Wednesday, February 22, 2017


   If it seems that film stars have an easy life, swanning between movie sets and red carpets, Brie Larson, who was juggling work on Kong: Skull Island in Vietnam with doing the rounds of awards shows in Los Angeles, has something to say about it. 
"The craziest time in my life was around this time last year," she tells me when we talk at the J.W. Marriott at L.A. Live.  "During the week I was in Vietnam on the set of Kong, getting dirt shoved under my fingernails and two hours of goop put in my hair to make me look like I had been trapped on an island for two days and then running around all day getting fake cuts and bruises and I would be so sore from climbing up mountains all day that I felt like I couldn’t move the next morning.
Last year

 "Then on Friday night when the sun went down, I would go back to my apartment, grab my roller suitcase, get on a plane and fly overnight and show up at some random hotel room in Los Angeles where another team of people would try really hard to scrub off all  the dirt from under my fingernails and get the bits of fake blood off my body and wash my hair like seventeen times to get all the goop out of it. 

  "And then I would arrive at wherever I had to be, be a princess for a couple of hours and then get back on a plane and start the process all over again. It was a really hard, crazy time."
All the inter-continental commuting paid off because 27-year-old Brie won not only the Golden Globe and Oscar but a stack of other awards for her stunning performance in Room.   


Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Sea bass and champagne: Dinner with Joanne in London
  Met up again with Joanne Froggatt in London where she is currently filming the new TV series Liar in a role that could not be further removed from her portrayal of Anna Bates in Downton Abbey.
 We had dinner at Mosimann's in Belgravia after spending the day at Tollesbury Marina in Essex where Joanne was filming some scenes for the twisty thriller, which was written by the two brothers who wrote Missing, and looks like being another winner.
    The last time Joanne and I talked was 18 months ago after Downton Abbey finished and she told me she was moving to Los Angeles.
   Over a dinner of sea bass, champagne and chardonnay the other night she tells me she now has a home in Los Angeles as well as in London and she divides her time between the two, depending on where she is filming.
  "It's the best of both worlds," she says. "I've been renting a house in the hills in Los Angeles but now I'm looking to buy somewhere when I get back."
Joanne looking shocked and dishevelled in Liar
   Yorkshire-born Joanne, 36, who won the hearts of Downton Abbey fans around the world as Anna, has three movies awaiting release and Liar is sure to win her hordes of new fans.
  In it she plays Laura, who ventures back on to the dating scene after a failed relationship and meets up with Andrew, a renowned surgeon, played by Ioan Gryffyd. Their date has far-reaching consequences on each other and their families. Truth and consequences go hand in hand in a thriller that examines both sides of a relationship and both sides of the truth.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


   He is an acclaimed Shakespearean actor who was knighted by the Queen for his services to the theatre. But there is nothing stuffy or elitist about Sir Patrick Stewart.
    The actor known for his stage and screen work is to provide the voice of Poop, a pile of excrement, in the animated The Emoji Movie.    
   “People have an impression of who Patrick Stewart is based on the characters that I play, most particularly Jean-Luc Picard and Charles Xavier, and I know him to be very different," the 76-year-old actor told me. 
  The plot follows an emoji born with multiple expressions who goes on an adventure in a teenager’s phone although the omens for it are not good: a teaser trailer was recently released to largely negative feedback online
    A lifelong supporter of Huddersfield Town football club, Sir Patrick will also return as Charles Xavier in the X-Men spin-off Logan, which is due out soon.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Golden showers? The Moscow Ritz-Carlton bed
   They may or may not be true but there is no doubt the allegations of Donald Trump's shenanigans in Moscow have caused an uproar and raised serious questions of whether or not they should have been made public without more verification. 
    BuzzFeed first sent the internet into a frenzy when it published the collection of memos accusing Trump of improper contact with Russian officials — and alleging the former reality TV star arranged “golden showers” with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room.
   CNN cited documents that included allegations that Russian operatives have compromising personal information on the president-elect, but declined to publish the raw files. But BuzzFeed had no such compunction,.
  According to BuzzFeed the documents, prepared by a British former espionage agent, claim that Trump stayed at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Moscow where he “defiled the bed" where the Obamas had slept during their visit by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers' show in front of him.”

   Critics and journalistic bodies have mainly spoken out against the publication of the memos although some believe it is in the public interest that the allegations should be made known.   

 BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith used Twitter to post an internal email that explained his logic for posting the documents, which had been known to several journalists and politicians for some time. Smith wrote that BuzzFeed’s “presumption is to be transparent in our journalism and to share what we have with our readers,” saying the site has “always erred on the side of publishing.”
 Smith said the file “was in wide circulation at the highest levels of American government and media.” 
  Trump, of course, has denied all the allegations and condemned them as "fake news."
  One thing is certain---golden showers are now a hot topic of conversation. And we haven't heard the last of the matter. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


   For once the Golden Globes was not just a booze-fuelled evening of fun and festivities in which Hollywood celebrated itself. 
  Instead, what has become known as Hollywood's biggest party of the year was interspersed with some seriously pointed political barbs and some outspoken fears for the future aimed at President Elect Donald Trump.
  Meryl Streep in particular aimed a political broadside at Trump which drew a standing ovation from the audience. 
 And now the backlash has begun. 
  Streep's impassioned speech has become a lightning rod for conservatives who claim it is yet another example of how far Hollywood is out of touch with the average American experience.  Fox News host Sean Hannity tweeted: "What a bunch of hypocrites. Sex, violence and drivel rule Hollywood."
  But the Globes,which are often seen as a bellwether for the Oscars, could be a precursor to an even more political Academy Awards on February 26, given that many of the audience at the the Globes, and some of the nominees and winners, are likely to be at the Oscars, too.  
  Although Meryl Streep's passionate speech made instant headlines around the world and elicited a tweeted response from the President-Elect, the tone was set earlier in the evening by the host Jimmy Fallon, who described the Globes as one of the few places left where America still honors the popular vote. He also managed to combine some nominated films with politics, saying Manchester-By-The Sea was the only thing more depressing than 2016 and Florence Foster Jenkins was about the world's worst opera singer but even she turned down an invitation to sing at the inauguration.   The fact the Globes are put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association did not escape the notice of several  presenters, nominees and winners. Hugh Laurie, accepting an award for his supporting role in the Night Manager, joked it could be the last ever Golden Globes. "I don't mean to be gloomy," he said, "it's just that it has the words Hollywood and Foreign and Press in the title and to some Republicans even the word association is slightly sketchy."
 As Meryl Streep put it, ​Hollywood is "crawling with outsiders and if you kick us all out you'll have nothing to watch except football and mixed martial arts, which are not arts."
​  For once there was no need for any pleas for diversity as many of the presenters and nominees were black or Hispanic, due partly to the fact the Globe recognises excellence in television as well as movies.
  But Claire Foy, the British actress who won for portraying Queen Elizabeth 11 in The Crown, spoke up for the need for more women in powerful positions, saying Queen Elizabeth has been at the center of the world for the past 63 years "and I think the world could do with a few more women at the center of it if you ask me."
 Inevitably, much of the talk at the six after-parties scattered across the Beverly Hilton was of the evening's political slant and particularly Meryl Streep's speech, and one of the questions heard frequently was: "What will happen at the Oscars when Trump is president?"   

Thursday, December 29, 2016


Six years ago I spent the day with Debbie Reynolds at her home in Coldwater Canyon to interview her for her forthcoming concert tour of England. This is the article that appeared in the Daily Telegraph. 

Every day, in her ranch-style home in a canyon not far from Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, Debbie Reynolds swims in her indoor pool, lifts weights and hangs upside down for 15 minutes.

     It is all part of the 77-year-old
actress’s vigourous preparations for a forthcoming 15-city concert tour of England which will culminate in ten dates in London, her first performances there for 35 years.

    While most of her contemporaries from Hollywood’s Golden Age are either chronically infirm or dead, Debbie Reynolds still works 42 weeks a year, singing, dancing, doing impressions and telling anecdotes from her seemingly inexhaustible fund of memories of her legendary career.

    “I’m fit, I have good genes and my family have lived long lives and so far my health is excellent,” she says. “I’m feeling really well and I’m still being booked everywhere so I’m very blessed to keep working. Yesterday I had six hours of tests just to be sure I’m ready for a tough tour like this. We’ll be travelling by bus. We start in Norwich and we’ll do a show, get on the bus, go to the next theatre, do another show and so on. It’ll be like the old days…bus and truck.”

   A trim, petite Debbie Reynolds, looking 15 years younger than her age, had greeted me at the gate of the six-acre compound where she and her daughter the writer-actress Carrie Fisher live in separate homes but share a common driveway and custody of a fluffy white dog named Dwight. As she led the way into the house, chatting as she went, it was easy to detect traces of the charm, energy and girl-next-door looks that made the actress-singer-dancer so popular on screen during the youthful innocence of the post-World War 11 era.


    Dwight curled up next to her on the couch in her memorabilia-filled living room as she poured tea and reminisced about her 60-plus years in showbusiness. Listening to her is like being taken on a tour through Hollywood’s heyday: Parties with Frank Sinatra; dance routines with Fred Astaire (they made two pictures together), Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor (Singing In the Rain) and Bob Fosse; a Western with John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart; good times, bad times; successes and scandals.  

with Carrie, named after Cary Grant
   Framed photographs line the walls and take up every available surface: Sinatra (he signed it to Sweetie), Cary Grant (she named her daughter Carrie after him), Astaire, Katherine Hepburn, Judy Garland, family photos and, on what she calls her “MGM Wall,” are signed photographs of all the actresses who were under contract at MGM the same time she was.

   Every picture evokes a memory.  “Bette Davis was a close friend. She loved to have a good time. People thought she was a big drinker but I only knew her as a social drinker….Lana Turner and Ava Gardner were my special friends at MGM….. Esther Williams lives just a few blocks down the road and she’s having a hard time right now. I go over and see her…. Jane Powell lives in New York and is doing really well but I don’t see her nowadays and Leslie Caron and I were very close when we were young but she lives in France and I don’t see her now.

  “I made A Catered Affair with Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine when I was 21 and some of us gave him a surprise birthday party last week at a friend’s house, which was difficult because he wants to know everything that’s going on. He’s 93 now.”


    As she talked she occasionally sang snatches of songs from a 1940s medley she will be including in her U.K. concerts, along with dead-on impressions of Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis and Jimmy Stewart. “I grew up with these people and I started doing impersonations because their voices fascinated me.”

    She likes to say that her long career began by accident, because she wanted a free blouse. Born Mary Frances Reynolds in Texas, she moved with her family to Los Angeles when she was seven-years-old. “We were very poor and I entered a talent contest as a young teenager because if you entered, even if you didn’t win, they gave you a free blouse,” she recalled. “I entered and there were talent scouts there and they changed my name to Debbie and I was given a film contract. So in 1949 I started a new life, and that was when I entered the fast lane.”


   It was the era of handsome leading men and squeaky-clean, virginal women and the perky Debbie Reynolds fitted right in. She was cast mainly as a young adult in the throes of puppy love in light, cheery comedies and musicals such as 1957’s Tammy and the Bachelor----whose theme song Tammy gave her a hit single which spent five weeks at No. 1--- and Singing in The Rain. That image came in particularly useful in snaring the public’s sympathy when, in the biggest Hollywood scandal of the 1950s, her then-husband, the crooner Eddie Fisher left her and their two children, Carrie and Todd Fisher, for Elizabeth Taylor.    


   “That was a difficult time,” she recalled with a smile. “But Elizabeth and I talked about that a long time ago and got over it when we did a picture together called These Old Broads which my daughter wrote. We talked about a lot of things at that time and we still talk sometimes although we don’t see each other much. She isn’t feeling in good health these days but she’s trying to take care of herself which is most important at our age---do what we can and be as happy as our health allows and that’s what she does. She has a small group of friends and a lot of fans.”

     As the studio system disintegrated and new sexual mores surfaced, Debbie Reynolds reinvented herself, switching her focus to television and then to nightclub and theatre stages. “I was doing musicals and there was a demand for Lena Horne and Judy Garland so I put an act together too and it went over quite well,” she said, adding, “and it has for all these years.”

     She was one of the few females, along with Shirley MacLaine and Phyllis Maguire, whom Frank Sinatra allowed to join his Rat Pack parties when she played Las Vegas. “I loved to party with the Rat Pack, they were so much fun,” she said. “All they did was have a good time. We’d get off work at 2 in the morning and hang out at a club and listen to other performers. Sammy Davis, Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima, Keeley Smith---we were always in the lounge, singing. I loved Frank Sinatra. He was a great guy. He was a party fellow and a very good friend. If he liked you it was forever and if he disliked you, I wouldn’t want to be there.

  “When we worked together on The Tender Trap I was engaged to marry Eddie Fisher and Frank took me to lunch and said: ‘Sweetie, don’t get married. Don’t marry a singer. We’re nice guys but we’re not good husbands.’ I gave it a lot of thought but Eddie was a darling boy and at the time I loved him very much. I was very young and of course Frank was right. I shouldn’t have married him because he left me for Elizabeth.”

   He wasn’t the only man to let her down badly. Her second marriage, to businessman Harry Karl, lasted from 1960 to 1973 but his gambling and bad investments landed her in deep financial trouble while her third marriage, to property developer Richard Hamlet, was even more of a disaster. She was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1997 because a small hotel and casino they had bought in Las Vegas failed resoundingly. 

   “He turned out to be a crook and a swindler,” she said without apparent bitterness. “I suppose it happens to many women but unfortunately it had already happened to me before. Harry Karl cost me about $50 million which was the biggest hurt of my life until my third husband tried to top that. I’ve been very unlucky in the love department so I’ve eliminated that from my vocabulary. I have so much to do and so much I want to accomplish but it seems that whenever I marry, my husband seems to take it away from me.”

    Despite years of partygoing and nightclub life Debbie Reynolds remains a moderate drinker and insists she is nothing like the heavy drinking character played by Shirley MacLaine in Postcards from the Edge, which was written by her daughter Carrie (who was portrayed by Meryl Streep) and which many thought was based on Reynolds’ and Carrie’s relationship.  “I love to get up and entertain at parties and I love to sing and get on the piano and Shirley put a lot of my traits in the part, but I don’t have the disease of alcoholism, thank God,” she says. “I don’t drink hard liquor, just wine. To me it’s a social thing. I could never drink vodka the way she did in the movie. I don’t even like vodka.”

      Debbie Reynolds recently returned from a six-week stint in New York while Carrie was on Broadway with her one-woman show, Wishful Drinking, which takes satirical jabs at Hollywood. Carrie, who became famous around the world as Princess Leia in Star Wars, has had serious problems for most of her adult life. “Carrie’s a manic depressive and she was an addict but she’s under medication and she’s bi-polar and she has a lot of mental health issues, but she takes good care of them and we have good doctors and psychiatrists,” she said. “She’s always in treatment and will be until the day she dies. It’s a continuing problem.”

  Her son Todd, who lives on a ranch near Santa Barbara, is helping her achieve her 40-year dream of creating a permanent Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Motion Picture Museum to house her massive collection of Hollywood props, sets and costumes, most of which she acquired when she bought the MGM collection in 1970, but which she continues to add to. “I just bought Audrey Hepburn’s dress from the Ascot scene in My Fair Lady,” she said.

   She had the collection briefly on display at the Las Vegas hotel and casino she owned and despite losing a small fortune and having to declare bankruptcy she managed to hold on to the memorabilia. Negotiations are now underway for it to go on permanent display at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, near Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park.

   Debbie Reynolds is constantly on the go. She has a chain of dance studios, is active with the Thalians, a charitable organisation she founded 50 years ago, and is frequently on tour with her act around America’s casinos and nightclub circuit. The week after we spoke she was due to appear at a place called Jackpot, Nevada. “It’ll probably take two trains, a car and mule train to get there but I’ll make it,” she laughed.

    The last time she played the London Palladium she had 25 people with her and took over a floor at the Savoy Hotel. “I’d been at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas and I had to come to England by boat because I had a 30 foot high staircase I danced down and I had four backup singers,” she recalled. “I had a huge act then. No one can do that anymore because no one can afford it.”

   This time she will have her hairdresser, road manager, three piece band, a sound engineer and a lighting engineer. She has pre-recorded a 24 piece orchestra to accompany her and will bring her own curtains to drape the stage. “I’m a woman and I like the stage to be pretty so I travel with my own curtains. Instead of having big set pieces for the stage I would rather drape it.”

   As well as singing, dancing and doing impressions, she will introduce clips from her most popular films, including Singing In The Rain and The Unsinkable Molly Brown and will sing a duet with an on-screen Sinatra.

   If she has any regrets it is that although she was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of the Titanic survivor Molly Brown in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, she was not given the role in James Cameron’s Titanic (it went to Kathy Bates.)

   “You could never get Molly Brown down,” she said. “She said, ‘They tried to sink me but no one’s ever gotten me down yet.’ And that’s the way I feel about my life. There have been a lot of mishaps and a lot of difficulties along the way but it’s been a wonderful life and I never let anything get me down.

   “My children are all grown, my life is my work and I intend to work until the good Lord takes me to another place.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


A cuddle with Carrie
 So sorry to hear the sad news of the death of Carrie Fisher. A true child of Hollywood, she was the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher and grew up surrounded by the trappings of stardom.
  She was 2 when her parents separated in a much publicised divorce when Fisher left her mother for Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor was Mike Todd's widow, the best friend of Eddie Fisher. Carrie later described the incident as an "unpleasant experience."
   Fisher made her Broadway debut in 1973 at the age of 15 in the revival of "Irene," starring her mother. The success of the show meant she had to drop out of Beverly Hills High School. Fisher never ended up graduating from high school.
 In 1978, her acting career again interfered with her education. This time, it was the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars that would cement her status as cult icon and earned her legions of fans.
  The then-19-year-old actress had an affair with the then-married Harrison Ford, who was 34 at the time and played Hans Solo in the movie.
 In 1983, with the release of the Return of the Jedi and her fame at its peak, she married Paul Simon but the marriage only lasted a year.
 After the original "Star Wars" films, Fisher's acting career never again reached the same heights, though she continued to work steadily in film and television.
Aside from acting, Fisher was a gifted writer. Her first novel, "Postcards from the Edge," a semi-autobiographical satire of her drug addiction and relationships, became a bestseller in 1987. The book was made into a movie starring Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine and Dennis Quaid in 1990. Fisher herself adapted it into a film script. She was one of the top script doctors in Hollywood, though she stopped revising scripts in 2015.
 In her personal life, Fisher publicly dealt with drug addiction and bipolar disorder. She said she started taking drugs as way to self-medicate.
"Drugs made me feel more normal," she told Psychology Today in 2001. "They contained me."

  When we talked last year she was in good form and we cuddled and reminisced about a mutual friend, the wonderful screenwriter Charles Bennett, her next-door neighbour for many years in Coldwater Canyon.
Carrie as Princess Leia
  Charles, who died in 1995 aged 95, wrote several of Alfred Hitchock's films and was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay for Foreign Correspondent.
   I used to visit him regularly and sit at his bar for the "cocktail hour" he observed every day at 5pm.
   When I reminded Carrie of this she nodded knowingly. "Yes," she said. "Charles used to drink a lot."
  Czrrie suffered her heart attack while flying home from London where she was promoting her latest book, "The Princess Diarist."
Carrie, who was 60, is survived by her mother; daughter Billie Lourd; brother Todd Fisher; and half-sisters Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher.
Carrie with Gary on the red carpet
 Glad to hear that Gary, the beloved French bulldog Carrie adopted three years ago to settle her nerves has a new home with Carrie's daughter, Scream Queens actress Billie Lourd.  Gary accompanied Carrie on red carpets and sat-in for on-camera interviews, quickly becoming a fan-favorite.