Sunday, September 30, 2012


  Such a pity, but the lovely French actress Marion Cotillard tells me she can't bear to do love scenes.  
 “I am shaking; I feel very bad and I want to cry most of the time because I hate it so much,” says Marion, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of the fragile and troubled chanteuse Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose.  
   Quelle dommage! 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


   Sixty years ago London society was buzzing with rumours that Prince Philip was having an affair with the actress and singer Patricia Kirkwood,
who at the time was the West End's biggest star. 
  The suggestion haunted Kirkwood for the rest of her life and now the supposed affair is about to surface again in a musical about Kirkwood's life called Patricia Kirkwood is Angry based on letters she and the Prince exchanged. 
  Although the letters were friendly with no hint of any sexual relationship between them the Prince has always refused to issue any denial of an affair, despite Kirkwood's pleadings that he protect her reputation.
  The one-woman musical stars the operatic mezzo-soprano Jessica Walker, who wrote it after being told the contents of some of the letters by Kirkwood's executor.  
  Walker’s musical covers Kirkwood's rollercoaster life that included four husbands, two bitter divorces, some high-profile lovers – such as Danny Kaye, Max Wall and President Kennedy’s brother-in-law, Peter Lawford – and a nervous breakdown in New York, when she tried to kill herself and was detained in a mental hospital for eight months.
  Kirkwood was the first female to have her own television show on the BBC and she created the starring roles in the London productions of musicals by Cole Porter, Noël Coward and Leonard Bernstein. On screen she played opposite George Formby, Arthur Askey, Van Johnson, and Laurence Harvey.
  At the time she met the Duke in October 1948, she was starring in the revue Starlight Roof at the London Hippodrome with a 12-year-old Julie Andrews.  A mutual friend brought Prince Philip to her dressing room and introduced them.
  Reports of the Duke of Edinburgh later dining in public at Les Ambassadeurs in Mayfair with the West End’s highest-paid sex symbol, and then dancing with her until dawn in a London nightclub while the future Queen Elizabeth was eight months pregnant with Prince Charles, created headlines around the world.
   “The inescapable fact is that Kirkwood’s first encounter with the Duke of Edinburgh, and six other meetings with him that followed, ruined her life and robbed her of official recognition in the Honours list," says Walker.

  Kirkwood wanted a Palace denial to protect her reputation, and wrote to Philip: “… if there had been some support from your direction, the matter could have been squashed years ago, instead of having to battle a sea of sharks single-handed”.
   But Philip replied: “Short of starting libel proceedings, there is absolutely nothing to be done. Invasion of privacy, invention and false quotations are the bane of our existence.”
   Kirkwood did not agree, telling one journalist: “A lady is not normally expected to defend her honour. It is the gentleman who should do that. I would have had a happier and easier life if Prince Philip, instead of coming uninvited to my dressing room, had gone home to his pregnant wife on the night in question.”
   Pat Kirkwood died aged 86 in 2007 in a nursing home in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, where she spent the final three years of her life suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
   Walker says: “The real scandal is not whether she did or did not have an affair with the Queen’s husband, but that this great star, who helped to rally the nation’s morale with her performances at the height of the Blitz, was allowed to die without so much as a humble MBE to her name.” 
   The musical will open at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, less than four miles from Kirkwood's birthplace in Pendleton, Salford, and will transfer to London in the New Year before moving to New York in 2014.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


   The first days of autumn, a sunny weekend in New York, and tourists and locals alike head out to explore and enjoy the city.
    The tourists flocked to the South Street Seaport where Asian visitors loaded with cameras packed onto the cruise boats that circle the Statue of Liberty. They may not have understood the running commentary from crew member Steve but they put their cameras to good use, ceaselessly snapping each other, the Statue of Liberty and the sights of New York's East River. When they disembarked, Steve's hopefully-held tip bucket went mainly unheeded.   
  But there were plenty of tips for the hard-working waitresses and bar staff in Pearl Street in the downtown area where pubs like the Dog and Bean, the Grouler and the Dubliner had taken over the street with stalls selling Guinness, Harp lager and oysters galore as part or the area's annual Oyster Festival. Hundreds of gallons of Guinness and thousands of oysters were consumed during the daylong festival which transformed into a nighttime party as festival-goers danced from bar to bar, clutching plastic cups of booze.
  But the festivities had to end at 4am because of a little-known New York law which, a note on my hotel mini-bar informs me, forbids drinking alcohol between 4am and 8am Monday-Saturday and  4am and 12pm on Sundays.
 So it seems that most times I have been in New York I have broken the law. But I don't think I'm the only one.

Friday, September 21, 2012


  Rumblings out of Universal indicate there are big problems with the studio's megabudget epic 47 Ronin, which stars Keanu Reeves. 
  Sources say that first time director Carl Rinsch buckled under pressure and lost control of the project. The budget has now soared past $225 million which means that with the millions the studio will have to spend on publicity and marketing, the movie will need to make more than half a billion dollars just to break even.

Reeves with 47 Ronin Japanese cast
    Executives who saw a rough cut of the movie instantly ordered a series of reshoots in London to put Reeves back in the centre of the action after seeing that the star wasn't even in the climactic battle scene.
    Rinsch has now been removed from editing the picture, which fictionalises the Japanese story of a group of 18th century warriors who aim to avenge their master's death.  Reeves, in his first starring role in a tentpole project since The Matrix trilogy, is surrounded by a mainly Japanese cast.
   47 Ronin was orignally due to be released in November this year but the date was then put back to February next year. It has just been rescheduled again....this time to Christmas Day 2014.
   A source close to the production described the situation as "a nightmare."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Jennifer now......
...and six months ago

It's been six months since I last saw Jennifer Lawrence and when we met again at the Toronto Film Festival the other day I couldn't help remarking how different she looked with her long blonde hair dyed black for the movie, Catching Fire.

  "I know. I can't get used to it," she laughed. "If I get up in the middle of the night to pee and catch sight of myself in the mirror I get scared." 
   So far unspoiled by her fame--she still lives in the same two-bedroom L.A. condo she has had for the past six years--- Jennifer is refreshingly down-to-earth and devastatingly honest. She was not having a particularly good time at the festival because, she admitted: "I don't like red carpets because I'm really bad at walking in heels and I don't like people shouting and screaming at me which is all the red carpet is."
  After finishing her stint at the festival she flew to Atlanta to begin filming Catching Fire, the second movie the Hunger Games trilogy.

Monday, September 17, 2012


  Talk about a double standard! When Prince Harry gets his gear off in the privacy of a hotel suite, the pictures are published around the world. But Kate Middleton goes topless and the French magazine that published the pictures---which can be seen online---is condemned across Europe.
  But if Kate wants to go topless again she won't have to hide. In the Solomon Islands resort of Tavanipupu where the royal couple have arrived on the seventh day of their Diamond Jubilee Tour it is considered impolite to show your legs but perfectly acceptable to show your breasts. "They don't like you to show your legs - people use a sarong - but they don't mind if you show your sou-sous (breasts)," said Pamela Kimberly, the co-owner of the island.
"We don't care what they do. There is only one rule: no rules."

Friday, September 14, 2012


  Chatted with Keira Knightley after the premiere of her latest movie, the period drama Anna Karenina in Toronto, but instead of discussing the movie she wanted to talk about her favourite football team, West Ham, and its new striker Andy Carroll. 
  "It's such a shame," she said of Carroll's hamstring injury which has ruled him out of action for six weeks. "We've only just got him on loan from Liverpool and he's just what we need because he plays our style of football. I hope he recovers quickly."
Carroll in his new West Ham strip
  We both agreed he is the ideal frontman to bang in the long through balls from midfield.
  I didn't tell her I was a Chelsea supporter but still, it was refreshing change to talk football instead of movies.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


 Television news crews are a common sight on the streets of Toronto during the film festival, but the team from Naked News is unique.
 Topless girl reporters stop passersby to solicit their views on topics of the day and the interviews are featured on Naked News TV, a pay-TV newscast which bills itself as "the programme with nothing to hide." 
  The female anchors read the news either fully naked or they strip as their present their news segments. 
  Perhaps if CNN reporters followed suit it would boost the network's sagging ratings. 

Monday, September 10, 2012


Fans with Radioman
    Looked in at Toronto's Soho House where Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts were the focus of attention after the premiere of their latest movie Impossible. It was the usual gathering of sycophants and star-seekers, but outside on the sidewalk, another celebrity was being born. 
  Passers-by were lining up to have their photograph taken with Radioman, the formerly homeless movie fan whose unparalleled obsession has taken him from sleeping on the streets to becoming a movie legend in his own right. 
  Radioman (so called because of the trademark boombox radio he hangs around his neck) spends his days and nights travelling from one movie set to another, hanging out with the cast and crew between takes and then moving on to wait until the early hours of the morning outside premieres and after-parties for the same people he has just spent the day with. 
  Now, having had small roles in more than 100 movies and been befriended by actors such as George Clooney, he is something of a star in his own right. 
  In the past I have talked with Radioman outside numerous New York hotels, at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles and now in Toronto where, he tells me, he has been flown by a TV crew who are making a television series around him.

  He is already the subject of a feature-length documentary film which is set to have its premiere at the London film festival in October.
  "I'll be there. See you in London," he told me in between posing for pictures with his newfound fans.
  He missed the flurry of activity as Naomi Watts left the club and was escorted to her waiting car but he didn't seem to mind. 
  "I'll see her again," he shrugged. "Maybe in London."

Saturday, September 8, 2012


A waitress gets into the festival spirit
The Toronto film festival---one of the biggest in the world--- is well under way and the city is buzzing as everybody gets involved, whether they're lining the red carpets for a glimpse of the stars, waiting outside the top restaurants and clubs.... or even seeing movies. And there are plenty of them to be seen.
  The festival, which is screening more than 370 movies from 72 countries, has become one of the most important platforms for new movies as well as being known as the place to go to win an Oscar----the last five Best Picture movies all screened at the festival.
 And while the Brad Pitts, Angelina Jolies and George Clooneys aren't anywhere to be seen this year, there are plenty of other stars for the celebrity-hungry public and paparazzi to feast on.
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lawrence
  Johnny Depp, Ryan Gosling, Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst, Bruce Willis, Jake Gyllenhaal, Joaquin Phoenix, Colin Farrell, a nervous and fidgety Kristen Stewart, Keira Knightley, Ben Affleck, Bradley Cooper...all are in town, walking the red carpets, hitting the clubs and restaurants and doing all they can to publicize their movies.
  Parties, of course, are lavish and plentiful. So far the best one I have been to was at the trendy Terroni restaurant where Ben Affleck and other cast members of Argo gathered after the movie's premiere. It wasn't too crowded and food and drink were plentiful. The movie, too, is excellent---probably the best of the festival--- and will almost certainly be nominated for Best Picture at Oscar time.  But it's early days yet and there are a lot of movies still to come. 

Friday, September 7, 2012


Talking with Julie Pacino
  Took in the first of many parties on opening night at the Toronto Film Festival where I talked with Al Pacino's daughter Julie about her plans to make The First, a movie about the life of America's Sweetheart Mary Pickford.
 Pickford, the first international movie star, was born Gladys Marie Smith in Toronto in 1892 and a statue and historical plaque mark the spot where her house was on the city's University Avenue.
Mary Pickford statue
 Julie says that Lily Rabe will portray the adult Pickford, Michael Pitt has been cast as Owen Moore, her first husband and Jude Law has been asked to play her husband and swashbuckling silent star Douglas Fairbanks. 
  "Her onscreen talents still hold up today," said Julie, talking during a crowded party where Pickford's movies played on giant screens around the room.  "She was the queen---much bigger than Madonna."
   Production starts next year and, said Julie: "We're excited to be kicking things off on opening night of the Toronto Film Festival. "I believe in timing and synchronicity and now is the time." 

Thursday, September 6, 2012


  I meet quite a few actresses in my line of work but I've never met one quite as multi-talented as the gorgeous Olga Segura, a 26-year-old Mexican who co-stars with Sharon Stone in the gritty drama Border Run. Olga plays a pregnant Mexican woman who tries to enter America illegally but loses both her life and her baby in tragic circumstances. 
  She is virtually unrecognisable in the movie and it's a good, attention-getting role for her, but she doesn't really need it. She has a degree in international commerce and a masters degree in project administration from the prestigious ESCP in Paris. The production company she founded, Prodduciones a Ciegas, has produced several films including Cellmates, starring Stacy Keach and Tom Sizemore.
  But her business acumen is vying with her filmmaking talents because the bottled Icelandic water company in which she is a partner is growing in volume and prestige and was recently featured at the Taste of L.A food and drink festival.
 When we talked at the bar of the Thompson Hotel in Beverly Hills after a Border Run screening we exchanged cards and she promised to send me a case of the water. It's a pity she's not involved in a vineyard and wine production but hey! the water will be welcome too. 


Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Daniel Craig as James Bond in the film Casino Royale
Daniel Craig as James Bond in the film Casino Royale 

Saturday, September 1, 2012


   Ever since Robert Mitchum was busted for smoking a joint at a party back in 1948, marijuana has been in regular use in Hollywood. Those who admit to using--or having used---it include Brad Pitt, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey, Tommy Chong....the list goes on and on.
Fred Astaire
    But Fred Astaire? The gentlemanly, clean-living song-and-dance man who was one of Hollywood's top stars for more than three decades.... a secret cannabis smoker? 
Pet Clark
   According to British sixties pop singer Petula Clark he smoked it while they were filming Finian's Rainbow in 1968 at the height of the hippie scene. 
  "There was a lot of Flower Power going on," she laughingly told BBC Radio 4. She admitted she had smoked "certain substances" during the filming, adding: "And Fred Astaire too." 
 She said filming Francis Ford Coppola's Finian's Rainbow in California with Astaire and Tommy Steele was "a wonderful experience" .She was 35 years old at the time and Astaire was 69. "A lot of good things were going on," she said. "It was California in the late 60s and it was kind of great."


  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...