Monday, April 29, 2013


Carey Mulligan and Leo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby
 The sparkly British actress Carey Mulligan has revealed that the audition she went through for the role of the very American Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby was "the craziest audition I have ever done."
   Carey, 27, was one of many actresses, including Keira Knightley, Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson, who were vying for the role in Baz Lurhmann's sumptuous, $125 million remake of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel.
   "It was in a loft somewhere in New York and usually auditions are just a camera, you and the casting director or whatever," she told me when we talked at New York's Plaza Hotel the other day. "This was at least three cameras---one 3-D camera, one guy walking around with a camera and Baz had a hand-held camera. Then were were two photographers taking pictures of the whole process and I instantly hated everything I was wearing. 
  "I was like, why am I here? It was really scary. Then we started playing scenes and Leo (DiCaprio) was playing Gatsby but he was also playing Tom Buchanan because although we had all those cameras we had no other actors so he'd be sitting down being Gatsby and then he'd jump up and stand behind the camera and be Tom and it was amazing.
  "We did a scene where Daisy drops her lighter and she is panicking and he picked up the lighter and lit my cigarette and improvised as Gatsby, saying all these things to me under his breath like, 'Daisy, I love you' and 'Daisy calm down" and he helped me so much.
  "We spent about an hour-and-a-half together auditioning and I loved it and I walked out thinking, 'If nothing else ever happens I've acted with Leonardo DiCaprio.
  " And then Baz called me that evening and asked me to come back in the following morning to do more of a screen test."

  As Daisy, Carey is following in the footsteps of Mia Farrow who co-starred with Robert Redford in a 1974 version and Betty Field, who appeared with Alan Ladd in 1949. Mira Sorvino co-starred in a 2000 TV version opposite Toby Stephens.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


  Omar Borkan Al Gala, a poet, actor and now internet sensation, is one of three men forcibly removed from a culture festival in Saudi Arabia after religious police declared the men to be "too handsome". According to Arabic language newspaper Elaph a festival official said the three Emiratis were taken out on the grounds they are too handsome and there were concerns that female visitors could fall for them.
 Until now the identities of the three illegally handsome men has been unknown, but web speculation now suggests that one of them could be Omar Borkan Al Gala.
Though far from being confirmation, on his Facebook page Al Gala posted a link to an article about the deportation with the comment: "This is what written in newspapers in over the world :)"
Elsewhere, in a typical post the poet writes: "The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides."
 If Al Gala is not the handsome man mentioned he has done nothing to dampen the rumours that he is - instead choosing to continue to post his smouldering photographs.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Photos: Theo Kingma
While guests at the Ritz-Carlton in the Mexican holiday resort of Cancun start the day with a buffet breakfast costing the equivalent of $35 those in the know gather a couple of hundred yards down the street where a more basic and tastier breakfast can be had for about one-twentieth of the cost. 
 By the side of the road Sergio Manuel Torres and his wife Guadalupe del Carmen Gasca serve delicious pork and chicken tortillas and sandwiches, lathered with guacamole and chili out of the trunk of an old taxi. His customers include
security guards, hotel staff, other taxi drivers and a few tourists.
  Then when the food is gone as it inevitably is, Sergio goes back to his other job of driving a taxi.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013


  I was talking with Matt Damon the day after the second suspect in the Boston marathon bombing was arrested and the actor was still shocked and confused about the carnage the bombs had brought to his hometown.
Photo: Theo Kingma
   "It's really, really horrible and upsetting," he said. "These kids who allegedly were the bombers went to my high school and I only found out when I had the TV news on and I heard the voice of my history teacher saying he knew the younger brother and didn't understand what had happened.
  "Marathon Monday is a really big deal in Boston. Kids don't have to go to school, it's a big community event and these guys who were part of the community put bombs in the middle of the celebration.  It's unbelievably disturbing."
  The 42-year-old actor, who was born and brought up in the Boston suburb of Cambridge, said he had been talking the night before with his fellow Bostonian Mark Wahlberg. "He had a quote which sums it up: He said 'It's just fucking disgusting.' And if you're from Boston that's the only way to describe it."

Saturday, April 20, 2013


Picture: Theo Kingma
  It is fitting that one of the first interviews I have done since arriving in Cancun was with Salma Hayek, who greeted me with: "Welcome to  my country."
  But like me 46-year-old Salma, who was born in Coastzacoalcos, Veracruz, was visiting her Mexican homeland for only a short time. She now lives in Paris with her French billionaire husband of four years, Francois-Henri Pinault and their 5-year-old daughter Valentia although, she says: "I'm very excited to come back to Mexico and it's always with me wherever I go. It was hard to find tortillas in Paris, but I managed.   
  "My daughter, though, feels very American and I guess it's her way of having her own identity because her mother is proud to be Mexican and her father is so proud to be French.
  "So I want to teach her that home is not a place but more of a state of mind. And I want her to feel at home everywhere we go,"

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


A police officer stands guard outside Cancun's house of death
While tourists are staying away from Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and other major Mexican tourist resorts because of a plague of drug cartel killings, Cancun has remained a peaceful holiday sunspot.
   Until now, that is. 
   I came here  to do a few interviews, kick back in the sun and enjoy the beach bars only to discover that the night before I arrived the bodies of seven people had been found on the patio of a house in the city's suburbs. Six had been strangled and one had been beheaded.   
Enjoying the Cancun sun and sea

  It is the second time in two months that Cancun---which generates more than one-third of Mexico's tourism income---has been the site of a mass killing. Last month seven people were killed and four others wounded in a shooting at a bar used by local by taxi drivers.
  City officials,hotel staff and tourists alike are worried about the brutal and seemingly random violence although a somewhat deluded woman I spoke to in a bar last night assured me the drug cartels were protecting the tourists. 
  That's not what global intelligence company Stratfor believes, saying that the woman's belief that the cartels care about tourists is a misconception. 
 "Nothing in the behavior of Mexican cartels indicates that they would consciously keep tourists out of the line of fire or away from the gruesome displays of their murder victims," the company notes.  
"Violence related to the cartels is spreading, and while tourists may not be directly targeted, they can be caught in the crossfire or otherwise find themselves in situations where their security is compromised."
 So far my stretch of beach has remained sunny and peaceful and I hope it stays that way.

Friday, April 12, 2013


   Lindsay Lohan denies she has a booze and drug problem. But in the unlikely event that is the case she will be tested to the utmost during the coming week: She is heading for the Coachella music festival where so many people are drinking, snorting, smoking and sniffing that it's virtually impossible not to get at least a contact high.  
   Still, the 26-year-old actress has reportedly promised not to drink or take drugs and you can bet there will be platoons of photographers following her around cataloging her every move. 
  But even if she manages to survive Coachella she will be battling some serious temptation when she checks into the court-appointed rehab facility on Long Island where she is due to spend 90 days. Just up the road from the Seafield Center is Six Corners Liquors, which is offering a 20 per cent discount on cases of wine and has promised to serve her should she decide to pop in.
  "If Lindsay came in we would treat her like a normal customer," the owner is reported as saying. "If she wants to buy something of course we will allow her to buy something. I would never say no to her."
  Seafield is not a lock-down facility like the original terms of her plea bargain called for, but police will doubtless be alerted should she decide to walk out or make a run for it. 
  Personally I consider Lindsay Lohan a highly talented and intelligent actress and on the two occasions I have met her she has been friendly, funny and good company.
   So, good luck Lindsay, and stay away from the strong stuff!       

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


  While tributes pour in for Margaret Thatcher----Meryl Streep called her "a pioneer....groundbreaking and admirable"----British filmmaker Ken Loach offered a different opinion. 
  Ignoring the policy of not speaking ill of the dead Loach, whose films include The Wind that Shakes the Barley and Poor Cow, slammed her in a statement, calling her  "the most divisive and destructive Prime Minister of modern times."
. While she was in power, Thatcher clashed with the labor movement over her belief in deregulation and push to privatise state-owned companies. Loach suggested that any funeral arrangements should take a page from Thatcher's economic policies.
"How should we honour her? Let’s privatise her funeral," Loach said. "Put it out to competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. It’s what she would have wanted."
 He went on to enumerate the financial hardships that he claimed resulted from her leadership.
"Mass unemployment, factory closures, communities destroyed – this is her legacy. She was a fighter and her enemy was the British working class," Loach said.

Monday, April 8, 2013


  If Hollywood studios want their movies to be shown in China they have to toe the Chinese line and do what they're told.   
 Brad Pitt is the latest star to have his movie cut by the producers to make it suitable for Chinese audiences, and more big-budget blockbusters intended for summer release are being scissored as China’s fast-growing appetite for Hollywood films exerts an ever-more powerful influence on the major studios. 
   Pitt's $175 million zombie epic World War Z had to lose a scene in which characters debate whether a zombie apocalypse emanated in China.   
  "It’s not a huge plot point,” said a source,  “but it was done because Paramount wants to release the movie there."

  China passed Japan as the largest international source of box office revenue in 2012, contributing $2.7 billion, a 36 percent increase over the previous year. And some analysts say the Asian giant will pass the United States in box office revenue by 2020.

 While China has loosened its restrictions on the number of foreign films that can screen in the country, its film board continues to wield a great deal of influence, causing unprecedented changes in plots, release strategies, casting and other elements of Hollywood production.

 Marvel Studios has just announced it will release an alternate version of Iron Man 3 in China featuring China’s leading movie star Fan Bingbing, as well as offering specially prepared bonus footage made exclusively for the Chinese audience.

While most try to avoid running foul of Chinese censors before production begins, some studios don’t alter their movies until post-production. Chinese censors cut large chunks out of several movies released last year, including 40 minutes from Cloud Atlas and 12 minutes from Men in Black 3, taking out all scenes set in Chinatown.

  A scene that featured the assassination of a nameless Chinese security guard was eliminated from the James Bond film Skyfall.  

 “The Chinese Communist Party wants to have a unified message,” Stanley Rosen, director of the University of Southern California’s East Asian Studies Centre told TheWrap. “They are getting better in terms of what subject matter is allowed to be shown, but worse in terms of remaining hyper-sensitive to anything that puts China in a bad light.” 
   China only opened its market to the Hollywood studios in 1994, when its own film industry had reached its nadir. “It wasn’t out of admiration for Hollywood but to save the Chinese film industry,” Rosen said. “People weren’t going to the movies.”

  At the time, China only allowed 10 foreign movies to be screened each year, then increased it to 20 before the current total of 34. Those additional 14 slots are all reserved for IMAX or 3D.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


  Because this year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Oscar-winning actor Burt Lancaster we can expect a slew of fulsome tributes to his acting talents and his always superb physique. UCLA has already started a Lancaster centennial retrospective at the Hammer Museum which runs until the end of June.   
   But it is unlikely we will hear much about his humanity and decency because according to those who knew  him he was an intimidating and bullying cross-dresser who liked to play cruel tricks. 
   According to Kate Buford's biography Burt Lancaster---A Life, the star of movies such as The Crimson Pirate, Elmer Gantry, From Here to Eternity and The Sweet Smell of Success loved to go to bars dressed like a woman and hit on men, taking them home and then revealing his manhood. 
  According to a close friend he also liked to go to Rock Hudson's notorious gay orgies with U.S Marines, show off his toned physique to gay admirers and get a kick out of not letting them have him. 
   When asked point blank if he had participated in Hudson's gay orgies, Lancaster denied it, telling a pal: "I go to the opera too, but I don't sing."
  Three-times married, Lancaster died in his Century City apartment in 1994 aged 80 after several heart attacks.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


  Everybody knew that John Lennon and Paul McCartney didn't get along, and now confirmation comes in the form of a a letter written by John and sent to Paul and wife Linda back in 1971, shortly after the formal break-up of the Beatles. .

 In the typewritten letter, which is expected to sell for around £40,000 in an online auction, John launched a bitter rant at the couple over six pages about the demise of the Beatles and their treatment of Yoko Ono.

 "I hope you realise what ... you and the rest of my kind and unselfish friends laid on Yoko & me since we have been together," he wrote, also predicting the McCartneys' marriage would be over within two years, adding: "Do you really believe that most of today's art came about because of the Beatles? I don't believe you're that insane Paul ... Didn't we always say we were part of the movement -- not all of it? Get off your gold disk and fly." 

   Despite the vitriol, he signed off: "Inspite of it all, love to you both, from us two."

Monday, April 1, 2013


Hopper on the set of The Last Movie in 1971
   One of my Hollywood regrets is that I never knew Dennis Hopper in his wild, out-of-control heyday when his daily drug and alcohol intake was, by his own count, three grams of cocaine, 28 beers and 59 shots of rum. 
    When I first met him in 2008 at the opening of an exhibition of his photography, and later when I went to his art-filled compound in Venice, there was no sign of the gun-toting rebel he had been. In fact he was unfailingly courteous and friendly and eager to talk about art and artists rather than Hollywood and actors. 
   I didn't know at the time he was suffering from prostate cancer (he died in March 2010 aged 74) which had been diagnosed a decade earlier.
   But his weird and wild life has been preserved for posterity in several books, the most recent being Hopper: A Journey Into the American Dream, by Tom Felsom  which highlights some of the more dramatic events in his life: There was the time he pulled a knife on Rip Torn in 1968, causing Torn to pull out of Easy Rider and allowing Jack Nicholson to grab the star-making role. 
  Then there was Hopper's orgy with his 16-year-old co-star Natalie Wood and director Nicholas Ray during the filming of 1955's Rebel Without a Cause. It ended, according to Hopper, when Wood's champagne bath inflamed her privates and sent her to hospital.
  His days-long marriage to Michelle Phillips ended after he fired guns inside his Taos, New Mexico house while Phillips was reportedly handcuffed. And in 1984 there was the incident in a Mexican jungle when he "sexually assaulted a tree" and implored puzzled policemen to kill him. 
   He eventually went into rehab and gave up alcohol and drugs although I'd be very surprised if marijuana didn't help ease the pain of his cancer in its later stages. 
    Dennis Hopper was a true original and there will never be another like him


  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...