Thursday, December 11, 2014


with Angie in happier times
   What a bad week its been for Angelina Jolie! The actress, who has set her sights on being a top-notch director, was reportedly both devastated and furious when her epic World War 11 movie Unbroken was ignored by Golden Globe voters.
The snub came just one day after hacked Sony studio emails were released in which super-producer Scott Rudin bashed her as a "minimally talented spoiled brat" looking to take a luxurious soak in a "$180 million ego bath" in a new film version of Cleopatra in which she wants to star.
   Rudin, the Hollywood heavyweight behind some of the decade's biggest blockbuster, raked Jolie over the coals for trying to lure director David Fincher into directing her Cleopatra movie instead of Rudin's planned Steve Jobs biopic.
Rudin and Pascal in happier times, too.
"I'm not destroying my career over a minimally talented spoiled brat who thought nothing of shoving this off her plate for eighteen months so she could go direct a movie," Rudin fumed in an email to Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal. Elsewhere in the heated exchange Rudin said that he refused to "waste" his time on a phone call discussing Jolie's issues with Fincher and his film.
"The masturbatory call is a wank I have no time for,"he wrote.
In another all-caps screed, he allegedly told Pascal, "YOU BETTER SHUT ANGIE DOWN BEFORE SHE MAKES IT VERY HARD FOR DAVID TO DO JOBS."
When Pascal replied and warned the Hollywood honcho not to "f--- threaten" her, Rudin took the opportunity to again bash Jolie and her wish to play the ancient Egypt's most notorious seductress.
"There is no movie of Cleopatra to be made … I have zero appetite for the indulgence of spoiled brats and I will tell her this myself if you don't." He added: "I'm not remotely interested in presiding over a $180m ego bath that we both know will be the career-defining debacle for us both.
  "She's a camp event and a celebrity and that's all and the last thing anybody needs is to make a giant bomb with her that any fool could see coming."

Sunday, December 7, 2014


  Caught up with Sienna Miller in New York for a chat for the first time in seven years. And there was a lot of catching up to do. Since we last talked, which was shortly after she had played Edie Sedgwick in Factory Girl, she has had a baby daughter, now aged two-and-a-half, and is engaged to marry the baby's father, actor Tom Sturridge.
   She is also working hard and conscientiously with a massive eight movies awaiting release.  
  The Sienna of today is a vastly different woman from the girl who built a reputation as a rebellious wild child who did and said anything she wanted and to hell with the consequences.
  She realises her reputation beyond the big screen, particularly her affair with married actor Balthazar Getty, who has four children, damaged her film career. "I sabotaged things," she admits. "I burnt a lot of bridges."
   But now, she says with a wry smile, "I have a completely different life. I've never been particularly good at conforming to certain things but I think in my twenties I was a little more rebellious. I'm 32 now and I have a baby and I'm too tired to even think about rebellion. I think everyone calms down as they get a bit older."
  Sienna, who co-stars in the soon-to-be-released American Sniper and Foxcatcher, is still not quite ready to totally settle down to conformity however.
 "I have no imminent wedding plans," she tells me.

Saturday, December 6, 2014


with Lana Del Rey
I have to confess I'd never heard of the Australian singer Sia until I was invited to meet her at a press conference in New York.
And what a strange lady she is! She is, she says, in a 12-step programme and has been sober for four and a half years; she cries during Master Chef if someone's spaghetti carbonara doesn't work out; she has the lyrics to the song she is due to perform scrawled on the palm of her hand and --weirdest of all---she prefers to perform with her back to the audience. Four months ago she married Erik Lang, a documentary filmmaker, in Palm Springs, although four years ago she said she wanted to marry her then girlfriend, JD Samson of the electro-punk band Le Tigre.
 The world will be hearing plenty of Sia in the months to come---she is the voice singing the song Opportunity in the soon-to -be-released movie version of Annie. 
  Another singer I met on the same New York trip was Lana Del Rey, who seems a lot more normal than Sia even though Lana, too, is a recovering drink-and-drug addict. Now aged 24, she started early---at the age of 15 she was sent to a boarding school to get sober. She has, she tells me, now been sober since 2004.
  Lana write and sings the title song from Tim Burton's movie Big Eyes.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Jack O'Connell as Olympian Lou Zamperini
   Critics and reviewers who have seen Angelina Jolie's grim and gruelling Unbreakable are predicting that Universal, who put up $65 million for the production and are spending at least the same again on marketing it, will have trouble finding cinemas to screen it in Japan, the third largest film market in the world.

   Scenes set in a Japanese prison camp depicting the guards as ruthless torturers are expected to turn off Japanese audiences.

   But having seen the movie myself, I believe Universal could have trouble finding audiences for it anywhere, not because of its torture scenes but because it will likely only appeal to a small segment of cinemagoers. 

   The true story of Olympic runner turned war hero Lou Zamperini, who survived the crash of his bomber in the Pacific, spent 47 days adrift on a raft and then endured two-and-a-half years in Japanese prison-of-war camps, is admittedly a story of survival but it is also unremittingly harrowing in its depiction of Zamperini's suffering. At 2 hours, 15 minutes, it is also overlong.

  Beautifully photographed and well-acted though it is, the script needs a good rewrite, riddled as it is with such corny old words of wisdom such as "If you can take it, you can make it" and "A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory."

  There is no doubting Angelina Jolie's passion and commitment to the project, which was filmed almost entirely in Australia. 

   I could be wrong and it may turn out to be one of the hits of the year, and China, the world's second biggest film market after the U.S., where anti-Japanese films are welcomed and embraced, is certain to prove a lucrative market.

  "The Chinese government looks very favourably on anti-Japanese dramas," says USC professor Stan Rosen, an expert on Chinese film. 
        The film rights were first bought by Universal Studios in 1947 for Tony Curtis to star in but nothing ever happened until Angelina Jolie stumbled across the story. “I came home and said, ‘Honey, I think there’s a story called Unbroken I’d like to direct’ and Brad said,Honey, that’s been around forever,’” she recalled when I talked with her in a screening room at Universal studios.
  “I fought for months for it and then when I found out I was going to do it, but I didn’t know if we would get the money together and find the right actor, because I really wanted somebody who was just right for Louis and not just a celebrity that would green light it.”
  Angelina chose relatively unknown British actor Jack O’Connell for the gruelling role and filmed the story in Australia.
  When she finally received the go-ahead she told Brad to go up on the roof of their home and wave an American flag to indicate to Zamperini, who lived just a few houses up the hill, that they would be filming his story.
 Zamperini died on July 2 aged 97 but not before she was able to take her laptop to him in hospital and show him a rough draft of the movie. 
"It was a very heavy, very emotional journey for all of us working on the movie because we were moved by his story, we learned from his life and we had this opportunity to really get to know him and walk in his footsteps,” she said. 

“We would speak to him all the time and Jack O’Connell spent a lot of time with him and he was a mentor, a friend and a father in many ways to all of us. He was a great man, really, truly. They say you should never meet your heroes, but I met mine and he was extraordinary."
I could be wrong and it may turn out to be one of the hits of the year, and China, the world's second biggest film market after the U.S., where anti-Japanese films are welcomed and embraced, is certain to prove a lucrative market.

   "The Chinese government looks very favourably on anti-Japanese dramas," says USC professor Stan Rosen, an expert on Chinese film. 

Friday, November 14, 2014


  My pal Theo Kingma, the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and I met up with
Ricky Gervais while we were in London.
 Ricky popped into Soho's Groucho Club for a drink with us on his way to film the season-ending episode of his TV series Derek.
 We have known Ricky since he first hosted the Golden Globes back in 2010 when his jokes upset several star guests, including John Travolta, Robert Downey Jr. and Mel Gibson.

  "It was all in fun," he told us over a couple of glasses of wine at the bar. "I never meant to hurt anybody because I like all those people. I never make fun of anyone in a malicious way."
    There's a possibility Ricky could be back at the Globes in January as a recipient if he and his Derek series are nominated for awards in the TV comedy category.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


  It’s not easy making a film star blush. But Jennifer Lawrence turned bright red when I asked her why she seems to like English men so much.

   The 24-year-old actress, who had a three-year romance with Nicolas Hoult and is now dating Gwyneth Paltrow’s estranged husband Coldplay singer Chris Martin, giggled and stammered “I do seem to like English men, don’t I? Oh Gosh, I don’t know. You guys are just so charming.  Oh God, now I’m blushing and scratching and itching and sweating.”

  The youngest three-time Oscar nominee in Hollywood history (she won in 2013 for Silver Linings Playbook and was nominated again last year for American Hustle) has so far managed to remain for the most part enchantingly natural and down-to-earth.

   “There are wonderful, wonderful things that come with the job but there are difficulties that come with it too,” she told me when we talked in London just before the world premiere of Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One.

“I have perspective because I didn’t grow up in this business. I’m not from Hollywood, I’m from Kentucky. I didn’t become successful until a few years ago and I’m very aware of what the real world is and how much a couch costs.”

   She mentions the couch because she recently went shopping to furnish the $8 million home she has just bought in Beverly Hills and was appalled at the cost of couches in upmarket furniture stores. “So I bought one from Ikea,” she laughs. “It doesn’t matter how much money I make, unfairness in prices really fires me up. Like shopping in L.A  and a tee-shirt costs $150.”

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Oxford Street
  Christmas has come to London and a very festive scene it is, too, It's difficult to get across the Piazza in Covent Garden as it's crammed with tourists taking pictures of the giant Christmas tree, lights and decorations. The pubs, of course, are packed, with crowds standing outside as well as inside and Oxford Street is jammed with sightseers gazing at the newly-lit Christmas lights.
Standing room only at the French House pub
Covent Garden tree
   One of the biggest tourist attractions in the city right now is the magnificent field of ceramic poppies around the Tower of London commemorating those who died in World War 1. The installation of the 888,249 red flowers was to be dismantled on 12 November but huge demand from the public sparked a campaign to keep the installation in place longer before part of it goes on a tour of the UK.. In 2018 they will move permanently to the Imperial War Museum.

Poppies at the Tower of London