Thursday, June 30, 2011


    Graham Chapman in Monty Python's Life of Brian
    . Graham Chapman in Monty Python's Life of Brian in 1979. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext
       Graham Chapman, one of the founders of the Monty Python comedy team and star of Life of Brian, is to be the subject of a  3D animated biopic.      
      Adapted from the actor's 1980 memoir A Liar's Autobiography: Volume VI, the film will blend contributions from the surviving Pythons with audio of Chapman reading from his book, recorded shortly before his death from cancer in October 1989.  It is set for a theatrical release in the UK next spring.             Monty Python's Flying Circus ran on the BBC between 1969 and 1974, and then Chapman and his fellow Pythons---John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones. Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin---went on to film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian and 1983's The Meaning of Life.          Holy Grail cast Chapman as an ineffectual King Arthur, with his arrival telegraphed by the clatter of coconut shells, while the controversial Life of Brian remade him in the guise of a hen-pecked Jewish everyman who is mistaken for the son of God. "He's not the Messiah," his exasperated mother explains to the faithful. "He's a very naughty boy."         Off-screen, Chapman was notable for being one of the first openly gay celebrities after blithely outing himself on a 70s TV show. But his Python-era heyday was often marred by alcoholism, which reached its nadir on the 1975 set of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.            In the film John Cleese is expected to play himself, with Palin co-starring as Chapman's father and Jones mimicking the late comic's mother. Of the surviving members of the Python team, only Eric Idle has yet to sign up.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


   Had she lived Princess Diana would be Facebook friends with arch-nemesis Camilla Parker-Bowles, have 10million Twitter followers and an 'it's complicated' relationship status.
At least that's what Tina Brown's Newsweek thinks in a front-page lead article that imagines what the late Princess would be doing at 50.
The piece hits newsstands days before July 1, which would have been Diana's milestone birthday.
Newsweek even mocked up an image of an aged Diana and her new daughter-in-law Kate for the cover
Newsweek even mocked up an image of an older Diana and her new daughter-in-law Kate for the cover
  And the cover features a superimposed image of the Princess which has been digitally aged, walking next to her new daughter-in-law, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.
  The picture shows Prince William's wife giving her mother-in-law, who is still trim with barely a few wrinkles, an admiring glance.
The article - entitled Diana at 50 - is written by British journalist Tina Brown, editor-in-chief of Newsweek.
  In the piece Brown also imagines Diana would be living in New York, after having married two more times.
   'There is no doubt she would have kept her chin taut with strategic Botox shots and her bare arms buff from the gym,' she writes.
Brown - who wrote the book The Diana Chronicles - says the mother-of-two would have a good relationship with ex-husband Prince Charles and be BFF (best friends forever) with Carole Middleton, William's mother-in-law.
   She says: 'I believe her best male friend in later years would have been, poignantly, her reviled first husband."

Monday, June 27, 2011


  This Andy Warhol painting of Farrah Fawcett seen hanging over Ryan O'Neal's bed is at the centre of a tug-of-war between the actor and the University of Texas, which claims it is the rightful owner of the painting. 
  Fawcett, who died two years ago, willed her entire collection of paintings to the university, where she studied art. But the university only received one of two Warhols she owned.  
  The other, estimated to be worth $30 million, had not been seen since Farrah's death two years ago until it appeared in the first episode of a new reality television show, Ryan & Tatum: The O'Neals, which documents the reconciliation between O'Neal and his daughter Tatum following an eight-year rift. 
  What appeared to be the portrait, which shows Fawcett with bright red lips and green eyes, was spotted hanging directly above O'Neal's bed as cameras toured his house.
  Craig Nevius, a close friend and business partner of Fawcett, told ABC News that Tatum O'Neal's new autobiography had already given a clue to the painting's fate. In the book, ironically titled Found, she mentions that the portrait was in her father's home in Malibu, writing: "On every wall, there are pictures of us and the rest of the family in our golden days. The original poster from Paper Moon, Andy Warhol's portrait of Farrah."
   Mr Nevius said: "That was a 'Thank God, we've caught you' moment. I told the university."
   O'Neal, 70, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Love Story, has said that "all of Farrah's wishes expressed in her will have been fulfilled."

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Rooney Mars with co-star Daniel Craig
The U.S. movie version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is not being released until December 21 but already the marketing campaign for the thriller is causing controversy.

One of the posters shows 26-year-old  Rooney Mara, who plays cyber-punk hacker Lisbeth Salander, with an exposed pierced right nipple which some  fans feel does not fit with Salander's feminism and body-image issues. 
  Others call the poster exploitative and feel uneasy about seeing the actress exposed in that way. "If she were my client I would say, 'I don't see how this is selling your movie,'" one prominent publicist told Entertainment Weekly. "It's not cool and sexy---it's sordid."

Friday, June 24, 2011


 Actor Hugh Grant has become something of a campaigner in favour of privacy for celebrities and has spoken out against the pernicious influence of the tabloid press in recent weeks. 

 But he used to have a very different opinion. Here is an extract from an interview he gave to the BBC in 2003 to promote the film Two Weeks Notice:

 Interviewer: How frustrating is it for you that people are more interested in your love life than your films?
Grant: I do get frustrated, but I understand where the instinct comes from. When I think about actors I know, I’d much rather hear about who they’re shagging than what film they’re doing next.

And in a 1994 interview with GQ Grant said: “I love the News of the World and avidly read dirt on other people.”

Thursday, June 23, 2011


  Festival fans were contending with muddy mayhem at Glastonbury after torrential downpours turned the 900-acre site into a quagmire.
  Every inch of Worthy Farm in Somerset has become a mud bath as early arrivals gear up for the beginning of the main event.
Welly-clad music fans put on brave faces despite hundreds of tents flooding and treacherous conditions underfoot.
  Headliners at this year's event are Coldplay, Beyonce and U2.
Quagmire: A festival-goer carefully walks through a puddle at the Glastonbury festival in Somerset today
Quagmire: A festival-goer carefully walks through a puddle at the Glastonbury festival in Somerset today
Desperate measures: Site workers try to suck mud from the market areas close to the Pyramid Stage in an attempt to dry them before the main event begins tomorrow
Desperate measures: Site workers try to suck mud from the market areas close to the Pyramid Stage in an attempt to dry them before the main event begins tomorrow

In for a penny... Tom Wilder, 17, from Kent, gets into the festival spirit and performs a dramatic slide in the Glastonbury Festival mud
In for a penny... Tom Wilder, 17, from Kent, gets into the festival spirit and performs a dramatic slide in the Glastonbury Festival mud

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Thousands of revellers sporting wellington boots and winter coats are beginning to arrive in Somerset as the Glastonbury Festival gets under way.
Rain-hardy fans battled through the drizzle and mud to get to the campsites on 900-acre Worthy Farm for the start of Britain's biggest and best-loved music festival.
The heavy rain and soft, marshy ground did little to dampen the spirits of those attending as they manfully marched through the elements.
Wet, wet, wet: Festival goers arriving at the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset this morning

More than 177,000 people are expected to attend the festival to see  U2, Beyonce,  Coldplay and others perform.
Unlike last year's sun-drenched festival, music fans have packed woolly jumpers, waterproofs and wellies as they brace themselves for autumnal temperatures and regular downpours.
Glastonbury banner

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Traditional British weather was unable to dampen the spirits of 18,000 revellers who thronged Stonehenge at dawn to celebrate the summer solstice.

Chief druid Arthur Pendragon leads incantations during the summer solstice ceremony: Traditional British downpour for ancient Stonehenge midsummer rituals
Chief druid Arthur Pendragon leads incantations Photo: REUTERS

A druid prays for peace. Photo: Reuters 

Monday, June 20, 2011


billy the kid photo.jpg
Courtesy Old West Show and Auction
  The only known photograph of  William H. McCarty, alias William Bonney, alias Billy the Kid -- arguably the single most famous photograph to emerge from the Wild West -- will be up for public sale for the first time ever next weekend.
   And no, the young desperado in the photo doesn't look anything like Paul Newman, Kris Kristofferson, Emilio Estevez, or any of the other actors who played the Kid in the movies. 
  Experts regard the credit card-sized tintype as the only authenticated surviving image of the Kid. It was taken around 1879, outside a saloon in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, when McCarty was barely out of his teens and already a budding cattle thief and jailbird
  The Kid gave it to his pal Dan Dedrick, and it's been in the family ever since. It's occasionally shown up in museum shows and has been featured in numerous books on the Kid, including one by Pat Garrett, the sheriff who gunned Billy down on July 14, 1881--130 years ago next month.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


John Lasseter   Photo: Theo Kingma
The trend of celebrities owning wineries and vineyards is spreading. Francis Ford Coppola's Rubicon Estate in Napa Valley has been producing a wide range of wines for the past 35 years but now more and more celebrities with money to spend and the desire and taste for their own wines, are following in his footsteps. 
   Fellow filmmaker John Lasseter, co-founder of Pixar and director of Cars 2, and his wife Nancy use Bordeaux and Rhone varietals to produce an excellent Syrah rose and a St. Emilion Red blend at their Lasseter Family Winery in Sonoma.
Depp---ships his wine
Jolie and Pitt's chateau Val Joanis
 Johnny Depp has his own wine shipped from his vineyard near his home at Plan de la Tour in the South of France to wherever he is filming while Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are newcomers to the trade, having recently bought Chateau Val Joanis, also in the South of France,  a 1,000 acre estate which is home to one of the oldest vineyards in the world.
Simply Red frontman Mick Hucknall owns the Il Cantante vineyard in Sicily; Mick Fleetwood has his Mick Fleetwood Private Cellars in  Lake County, California and Emilio Estevez produces wine at his Casa Dumetz near his home in Malibu.
Cliff Richard---gold medal winner
And who'd have thought it, but that bastion of sobriety and clean living, British pop star Cliff Richard, is a leading winemaker in Portugal where his Adega do Cantor winery was last year the grand winner of three of the most coveted awards in the Algarve----gold medals for his Vida Nova white, red and rose wines. 

Friday, June 17, 2011


It is a remarkable picture---the wreckage of San Francisco's City Hall, destroyed in an earthquake in 1906. But the photographer was even more remarkable: he was Jack London, at the height of his fame as an author when he roamed the ruins of the city on assignment for Collier's magazine, making notes, interviewing people and taking photographs. 
A book recently published by authors Jeanne Campbell Reesman, Sara S. Hodson, and Philip Adam from the University of Georgia Press highlights the little known photography work of Jack London, who is more famous for authoring books like The Call of the Wild and White Fang. 
 But before that, in 1903, he published The People of the Abyss, an extraordinary photojournalistic narrative of poverty in London’s East End. 
  Impersonating a runaway American sailor, London rented a small room, bought some used clothes, and walked the streets, photographing drunken women fighting, children dancing to a street organ, and men sleeping under the arches of bridges in the raw cold. 
   In the book London wrote: "The London Abyss is a vast shambles; no more dreary spectacle can be found. The color of life is gray and drab, everything is hopeless, unrelieved, and dirty. Bathtubs are a thing totally unknown; any attempts at cleanliness become howling farce. Strange, vagrant odors come drifting along the greasy wind; the Abyss exudes a stupefying atmosphere of torpor which wraps about the people and deadens them." 

From People of the Abyss.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


This is Petra Ecclestone, the 22-year-old  fashion designer and billionairess who has just bought Candy Spelling's monstrous mansion which has been on the market for two years priced at $150 million. 
Although she is believed to have paid less than $100 million, Petra can easily afford it because her dad, Bernie Ecclestone, is the CEO of Formula One Management and has an estimated worth of $4 billion.
Known as The Manor, the home is the largest in Los Angeles County at 56,500 square feet. Built in 1991 to the Spellings' specifications, the estate has a bowling alley, beauty salon,  gift-wrapping rooms and parking for 100 cars.

Outside the mansion Photo: Theo Kingma
Candy Spelling will be moving into a 16,500 square foot penthouse condo in nearby Century City, for which she paid $35 million.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


The new issue of Playboy magazine which hit shelves today featuring Hugh Hefner's former fiancé Crystal Harris is likely to become a collector's item.
Bad timing: The new issue of Playboy magazine featuring Crystal Harris hit shelves today - just hours after the pair called off their wedding The cover features the tag line 'Introducing Mrs Crystal Hefner', and brands 85-year-old Playboy boss's runaway bride an 'American Princess'.
  The pair had been set to marry at the Playboy Mansion on Saturday in front of 300 guests - but the wedding has been called off amid claims that former Playmate Crystal, 25, had been cheating on the magazine founder.
  The magazine features a semi-naked Crystal on the cover wearing Hef's trademark sailor's cap and smoking a pipe and inside blonde Crystal poses nude in a seven-page spread as she claims in a glowing tribute to her former boyfriend: 'I'm happier now than I've ever been in my whole life.'
Quick demise: The couple seemed happy less than two weeks ago when they smiled for the cameras at the opening of the new Playboy Club in London
In happier times

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


After weeks of speculation, Mildred Baena, the mother of Arnold Schwarzenegger's love child has spoken out.
The 50-year-old former Schwarzenegger housekeeper has revealed the moment Arnold's wife Maria Shriver discovered the sordid secret she had kept for almost 14 years.
'Maria did ask me directly if Joseph was Arnold's son and I just broke down,'  Guatemala-born Mildred says in an interview with Hello! magazine. 'I dropped to my knees and I was crying, saying that, yes, he was and I was so sorry.'
Secrets revealed: Mildred Baena, pictured with her son Joseph, has revealed the moment she admitted to Maria Shriver that Joseph was Arnold Schwarzenegger's son
Secrets revealed: Mildred Baena and Joseph

In her first interview Mildred reveals: 'She was so strong. She cried with me and told me to get off my knees.
'We held each other and I told her it wasn't Arnold's fault, that it takes two. That is what I admired about her, her strength and the way she handled it.'
  She believes suspicions were raised when she brought the 13-year-old over to the Schwarzenegger's home last summer after a long absence.
The physical similarities between the youngster and his biological father had become too obvious to ignore, and Mildred says she thinks Maria heard whispers after people in the house noted the likeliness.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Debbie Reynolds on the throne from Prince Valiant
   When I interviewed Debbie Reynolds at her Los Angeles canyon home last year, just before she left for a concert tour of England, she was upbeat and optimistic that she had finally found a home for the treasure trove of film memorabilia she had been collecting for almost 50 years.

    It would go on permanent display, she said, in a purpose-built new museum at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, near Dolly Parton's Dollywood theme park. 

  But since then the developer of the property went bankrupt and all other efforts to find a home for the 5,000 vintage costumes, props, letters and even cars from Hollywood's Golden Age have failed and now the 79-year-old actress has decided to sell everything in a series of auction sales. 

     "I'm very sad the collection isn't in a museum," she told me, "but I've spent literally millions of dollars just on protecting it and taking care of it and now I'm sick and tired of it and feel I must call it a day."

   The star of such classic films as Singing In The Rain and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Reynolds acquired many of the costumes, props and sets when she bought the MGM collection in 1970, but she continued to add to it, telling me only last year: “I've just bought Audrey Hepburn’s dress from the Ascot scene in My Fair Lady."

   Among the items are props and costumes from My Fair Lady, Cleopatra, The King and I, Rita Hayworth's dress from Salome, Harpo Marx's hat and wig and the famous pleated dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch,

   Debbie Reynolds had the collection briefly on display at the Las Vegas hotel and casino she owned in the 1980s and despite losing a small fortune, the hotel and having to declare bankruptcy she managed to hold on to the memorabilia.

  The first sale, of about 600 items, is expected to raise between $4 million and $6 million. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Slutwalk participants '

Women wearing stockings and bras and carrying banners with the words  "Slut" and "Cleavage is not Consent" were among 5,000 people who took part in the UK's latest Slutwalk in London.  
  The protest movement was sparked by a Canadian policeman who advised students to "avoid dressing like sluts" to avoid being victimised.
  Since then, thousands of people worldwide have taken to the streets to highlight a culture in which they say the victim, rather than the abuser, is blamed.
  Whether wearing four-inch heels with "slut" painted on their chests, or jeans and trainers, the marchers were united in their message, reports the BBC.
  Chants of "blame the rapist not the victim, doesn't matter what I'm dressed in" rang out above the roar of traffic.
  "Our culture needs to change --it needs to teach people not to rape, not how not to be raped," says 21-year-old student Rhiannon Frame.
   Some marchers said they knew victims of sex assaults, while others had experienced casual abuse from men who assumed their outfits made them fair game.   "If you go to a club you can be grabbed on the behind three times in an evening by a bloke who thinks it's ok because you're wearing a short skirt. There's an assumption it's flattering," Sophie Durham, 23, said.
  Some said women experience double standards in which they are under pressure to look sexy, but are also expected to live chaste lives.   "There's a culture in which women are expected to put out but if they do, they're sluts. Women call other women sluts," Philippa Dunjay, 23 said.

Lauren Harper, George Legg, Rhiannon Frame George Legg (centre) was one of many men who walked in solidarity with female friends. Photo: BBC

Friday, June 10, 2011


Martin Campbell. Photo: Theo Kingma
  It's not often a top flight director is honest enough to call his latest movie, a special effects-filled, big budget extravaganza, "cheesy."
Ryan Reynolds
  But New Zealand-born Martin Campbell, who rebooted the James Bond franchise with the gritty Casino Royale, is refreshingly candid in his assessment of The Green Lantern, the latest in a series of summer blockbusters based on comic book superheroes. 
   Campbell, whose favourite director is David Lean and favourite movie Lawrence of Arabia, told me: “The very nature of a Green Lantern or a comic strip is that it’s lightweight, fantasy and, if you will, cheesy. The concept of some of these movies is what we used to call a big cheese factor."
   He took the assignment, he says, because: “I don’t get that many offers and this was a new challenge."
 The Green Lantern stars hunky Ryan Reynolds as the cocky test pilot who joins the Green Lantern Corps of intergalactic warriors.  
"I chose him because he was cheap and he's not the best looking guy in the world," said Campbell, tongue-in-cheek.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


An A-12 spy plane is readied for radar testing at Area 51
The crashed A-12 spy plane
For almost 50 years the U.S. government has managed to cover up the fact that a A-12 spy plane crashed in the Utah desert while on a test flight from the secret military outpost Area 51 in 1963.

An A-12 prototype on a testing pylon  in Area 51
 Now the National Geographic news website has posted photos of the crashed plane along with never-before-seen photos from the 1950s that provide a rare glimpse inside Area 51, the clandestine site which has been the subject of speculation for many years. 
    Conspiracy theorists have long believed the area was used to house captured aliens and grounded flying saucers. It is even believed by many to have been the site of a staged moon landing.  
    But the website puts the record straight. "Area 51 was created so that U.S. cold warriors with the highest security clearances could pursue cutting-edge aeronautical project away from prying eyes," it says. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011


  Meet Foreskin Man, the blonde, muscular comic book hero who has stirred outrage with his battle against  Jews in a campaign to ban circumcision in San Francisco.
   Defenders of the measure, which is on the election ballot in November, say it’s all about “human rights” and “protecting babies” from unnecessary procedures.
But critics suspect there is something anti-Semitic about the whole proposal, since among Jews (and Muslims, as well) circumcising male babies is a religious duty, not just a mistaken medical procedure.
   Foreskin Man, written and created by Matthew Hess, takes on Monster Mohel, a bearded black-hatted man wearing a prayer shawl who leers as he leans over a baby, scissors in hand.
     Hess, who is a key figure behind the initiative to ban circumcision, says: "We're not trying to be anti-Semitic; we're trying to be pro-human rights."

Thursday, June 2, 2011


  When it was released 40 years ago Stanley Kubrick's violently sadistic A Clockwork Orange was so controversial that the director had to go into hiding after receiving a stack of death threats. At his insistence the film was pulled from U.K. cinemas and wasn't shown there for another 28 years. 
    Now to commemorate the anniversary a two-disc Blu-ray edition is being released featuring Malcolm McDowell, now 67, who starred as the Beethoven-loving sociopath Alex, quoting some of the film's most memorable lines.

   The scene that particularly infuriated and agitated critics was the one in which Alex sexually assaults a woman while tap-dancing and belting out Singing in the Rain.

   It is a good time to remember the genius of Kubrick, who, with A Clockwork Orange, managed to leave audiences both entertained and disgusted.


  It's always a pleasure seeing Nicole Kidman, whom I first met 21 years ago on Batman Forever. A lot of water under the bridge si...