Saturday, March 28, 2015


Daniel Craig on the trail of an assassin
   Have just spent four days in Mexico City where Daniel Craig is filming Spectre, the 24th James Bond adventure. It is a huge production and Craig and the movie's cast, crew and 1500 extras have taken over parts of the city, including the historic Plaza de la Constitucion, for three weeks of explosions, chases, fist fights and virtually non-stop action.

  Gigantic skulls and skeletons have been built in the square in front of the National Palace for a scene in which Craig chases an assassin through more than a thousand extras dressed in macabre costumes revelling in the festivities of Dia de los Muertos and then leaps into a helicopter. Spectators lined the sidewalks to watch as he dashed frantically through a carnival parade of inflatable skulls and skeletons.

   Earlier, wearing a dapper grey suit, he walked coolly away from an explosion which sent rubble and smoke across the cobblestone streets.
Day of the Dead carnival procession
 Although details of the plot are being kept under wraps it is safe to say that Mexico City, which is battling a serious image problem because of drug-related violence, will look like a tourists' dream when the movie is released. The government, which has been hit by corruption scandals and human rights violations, reportedly paid the Bond producers $20 million to film in the city as a promotional ploy to boost tourism.

  So parts of the original script have been changed to make the city look good including the opening scenes during Dia de los Muertos, a popular Mexican national holiday, which were originally reportedly set during a cage fight.

  Also, Mexican actress Stephanie Sigman was cast in a small role as a last minute addition; the character of the Mayor of Mexico City---a target for assassination---was replaced and helicopters buzzed over the city filming aerial shots of its parks and buildings. 

A chat with a couple of Day of the Dead zombies
 Spectre, directed by Sam Mendes, is due to be released on November 6. It features the re-introduction of the global terrorist group SPECTRE----the Special Executive for Counter-Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.

  Producer Michael Wilson told me: "The story concerns a puzzle which Bond has to piece together and solve."

   Monica Bellucci costars with Craig along with with MI6 allies Tanner (Rory Kinnear), quartermaster/gadget man Q (Ben Whishaw), fellow agent Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and the new M (Ralph Fiennes).

  The official synopsis on IMDB reveals 'A cryptic message from Bond's past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation.
'While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.'

Friday, March 20, 2015


   Judi Dench wasn't kidding when she told me recently that she thought retirement was a rude word.
The 80-year-old Dame is more active than ever, working on three films and a TV series since returning from India for the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. 
   Although macular degeneration is destroying her sight and she finds it impossible to read scripts any more---someone reads them to her--- she keeps her brain sharp by making it a point to learn at least one new thing every day.
  What had she learned today I asked her when we talked in London "Do you know what a man who makes arrows is called?" she asked me. "No? Well, he's called a fletcher. I learned that today. And yesterday I learned about Shakespeare's mother whose name was Mary and who had two daughters who died. I didn't know that." 
  With the aid of a  magnifying lamp she has recently taken up embroidery and, she says: "I've just done a very rude cushion for a friend."    
  She is currently working on two movies at the same time---Peregrine's House of Peculiars and chadenfreude, has finished Tulip Fever for Harvey Weinstein and is portraying Cecily, Duchess of York in The Hollow Crown TV mini-series. 
 Quite a woman!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


  Had an interesting talk with Shailene Woodley, the hot young actress who stars in the "young adult" movies The Fault in Our Stars, Divergent and its sequel Insurgent.  
   Unlike Jennifer Lawrence, with whom she has been compared, and other young stars, 23-year-old Shailene has no qualms about appearing nude on screen.
   "When somebody's doing a sex scene and they're wearing a bra and underwear that's not how it happens in real life," says Shailene, who displays full  nudity in the film White Bird in a Blizzard, which had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.and in which she plays a 17-year-old engaging in on-screen sex and seducing a middle-aged cop played by Thomas Jane. 
   . "If I'm going to say yes to a movie where this is necessary then I'm going to bring truth to that situation," she says." Nudity's not difficult because when I am changing clothes that happens, so I feel like it's pretty normal."
   Shailene is contracted to two more films in the Divergent series---Allegiant, the final book in the trilogy is being split into two films---and is currently filming Snowden for Oliver Stone, playing Edward Snowden's girlfriend Lindsey Mills. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015


  Had a brief chat with Bill Nighy while I was in London. It had to be brief because we  both wanted to get to the nearest TV to watch Crystal Palace, which Bill has supported all his life, play their F.A Cup match against Liverpool (sadly, they lost).

  But we had time for a quick catch-up about the upcoming big screen movie of the long-running and immensely successful TV show Dad's Army in which Bill plays Sgt. Wilson, the part played in the series by John Le Mesurier.

   "I hope the world will forgive us for making this film, and forgive me for not being John Le Mesurier," he told me. "Because the series is so beloved, I thought, 'Why not leave it alone?' But then the script came, which is very, very good and then you've got a cast which includes Sir Michael Gambon, Sir Tom Courtney, Toby Jones and Catherine Zeta-Jones and you start to think, 'Well, the whole thing might just work.And every time I had any doubts I just looked at Toby Jones, because he's brilliant as Captain Mainwaring. It's a stellar cast so I hope it works. 

   "A large part of the appeal for me was the fact that Michael Gambon was in it and we could sit on a beach in Bridlington and he would make me laugh, which he did. He made me laugh so much that I thought I'd never take another breath and it would kill me. He makes you laugh like that."

Thursday, February 19, 2015


with Downton Abbey cast including Maggie Smith (3rd from left) 
It is probably a lovely spot in the summer time but Highclere Castle in the pouring rain in February isn't the ideal place to be.
 However, Lady Carnarvon and the Downton Abbey cast, who were there on one of their regular sojourns to film a few interior and exterior shots before returning to their regular home at Ealing Studios, made me extremely welcome.
  After watching the filming of a scene with Elizabeth Govern (Lady Mary) and Jim Carter (Carson the butler), who, it turns out, is something of a comedian, I had lunch with other journalists and members of the cast in a marquee specially constructed for the occasion in the castle grounds.
  I was at a table with the lovely Joanne Froggatt, who this year made an emotional speech on winning a Golden Globe for her role as Anna the maid, and Leslie Nicol, who plays Mrs. Patmore the cook.
  Leslie tells me she and her husband spend three months a year on holiday in California with their two dogs. Next time she comes she's going to contact me and we'll take the dogs for a walk along the Palisades.      

Monday, February 9, 2015


Haley Joel Osment now.....
  What in the world has happened to Haley Joel Osment? The cute little kid who saw dead people in The Sixth Sense 15 years ago is now 26, bloated and unrecognisable with a moustache and slicked-back hair.
  He made a couple of other successful movies--- A.I and Pay It  Forward-- after The Sixth Sense but then struggled for roles and had three years when he never worked at all. He was involved in an accident in 2006 when his car overturned near his home and he suffered severe injuries. He was later sentenced to three years probation, 60 hours in an alcohol rehabilitation programme, fined $1,500 and ordered to attend at least 26 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
   The recent picture was taken on the set of a movie called Yoga Hosers which stars Johnny Depp and his daughter Lily-Rose.
.....and as he was
    Osment recently talked at the Toronto Film Festival about how fame as a child star can be a double-edged sword.  "When you're a kid and you grow up, it takes some time for people to associate you with things other than that initial thing. So it's a challenge."

  But even though he has already done so, he says he does not want to shed the image that some fans still have of him as a cute kid.  "I think it would be a mistake to consciously try and fight it," he said. "It's not a nice thing to do to your audience to try and shatter that image in people's mind."
   To anyone who sees him, that image was shattered a long time ago. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


  Just back from Park City, Utah, where more than 50,000 people packed into the little town  (population 7,500)  for ten days of hard-core movie watching, partying and swag-gathering at the Sundance Film Festival.  
   Hollywood big-wigs, celebrities, their entourages, film fans and filmmakers have turned the winter wonderland nestled in the heart of Utah's Wasatch Mountains, into an adult playground where debauchery and misbehaviour are as normal as movie matinees and red carpets.
   This year the festival is bigger than ever before as major corporations like Hewlett Packard, Acura, Bang & Olufsen and Eddie Bauer have got in on the act by taking over the shops along the city's Main Street and turning them into party venues and lounges to get their products into the hands of celebrities.
    Party-hopping is a favourite late night sport as filmmakers and studios vie to lay on the best, most talked about soirees although things can sometimes turn nasty as evidenced when police were called to a nightclub at 3.30am after a female Paramount Pictures executive claimed she had been assaulted by actor Emile Hirsch, who is in town to promote his movie Ten Thousand Saints. Hirsch's representatives have not commented and police are still investigating.     
Iggy Azuela in concert
   Businesses are cashing in while the town is packed with visitors, and on the first weekend of the festival, long lines of would-be customers waited patiently outside overcrowded bars and restaurants that were charging people $20 just to get in. 
  Music plays a large part in the festival nowadays and while there Theo Kingma, the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and I took in an Iggy Azuela concert at the Live Park City venue. We were fortunate enough to be in the VIP section where drink flowed freely and hostesses were on hand to make sure we had everything we wanted. 
Drinks, anyone?
Theo gets cozy with Nicole Kidman
 Because of the city's proximity to Los Angeles, celebrities were in town in droves to publicise their movies, promote themselves and to reap whatever they could pick up from the "swag suites" set up to fete the famous with spa treatments, designer clothes, liquor and valuable electronic goodies.   
  Theo and I chatted with Nicole Kidman and Cynthia Nixon, the former Sex and the City co-star who had two films screening at Sundance. 
   Oh yes. The films.   
    This year 4,105 feature films applied to be screened and only 123 were selected, making the festival tougher than ever to get into and also even more important, as two of this year's Oscar nominees, Boyhood and Whiplash, were first screened at Sundance last year.
   The Sundance movie this year being tipped to be around at next year's Oscars is Brooklyn, which stars Saoirse Ronan as an Irish girl who moves to Brooklyn, New York in the 1950s. It also featurees Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters and has alreaady been picked up by Fox Searchlight for distribution.
 So keep an eye open for it.