A tale of two Cleopatras: we chart the uncannily similar lives of Elizabeth Taylor and Angelina Jolie


Two of cinema's biggest stars crossed paths this week with news that Angelina Jolie is to appear in a re-make of Cleopatra, the film epitomised by the one and only Elizabeth Taylor.

With her poised and sultry screen presence, Ange is a great choice for the part and has more in common with her Egyptian queen forebearer than you might think.

Glamorous, confident and full of verve, Elizabeth and Angelina found fame early. By the time they hit their twenties, both had won Oscars and were commanding megabucks on the back of their box office appeal. Neither are afraid of a challenge, and their formidable acting talents are showcased in films as diverse as Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (Liz) and A Mighty Heart (Ange).

Off-screen, they've wowed with their individual, fearless sense of style and astute approach to life that has seen them take the lead in humanitarian projects.

They've also fallen hard for the men (and women) in their lives, with both meeting their great, world-changing loves (Brad Pitt, Richard Burton) on-set, via sensational affairs that sent the tabloids spinning.

And let's not forget that the central role of motherhood Liz and Ange have played to large broods of children, with both women acknowledged as warm and dedicated mums amid all the Hollywood hoo-ha.

Come take a look at how the lives of two of Hollywood's most enduring icons compare, from movies to men and beyond:

Photos: Rex Features

  • Starting out

    Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born in London in 1932.

    Even from an early age, her striking looks and charisma were evident and a family friend suggested she took a screen test aged 10, soon after she and her parents re-located to Los Angeles.

  • Starting out

    Angelina Jolie's path to fame was rather more direct.

    Born in Los Angeles in 1975 to actor father Jon Voight, she often attended movie premieres and events with him growing up.

  • Camera ready

    Elizabeth's screen test was successful and her first film role was in 1942's There's One Born Every Minute.

    By the time she hit her teens, her sense of movie star poise was well-established.

  • Camera ready

    A teen Angelina certainly knew how to command the camera too, but - given this was the early 1990s rather than the 1940s - her appeal had a more provocative edge.

  • Hitting the screen

    Elizabeth's breakthrough role was playing Velvet Brown in 1944's smash hit National Velvet.

    Her performance made her an overnight star, with the film pulling in millions of dollars at the box office. MGM, the company behind it, immediately signed her to a long-term contact.

  • Hitting the screen

    Angelina Jolie's route to movie stardom was more roundabout. She studied theatre studies and appeared in several of her brother James Haven's student films, as well as music videos.

    Her first Hollywood film was the 1995 cult thriller Hackers, where she met and fell in love with her future husband Jonny Lee Miller.

  • Career on the up

    By the time Elizabeth hit her twenties in the 1950s, her career was flourishing and she was considered to be one of cinema's greatest beauties.

    Easily navigating the transition from teen to adult star, she appeared in four films in 1954 and a year later she starred opposite James Dean in Western drama Giant (Dean famously died in a car accident before the film was released).

  • Career on the up

    Having appeared in a series of cult, indie movies, Angelina was also started to turn heads as a serious actress in her early twenties.

    In 1999, she won a Golden Globe for her gritty portrayal of model Gia Marie Carangi in television film biopic Gia.

  • Style savvy

    Both actresses made their mark off-screen too, with a natural elegance and sultry sense of style.

  • Style savvy

    Confidence and grace - even at an early age - was something Angelina had in common with Liz.

    Little wonder they both went onto be huge stars.

  • Awards galore

    By 1958, aged 26, Elizabeth had clocked up a second Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Maggie Pollitt in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

    Her performance won rapturous reviews but she lost out on the Academy Award (it went to Susan Hayward in I Want to Live!).

  • Awards galore

    Angelina, meanwhile, bagged an Academy Award for best supporting actress in 2000, for her performance in psychiatric drama Girl, Interrupted opposite Winona Ryder.

  • Speech time

    Oscar success did not elude Elizabeth for long; in 1961 she picked up the coveted best actress award for BUtterfield 8.

    "I remember I was so scared," she later recalled. "I never thought I’d win. I thought the script was bad. When they called my name, I got up and could hardly walk."

  • Speech time

    Angelina was equally overwhelmed by her Oscar win in 2000.

    "God, I’m surprised nobody’s ever fainted up here," she told the bemused crowd, as she accepted her gong dressed in a long-sleeved Versace gown (Ange was in her goth stage by now).

  • Fashion forward

    With awards also came fashion plaudits, as both women showcased their individual, fearless sense of style.

    We love this chic, fresh look on Liz;very avante garde for the 1950s.

  • Fashion forward

    Angelina was equally keen to play around and break the rules when it came to fashion, as evidenced by this white Dolce and Gabbana tux she wore to the 2001 Oscars.

  • Men, men, men

    With fame came the inevitable press scrutiny of each star's personal life.

    By 1959, Elizabeth had tied the knot with her fourth husband, Eddie Fisher - the best friend of her previous spouse Michael Todd, who had died in a plane crash the year before.

    Elizabeth had three children at this point; sons Michael and Christopher with her second husband (the film actor Michael Wilding) and Liza, the daughter she had with Michael Todd.

  • Men, men, men

    Angelina also generated column inches with her colourful love life.

    By 1999 she had divorced her first husband Jonny Lee Miller, having also had an affair with model-actress Jenny Shimizu on the set of Foxfire in 1996 ("I fell in love with her the first second I saw her," she later said).

    In 2000 she married actor Billy Bob Thornton and the pair hit headlines for their rock 'n' roll relationship, famously exchanging vials of each other's blood to wear around their necks.

  • A little lust

    Both actresses appeared to embrace their role in the limelight and never shied away from a PDA or two (here's Elizabeth after her Las Vegas wedding to Eddie Fisher in 1959).

  • A little lust

    Ange was happy to flaunt her relationship with Billy Bob, snogs 'n' all.

  • On-set affair

    By 1963, Elizabeth had met and fallen madly in love with her soon-to-be fifth husband, Richard Burton, on-set Egyptian epic Cleopatra.

    Both stars were married at the time of their affair, which caused an international sensation (the Vatican slammed it as "erotic vagrancy").

  • On-set affair

    Angelina also met one of the great loves of her life on-set - Brad Pitt - during the filming of rom com Mr and Mrs Smith in 2004.

    The pair denied having an affair at the time (Brad was married to Jennifer Aniston), but Angelina appeared to confirm it years later when she referred to her children watching the film, saying: "Not a lot of people get to see a movie where their parents fell in love."

  • Screen worth

    By now, both women were commanding megabucks for their cinematic appeal at the box office.

    In 1962, Elizabeth was awarded a record-setting contract of $1 million for Cleopatra; a film that also saw her make the Guinness World Record for the most amount of costume changes in a movie (65, to be precise).

  • Screen worth

    The Tomb Raider franchise (2001 - 2003) saw Angelina pull in a total of $19 million - and her figure-hugging costume went down in movie history, sparking knock-offs, appreciation clubs and hundreds of column inches.

  • Stepping it up

    After a series of lacklustre films in the early 1960s, Elizabeth came up trumps once more with her depiction of the outspoken, unkempt Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), opposite her then-husband Richard Burton.

    The role landed the actress the second best actress Oscar of her career and is widely regarded as her finest film performance ever.

  • Stepping it up

    In 2007, Angelina took on the role of Mariane Pearl, the pregnant widow of Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl, in A Mighty Heart.

    Her performance, based on Mariane Pearl's account of her husband's abduction and murder, was well-received by critics and marked a significant departure from the lighter blockbusters she'd previously appeared in.

    She went onto garner an Oscar nomination for her appearence in Clint Eastwood-directed thriller Changeling in 2008 and a lead role in 2010 action thriller Salt.

  • Humanitarian work

    Outside of films, Elizabeth was a dedicated humanitarian known for her AIDS advocacy - long before celebrities routinely signed up to charity work and at a time when AIDS was still widely feared and misunderstood.

    After witnessing some of her closest friends die of the disease, Taylor, along with a group of physicians, helped establish the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and started petitioning Capitol Hill for funding to help AIDS victims in America and beyond.

  • Humanitarian work

    Angelina has also become heavily involved in humanitarian work in her role as a special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

    In 2005, she received the Global Humanitarian Action Award from the United Nations Association of the USA for her activism on behalf of refugee rights.

    She regularly travels the world to advocate refugee rights to world leaders, deliver keynote addresses and meet those affected by displacement.

  • Family time

    In 1975, Elizabeth divorced Richard Burton for a second time after their tumultuous relationship again broke down ("You can't keep clapping a couple of sticks of dynamite together without expecting them to blow up," she later commented).

    The couple remained devoted parents to their adopted daughter Marie (pictured left) and Liza (right), Liz's daughter from her marriage to Michael Todd.

  • Family time

    In fact, Elizabeth was devoted to all four of her children - Michael Wilding Jr., Christopher Edward Wilding, Liza Todd Burton and Maria Burton - and they to her, throughout the course of her glamorous career.

    "She really did care about them. Unlike so many Hollywood families, they were very happy. They were very fond of their mother and were close to her till the end," says William J. Mann, author of How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood.

  • Family time

    Like Liz, Angelina is a dedicated mother of a large family.

    She and Brad are kept on their toes with their mighty brood of six kids (some of whom are adopted from various countries around the world) - twins Knox and Vivienne, Maddox, Pax, Zahara, and Shiloh.

  • Greatest love

    After the light finally went out on the Richard years, Liz went onto to marry Republican senator John Warner (1976-1982) and construction worker Larry Fortensky (1991-1996; pictured).

    But Richard Burton was widely acknowledged to have been the greatest, most passionate love of her life.

  • Greatest love

    Brangelina have kept going strong since they first met in 2005.

    "You get together and you're two individuals and you feel inspired by each other, you challenge each other, you complement each other, drive each other beautifully crazy," Ange said in a recent interview.

    "After all these years, we have history – and when you have history with somebody, you're friends in such a very real, deep way that there's such a comfort, and an ease, and a deep love that comes from having been through quite a lot together."

  • And to end

    Dame Elizabeth remained a fabulous, extravagant and larger-than-life figure right up until her death three years ago aged 79 in Los Angeles.

    One of the 20th Century's biggest movie stars, as well as a dedicated mother, passionate lover and philanthropist, she lived an extraordinary life.

  • And to end

    Angelina's career has reached new levels in recent years, as she branched out into directing with 2011 Bosnian war flick In the Land of Blood and Honey and war biopic Unbroken, due out later this year.

    Despite a major acting role in Maleficent, and now Cleopatra, she recently indicated that she would retire from the big screen in order to spend more time on acting and her work with the UN.

    However, she's bound to continue commanding the limelight wherever she goes with her elegant, incisive presence.

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