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The Woman Who Got Between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

Movie Talk
September 18, 2013
Caught between two men: James Hunt, Suzy Miller, and Richard Burton in 1976
Caught between two men: James Hunt, Suzy Miller, and Richard Burton in 1976

Ron Howard's latest film, "Rush" compellingly recreates the rivalry between Formula One speedsters James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl). But one of the best things about the zippy new race-car movie is the story within the story about what may have been Hollywood's most notorious couple — and the woman who came between them.

In the film, Olivia Wilde plays glamour girl Suzy Miller, a popular '70s model from Britain who became better known for her marriages: first to Hunt in 1974, and then to Richard Burton in 1976.

Yes, Miller was the woman who ended Burton's tumultuous relationship with Elizabeth Taylor once and for all. And it cost him dearly.

Olivia Wilde Tells Yahoo Movies About the Woman Behind Her 'Rush' Role:

It all started out pretty innocently — on the ski slopes of Gstaad, Switzerland, in December 1975, where both well-known, jet-setting couples vacationed. There, Burton first laid eyes on the tall blonde and, according to a recent biography, became completely smitten. "I turned round and there was this gorgeous creature, about 9 feet tall. She could stop a stampede," the late Burton once said of the then-26-year-old Miller (about 18 years younger than Taylor and 22 years younger than Burton). Burton and Miller later struck up a friendship at a party after Hunt had left the slopes for a car race.

By that time, Hunt, a known womanizer (which is also covered — quite comically — in "Rush") was wearing out his welcome with the sunny, fun-loving British model. "She was a free spirit [back then]… James was a fast mover," says Philip Waddilove, a former television journalist who knew Hunt, Miller, and also met Burton during that time. Waddilove can attest, both Hunt and Miller liked to party at the clubs: "I actually collected James from Málaga [Spain] airport two days after he became Formula One World Champion, and he, his wife Suzy and me and my [wife] spent that entire night out at the Marbella Club!"

Burton and Hunt's relationship intensified. Just over a year after meeting, in January 1976, Taylor was out and Miller was in. (And before you paint the late Taylor as victim, she, too, is reported to have been eying a romantic partner outside of her marriage to Burton).

Burton asked Taylor for a divorce; just a month after Burton and Taylor's second (and final) marriage was dissolved, he and swapped vows with Miller.

What's more shocking is Burton paid a hefty $1 million to expedite Hunt and Miller's divorce. The amount covered Hunt's divorce settlement with Miller. As Wilde says of her on-screen alter ego: "She was traded."

As recounted in the Hunt biography "Shunt": "Hunt simply said: 'Relax, Richard. You've done me a wonderful turn by taking on the most alarming expense account in the country.' Suzy, effectively, had been sold to Burton by Hunt for $1 million and both were satisfied with the transaction."

Miller and Burton's marriage lasted for six years, about two years before his death.

Wilde reports that Miller is alive and well and living on the Spanish party island of Ibiza. Her current marital status is unkown, but from the sound of it, Miller is still having fun on the dance floor.

"Rush," which touches on the sordid real-life relationship, zooms into theaters on September 27.

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