Trust.

“Audiences are clearly fascinated by the private lives of iconic Hollywood stars," Canning and Sherman said Monday in a statement. "There is no one more iconic than Elizabeth Taylor, and Simon Beaufoy has written a role that shines a light on Elizabeth’s humor and humanity which will be beautifully brought to life through the extraordinary talents of Rachel Weisz. At its heart, A Special Relationship is a story of friendship and what better way of guaranteeing that translates to the screen than trusting the directing talents of real-life best friends and creative collaborators Bert & Bertie. Troop Zero dazzled audiences at Sundance and, like that film, A Special Relationship is a celebration of how friendships can change people’s lives, and how Elizabeth helped change the world."

See-Saw’s in-house sales arm Cross City Films will launch sales on A Special Relationship next month at the American Film Market.