Thursday, November 29, 2012


With Quvenzane at the Fox Searchlight party
 It's that time of the year when the movie studios throw their holiday parties and invite journalists to meet and mingle with the stars of the movies for which they have Golden Globe and Oscar hopes.
  Fox Searchlight took over Cecconi's on Melrose for their party for stars, writers and directors of their movies Hitchcock, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Sessions and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
  It was there that I met and chatted with possibly the youngest Oscar contender ever with the most unpronounceable name---6-year-old Quvenzane Wallis, the star of Beasts of the Southern Wild.
   Quvenzhane, who had never acted before, comes from Louisiana, where the movie was filmed, and she had been flown by Fox Searchlight to Los Angeles with her mother to attend the party and chat to journalists, which she did with style and confidence.
   While in Los Angeles little Q had been to Disneyland and was due to fly home to Louisiana after the party. But there is little doubt she'll be walk the red carpet at the Golden Globe and Oscar ceremonies. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


River Phoenix in Dark Blood
  It's been 19 years since River Phoenix died of a heroin and cocaine overdose and only now has the film he was working on when he died been finished.
 When he died there were 11 days of filming left on Dark Blood and he was involved in every scene and nearly every shot. Location filming in Utah had finished and Phoenix had been back in Los Angeles for only one day when he visited the Viper Room, then part-owned by Johnny Depp, who happened to be on stage with his band when Phoenix overdosed outside on the sidewalk. 
  The film was filed away and was due to be destroyed when the Dutch director George Sluizer, whose previous films include both the Dutch and U.S version of The Vanishing, rescued it from the warehouse where it was kept. Almost two decades later, after recovering from a massive heart attack, he has completed it as best he can, rejecting the idea of hiring another actor and instead using extensive narration to bridge the gap between scenes.
  Phoenix plays Boy, a young widower who retreats to a nuclear testing range in Utah to await the end of the world. He becomes involved with a married couple, played by Judy Davis and Jonathan Pryce. 
  Dark Blood was recently screened to an audience at the Netherlands Film Festival in Utrecht where it was described as "a unique experience."

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Stirring things up at a cooking contest
  Sorry to hear of the death of Larry Hagman at the age of 81. 
  A talented actor, gentleman and devoted environmentalist, shortly before he died he told me he was planning a trip across America in his solar powered Airstream trailer (below).
  I first met up with Hagman back in the 80's when he was the biggest star on television as Dallas's J.R. He was one of the competitors at a gourmet cooking contest in Houston and he invited me into his kitchen, loaned me one of his hats and gave me some tips on how to stir things up. 
On the set with Larry Hagman and cast  in downtown Dallas
  We met up again some years later at a Malibu chili cook-off and we last talked earlier this year on the set of the new Dallas TV series when he told me about his planned trip across the U.S to promote solar energy.
 He had just survived a bout with the cancer that was to kill him a few months later, although he was convinced when we talked  he had totally recovered.
  His longtime friend and co-star Linda Gray was at his bedside when he died.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


              Bon Jovi at The Mint                                               Picture: Theo Kingma
 It's been some 20 years since Jon Bon Jovi played anything other than arenas or stadiums. But he reverted to his club roots in Los Angeles the other night when he performed a 40-minute set at the tiny Mint club on Pico Boulevard.
 His audience consisted of about 80 friends, journalists, agents and awards voters who were there to hear, among other numbers, Not Running Anymore and Old Habits Die Hard, the songs he wrote free of charge for the comedy film Stand-Up Guys and for which he is tipped for Golden Globe and Oscar nominations.  
  "I can relate to those guys," said 50-year-old Bon Jovi of the movie's stars, Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin. Bon Jovi spent time on the set of the movie in Los Angeles watching the filming to get a feel of what was needed for the songs.
   The rocker was previously Oscar-nominated 22 years ago for his song Blaze of Glory from the film Young Guns 11. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Ann Reid with Daniel Craig in a scene from The Mother
  The 77-year-old actress who stripped off for Daniel Craig when she was 68 and starred with him in the movie The Mother says she wishes she had been "wilder" with the actor, who is 33 years her junior.
  The 2003 British drama was considered groundbreaking for its explicit scenes in which Reid, playing a lonely widow, began an affair with her daughter’s boyfriend.
  However, now the actress says: “I wish I’d been more adventurous, sexually wilder, in the film.I was worried I’d look a fool but, oh blimey, no. I don’t regret it. I got noticed.”
 The role was offered to a number of actresses before Reid, all of whom turned it down. One unnamed actress wrote to the director, Roger Michell: “I am insulted by this script and I am appalled that you have sent it to me even to read.”
  Reid, talking to Radio Times, admitted that initially she wondered if the scenes would "put people off their tea". But she said: "I’m glad I did it because it was daring and I like challenges.
“It brought me other parts, but I was never offered anything sexy. It happened to be a bit too late.” 
 The actress, who played Valerie Tatlock in Coronation Street and Jean in Dinnerladies, is returning to television in Last Tango In Halifax. The BBC One comedy co-stars Sir Derek Jacobi and the two play childhood sweethearts who rekindle their romance after 60 years apart.
  Reid said older people deserved to be represented on screen as something other than doddery pensioners.
“They used to think you were old when you reached 50. Now everyone is looking forward to being like Joan Collins and Jane Fonda. Soon there won’t be many grey-haired grannies,” she said.
“Actresses of my age constantly complain they’re put out to grass, but I don’t know. We can be sexy in later life. Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren are fighting back. The main thing is to have a positive attitude.”

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Brian Epstein ....the Fifth Beatle
   The small but vocal group of  fans who have long demanded that more attention should be paid to the achievements of  Beatles manager Brian Epstein are finally being heard.

    Forty-five years after Epstein's death from what was ruled an accidental drug overdose, not one but TWO film biographies are in the works, one of them based on a graphic novel and the other to be produced by Tom Hanks, who lately has been faring better as a producer than an actor.

    Hanks's movie will star the busy Benedict Cumberbatch (TV's Sherlock Holmes) as Epstein, the mild-mannered, dapper Jewish homosexual who was running his family's Liverpool furniture and record store when he heard the Beatles perform a lunchtime show at the Cavern Club and decided to become their manager.  

   The movie will be competing with The Fifth Beatle, based on a coming graphic novel. Although no casting has been announced, the movie, written by the novel's author Vivek Tiwary, has secured music rights to the Beatles songs.
   No word yet on whether either screenplay will delve into the long-rumoured homosexual liaison Epstein had with John Lennon.



Monday, November 12, 2012


Inside the Twihards fan camp

  They're a tough bunch, these Twilight fans. No wonder they're called Twihards. For the past week they've been camping out in their thousands at a specially prepared "fan camp" set up outside the L.A. Live entertainment centre in downtown Los Angeles in readiness for the world premiere of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn---Part Two, the fifth and final episode of the phenomenally successful film series. 
  Not only have they had to contend with wintry temperatures and high winds but they have also endured the jeers and taunts of basketball fans passing the camp on their way to watch the Lakers games at the nearby Staples Centre.
  Executives at Summit Entertainment, which is releasing the film, are well aware of the publicity value and have done their best to make conditions as palatable as possible for their Twilight fan base: they have been planning the fan camp for three months, have hired security teams to protect the fans, put up a fence around the camp and even paid for a weather service to provide hourly forecasts.
  Although the Twihards---like Summit---- are mourning the end of the series, which has racked up more than $2.5 billion in worldwide ticket sales, amassed 80 million fans on Facebook and 167 million views on its YouTube hub, not everyone is sorry to see the lucrative saga come to an end.
  "I'm ready to move on," its star Kristen Stewart told me. "We've taken Twilight as far as it will go. We put everything we had into it and the story is complete."  The actress, who has been promoting another movie, On The Road, in which she has a graphic nude scene, has already moved on from her co-star and longtime boyfriend Rob Pattinson and confessed to a brief romance with 41-year-old Rob Sanders who directed her in Snow White and the Huntsman. She and Pattinson appear to have reconciled although Hollywood sceptics  believe their rekindled relationship is nothing more than a well-orchestrated publicity stunt to sell movie tickets.
  Twihards, and Summit, too, will soon move on to other things: Catching Fire, the sequel to another young female, book-driven movie franchise, The Hunger Games, is currently being filmed and will be out next year, courtesy of Summit's parent company, Lionsgate, and is expected to surpass even the Twilight series in attracting both box office dollars and fan fervour.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

  Flight is a movie that will put anyone off both flying and drinking. Although the movie lets itself down with a pat and sappy ending, Denzel Washington turns in an Oscar-worthy performance as an alcoholic airline pilot who loves to get utterly, hopelessly, leglessly smashed on cocaine, vodka and beer. 
  Consequently he is shown downing huge amounts of Stolichnaya, Smirnoff and Absolut vodkas and Budweiser beer, much to the chagrin of Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch. 
   The brewer has complained to Paramount Pictures asking them to remove the famous Budweiser logo from the movie when it is released on DVD and TV 
   "We would never condone the misuse of our products and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking," said Anheuser-Busch vice president Rob McCarthy pompously.
   Paramount have refused to comment and many think Anheuser-Busch's complaints will do the brewer more harm than good and they'd have been better off keeping quiet.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


  Ewan McGregor raised some Democratic chuckles with his election night tweet about Mitt Romney. 
  "Mitt won Utah!!! The men in that state are allowed more than one vote each though, so it shouldn't really be taken into account,"  wrote McGregor, who is in L.A. promoting his latest movie, The Impossible.
   But then political correctness---and probably his p.r. team---intervened and the actor tempered his tone shortly after, writing: "Apologies for the Utah gag. Was a stupid joke. Didn't mean to cause any offense."
   No apology necessary, Ewan.....there are plenty more offensive Romney jokes than that flying around. 

Monday, November 5, 2012


    Now that the Disney Co has bought the Star Wars empire for $4 billion, the scene is set for a massive pop culture invasion from the famous galaxy far far away.
     Disney is planning to cash in big time with new TV shows, theme parks and a merchandising blitz featuring Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo and the rest of the Star Wars stable of heroes.
   And, of course, there will be movies. And more movies. . 
    Scripts are already being prepared for three new Star Wars movies followed by new Star Wars films every two or three years.
    But not many observers and commentators have realised that Disney also owns the ESPN sports network. So it might not be long before we see Star Wars characters popping up during Monday Night Football and---horror of horrors!---during ESPN's Saturday morning telecasts of English Premier League games.  
     R2-D2 and C3P0 instead of Steve McManaman and Ian Darke? 
     If so,  I'm cancelling my subscription!

Thursday, November 1, 2012


  Another member of the talented Hemingway dynasty is about to burst into the world spotlight. She's 24-year-old Dree Hemingway, great-granddaughter of Ernest, daughter of Mariel and niece of the late Margaux. Dree, who is a classically-trained actress, has been modelling since she was 18 and has just landed her first movie role, starring in Starlet, playing a newcomer to the porn film industry.   
Dree at a photo shoot
  Outspoken and down-to-earth Dree tells me she has a soft spot for English accents (she says she's in love with the English owner of a New York restaurant), loves roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and is looking forward to spending Christmas in the Cotswolds. She is also refreshingly honest in her assessment of her great-grandfather's work.
  She doesn't think much of his classic, semi-autobiographical novel The Old Man and the Sea and, she says, she fell asleep while watching Hemingway and Gellhorn, the film version of his love affair with war correspondent Martha Gellhorn.


  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...