British actor Dominic West took up drinking and smoking to excess in a bid to perfect Richard Burton's distinct vocal tones for a new drama.

The Wire star plays the late actor opposite Helena Bonham Carter as Dame Elizabeth Taylor in an upcoming British Tv movie called Burton and Taylor, and he went to extreme lengths to imitate the notoriously hard-living thespian.

He tells Britain's Radio Times, "Burton has the most beautiful mellifluous voice you've ever heard, which put the fear of God into me... When I drank and smoked all night, it worked pretty well but I didn't have the stamina to keep it up."

Carter recently revealed she consulted an astrologer for advice on playing Burton's on/off wife, but West admits he didn't follow her lead, adding, "Helena gave me the number but somehow I never got around to it."

However, West did prepare for the role by taking a trip to visit Burton's hometown in Wales, telling Britain's Guardian, "I went to his birthplace. The thing about Burton is, he's one of the most romantic actors ever, because his story is so romantic. You really get that when you go to where he grew up, in Pontrhydyfen, which is a beautiful place. It's very like Switzerland, where he spent much of his life."