Thursday, September 18, 2014


    Some people have to die before finding fame. And fame has come very late for Peg Entwistle, a 24-year-old out of work actress who committed suicide 81 years ago by jumping off the Hollywood Sign.

 Welsh-born Peg (left), a symbol of tragedy and failure, Hollywood-style, had appeared in several  Broadway plays that quickly closed and like so many others she moved to Hollywood seeking stardom. She appeared in Thirteen Women but most of her scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. After that she could not get work and, broke and heartbroken, she ended her life in a symbolic way. Some say her ghost still haunts the trails of Mount Lee.
Hollywood it was
    When she jumped off the letter H the sign still read HOLLYWOODLAND but it was restored in 1949 without the last four letters. 
   One of the most iconic signs in the world, it was recently refurbished and over a ten week period, each of the 45 feet high letters was carefully stripped, primed and repainted white. 
  Now it seems Peg will finally get to be a star.
Writer-director Tony Kaye is reportedly planning a movie based on Peg's story. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


  Cracked open a bottle of champagne with the weird and wonderful Bill Murray in Toronto. Originally an assistant had brought him a green health drink but Bill turned his nose up.;

“I don’t know what’s in it,” he said. “Some greens and ginger I think. Let’s have some champagne. Bring it in.”
   Someone appeared with a bottle of champagne and we raised our glasses. “I like alcohol but I don’t have a favourite drink which is probably why I’m not an alcoholic," he said."If I had a favourite I’d probably be a drunk. I like to have different drinks. Last night I was drinking something with rum in it.”
   The night before he had been drinking at a celebration party held at the restaurant owned by his old friend director Ivan Reitman following the premiere of Murray’s latest movie St. Vincent, in which he plays a cantankerous old curmudgeon who forms an unlikely friendship with a 12-year-old boy living next door. It was no coincidence the premiere was held on the day which the Toronto Film Festival had declared Bill Murray Day and arranged day-long free screenings of some of his most popular movies.
    “It was a dizzy day,” recalled the 63-year-old actor. “I rode my bicycle around the streets and people called out to me and waved and I had a lot of texts and I saw a lot of old friends I hadn’t seen for a long time. Then at the premiere the crowd was wild. I’d never seen anything quite like that before. Then we had the party and there was a great disc jockey.”
    We had met in a Toronto hotel at an interview arranged by the Weinstein Company, the distributors of St. Vincent. It is something of a special occasion because it is virtually impossible to make arrangements with Bill Murray for anything. He does not have an agent, a manager, a publicist or any of the usual trappings of a major star, so anyone who wants to get hold of him calls a toll-free telephone number and leaves a message. If he wants to talk, he’ll call back, but most of the time he doesn’t. He freely admits his indifference has cost him several roles in movies he would have liked, but he has also managed to appear in some 60 movies, including such epochal comedies as Stripes, Meatballs, Groundhog Day and Caddyshack as well as the drama Lost In Translation, which earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination, and seven films by one of his favourite directors, Wes Anderson, beginning with Rushmore in 1998 and most recently in The Grand Budapest Hotel earlier this year.
    He has an iPad which he says he uses for playing the game Clash of Clans with one of his sons and a telephone which he only uses to send and receive texts. “I don’t like talking on the telephone,” he told me.
  Like the characters he often portrays, Bill Murray plays by his own rules and the stories about him are many and legendary. For a while he was prone to sneaking up behind strangers in the street, covering their eyes and when they turned to see who it was he’d smile and say: “No one will ever believe you.”  At the Berlin premiere of The Grand Budapest Hotel last year he got out of the car holding a full martini glass which he then downed in one gulp. His surprise cameo appearances over the years have included singing karaoke in bars, gate-crashing parties, some impromptu bartending and casual partygoing, all of which have made him an endearing figure and the kind of person worth having a whole day devoted to him by a film festival.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


Met up with the wonderful Bill Nighy at a Toronto party for our annual chat about soccer. Bill is an ardent Crystal Palace supporter and is curious to see what new manager Neil Warnock can do to improve the team.

 But like me, he thinks Chelsea will be tough to beat this year and admires Jose Mourhino's acquisitions.

 Bill is in Toronto to promote his latest movie Pride, a true story about how gay and lesbian activists came to the aid of Welsh miners during the 1984 miners' strike.

  "I didn't know anything about it until I read the script and I don't think many other people did either," he says. "It's an amazing story."

Thursday, September 4, 2014


  I've been to Toronto for the film festival many times in the past but this year is
the first time I've taken advantage of the trip to go to the top of the iconic Canadian National Tower.
  Located in the heart of the city's downtown, the tower was completed in 1974 and designated a Wonder of the Modern World in 1995. It rises 1,465 feet above the city and has one of the highest observation platforms in the world with a spectacular view like no other.
  It's quite an experience to stand on the glass floor---almost like walking on air-- and look down at the ground far below.
  And when visitors have had enough of sight seeing, they can repair to the bar of the 360 Restaurant which boasts the world's highest wine cellar, according to the Guinness Book of Records.
  For photographer Theo Kingma and I it was an interesting prelude to the film festival, which this year is even bigger than ever, with 393 films and 142 world premieres. Somehow I don't think we'll be seeing them all!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


 Several journalists I know have learned with trepidation that George Clooney is to direct a film about the phone hacking scandal which led to the closure of the News of the World. They are worriedly wondering if they will be depicted in it and if so how their actions will be portrayed.

  Clooney, who will also produce but not act in the movie, has had his run ins with British journalists in the past and recently ranted about inaccuracies in a Daily Mail report of his engagement to Amal Alamuddin.

  The hacking, which centred on Rupert Murdoch's News International, led to the jailing of several journalists, including News of the World editor Andy Coulson.  

 The movie, scheduled to shoot next year, is based on the book “Hack Attack” by Guardian journalist Nick Davies.

 "This has all the elements – lying, corruption, blackmail – at the highest levels of government by the biggest newspaper in London,” Clooney said. “And the fact that it's true is the best part.  Nick is a brave and stubborn reporter and we consider it an honor to put his book to film.”

Friday, August 22, 2014


Hard to believe it was 50 years ago that The Zombies hit it big with She's Not There and even harder to believe that they're still going strong---well, two of them are, anyway---and sounding as good as ever.
The Zombies then.....
....and now
 The iconic band, which this year has been nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, drew more than 5,000 people to Santa Monica Pier and the surrounding beach with a mixture of old hits and new material.
  Sadly for the beachgoers, Santa Monica officials, worried about the huge crowds and hoping to dissuade people from showing up, had removed the beach-facing jumbotron screen, although it did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the audience.  
Beachgoers take in the music
  Led by the original founding members, keyboard player Rod Argent and singer Colin Bluntstone, the band has a new album out, and as well as She's Not There, it's original hits, Tell Her No from 1965 and Time of the Seasons (1966) are still played regularly on radio stations around the world.    
  The group, which was founded in the Blacksmith's Arms pub in St. Albans, disbanded back in 1967 but Argent and Blunstone reunited more than 30 years later and played live shows together until 2004 when they started going out under the name The Zombies with a re-formed line-up.

 Though the Zombies have faced inevitable member changes and split-ups over the years, Argent says that he and Blunstone came back together “just for fun” in late 1999.
“It was only that we had such a fun time playing that it mushroomed into many, many more gigs,” he says.
 He still relishes the buzz he and Blunstone get from performing live shows. “It feels one hundred percent the same as it did when we were 18 years old,” he says. “It’s just as exciting and it’s what makes being onstage magical. We have the privilege of being onstage again, and we’re having a ball.”

Saturday, August 9, 2014


 Since she portrayed the alluring double agent Vesper Lynd in the
James Bond film Casino Royale, Eva Green has built an on-screen
reputation as an evil, manipulating woman who uses her sex as a

  As Angelique Bouchard, who cursed Johnny Depp’s character to an eternity as a vampire in Dark Shadows, she caused a stir with her sizzling sex scenes.

  Now, in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, she is naked with Josh Brolin and the poster advertising the film which bears her image has been banned by the Motion Picture Association of America “for nudity---curve
of under breast and dark nipple areola circle visible through sheer gown.”

   The poster shows 34-year-old Eva clad in a sheer white robe that shows off her silhouette and emphasises her curvy figure. But when I chatted with French-born Eva in Beverly Hills she seemed slightly
bemused by the ban.

   “I don’t really understand,” she says. “You don’t see anything on the poster. They don’t censor violence but they censor this; I’m holding a gun on the poster but that’s fine with them. If they are
shocked by the poster they’re going to be really shocked when they see the film. In 3D too!”

   She’s probably right because her scenes with Brolin push the
envelope of sex on screen to the outer limits.

    Eva stars as a femme fatale in the first of four stories in Sin City: A Dame to Die For, the sequel to Frank Miller’s graphic novel and neo-noir crime movie Sin City. It is again co-directed by Miller and Robert Rodriguez, with Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke and Rosario Dawson returning to repeat their original roles.

      In the title segment Eva portrays Ava Lord, who seeks the help of her former lover, played by Josh Brolin, to escape her abusive husband, billionaire Damien Lord (played by Eva’s real-life
ex-boyfriend Marton Csokas). But Brolin’s character soon realises Ava’s true intentions are far more sinister than they appear.

   “She is beyond evil and it’s just so much fun to play somebody so extreme and so corrupt,” says Eva. “I’ve played evil women before but this one is something else. She has no sense of morality and no shame.

 “Playing evil women is quite meaty compared to being a boring
girlfriend. There’s something quite ballsy about these characters.
It’s fun and jubilating to play someone so bad.”

   What wasn’t so much fun for her were the graphic nude scenes, for
which director Rodriguez insisted she had to be naked.

   “I wanted to wear a corset and a bra but said I had to be naked and
he was right because she uses her body as a weapon. I knew it was
going to be shot in a tasteful way but when you do it, you want to
die. Also I was cast a week before shooting so I didn’t have time to
go on a diet. But when you go for it you forget you are naked and you
are just acting and it’s also helpful that the make-up artist puts on
lots of make-up all over your body. It’s kind of an armour, but it’s
no fun to be naked.

   “You feel very awkward and very silly and you don’t feel sexy at
all. You’re surrounded by a very bright green screen and Josh Brolin
is there wearing flesh-coloured Spandex. But you tell yourself, ‘It’s
all for art and it will be great on screen.’”