Friday, November 20, 2015


The last time I chatted with Michael Caine was back in 2006 when he had just finished work on the movie The Prestige and he told me he considered himself semi-retired.

   Since then he has made 19 more movies, has four awaiting release and, at the age of 82, he still considers himself semi-retired.

  "I only come out of retirement if it's a very small part and a lot of money or a great part and no money," he tells me when we meet again the other day at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.

  "This was a great part with no money." Then he qualifies his statement. "Well, not very much money." 

    "This" is his role in Youth, a movie written and directed by the Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino about two old friends, played by Caine and Harvey Keitel,  approaching their 80s who are on  holiday at a hotel in the foothills of the Alps.

   Caine plays Fred, a retired composer and conductor who has no intention of returning to his music career while Keitel is Mick, a director who is still working.

   While their ages and the passing of time is on the minds of the two old men, Caine, who began his career in repertory in Horsham, Sussex, at the age of 20, is totally unaffected by it. "I feel young all the time," he says. "I stopped aging at the age of 38 when I got married. But I'm 82 and about six weeks ago I was 35. But I don't think about that. I just think of myself as 38."
   Unlike some stars, he seems to actual enjoy his promotional and publicity duties and even after a 62-year-career, 130 movies, six Oscar nominations, two wins and a knighthood he still seems slightly bewildered by his success.

  "Fame is a big surprise to me," he says. "I became an actor not to become rich and famous because I was a little Cockney guy from a slum area;  I became an actor just to be the best actor I could become and that is still my mentality. But I became famous along the way and it was quite extraordinary; it was like a miracle. A reporter said to me the other day, 'Do you believe in God?' And I said, 'If you had my life you'd have to.'" 


Monday, November 16, 2015


Julia Roberts at the Miramar
Looked in on a Julia Roberts press conference at the Miramar in Santa Monica the other day---something of a rare occasion because she doesn't work much nowadays. 
 Her new movie--her first since August: Osage County in 2012, is The Secrets in Their Eyes, a thriller which marks the seventh time she has worked with her husband of 15 years, cameraman Danny Moder.
  The 48-year-old actress shared her recipe for a long lasting marriage:

  "A girlfriend of mine who has been married for a long time says if you want an interesting relationship, stay in one," she said. "And I think that is so true because after 15 years I find the continuous excavation of our relationship and our family fascinating. So the real key is to stay invested and interested in your partner."
  It seems to have worked for the Oscar winner, who has three children, twins aged 11 and an eight year old with Moder.

  "We have the same values and we have great jobs," she said. "We work in a great business but it's separate from our home life and we have a real compatibility in that regard. We want the same things, so I think that's important."

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


 Writing's on the Wall, the theme song to SPECTRE, is far from being my favourite Bond theme song but the singer, 23-year-old Londoner Sam Smith, is one of the nicest guys I've met for a long time.

  Sam chatted openly with me at the Beverly Hilton Hotel about his life, his career and about coming out as gay when he was ten years old. "It's a bit of a disappointing story because I told my mother and she said, 'We know,'" he laughed.

  "But In the industry I found it very scary in the beginning because it hadn’t happened before and people hadn’t been openly gay in the pop market and released music saying it was about a guy. I still get scared sometimes and now probably more people know my sexuality so I wonder sometimes what will happen with my second album. But it’s uncharted territory so it’s always going to be weird."

  His album is called In The Lonely Hour and he explained: "It’s called that because before I made it I had never had a boyfriend and I fell in love with someone a few years ago who didn’t love me back and we weren’t in a relationship and it was very depressing.So the only way that I could get over him was to write an album about it and that's what I did.And music became a whole different type of therapy for me during that process."

   Although Sam now has a  worldwide army of fans, he admits: "I still haven’t felt like I made it. Seriously, I am racked with insecurities and stuff but when I go back home to London with my family, I feel completely normal, as if nothing had changed which is a beautiful thing.  

  "As much as my life has been inspiring over the last year, I do need to step away and try my very best to go back to how everything was before, because I miss it.
I love my life now, but I really just want to be with my family and my friends and date some people and go to Tesco’s and that’s what I want to do."

   In preparation for Christmas he has bought a house in Hampstead, and, he says, "I think anyone who is British takes Christmas insanely seriously. I bought my first ever house recently purely because it’s going to look great at Christmas.It’s like a Beatrix Potter house and that's the main reason."

  Happy Christmas, Sam!

Friday, November 6, 2015


  It seemed like a good idea at first: the newly-married Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt thought they would combine filming By the Sea on location in Malta with their honeymoon.

  But it didn't work out quite as they had planned.

  "There were a few days when we thought this wasn't the best idea," laughed Jolie, who wrote, directed, produced and co-starred with Pitt in the low-budget  domestic drama. "There were days when we were really worried and it was hard. If we had married and were just starting a relationship it would have been a disaster but because we have been together so long we wanted to see how far we could push our relationship and our love and see if we can work together under very intense circumstances and with very complex issues and see if it would make us better.

  "But at the end we came out of it thinking this was the best honeymoon because the film says, 'whatever you go through, weather the storm and stick together.'

  "So it was kind of a message to each other that we are going weather whatever comes and we are going to stick together."

  Inspired by the deliberately paced European art films of the '60s and 70s By the Sea tells the story of  Jolie's Vanessa, a depressed former dancer and her heavy drinking novelist husband (Pitt) who arrive in a picturesque seaside town in 1970s France with their marriage in crisis. As they meet fellow travellers and local residents they begin to examine their problems and begin to come to terms with unresolved issues in their lives.

   "I want people to walk away with different things from this film," said Jolie when we talked in the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. "They will interpret it in a hundred different ways and it's intended to be like that. One of the things in our lives  we all go through is grief and we all have to find a way to come through it. I think it's something people can relate to and maybe reflect on the moments in their own lives where they have had to overcome grief.

   "I think it also says something about partnership and marriage and pulling through and that we have to hold tight together and work things out no matter how bad they get."

Thursday, November 5, 2015


 On the set with Wagner Moura, the Brazilian star who plays Pablo Escobar

Wagner Moura without makeup
with the lovely Paulina Gaitan
Cash and gift bag ever!
Usually visits to movie and television film sets can be stultifyingly boring---hours of waiting around in the hope of a few feeble quotes from one the principals if you're lucky
   But the set of the hit Netflix TV series Narcos, about the rise and fall of notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar is totally different.
  I spent a day with the cast, crew and producer up in the mountains outside Bogota in Colombia where they are filming Series Two---and had a wonderfully productive time thanks to executive producer Eric Newman, who coincidentally lives not far from me in Santa Monica and who paved the way for me and photographer Theo Kingman. Everybody was exceedingly friendly and welcoming and went out of their way to make sure we got exactly what we wanted. The stars, Wagner Moura, who plays  Escobar, and the lovely Paulina Gaitan, who plays his wife, happily chatted, posed for pictures and, in the evening, had dinner with us at the Four Seasons in Bogota.
a hug from Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura)

Without giving away too many secrets, the new series sees Escobar on the run with his wife, fleeing from hideout to hideout. The scenes we saw being filmed were at one of the hideouts, at a breath-snatching altitude of 8,600 feet where Escobar has a romantic dance with his wife before deciding to wage war on the police and drug agents who are hunting him.
 Escobar, who introduced cocaine into America,  killed a total of 1,000 police officers before being gunned down on a Medellin rooftop in December 1993 aged 44.
  "There were two sides to Pablo," says Wagner, a major Brazilian star who had to learn Spanish, gain 40lbs and grow a moustache to portray the portly Escobar. "He was a family man and a murdering sociopath."

Friday, October 30, 2015


  As far as Dames go, Helen Mirren is a very down-to-earth one and it's always entertaining and often enlightening to talk to her. This time she came out with what struck me as a wonderful quote which is worth repeating here.
   "Life is never over," the 70-year-old actress told me, "and the chance to do something new is always in front of us."
   It is an aphorism she has lived by and although she is currently co-starring as gossip queen Hedda Hopper in Trumbo, a movie about Hollywood and the infamous blacklist of the 1940s and 50s, she has packed a great deal of other accomplishments into her life so far.
  "I've never been a woman of Hollywood," she said. "I'm a woman in the theatre in London and I've done television and I've done a lot of different things.It was never my ambition to be a Hollywood movie star---that was never my primary ambition and it was something that sort of happened almost coincidentally."


Lea in action in Spectre
  Went to an early screening of the new James Bond film Spectre and while Daniel Craig is not everyone's idea of Bond, Lea Seydoux has to be everyone's perfect Bond girl.
  Sexy and seductive, the 30-year-old French actress is by far the best Bond girl yet, excelling in action and the physical love scenes with lucky old Craig, who is probably making his last Bond film.    But she nearly made a hash of her audition because she had a drink of alcohol to calm her nerves.
with Lea on the Spectre set in Mexico City
   "I was early and so I thought that maybe I could have a beer to relax, which was a very bad idea," she told me when I talked with her on the set of Spectre in Mexico City. "I lost my text and I couldn’t remember my lines anymore. So I asked if I could come back and do it again and they said I could."
  Lea, who is unmarried, is no stranger to on-screen love scenes. She starred in Blue is the Warmest Colour in which she had long and explicit lesbian love scenes with actress Adele Exachopoulos which, she said, made her feel "like a prostitute" and led her to question her sexuality.   
 "It's not nothing making those scenes," she said. "Of course I question myself. But I did not have any revelations."