Thursday, September 26, 2013


  Ever dreamed of a place where the sun shines all day, the sands on the beaches are firm and golden, wine costs the equivalent of $1-50 a glass and a three course meals costs $12 with a free bottle of wine thrown in for good measure?
  Welcome to San Sebastian, a lovely laid-back city in north-west Spain with more Michelin star restaurants per head than anywhere else in the world. Its film festival---the 61st---attracts an abundance of celebrities no doubt drawn by the array of restaurants, fine food and boisterous night life which goes on until the early hours of the morning.
  Annette Bening, Hugh Jackman, Jim Broadbent and Oliver Stone----still hawking the appalling Alexander which he says he has now re-mastered and re-edited---are among those enjoying the easy going atmosphere at one one of the world's most enjoyable film festivals and one of the few which provides bowls of free condoms and lubricant in the press room. .  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


  Recently I spent a wonderfully entertaining hour with one of the cleverest and certainly the most prolific filmmakers Hollywood has ever seen.  For years its been said that Roger Corman could negotiate the production of a film on a pay phone, shoot the film in the phone box and finance it with the money in the change slot.
  Now, after more than 400 movies, Corman, known as King of the Bs, has more time and money at his disposal and at the age of 87 is as prolific as ever. He currently has four movies in production and is due to appear in a film about himself, in which one of his longtime fans, Quentin Tarentino, is to play him.
  "It's the story of how I made The Trip in the 1960s about LSD. It starred Jack Nicholson in one of his first roles and I took LSD so I could understand what it was all about. It was very controversial but it was the only American picture invited to the Cannes Film Festival that year," he recalled with a laugh. "I have a cameo role in the new movie, playing the executive who didn't want me to make the film." 
   Corman's vast resume of films includes such horror and science-fiction classics as The Little Shop of Horrors, Swamp Women, Attack of the Crab Monsters, Night of the Blood Beast and six movies based on the stories of Edgar Allen Poe which starred Vincent Price. He launched the careers of some of Hollywood's most successful directors, including Ron Howard, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron and Martin Scorsese and also discovered and gave early roles to then-unknown actors such as Jack Nicholson, Charles Bronson, Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Diane Ladd and Sandra Bullock.
   "I picked each one individually because I felt they had great talent," he said. "I had no way of knowing how far they would progress and that they would become Academy Award winners but I was convinced that each one would be successful.
  "I think I'm still friends with all of them, although I am not close to some of them. Jack Nicholson was at our house a couple of months ago and last year Francis Coppola invited my wife and I up to his place. So I still stay close to some of them and some of the others not so close. But I would hope we're all still vaguely friends."
  Corman is envious of the special effects techniques now available to today's filmmakers, although he feels it can also work to the detriment of some movies. "The special effects today are the best we've ever had and nobody in my life time until now has been able to do work with computer graphics that equals what's being done today," he said. "The problem is that in some pictures the filmmakers get so involved with the special effects that the storyline, the charcterisation and the acting takes a back seat and film suffers. That's why I like Jim Cameron: he does the best special effects in the world but he also does a very good job with the actors and the story as well."
  Today's massive movie budgets are something Corman finds difficult to grasp. "If I was given $150 million to make a movie I would make one big picture for $75 million then with the other $75 million I'd make maybe ten or 20 more films with medium budgets."

Monday, September 9, 2013


Yes, Brad Pitt was here, yes I had a long chat with Benedict Cumberbatch (whose female fan following rivals Brad's), Kate Winslet, Sandra Bullock etc. etc......Toronto is swarming with celebrities drawn by the film festival and the opportunities to be interviewed and get themselves and their movies on track for the awards season.  

  But for me the high spot was a talk with former World Champion race car driver Niki Lauda, who is portrayed in the film Rush with uncanny accuracy by the German actor Daniel Bruhl. The movie focuses on the 1976 racing season and the rivalry between the British playboy driver James Hunt and the methodically brilliant Lauda.
Niki Lauda in his racing days

  Although the movie portrays them as two drivers who disliked each other in the early days of their careers, Niki tells me that in fact they used to go out on the town in London together and on at least one occasion he spent the night in Hunt's flat. Then he added with a smile and a wink: "But not together. There were four of us."

  Lauda, the defending Formula One champion, was critically burned when his Ferrari crashed at Nuremberg, but only six weeks after the near-fatal crash he returned to the track. He retired at the end of the 1985 season and ran his own airline, Lauda Air,before selling it to Austrian Airlines in 2000.

 Hunt, who died of a heart attack aged 45 in 1993, was known for his drinking, drug-taking and womanising while Lauda was always viewed as the serious, technically knowledgeable driver who thought of nothing but racing.

   But, he told me,, "I knew James's lifestyle and I tried to do after the race what James did before it."  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


   After a summer of mainly mediocre movies in which the only two standouts for me have been Fruitvale Station and Rush---both based on true stories---I'm expecting good things in Toronto, where 400 movies have been crammed into the festival's 11 days.

  Buzz is already building around British filmmaker Steve McQueen's grim-sounding but supposedly gripping 12 Years As a Slave, and the WikiLeaks story The Fifth Estate which stars the quirky Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange is also creating a stir.

  Sexy Beast filmmaker Jonathan Glazer's latest offering, Under the Skin, also sounds interesting---it stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien who drives around Scotland in a van, preying on young men.

  But let's face it---after a summer in which the top six grossing movies were all prequels, sequels or reboots anything the slightest bit original sounds interesting.


  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...