The surprising link between Queen Elizabeth II and Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra

The Hollywood epic began filming almost three years before its release on a budget of $5 million. But by the time of its 1963 release, Cleopatra’s costs had ballooned to $44 million (a staggering $430 million today) after going through two directors, a couple of casts, and periodic filming in Egypt, Italy, Spain and England. Meanwhile, stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton began their love affair that would result in two failed marriages. However, long before the Mark Anthony star filmed her 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 requested a record-breaking $1 million contract plus 10 percent of the box office gross.

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

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

Filming on Cleopatra was scheduled to resume on April 4, 1961. However, a month earlier, Taylor had been hospitalized again with pneumonia, and a news agency reported that she had died. In fact, she would recover after having a tracheotomy performed on her throat.

However, still unable to resume filming, 20th Century Fox suspended production and the sets were dismantled for a staggering $600,000.

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

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