Liz Litigates

updated 09/05/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/05/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

IN HER CAMPY FLINTSTONES CAMEO, Elizabeth Taylor showed she still has a tyrannosauric temper—at least onscreen. Now a TV network and a book publisher are feeling her wrath for real. On Aug. 17, a year after NBC announced plans to turn an unauthorized—and as yet unpublished—biography of Taylor into a four-hour mini-series, Taylor, 62, filed a $10 million lawsuit to block both ventures. She contends that the network and C. David Heymann, author of the book, which is due out next May, are using her name "for their benefit without pay [to Taylor] and even without consent." She also expresses outrage that the book depicts her as a victim of battering by three of her seven husbands.

Advance word on the bio surfaced in the New York Post last June. Cindy Adams reported that the book would claim that Taylor's first husband, hotel heir Nicky Hilton, "beat her up on a European honeymoon"; that husband No. 3, producer Mike Todd, "went at her" repeatedly; and that Richard Burton also beat her.

"The abuse charges," says Taylor's lawyer Neil Papiano, "are totally false." Heymann, also the author of A Woman Called Jackie, has declined to be interviewed. But Steven Schragis, his publisher at Birch Lane Press, does acknowledge that "much of the book does not portray [Taylor] positively."

It's not just pride that is motivating Taylor; Papiano admits there is money at stake. The actress earns millions from her association with Passion and White Diamonds perfumes and other products to which she imparts an image of success and elegance. Besides, says Papiano, she might want to write her own biography someday. "Her name," says Papiano, "is all she really has."

In the past it has been a name to be reckoned with. In 1982, ABC, hoping Taylor would appear on the network, backed off plans to shoot its own Taylor miniseries after the actress filed a similar suit. Will NBC, too, curry favor? At this point that would seem Taylor's only chance of stopping the show. "This is a far-out lawsuit," says Santa Barbara, Calif., entertainment lawyer John Diamond. "The chances of her prevailing are very remote."

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