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

Thursday, November 6, 2014


  I've arrived in London at the beginning of a great publicity stunt for the movie Paddington. And what a coup for that crafty old movie mogul and Oscar campaigner Harvey Weinstein, the movie's producer. .

David Beckham's Golden Paws Bear
  All across the city, along what is being called the Paddington Trail, are 50 statues of the famous bear designed by celebrities and artists, incuding David Beckham's Golden Paws, Emma Watson Flutterby, Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Bear and Nicole Kidman's Blush.
Visitors can follow in the furry footsteps of Paddington, visiting locations across the capital from as far west as Heathrow through to the O2 in the east, taking in some of London’s key cultural and landmark hotspots such as The Royal Opera House, Museum of London, Horse Guards Parade, the Museum of Childhood, Selfridges and, of course, Paddington Station.
Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Bear
  A website details a full list of designers and their designs and visitors to London can find out more about the trail and download the trail map, share their pictures and discover the stories behind each statue and location.

Paddington’s origins date back almost sixty years to when his creator, Michael Bond, bought a small bear from Selfridges on Christmas Eve 1956, as a present for his wife, and named him after the nearest railway station to which they lived.
 In Michael Bond’s original tales, the young bear finds himself alone in a big and unfamiliar city.  Taken in by the Brown family, he finds a warm welcome and a safe place to stay and sets out to discover more about his adopted city. 
Due for release on November 28, the big screen debut of PADDINGTON will showcase many of the trail locations in the capital, including his first port of entry – Paddington station. The film, produced by Harry Potter producer David Heyman, stars Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi, Jim Broadbent and Nicole Kidman with Ben Whishaw as the voice of PADDINGTON.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Los Angeles-based Anglos and Anglophiles gathered at the Beverly Hilton for BAFTA-LA's  annual Britannia Awards which somewhat arbitrarily honours randomly picked actors and filmmakers for their achievements.  

   Last year the wonderful Sacha Baron Cohen enlivened the proceedings by seeming to push an old lady in a wheelchair off the stage into the audience. But this year there were no such high spots although Dame Judi Dench, making a rare appearance in Los Angeles, surprisingly revealed she has a tattoo of Harvey Weinstein on her bum.

  Robert Downey Jr., who in the past has played such British icons as Charlie Chaplin and Sherlock Holmes, received the Stanley Kubrick Britannia for Excellence in Film and other award recipients were Emma Watson, Mark Ruffalo, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Mike Leigh.

  But with no Sacha Baron Cohen to liven things up, although the compere Rob Bryden did his best and the wine flowed freely, the evening dragged on...and on for three and half long hours.

   Next year BAFTA would do well to put a time limit on the proceedings so those attending can get to the after-party before the following day arrives.


Monday, October 27, 2014


  All those predictions that Christopher Nolan's latest epic, the space adventure Interstellar, will take away a stack of Oscars could be far off the mark. Now the film has been screened for critics and selected audiences, many are not so enthusiastic.
Hathaway. Picture: Theo Kingma
    It is almost three hours long and is decidedly complex, dabbling as it does with black holes, wormholes, quantum physics, the theory of relativity and extra-dimensional space among other subjects.
   Many who saw it at an early screening at the Science Center Imax Theatre were decidedly unimpressed by both its length and its complexity. 
   Even the stars confessed to me they don't fully understand what was going on. “I had a sort of working knowledge of the concept of the film and I can’t say that I understood everything," Anne Hathaway told me when we talked on Sunday.   
  And Matthew McConaughey, who plays the leader of a four man crew of astronauts searching for a habitable planet in another galaxy before Earth is wiped out, told me: "I'm going to see it again tonight for the second time. I had 50 questions after the first time and I am going to have 100 more tonight."

Monday, October 20, 2014


  The last time I was in Guy Ritchie's Mayfair pub The Punchbowl was about a year ago when it was so crowded that getting to the bar for a drink was a major challenge. Outside, security guards patrolled the street to make sure the hordes of drinkers did not stray off the pavement.
  Ever since Guy Ritchie and Madonna bought it in February 2008 for 2.8 million pounds from Greg Foreman, the son of gangster Freddie Foreman, the 300-year-old pub has been a favourite of the rich and famous and, consequently, the star-spotters and paparazzi. Princes William and Harry were customers, as were David Beckham, Kevin Spacey, Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Timberlake. Ritchie celebrated his 40th birthday there in September 2008. When Ritchie and Madonna divorced he kept the pub as part of the settlement.
  But now Ritchie has sold the pub to Cirrus Inns and how things have changed! No more celebrities, so no more crowds or security guards. While other pubs in the area are doing good business the Punchbowl, lacking customers, closes at 5pm on Sundays..  
  Friends say that although Ritchie enjoyed his role as a pub landlord he became fed up with what went with it----a few months after he bought it it was investigated for alleged trading breaches but was cleared of charging tourists more than regulars. 
 And in 2009 Westminster council received 37 complaints about noise from the pub.
  No danger of that happening now!