Monday, February 17, 2014


     Having died a dramatic and tear-inducing death as Lady Sybil in Downton Abbey, 24-year-old Jessica Brown Findlay endures a similar fate on the big screen in Winter’s Tale as the beautiful but consumptive heiress Beverly Penn.  

   The similarities don’t end there because in Downton Abbey she eloped with a working class Irishman played by Allen Leech and in Winter’s Tale she elopes with a working class Irish thief, played by Colin Farrell.

     Although the sappy and schmaltz-ridden Winter’s Tale, which also stars Russell Crowe, has received scathing reviews and has flopped at the box-office, it is a major step on the way to stardom for the British actress.
   She recently finished filming Paul McGuigan’s Frankenstein remake, with Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy and she has the movies Posh and Lullaby awaiting release.

     “I just wasn’t ready to get comfy in Downton Abbey,” she told me when we talked in New York recently. “I desperately wanted to try new things and see if I was even able to play another part. The idea scared me more than anything and it motivated me to want to do it. So far it’s been an exciting roller-coaster since then and I’m enjoying it so much and learning every day which is really wonderful.

    “When I made the decision to leave Downton Abbey after the third season, a mate of mine messaged me to say’ Do you have any idea what’s going on and how much stir it’s causing?’ And I didn’t because I didn’t want to know and I didn’t want to feel awful and wonder if I had done the right thing.

   “I had to tell myself, ‘Do this and have a whole new experience and just don’t think.’ That’s my rule.”
  Jessica, from Cookham, Berkshire, lives in a rented flat in London and insists her life has changed very little since her days as an acting student at the Central St. Martin’s College of Arts.

  “I like to just be myself and not wear any makeup and sit in the pub with my mates and talk about boys and shoes and just enjoy it,” she laughed. “The only thing that’s really changed is that I can now rely on being able to pay my rent, which is nice."


   Having scooped the best picture awards at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and various critics’ circles, the gritty, graphically violent---and for me, unwatchable---12 Years A Slave is the odds-odd favourite to win the Oscar, too.    

   But I like to think it will also win other, tongue-in-cheek awards it is eligible for as suggested by the satirical magazine Private Eye:

1.   Most worthy film
2.   Most guilt-inducing film to a white middle-class audience
3.   Hardest film to say you found it a bit dull, to be honest
4.   Best film to bring up at a dinner party if you want people to leave
5.   Film most in need of a bit of light relief

Thursday, February 13, 2014


  No one will ever know whether the allegations of sexual assault Dylan Farrow made against Woody Allen are true.
  But what is known is that Allen has been subjected to a public lynching in many media articles, most of which omitted to point out that no charges were ever filed and a 1992 investigation found "no credible evidence of molestation."  
    I was shown the open letter Dylan wrote making the accusations some days before the New York Times opted to publish it in the form of a blog. To me there was nothing new in her allegations as she had previously made the accusations in the form of court documents and later to Vanity Fair magazine.
    But what has not been widely reported is that Dylan's brother Moses has dismissed his sister's claims, saying that their mother Mia Farrow poisoned their minds against him. "Of course Woody did not molest my sister," he said.
   Another factor which has been swept under the carpet is that the Farrow family is undisputedly dysfunctional and Mia's brother John Villers-Farrow is currently serving a ten year jail sentence on two charges of sexually molesting two young boys.
   The case rests.  And hopefully that is the last we will hear of these unsubstantiated allegations. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014


 Recently I met up with someone I haven't seen since we raided the mini-bar in his hotel room while we were in Hawaii a few years ago.  At the time he was co-starring in the cult hit TV series Lost, playing the mysterious Mr. Eko..

   Shortly afterwards Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje  (known to pals as Wally) surprised everyone by opting to leave the lucrative role, but the move turned out to be a good one. He went on to appear in G.I. Joe, The Thing, Killer Elite, Bullet in the Head and is now co-starring as the gladiator Atticus in Pompeii.

 His next role will be in the film version of Annie,with Quvenzhane Wallis from Beasts of the Southern Wild in the title role.

"It’s been a journey, because as much as I was enjoying TV, I had always wanted to get back to films and different characters, and so Lost gave me the opportunity to do everything from blockbusters to smaller films as well," he says.

 But, he tells me, his heart is still set on directing Farming,a movie he has written about his own unusual upbringing. When we were in Hawaii and between trips to the mini-bar he showed me the few clips he had filmed, based on the practice of Nigerian couples farming out their children to English families.  In 1967, when he was six weeks old, his parents – a Nigerian couple studying in London – gave him to a white working-class couple in Tilbury, then an insular dockside community, where he encountered violence and fierce racial prejudice.

   " Farming is a dear project to me, and it’s one that I am really trying to get made and hopefully I am going to do it this year," he says  "It’s been difficult to raise money for it and so I am at now at the point of going to do crowd funding, because I have seen how effective it’s been and you can have more creative power."

-  He promised me we'll hit the minibar again after Farming's premiere.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


  There is so much hypocrisy surrounding the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman who died in his
Manhattan apartment bathroom with a needle stuck in his arm and 70 bags of heroin within reach.
   So many people who knew him have called his death "a shock."
  No it wasn't.
   Because all those who knew him knew only too well his addiction. He was last in rehab in May, he was unkempt, scruffy and appeared strung out at Sundance and only three days before his death he was totally out of it in an Atlanta restaurant and later on the plane to New York.
  On the one occasion I interviewed him and at several press conferences I attended, although not doing drugs at the time, he was occasionally incoherent, mumbling and found it difficult to construct sentences.  
   Yes, he was a fine actor, no doubt about it. But not much of a father. Did he think about his three young children when he was sticking the needle in his arm to get yet another high?
   His death has led to calls for tighter controls of drugs and an investigation into the easy availability of heroin.Yet if he had been a homeless bum, found in a back alley with a needle in his arm, would there have been such an outcry and outpouring of grief? I think not. 


  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...