TORONTO - The made-for-TV movie "Liz & Dick" is ostensibly about the roller-coaster romance of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
But as soon as tabloid staple Lindsay Lohan was attached to star as Taylor, it was clear that her own roller-coaster life would overshadow much of the project, says co-star Grant Bowler, who plays Burton.
He concedes that promotional material for the film is not so much based on its biopic revelations as it is on Lohan's bid to launch a career comeback and overcome a slew of high-profile troubles.
And he's OK with that.
"It seemed to be a given from when I went on to the project so it wasn't something I struggled with, it was very much a part of how the project had come together," the New Zealand actor said by phone in a recent interview from New York.
The obvious parallels between Taylor's scandal-plagued life and Lohan's own troubles are obvious, he adds.
"I think one of the real plusses of the casting was that there's a lot of similarities between her and a young Elizabeth Taylor just in terms of their upbringing and their journey through their early years," said Bowler, best known for stints on "True Blood" and "Ugly Betty."
"Elizabeth Taylor had an enormous amount of press attention around her all her life and that was because, to a degree, her career was marketed on that press attention. It was marketed on her beauty, it was marketed on her lifestyle, it was marketed on her extravagance.
"To a degree, Lindsay has always had a lot of press scrutiny around her and that's because, very much for the last eight years or so, she's very much been marketed around her lifestyle, around her looks and around her appearances in the tabloids."
Lohan's reputation for making headlines continued throughout filming, with the "Mean Girls" star getting involved in a car crash on the way to set in June and collapsing from exhaustion in between takes.
It's among the reasons producer Larry Thompson has said working with Lohan is "not for the faint of heart" and has spoken of "serious challenges" in casting her.
The movie's story itself is laden with nearly 30 years of Hollywood drama, beginning when Taylor and Burton meet on the set of "Cleopatra" and launch a sordid love affair while each is married to other people (Eddie Fisher, played by Andy Hirsch, and Sybil Burton, played by Tanya Franks).
From there, it traces the volatile passions that continually drew them together and forced them apart.
"I think they were literally opposite creatures," Bowler says.
"He was fascinated by her because she was innately of a world that he could never feel comfortable in. He achieved all the success, he had all the money and that fame but I think he also felt uncomfortable there because at heart, he was kind of a dirty-faced Welsh kid who was looked down upon by the English. He never completely freed himself from that.
"She on the other hand didn't care what anybody thought. She lived her life without regard for other people's opinions, she lived it without a thought for the 'morrow. She was comfortable with extravagance and luxury. He would have been like a bee to honey where that was concerned."
Bowler notes that for some celebrities, there is little separation between promoting their career and promoting themselves, but it's up to each performer to decide what's comfortable for them.
"You know the old legend that you have to invite a vampire into your house, they can't just come in unannounced?" he says.
"With the paparazzi or with the tabloids, the more you invite them into your house, the more they live in your house. I know people who are extremely famous and really don't get followed around by the paparazzi very much, don't have their private lives exposed. At the end of the day, every actor/celebrity/personality makes up their own mind for themselves, you know, where they sit in the industry, what makes them marketable and what makes them a commodity."
"Liz & Dick" airs Sunday on Lifetime.