Friday, May 23, 2014


   The last time I met up with the attractive and super-intelligent criminal behavioural analyst Laura Richards  was when she was in Santa Monica six years ago and on loan to the FBI from New Scotland Yard as a serial killer profiler. We had drinks at Ye Olde King’s Head and then took in a party for The Simpsons movie in a giant hangar at Santa Monica airport.
   Now she is back briefly, this time to recharge her batteries after a hectic year in which she launched Paladin, the U.K.’s new National Stalking Advocacy Service, and to discuss a new TV show. She is also using the time to update her book, Policing Domestic Violence, and she has another book, on serial killer Levi Bellfield, coming out in January next year
   Again, we had drinks in Ye Olde King’s Head and she came to the house for dinner before she headed up to Santa Barbara for more R and R before appearing on the TV show Crime Time.
   Laura is quite a woman: A recognised expert on stalking and violence, she has reviewed and analysed hundreds of murders and violent crimes and is no stranger to television, having previously been the featured profiler on the show Killer Profile, and appeared in the documentaries Countdown to Murder and Revealed, in which she profiled Jack the Ripper. She is currently campaigning to change the law in the UK to criminalise domestic violence in the same way she has already, through Paladin, been instrumental in changing the law on stalking.
   Laura left New Scotland Yard in 2007 after a decade working on violent crime and setting up the first Homicide Prevention Unit in the UK as well as the Yard’s Violent Crime Intelligence Unit. Four years ago she coordinated the U.K’s first National Stalking Awareness Week and was involved in setting up the U.K.’s first National Stalking Helpline. She is currently working on the Crime Time TV show in the U.S. with former FBI profiler Jim Clemente, who wrote and produced many episodes of Criminal Minds.  
    “If it works out it will be very exciting,” she tells me. “I’ve been working 15 hours a day in the U.K. with Paladin so this is a change of pace for me.”
    With her background and knowledge Laura has many options open to her but there is one she is considering which has nothing to do with crime----she is being urged from several quarters to run for Parliament. If she does so and wins a seat there are many M.Ps who could doubtless benefit from having the services of a criminal behavioural analyst in the House. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Two knights on bikes: Stewart (left) and McKellen
  Sir Patrick Stewart is going to great lengths to tell the world he is NOT pompous and stuffy, as many
people believe.
  A year ago he reluctantly took his publicist's advice and turned to Twitter to spread the word as best he could.
  Since then he has become something of a social media sensation: his jokey comments, “selfies” and offbeat picture stunts which have included donning a lobster costume, putting his head and arms through a set of stocks and having his photograph taken in Times Square with Elmo of the Muppets have gained him nearly a million followers, many of whom never knew him from the seven years he spent as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the TV series Star Trek: The Next
   “It’s massively entertaining and pleasing,” he tells me when we meet in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York to talk about the X-Men sequel Days of Future Past in which he returns as Professor Charles Xavier, a role he first undertook 14 years ago.

    “For a long time I resisted all forms of social media and I was deeply suspicious of every aspect of it but then I was confronted with the potential power of a tweet in terms of what could be achieved and as a source for good fun and humour.

   “People have an impression of who Patrick Stewart is based on the characters that I play, most particularly Jean-Luc Picard and Charles Xavier, and I know him to be very different. So it has enabled me to make some adjustments to those impressions and it’s been wonderful

  Indeed, contrary to the grim and serious characters he usually portrays on the stage, in movies and on television, Patrick Stewart, who was knighted in 2010 for his services to drama, is cheery and affable, happy to open up about his life and tell jokes against himself.

   The 73-year-old actor married his third wife, Sunny Ozell, 35, on the banks of Lake Tahoe in September in a ceremony performed by his fellow knight and X-Men co-star Ian McKellen. “Ian went public with this in a rather scandalous way because he was on the Jonathan Ross
Show and when he was asked what he was doing next, he said, ‘Oh, I’m
marrying Patrick Stewart.’” Stewart roared with laughter. “Hold the  front page!”

Stewart's wedding with McKellen officiating
 McKellen became an official of the Universal Life Church to perform the ceremony and the two men, whose careers ran along parallel lines but who didn’t really know each other until they appeared in the first X-Men film, have become firm friends. They have, says Stewart, spent almost the entire past 12 months together. ”We were in Montreal
filming X-Men for nearly five weeks then we came to New York to begin rehearsing Harold Pinter’s play No Man’s Land; then we went to Berkeley, California for two more weeks rehearsal then we performed it there for six weeks; I got married and we came back to New York and
began rehearsing Waiting for Godot and we played that on Broadway for almost six months.”

   He paused for breath. “I saw Ian McKellen almost every day for that
whole year and luckily I like him a great deal.” The humourous
highspots of their time in New York together were faithfully
catalogued on both men’s Twitter accounts.

   “My wife came up with the idea of GoGo and DeeDee do NYC, which was
the hashtag for photographs taken of Ian and myself at iconic
locations in New York. We wanted to find some way, not of promoting
the Broadway project but of letting people know we were here and doing
something. If that meant reminding people that it was Magneto and
Professor Xavier and Gandalf and Jean-Luc Godard who were there, then
that was fine, too. We didn’t care why people came to see our plays,
we just wanted them to come.”

  Patrick Stewart is clearly enjoying life to the full, although
things could have turned out very differently if he had followed his
instincts and rejected a1987 offer to move to Los Angeles to appear in
Star Trek: The Next Generation. He agreed to take on the role of the
commander officer of the USS Enterprise only when his agent convinced
him the show would probably not succeed and he would be able to return
to England after the first season. At the time he had been working
regularly with the Royal Shakespeare Company and taking small movie
and television roles. When he was cast in Star Trek the Los Angeles
Times described him as “an unknown British Shakespearean actor.”

  Contrary to his agent’s prediction, the series lasted for seven
seasons, spawned four feature films and made Patrick Stewart a wealthy
man. “It was huge,” he says now, looking back. “Being cast as Jean-Luc
Picard was the most significant thing that ever happened to me because
there wasn’t an area of my life that it didn’t touch, mostly for the

   He took to the California lifestyle almost immediately and, like
many Hollywood actors went into analysis, jogged along the beach,
practiced meditation and cut down on his drinking. He still adheres to
the health regimen he learned then and credits moisturising regularly
with keeping him looking fit and healthy.

  He and his wife will be leaving their Brooklyn, New York home at the
end of the summer for him to return to California where he will begin
filming a new TV comedy series, Blunt Talk, in which he will play a
British investigative journalist who hosts a TV show. “He’s very good
at his job but unfortunately he has a rather chaotic private life and
that’s the premise of the story,” he says.

  The series has been created by Seth MacFarlane, whom Stewart has
worked with many times before, voicing characters on MacFarlane’s
animated series Family Guy and American Dad and narrating the
live-action comedy film Ted.

He also provides the voices of two sheep in MacFarlane’s comedy film
One Million Ways to Die in the West.

  But first Stewart has promotional duties to perform for the 150
million pounds-plus X-Men: Days of Future Past in which the characters
from the original trilogy join forces with their younger selves from
X-Men: First Class to prevent an alternate future in which mutants are
confined to internment camps. In the current adventure Stewart’s
Xavier has a wheelchair that hovers above ground and he finally gets
to fly the X-Jet. His younger self, emotionally hurt and physically
damaged, is played by James McAvoy, who is helped by Hugh Jackman’s
time-travelling Wolverine to get his shattered life back together.

 The gruelling schedule of premieres, interviews and public
appearances for X-Men: Days of Future Past sees Patrick Stewart
travelling from New York to London to Sao Paulo to Washington DC and
back to New York in seven days. “Frankly I’m dreading it and this
would be a good time to have the mutant superpower of teleportation,”
he says with a smile.

  The film's director, Bryan Singer, has been forced to pull out of
the marketing push because of a recently filed lawsuit in which he has
been accused of sexually abusing a teenager nearly 25 years ago. The
studio, 20th Century Fox has said in a statement it is a "personal
matter" for Singer.

   Just before we talk Patrick Stewart has sent his first tweet of the
day to Fox, congratulating studio executives on their decision to move
his accommodation in London from the Sultan of Brunei-owned Dorchester
to another hotel.

   “I don’t tweet multiple times a day like some people, but when
something seems appropriate ---either because of its comic aspect or
because it is a reaction to events that are happening in the world---I
enjoy having that creative platform,” he says.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


McGoohan in Santa Monica
   That most unpredictable and unconventional TV star of the 60s Patrick McGoohan would have hated it but he was briefly in the limelight again when the Art Directors Guild Film Society kicked off its 2014 series at the American Cinemathque with an examination of his groundbreaking series The Prisoner.

   It is a safe bet that McGoohan, who died in 2009 at the age of 80, wouldn't have been there had he still been alive, although on the rare occasions he talked about it at all he always maintained---and rightly-- that The Prisoner was years ahead of its time.

   Filmed at the Welsh coastal village of Portmeirion, the psychedelically experimental series lasted 17 brilliant episodes with McGoohan as Number 6, a kidnapped secret agent, doing constant battle with No. 2.

   As well as starring in it, McGoohan wrote, produced and directed many of the episodes. 
McGoohan as The Prisoner

   Before that series he had already established himself with another cult spy series, Danger Man, which was the first British series to be a hit in America, where it was renamed Secret Agent.

    After moving to America he never quite hit the same creative heights, although he took to the lifestyle and climate immediately.

  For those of us who spent time in the bars of Santa Monica in the 1970s the eccentric McGoohan was a familiar figure, although a talk with him was always a dicey proposition because he was a man of many moods and not all of them were good. At the time he was not working regularly but was acting in and directing the occasional episode of Colombo for his good friend Peter Falk, so he had plenty of time on his hands.

  He used his early morning hours to visit the bars that opened at 6am ---and there were several of them in those days---where he was friendly with the oldtime regulars, mostly those from the Veterans Administration. One of his favourite haunts was Tom and Jerry's on Third Street where he would buy the locals drinks every morning and on the days he couldn't get there because of  work he would leave envelopes behind the bar containing money for their drinks while he was away.

   In other bars he wasn't always so friendly, often preferring to sit on his own reading a book or a script. One memorable day a visitor sitting on the next stool in the King's Head ventured to comment to him : "That looks like an interesting book you're reading." 

 The volatile McGoohan stood up, dropped the book on the floor and stamped on it, saying: "Not so interesting now, is it?"

  On another occasion he was in a reasonably good mood and talking with a group of us when  Phil Elwell, the owner of the King's Head, commenting on the fact that John Mills was to be knighted, said: "It's your turn next Patrick." The innocuous, well-meaning comment sent McGoohan into a fury and he stormed out.

  A curmudgeon, a creative genius, always interesting no matter what his mood----Patrick McGoohan was definitely a one-off.  


Grace Kelly

Kidman as Kelly
   It is not unusual for the bombastic Harvey Weinstein to become involved in
disputes over movies his Weinstein Company is distributing, but this
time it involves the film about Grace Kelly that has the prestigious
opening slot at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14.

   The Oscar-hungry film mogul is at the centre of a transatlantic row over two
different versions of Grace of Monaco, the film about the actress's
glittery and turbulent life which stars Nicole Kidman.

 Kelly famously met Prince Rainier while on a trip to the Cannes Film
Festival in 1955 and married him the following year, leaving behind a
flourishing career in Hollywood, to start a new life and family on the

   French director Olivier Dahan and Weinstein are clashing
over the proper tone of the film. Dahan has fashioned a dark,
melodramatic account that highlights Kelly's hardships upon arriving
in the monarchy and shows her battling with a petulant Prince Rainier.

  Weinstein has worked out a new version with a team of editors which
tells the Kelly story as a Capra-esque romantic fairytale in which an
American actress travels to the principality and despite some
struggles, reinvents herself as the princess of Monaco.

   Along with many in the U.S. Weinstein apparently views the story of
Kelly, who had three children with Rainier over their 25-year
marriage, as a happy tale of a beautiful actress living out a
real-life fantasy.

  The French, however, view it more as a cautionary tale of a
privately suffering victim of royal family indifference.

   Weinstein is reportedly furious that it is the French version that
is being shown at Cannes, although the festival director Thierry
Fremaux said at a news conference that the festival is firmly behind
the movie. "Although there were heated discussions before the film was
finished the version to be shown on opening night will be the only
version the director intended to make," he said.

   In another setback the film has been branded "a farce" by the Monaco Royal family who issued a statement saying: 'The family does not in any way wish to be associated with this film, which reflects no reality and regrets that its history has been misappropriated for purely commercial purposes.' 

  The dispute is proving embarrassing for Nicole Kidman who will be part of a glitzy red carpet and party celebration in Cannes that
probably will not include her frequent professional collaborator
Harvey Weinstein, who is releasing two more Kidman movies this year

   It is Weinstein's version of Grace of Monaco that will be released
in the U.S although he withdrew it from its original March release
date and has not yet set a new date, much to the annoyance of the
French filmmakers who had hoped the U.S release would help seed a European release later in the spring.

  According to those familiar with both versions, the two cuts deviate only in about five minutes' worth of scenes but they are crucial moments and spell big differences in the overall tone and feel of the film.

  The controversy shines a light on the nature of film editing, in
which the same script can be turned into vastly different movies.

  "It is strange to have two fundamentally different movies based on one set of pages," Arash Amel, the film's screenwriter, told the Los
Angeles Times. "It almost feels like I've written a play and I'm
seeing two different stagings of the work.

   "Grace Kelly was a complicated figure and some will see her as a
princess story and others will see her as a more tragic tale."



  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...