Friday, May 19, 2017


with Gillian Anderson in London

 Her friends and fans were horrified when Gillian Anderson did the unthinkable.  She was a pop culture icon and one of the biggest television stars in America thanks to her role as the sceptical FBI agent Dana Scully in the landmark series The X-Files.  
   But after nine seasons she turned her back on television and Hollywood to move to London to take on smaller theatre and film projects.
   Now, 16 years and several love affairs later she has no regrets, considers herself a Londoner and is more visible than ever in a string of high profile television projects.
   She starred as a detective hunting down Jamie Dornan's serial killer in The Fall, had a recurring role as Hannibal Lecter's psychiatrist in Hannibal, starred in the series Crisis, is now portraying the Goddess of Media in the new series American Gods and is preparing to return for yet another X-Files series, almost 25 years after it first hit the screens.
  When we talk in London's May Fair hotel suite the 48-year-old actress is walking with the aid of a crutch.  
With X-Files  partner David Duchovny
   "I fractured my foot jumping into a swimming pool in Costa Rica that was too shallow but I'll be OK," she says with a faint smile. "It could have been a lot worse."
    She expects to be fully recovered for the next season of American Gods and for her return to the X-Files in the eleventh series of the sci-fi adventure,  although she admits she knows very little about it yet.   
  "It’s really us taking the opportunity to maybe bring closure to the story," she says. "I didn’t really feel like the end of the last season we did was a place for us to finish because we ended up doing less than we had intended to. So there was a lot of consideration about whether it was something that we could improve on and in the end we agreed that we would like to have one more go at it.
  "We know that the fans are still there. I think the surprising thing is that there are new fans--- a whole other generation of fans who discovered it and I'm still surprised to be met by 13 years olds who are talking about how they have seen all the episodes or they just started watching a year ago and can’t wait for the new season. I guess it means  it has a longevity beyond what we had ever imagined."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


Charlie Hunnam as a Cockney King Arthur
  A few days ago I was asked by a national newspaper in England to write a review of Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword, which I had seen in New York. 
  Although I'm reluctant to turn down work I refused this commission because I hated the movie so much. Writing a bad review doesn't usually bother me but in this case I thought perhaps I was at fault and had misjudged the movie because the audience I saw it with cheered, clapped and seemed to love it.
Guy Ritchie: I didn't tell him what I thought
  But now other reviews have come out and most critics disliked it as much as I did. So although I feel vindicated in my judgment, I am also kicking myself for not having had the courage of my convictions and written what I thought.   
 What I particularly disliked were Ritchie's manic cutting; the continual battles, some for no obvious reason; the Cockney crew surrounding Charlie Hunnam's King Arthur. And Hunnam himself.
   Here are some of the reviews, with which I totally agree:

   “Ritchie and his regular editor James Herbert cut up the action scenes with the desperation of the life of the party who’s secretly afraid to go home to his empty apartment,” writes TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde. “‘King Arthur’ seems constantly panicked that the audience’s attention span won’t last another second, so each moment is a frenzy of sight and sound (particularly Daniel Pemberton’s emphatically percussive score), and the ultimate effect is more exhausting than exhilarating,” he added.

  And Evan Saathoff, Birth.Movies.Death:

“If you have problems with ‘Refusal of the Call’ heroes, this movie is going to be rough for you. Hunnam’s Arthur has no interest in the sword and yanks it only at the end of another. It takes him almost the entire movie to wield it because it gets into his brain and makes him relive his parents’ deaths whenever he tries. (You will see Arthur’s mom get killed more than in all the Batman movies combined.) Even when the film is near its final act, he’s throwing the thing away.”

And Matt Singer, ScreenCrush:
“Ritchie’s ‘King Arthur’ values style and cool over everything else, and the results, which are handsome but trite, reflect that. At least the ‘Sherlock’s had extremely charismatic lead performances from Robert Downey Jr.; despite his rugged features, a sweet shearling vest, and a physique that would make a crossfit model jealous, Charlie Hunnam isn’t in Downey’s league, and his legion of ten or so sidekicks have maybe three personality traits between them.”

Saturday, May 6, 2017


On the Stamboul Station set of Murder on the Orient Express
    I recently spent a day on the set of the new Murder on the Orient Express movie and another day seeing an extended clip from the film and talking with the director and star Kenneth Branagh and some of the cast.
   It is the first of a series of Agatha Christie works being given a fresh lease of life now her estate has signed off on new TV and film adaptations 40 years after her death. 
   Murder on the Orient Express was previously filmed in 1974 and starred Albert Finney as the famed detective Hercule Poirot. But Kenneth Branagh, sporting a huge moustache as Poirot, has given the story some new characters and fresh twists. 
  The Oscar-nominated actor describes Christie's work as "dark, mysterious and compelling."
  He says of his dual roles as director and star: "What I found with this was that there was absolutely relentless, remorseless demand every day. Every time you did something difficult, there was something else difficult to come along, although it’s not brain surgery difficult, it’s pretty labor intensive, and boy did I feel it."
  But, he adds, "I'd love it if we could make some more films based on her books."
  The movie has a star-studded cast which, as well as Branagh, includes Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley and Derek Jacobi. 

A multi-million pound deal with Agatha Christie's estate has created the opportunity for younger audiences to see her work, with four films in the pipeline
 There will also be a seven-programme series on the BBC and another adaptation of Hercule Poirot.
Previously Christie's estate have closely guarded the author's work, keen only to consider the 'right' offers.
 However, Hilary Strong, chief executive of Agatha Christie Limited, said it was the 'natural time for these stories to be retold for a new generation of people.'
 The Miss Marple author, who died aged 85 in 1976, wrote 66 crime novels with her play the Mousetrap is famously the world's longest running play.
  Film and TV versions of her work may be forthcoming, but a biographical film is another matter.
Christie's estate are not interested in placing her life on screen and have declined to commission biopics.
Both Alicia Vikander and Emma Stone had been rumoured to be in the running to play the author at different stages of her life, but it seems fans may have to wait until they see her story played out. 

Monday, April 24, 2017


 On the few cruises I have been on I've never been impressed with the entertainment. Lounge singers, second rate comedians and even the occasional magician have all left me cold.
  But on a Mediterranean cruise on the maiden voyage of the new Silversea ship Silver Muse this spring I saw a show that turns the accepted norm of cruise ship entertainment on its head with a vibrancy, joie de vivre and originality rarely seen in a show designed to cater for all tastes.
with Marisa (left) and Kate
   Las Vegas could learn from The Voices of Silversea, a team of three guys and three girls who were chosen Monkees-style and put together after answering advertisements and auditioning in London. Multi-talented singers, dancers and entertainers from a variety of backgrounds, their sheer enthusiasm and obvious love of what they do make for memorable evenings, even for jaded veteran cruisers. 
   Amazingly, they only had a month to rehearse all their routines for a series of different shows which feature costume changes, imaginative set designs and special visual effects,
   With the exception of Mary McElree and Johnny Lee, who are both from Dallas, none of the others--Marisa Nelson from Minneapolis, Josh Eflin from Washington DC, Kevin Fagan from Dublin and Kate Rotheroe--- knew each other and, says Kate: "We got to know each other very quickly and we all get along so well."
   Kate, from the Isle of Man, is a trained opera singer and has performed throughout Europe. She was in Belgium when she got the call to audition for the Voices of Silversea and although her singing talent instantly ensured her a place in the team---"only the most musically insensitive or cloth-eared could find her coloratura anything less than stunning" wrote one critic---her dancing was not of such high quality.
  "I couldn't dance when I joined and I had to learn as I went along,." she laughs. One would never know now as all the routines gell seamlessly.
   The six performers are all on six month contracts. And after that?
   "Who knows? Anything could happen," says Kate.   
   It's a safe bet the world will be hearing more of them.

Friday, March 31, 2017


  Many of the movies we can expect to see in theaters later this year have been unveiled for the first time in Las Vegas over five dizzying days. 
  I came back from the CinemaCon convention reeling from the onslaught of movies, star appearances, presentations, parties and non-stop hype as studio executives talk up their forthcoming movies. 
  Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Cara Delevigne, Anthony Hopkins, Mila Kunis, Matt Damon, Tom Holland, Jessica Chastain and many more were on hand to help push their movies. 
   Although I didn't see every studios' reels---that would be too much for any sane person---I got a good idea of what to expect
Matt Damon and George Clooney at CinemaCon
from this summer and autumn's upcoming movies, many of which are sequels (such as Transformers 5!). Very few of the movie clips I saw, apart from animations, didn't have guns, car chases, action, violence and, of course, NOISE. One of the few exceptions was Molly's Game starring Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom, who ran the nation's most celebrated----and celebrity-filled-undergrad poker game.

   Some of the most promising footage belonged to Matt Damon, who stars in Suburbicon, which was directed by George Clooney and in which he portrays the widower of a woman at the centre of a life-insurance fraud investigation, and in Downsizing, about people who volunteer to be shrunk to miniature size in order to afford a more luxurious lifestyle--- a mansion the size of a doll's house can be had on the cheap. 
  Dwayne Johnson was there, entering through the crowd accompanied by swimsuit-clad beauties to introduce the stars of the new Baywatch movie, whom he dubbed "The Avengers of the beach---Team Baywatch."

  So....plenty of action, plenty of science-fiction and more than a few sequels. Happy cinemagoing!

Friday, March 10, 2017


   One of my favourite actresses, Brie Larson made a telling silent protest when she refused to applaud or congratulate Casey Affleck for his Best Actor win at this year's Oscars.
Brie at Kong premiere
   It was a deliberate non-reaction because of the sexual harassment allegations brought against him in 2010 and was in sharp contrast with her behaviour at last year's Oscars when she greeted and hugged sexual assault survivors who came on stage for Lady Gaga’s performance of “Till It Happens To You. She is a vocal supporter of sexual abuse survivors and has been using her status as one of America's leading actresses to raise awareness.
   At the premiere of her latest film, Kong: Skull Island, she wore red in honor of International Women’s Day.
   Brie, who won her Oscar last year for playing a viictim of sexual abuse in Room,
says her non-reaction to Affleck "kind of spoke for itself."
   Affleck has repeatedly denied the claims against him and the two harassment suits brought against him were settled in 2010.
   Affleck said after his win: “I believe that any kind of mistreatment of anyone for any reason is unacceptable and abhorrent, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect in the workplace and anywhere else.”

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


What a difference 15 years makes!
 Back in 2002 when the picture was taken Rupert Grint (right) was 13 years old and he, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe were awaiting the release of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
 I met up with him again the other day in Los Angeles to talk about his starring role in the new TV series Snatch, loosely based on the Guy Ritchie film.

 Now 28, like the Ron Weasley character he played for 12 years he is a laid back, happy-go-lucky guy who laughs a lot and has no regrets about spending his childhood on a film set although he admits he was glad when the Potter films finished.
   "I think we ended it at completely the right time," he says. "I was ready to move on and live a bit and just kind of catch up on stuff I missed out on. 

  "I did a lot of things for fun and I could relax a little bit. Being in that kind of bubble for such a long time was a little bit
suffocating at times and we worked so hard. It was about 12 years non-stop so it was nice to just have a break and do things that I couldn't do before.
  "I actually cut my hair because I never had any control of my hair during those years. It always what was right for Ron so yeah, it was really fun to just live a little bit."