Friday, March 30, 2012


  Anyone who cares about the history of Hollywood should join a group of filmmakers who are fighting to save a 90-year old Hollywood studio which developers are planning to demolish.
Allison Anders
   The Lot, the 11-acre sprawl of sound stages and wood-framed offices which once was Pickfair Studios, is a major historical landmark which will all but disappear if developers who want to put up a new five-story office building on the site have their way. The plan has already been approved by the city of West Hollywood.
Mary Pickford
  The Lot was the spot where Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks set up shop in 1928 for United Artists, the studio they formed with Charlie Chaplin and D.W Griffith and where hundreds of classic movies were shot, starting with His Majesty the American in 1919. 
Howard Hughes kept an office there, even though he owned RKO down the street and would spend hours watching movies in the projection room. 
  Film director Allison Anders, who is helping lead a Save Pickfair Studios drive, has so far collected 2,000 signatures from filmmakers and supporters who want to preserve the Lot. "If enough people care about it there will be enough people who will care to protect it," she says.
 Among the historic buildings scheduled for demolition are the Writers Building, the Fairbanks Building and Editorial Building.   
  "It will really change the character of the studio completely," says Anders.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


  Some years ago I interviewed Frank Langella just before the release of the movie Dracula in which he was starring. I remember him as being somewhat reticent but quite pleasant and friendly.
  Either I was totally wrong in my assessment of him or the years have changed and embittered him beyond all recognition.   
  Now aged 74, he has just published Dropping Names, a bombshell of a tell-all memoir in which
he lifts the lid on his dealings with Hollywood greats including Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Paul Newman, Rex Harrison, Richard Burton and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
 Tellingly, all but one of  66 celebrities he mentions are dead.
  In his book, the Oscar-nominated actor brands Richard Burton, Cary Grant and Paul Newman as huge bores, while Yul Brynner, Anne Bancroft and Charlton Heston, he says, had enormous egos.
Taylor: lonely
  He also recalls affairs with Rita Hayworth and a desperately lonely Elizabeth Taylor who, only after one date, begged him,  "Come on, baby, and put me to sleep."
  He claims to have turned down passes from Noel Coward and Tony Perkins.           Here's what Langella has to say about a few of Hollywood's dearly departed:  
  Yul Brynner
Burton: A bore
  "Never far from a full-length mirror." Apparently no actor ever talked about himself so much or had such little time for his fans. Brynner once explained how he'd had a special lift " big enough to fit a car" installed in the Broadway theatre where he was starring in The King and I to avoid contact with fans.
  Richard Burton
  A "crashing bore" who liked to recite poetry in a drunken stupor. "There sat a man approximately 52 years of age, looking 10 years older, dressed in black mink, with heavily applied pancake, under a tortured, balding helmet of jet black hair, grandly reciting tiresome poetry."
  Anne Bancroft
  "Consumed with a narcissism that often undermined her talents."
Newman: Dull
  Paul Newman
  "A pretty dull companion after the dirty-sexy jokes, shop talk, cars or politics were exhausted, never rude or unkind, just dull. In awe of his good looks, companions would instinctively think it their fault when he suddenly went quiet,"
  He was like the statue of David--- "physically perfect but emotionally vacant".
  Laurence Olivier
A "silly old English gent who loved to play camp and gossip".
  Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Harrison: son of a bitch
  Onassis was the first woman he met who found "money was an aphrodisiac". He says that despite her image as shy and fragile, she relished her fame and knew exactly how to market it.
  Rex Harrison
  A "real son of a bitch" who was terrified that people would think he was homosexual.
  Elizabeth Taylor
 "A small, sweet woman who wanted a man to be with her, protect her and fill a void as deep as the deepest ocean."  He recalls a desperately lonely Taylor who, after a second date in 2001, told him "Come on, baby, and put me to sleep." After helping the then 69-year-old actress upstairs by pushing her from behind he said he was shocked by the clutter in her room: pictures of dead ex-husbands, "dozens and dozens of bottles of witch hazel that she used to remove her makeup and a huge box of chocolates on her bed."
 Rita Hayworth 
 He had an affair with her when he was 34 and she was 20 years his senior while they were playing a mother and son in the 1972 Western The Wrath of God. She was drinking and suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. She couldn't remember her lines unless they were written in huge block letters and placed next to the camera, but they spent days together drinking while she reminisced.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


with Yoshiki
 Went to what has to be one of the best L.A. parties of the year so far at Soho House at the weekend. It was thrown by Japanese superstar Yoshiki, who, with his band XJapan, has sold more than 30 million albums around the world, although he has yet to break big in the U.S.
  The lavish party, which featured wine from Yoshiki's own brand, Y,  will go a long way to help him as, in between drinks and sushi, served up by celebrity chef Katsuya Uechi of Katsu-Ya, guests, mainly journalists, were shown a 20-minute film featuring newsclips and concert footage from Yoshiki's performances around the world.   Seeing the thousands of hysterical girls who greeted him wherever he went brought to mind the fan fever that surrounded the Beatles in the 1960s. There is another link to the famous British band as George Martin, who produced many of the Beatles hit records, also produced Yoshiko's album Eternal Melody.
  Yoshiki, who is a classically trained pianist and talented composer as well as a red hot rock star, is subdued and modest offstage. But he knows what he wants. When he was told he couldn't book the recording studio he wanted in Los Angeles for him and his band because the heavy metal band Metallica were using it, he simply bought the studio.  
  The last time Yoshiki and XJapan were in the UK they performed at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. Next time, he tells me, he will be playing in a somewhat larger venue.
 "Where?" I asked.
  "Wembley Stadium," he replied. 

Friday, March 23, 2012


  Virgin Group boss Richard Branson didn't get where he is today by passing up opportunities. 
   So when he came face to face with President Obama at the White House Branson, a longtime advocate for the legalisation of marijuana, took the chance to ask the President a burning question.
  “I asked him if I could have a spliff,” businessman and Virgin Group honcho Richard Branson told a crowd gathered at The Atlantic magazine's Washington offices the day after he attended the White House dinner.
“But they didn’t have any,” Branson said. 
 Was he joking?
  Only he knows. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012


HARD COPY has obtained the official autopsy report from the Los Angeles County Coroner's office on Whitney Houston, who was found dead in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. 


RE: Coroner Case Number 2012-01022 – HOUSTON, Whitney Elisebeth

The Los Angeles County Department of Coroner conducted an autopsy on the body of Whitney Elisebeth Houston, age 48, on February 12th, 2012.

The final cause of death has been determined to be:

·         DROWNING






No trauma or foul play is suspected. It is anticipated that the final Coroner report will be available for release within two weeks.                                                                                 crh03/22/2012                                                                                       

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


  Scary information is seeping out of Utah where thousands of construction workers have secretly started work on a massive, $2 billion spy centre which will be used by the National Security Agency to intercept and store telephone calls, private emails, text messages and internet searches from all over the world.
  When finished the center, in the remote valley of Bluffdale, will be five times the size of the U.S Capitol building and will house "the most covert and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever," according to a report in Wired magazine.     Today Bluffdale is home to one of the nation’s largest sects of polygamists, the Apostolic United Brethren, with upwards of 9,000 members and the spy centre will be less than a mile from their headquarters.
 According to the report, the center will be able to process yottabytes (a million billions of gigabytes) of data and it will use 65 megawatts of electricity a year, with an annual bill of $40 million.
The spy center intercepts commutation signals as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks.
  Using what will likely be the world’s fastest super computer, the NSA can gather data through ‘dumb’ home appliances such as refrigerators, ovens and lighting systems which are connected to the Internet.
The facility is to provide technical assistance to the Department of Homeland Security, collect intelligence on cyber threats and carry out cyber-security objectives, reports Reuters.

    Wired magazine quotes sources as saying that the center will use a network of satellites to break any encryption, monitor every email, and eavesdrop on any phone call—even land-line calls. “We are that far from a turnkey totalitarian state,” said one source.


Monday, March 19, 2012


  Hollywood is buzzing with rumours about a high-priced call girl ring run by a well-known multi-millionairess socialite from England.
   Although speculation has been rife for some months about the woman behind the beautiful starlets and models who count politicians, movie stars, athletes and Arabs among their regular clients, it is only now that she has been named on a blog written by an anonymous celebrity but believed to be an Oscar-winning actor. 
   The celebrity, who has something of a dark past himself, describes her as "the Rosetta Stone of every scandal and perversion from Hwood all over the globe.  She's an uber-wealthy divorcee whose hubby ran ------(he names a well-known U.K business)  and she ran the Arab investors! 
   "She's been running a high class call girl/party-girl ring for Arabs, Wall Street, DC, Royals, and Hollywood elites. She's also a MAJOR philanthropist, arts supporter, political donor, and social hostess to EVERYONE. Her best Hwood pals include Sean Penn, Clive Davis, Ari Emanuel, George Clooney, and Cindy Crawford."
   Hollywood observers believe it won't be long before the madam is publicly named. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012


 Hugh Grant is at it again! The floppy-haired Englishman who has earned millions of dollars by playing himself in mainly bad movies, is once again saying he has had enough of showbusiness and wants to retire.  
Grant: Banned by the Daily Mirror
 "It's not the be-all -and-end-all of my life, especially now," he told journalists in Las Vegas. "I am so out of touch with show business. You can definitely expect a lot less from me. I'm sure this is goodbye"
  If only! Despite his comments, moviegoers will still be able to see him in new projects for some years to come if they want to. He is supplying the voice of the Pirate Captain in the animated movie Pirates!Band of Misfits," has Cloud Atlas awaiting release and has signed up to return as Daniel Cleaver in the next Bridget Jones adventure, tentatively titled Bridget Jones's Baby.
  For the past few months he has been enjoying his campaign against the British media, claiming newspapers hacked his cell phone. "It's been fascinating to have a little excursion into another world," he said. "I really needed that and also to be dealing with real life instead of creating synthetic life, which is what I've been doing for the last 25 years or so."
  Then he had the good grace to add: "As for pulling back from showbiz, yes, I'm embarrassed at how often I've said it. I realise I sound like a stuck record......"
  Too true, Hugh. Too true.

Friday, March 16, 2012


1970: Hoffman on a horse
  The abrupt cancellation of the HBO TV series Luck following the deaths of three horses during filming brings to mind something Dustin Hoffman told me recently.
   Hoffman, 74, who starred in the series as gambler and racehorse owner "Ace" Chester Bernstein, was no lover of horses and until he was cast in Luck he had had nothing to do with them for 40 years. The last time was in 1970 when he starred in the Western Little Big Man and had to ride one.
Hoffman today
   “I have the shortest stride in the history of man and the tightest hamstrings,” he said. “I can’t put my legs around a horse, that’s how tight they are. I’m a Los Angeles Jew born in 1937 so why would I ever go on a horse? They had to lift me onto the horse and literally take me off at the end of the day, carry me into a car take me home and put me in a bath of Epsom Salts. It was an excruciating experience.”

Thursday, March 15, 2012


   Warner Bros. have found a way to cash in on Whitney Houston's untimely death.
with Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard
  The movie studio is rushing her 1992 hit film The Bodyguard back into cinemas for a one-night-only special event at cinemas across America on March 28.
   The excuse is that this month marks the 20th anniversary of its release, but one cannot help thinking the occasion would probably have gone unnoticed and unremarked if it had not been for the singer's tragic death.
   We can also expect a re-release of The Bodyguard soundtrack album which became the best-selling soundtrack of all time with nearly 12 million copies sold in the U.S. 
  Featuring the cover of I will Always Love You, the album also launched four other hit singles for Houston: I'm Every Woman, Queen of the Night and two Oscar-nominated songs, I Have Nothing and Run to You.      

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


  It's been 70 years since Humphrey Bogart told Sam the pianist to play As Time Goes By again. And to celebrate the anniversary,  that classic movie Casablanca is coming back to the big screen.
   Warner Bros and Turner Classic Movies are joining up to show the epic love story at movie theaters across America on March 21 at 7pm.  The screening will begin with Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne taking audiences behind the scenes in a special original production showcasing stories from those who were on set and those who simply admire the timeless classic.
  As every movie lover knows, Casablanca is a tale of unrequited love
and political and romantic espionage set against the backdrop of war-torn Europe. It  is a project that defined the “golden age” of Hollywood and is listed again and again on the top ten lists of critics and fans alike; its snappy lines are repeated by movie buffs the world over. 
 With rich and smoky atmosphere, anti-Nazi propaganda, Max Steiner's superb musical score, suspense, unforgettable characters (supposedly 34 nationalities are included in its cast) and memorable lines of dialogue (e.g., "Here's lookin' at you, kid," and the inaccurately-quoted "Play it again, Sam"), it is one of the most popular films of all time, focusing as it does on the themes of lost love, honour and duty, self-sacrifice and romance within a chaotic world.
  Directed by Michael Curtiz and shot almost entirely on studio sets, the film moves quickly through a tightly constructed plot, even though the script was written from day to day as the filming progressed and no one knew how the film would end - who would use the two exit visas? [Would Ilsa, Rick's lover from a past romance in Paris, depart with him or leave with her husband Victor, the leader of the underground resistance movement?] 
  And three weeks after shooting ended, producer Hal Wallis contributed the film's famous final line - delivered on a fog-shrouded runway.
  It won Oscars for Best Picture (producer Hal B. Wallis), Best Director, and Best Screenplay.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Jennifer: hot-shot archer
 Chatted with Jennifer Lawrence, who is about to become a HUGE star through her role as Katniss Everdeen in the long-awaited and highly-anticipated The Hunger Games, and I have to say she is one of the funniest, most down-to-earth stars-to-be I have run across in this business.
 As every teenager---and most of their mums--- knows, The Hunger Games is a movie based on the first of three books by Suzanne Collins and set some time in the future, when every year a boy and a girl from each of twelve districts are pitted against each other in a brutal game of survival where they are forced to kill each other in a televised death match until only one remains as the victor. 
with Jennifer in search of water
  Jennifer, as Katniss, proves a formidable fighter and a deadly shot with a bow and arrow.  But talking in a luxurious Beverly Hills hotel suite, looking gorgeous in a black leather-like dress, Jennifer freely admitted that her own survival skills aren't up to much. "I wouldn't even know how to find water here," she said with a laugh. "The only way I know is to ask my publicist. And as for food, I've just ordered lunch but if it doesn't make it to me, I don't know how I'll eat." 
  A girl who values her privacy, 21-year-old Kentucky-born Jennifer is uncertain about how she will handle the onset of fully-fledged fame, which is not something she's looking forward to. "I like my life as it is," she said. "Things like fame and my career are kind of at the bottom of my priority list and I'm worried that the things on top of the list will get changed because of it. And that's scary."

FOOTNOTE: I saw The Hunger Games a couple of weeks ago but I'm not allowed to review it or write about it because Lionsgate Studios have slapped an embargo on anything being written until March 20, just before the movie is released.
Could it be they are worried about bad advance reviews? 

Friday, March 9, 2012


 Incredibly detailed model of Hogwarts Castle used for every film in series is revealed for the first time

Jose Granell, model supervisor, is pictured with the model of Hogwarts Castle. 
   Harry Potter fans suffering withdrawal symptoms after 15 years of the young wizard's adventures can get their fix where the series was filmed. 
  There, at Leavesden Studios in Hertfordshire, England, this  extraordinary model of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is due to go on display for the first time, along with many other sets from the series of hit films.
  The model was built for the first film,  Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (renamed Sorcerer's Stone in the U.S.) and has been used for exterior shots in every film since. When all the time spent by 86 artists and crew members is added up, it took an incredible 74 years to build.
  Measuring 50 feet across, it has more than 2,500 fibre optic lights to simulate lantern torches and students passing through hallways. It even has miniature owls in the Owlery and hinges on the doors.
  The castle is going on display from March 31 as part of Warner Bros.'s The Making Of Harry Potter studio tour.
 Promotional material for the tour promises: 'For the first time, the doors are going to be opened for everyone at the studio where it first began.
Stuart Craig, production manager, is dwarfed by the massive structure
'You'll have the chance to go behind-the-scenes and see many things the camera never showed. From breathtakingly detailed sets to stunning costumes, props and animatronics, the tour provides a unique showcase of the extraordinary British artistry, technology and talent that went into making the most successful film series of all time.'
 The tour will take Potter fans inside the Great Hall and Dumbledore’s office and visitors will also be able to step onto cobbles of Diagon Alley, walking past the the shop fronts of Ollivanders wand shop, Flourish and Blotts, the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, Gringotts Wizarding Bank and Eeylops Owl Emporium.
The model as it appears in the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Iconic props from the films, including Harry’s Nimbus 2000 broomstick and Hagrid’s motorcycle will be on display alongside life-sized models of some of the creatures from the films.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


 There are probably more stretch limousines in Los Angeles than any other city in the world. But none of them can compare with the one photographer Theo Kingma and I spotted in Guadalajara. These Mexicans really know how to travel in style! 
  At Vaca Limousines for $300 you can rent a converted Boeing 727-100 to cruise the streets for the evening. Known as The Love Jet, it is particularly popular with couples wanting to join the Mile High Club without leaving the ground.   
  I'm betting it won't be too long before we see fleets of them at the Golden Globes, the Grammys and the Oscars.   

  Trivia note: The first stretch limousines were created in Fort Smith, Arkansas, around 1928 by a coach company named Armbruster. Called big band buses, they were primarily used to transport band leaders such as Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman and their bands and equipment. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


 Still in Guadalajara and enjoying the ambiance, sunshine and cervezas but had a nasty shock when I picked up the local papers.  Both La Prensa and El Sol de Guadalajara had pictures of dead bodies---different ones!---emblazoned on their front pages.
  El Sol's gruesome picture was of a young man's blood-covered, bullet-ridden body sprawled on the back seat of a car while La Prensa featured three wrapped bodies--a girl and two men---found in a rubbish dump and below them a picture of a naked man, found in a canal. For good measure La Prensa also had two large dramatic back page pictures of a dead man lying in the road after having been hit by a truck. The headline: No Alcanzo a Cruzar (I Failed to Cross).
 It was enough to put readers off their breakfasts and not the sort of thing you expect to find in your morning newspaper.
 Can't wait to see tomorrow's news.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Balloons in the plaza
  Like all big Mexican cities Guadalajara is a melting pot of contrasts. By day, a busy bustling city of crowded streets where shoppers frequent big stores like Gigante, Sears and C and A; but in the evening it assumes a new identity as a vast market place and playground where families meet in the plazas and browse the thousands of stalls selling arts, crafts, souvenirs and enough jewellery to decorate the whole of Mexico. 
Photos: Theo Kingma

Sunday, March 4, 2012


  So far, so good. I've been in Guadalajara for two days and no sign of bullet-ridden bodies or warring drug cartels; just a bustling, lively city with leafy squares, plenty of museums and some wonderful architecture.
  And it's heartening that in a country where human rights aren't the number one priority, protesters can still have their say.  Pancho---he wouldn't give his other name--and his friend Jesus have set up an Occupy Guadalajara camp in the main Plaza de Armas, which they have surrounded with signs pleading for peace, justice, an end to bloodshed and, of course, looser marijuana laws.
  There is a British ambiance to the city at the moment as the Film Festival, which has just opened, is focusing on British movies, with a nine picture retrospective and tribute to Mike Leigh, who will also be giving a master class at the festival.
 "It's amazing how little film industry relations Mexico has with Britain," says festival director Ivan Trujillo, "so we want this event to be the start of an opening of a new era. 
  Across the city, Pancho and Jesus, too, are hoping for the dawn of a new era.

Friday, March 2, 2012


  For me, the high spot of the weekend was brunch with Alice Eve at the Sunset Marquis. Alice, daughter of British icon Trevor Eve (remember Shoestring?) is one of Hollywood's hottest new young actresses with three major films due out shortly.
She is so in-demand we had only been seated for five minutes when a waitress arrived with an invitation from a group of men at a nearby table for Alice to go to their party that night. She politely turned them down.  
She will soon be seen in The Raven, a fictionalised account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe in which he tracks a serial killer who has kidnapped Alice's character. Filmed in Serbia it was, she says, "a tough, gruelling shoot. I went through everything my character did, including being buried alive."
Then May sees the release of Men In Black III in which she plays Young Agent Oh, the 60s version of Emma Thompson's Agent Oh. 
And she is currently filming the new, as-yet-untitled---and very secret --Star Trek movie at Sony Studios. "I'm not allowed to say anything about it at all, but it's such fun and we're all having an amazing time,." she says.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


   Mitt Romney moved one step closer to the Republican presidential nomination with wins in the Arizona and Michigan primaries on Tuesday night.
   But President Obama may have already won the election, according to CNN's OutFront programme.
  Because "The Artist" beat "The Descendants" for Best Picture at the Oscars.
  A strange pattern has emerged over the past 50 years, and it seems an incumbent president's hopes for re-election are tied to which films win big at the two major Hollywood award shows, says OutFront producer Christopher Moloney.
  Specifically, if a film is named Best Picture (Drama) at the Golden Globes and Best Picture at the Academy Awards, the Republican candidate is elected.
If not, the Democrat wins.
The theory applies to the year the films are awarded, not the year they are released–this year's awards went to films released last year–and if it holds, "The Descendants' " inability to repeat its Golden Globes triumph at this year's Oscars means Obama will win.
In 2004, George W. Bush, a Republican, was re-elected when "The Lord of The
Rings: The Return of the King" won both the Golden Globe and the Oscar.
In 1996, Bill Clinton, a Democrat, won a second term when "Sense & Sensibility" and "Braveheart" split the trophies.
Golden Globe
"Bugsy" won the Golden Globe and "Silence of the Lambs" took the Oscar in 1992, and George H. W. Bush lost to Clinton.
Ronald Reagan won his second term in 1984, when "Terms of Endearment" won both statues, and four years before that, he beat Jimmy Carter during the "Kramer vs. Kramer" sweep.
In 1972, Richard Nixon was re-elected on the strength of "The French Connection," a film about a police officer who stumbles on a French connection, only to resign two years later when a security guard stumbles on a Cuban connection.
And less than a year after assuming office for John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson was re-elected when the Golden Globe and the Oscar went to two different films: one about a young Catholic priest from Boston confronting bigotry ("The Cardinal"), the other about a ladies' man ("Tom Jones").
There are exceptions to the rule, of course.
In 1976, when "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" won both awards, things went crazy, and Gerald Ford failed to win.
But as Ford was never actually elected as president or vice president in the first place, there is an argument to be made he was never a true incumbent.
The only other time the election went off-script was in 1956, the first year the Golden Globes were held with a president seeking a second term.
That year, "East of Eden" won the Golden Globe but not the Oscar, which went to "Marty," and Adlai Stevenson, a Democrat, lost to incumbent Dwight D.
The loss must have been particularly tough for John Steinbeck, the "East of Eden" author, who had actually sent a 19-page handwritten letter to the Democratic Digest, advising them on how to prevent Eisenhower from winning a second term.
In the letter, Steinbeck wrote: "It is generally considered that novelists are not good politicians. As candidates I should (think) this would be true but as designers of political method the reverse is probably true."
Or maybe he should have just asked a screenwriter.


  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...