Thursday, July 31, 2014



 I had a sneak peek the other day at Angelina Jolie's latest directing effort---Unbroken, the powerful story of 1936 Olympic track star Lou Zamperini whose plane was shot down in the Pacific in World War 11. He survived without food and water for 47 days before washing up on a Japanese island where he was captured and tortured for two years. 
   Angelina took a break from the editing room to show an eight minute clip of the as-yet unfinished film to me and a small group of journalists in a screening room at Universal Studios and then talked about the problems she has had in bringing it to the screen.      

   The film rights were first bought by Universal Studios in 1947 for Tony Curtis to star in but nothing ever happened until Angelina Jolie stumbled across the story. “I came home and said, ‘Honey, I think there’s a story called Unbroken I’d like to direct’ and Brad said,honey, that’s been around forever,’” she recalled.
Jack O'Connell as Olympian Lou Zamperini
  “I fought for months for it and then when I found out I was going to do it, but I didn’t know if we would get the money together and find the right actor, because I really wanted somebody who was just right for Louis and not just a celebrity that would green light it.”
    Angelina chose relatively unknown British actor Jack O’Connell for the gruelling role and filmed the story in Australia.
    When she finally received the go-ahead she told Brad to go up on the roof of their home and wave an American flag to indicate to Zamperini, who lived just a few houses up the hill, that they would be filming his story.
   Sadly for her Zamperini died on July 2 aged 97 but not before she was able to take her laptop to him in hospital and show him a rough draft of the movie. 
  "It was a very heavy, very emotional journey for all of us working on the movie because we were moved by his story, we learned from his life and we had this opportunity to really get to know him and walk in his footsteps,” she said. 
 “We would speak to him all the time and Jack O’Connell spent a lot of time with him and he was a mentor, a friend and a father in many ways to all of us. He was a great man, really, truly. They say you should never meet your heroes, but I met mine and he was extraordinary."

Monday, July 28, 2014


Met a young lady named Gina Rodriguez who is described by the Hollywood Reporter as "The Next Big Thing."
  Physically she's not that big--- although by no means a zero--- but she has an outsize personality, radiates happiness and is a lot of fun to talk to.
  Gina stars in the new television comedy series Jane the Virgin playing a girl whose life plans are suddenly turned upside down when she is accidentally artificially inseminated.
   The series title begs the question which has to be asked and which 28-year-old Gina manages to avoid answering in a definitive way.
   The deeply religious Gina, who says: "My church, my boyfriend, and my family all keep me grounded," describes virginity as "a gift." She explained coyly: "I think we all have a gift to give to somebody else. Whether we can get our virginity back or not, we all have a gift to give and we all deserve respect.
  "I had a dad who every day reminded me that my gift was special. Is that strange? Hopefully on this platform I've been given I can remind other girls that hey, maybe it's not the popular choice but it's an awesome gift to be able to give someone."
  Gina, who won a best actress award at Sundance for her performance in the movie Filly Brown, is clearly an actress on the way up.


Thursday, July 24, 2014


   Mick Jagger was planning his birthday party when we talked in New York the other day.
   “Are you coming?” he asked jokingly. “I don’t know how big it will be but it’ll be a nice
party. It’ll be fun with plenty of dancing and carrying on.”

    For a great-granddad who has been dancing and carrying on for most of his life, he looks by far the youngest 71-year-old in New York.

    A few hours after we talked he was dancing at a party at the famous Apollo Theatre following 
the premiere of Get On Up, a film he has co-produced about the life of soul singer James Brown, who was one of Jagger’s early influences.

    “I’d met him and hung out with him,” he says. “He was a full-on, super high energy stage performer and I always admired the way he danced, the way he played an audience, the way he always gave 100 per cent and was always trying to do  new things. “

  A bit like Jagger himself who has many facets to his showbusiness life and has no intention of giving up on any of them in the near future. Later this year he will be resuming his tour with the Rolling
Stones which was interrupted by the drug overdose death of his girlfriend of 13-years, L’Wren Scott.

 Hard work has helped him deal with her death, and, he says, “I’ve been touring in the summer, I’ll
be touring in the autumn and I’m still touring and I don’t know when I’m going to stop, but I’m still going now.”

   Although the Stones have played every major concert venue in the world several times over during the last 50 years he says jokingly: “I always know where I am because I write it on the mirror in the bathroom.”

Thursday, July 17, 2014


  I've been on quite a few film sets in  my time but I've never before come across the secrecy and
paranoia surrounding the latest-- and fifth---Terminator movie which doesn't even have a confirmed title. 
 Before I was allowed on to the New Orleans set to watch filming and talk to Arnold Schwarzenegger and some of the cast  I had to sign an all-encompassing confidentiality agreement for Paramount Studios which prohibited me from disclosing "in any form the content viewed." It states: "The set visit is under embargo and anything observed on the set visit cannot be published without written consent from Paramount."
  There was also a non-disclosure agreement running to thousands of words which forbade me to say or write about anything I learned on the set. So what was the point in going? Well, it WAS in New Orleans.
Emilia Clarke and Arnold Schwarzenegger
  And I've learned quite a lot about the movie---which currently goes under the code name Vista, although I don't know if I'm allowed to say that---from other sources which had nothing to do with the set visit.
  For instance, Matt Smith, the former Dr. Who, joins Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie, which is likely to be called Terminator 5: Genesis and is the first of a new trilogy. The British actress Emilia Clarke, from Game of Thrones, co-stars as Sarah Connor and two Australians, Jai Courtney and Jason Clarke play Kyle Reese and John Connor respectively. Although Jason Clarke is considerably older than Emilia, who is playing his mother, time travel explains a lot of things.
  Produced by David Ellison, the trust fund-rich son of Oracle founder Larry Ellison, the new film will be set in the near future but will revisit key moments from 1984 and James Cameron's first Terminator movie. Some of the characters from that movie will be returning.
  During my visit Arnold Schwarzenegger took a break from filming to shake hands and talk about the movie although, of course, I'm not allowed to report what he said or how he looked. Not even sure if I can say that he was very friendly and outgoing. He is, of course, 30 years older than he was for the first Terminator and he has previously said he will play an “older” T-800 model whose human skin had aged during three decades of service.
  So until I can say more....Hasta La Vista!

Monday, July 7, 2014


 The latest Sylvester Stallone movie Expendables 3 has made film industry history, and not just because
of the combined age of its over-the-hill cast.

  Due to be released next month and co-starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes and Dolph Lundgren, it is the first Hollywood movie to have used an unmanned drone for birds-eye view aerial shots.

    The opening sequence, featuring gunfire, a speeding train and an approaching helicopter, would normally have required a helicopter with its own camera crew, but instead an unmanned done hovered above the scene.

  "We flew right next to a train and helicopter," Ziv Maron, owner of the drone company ZM Interactive says. "We shot everything from chasing tanks to explosions to flying over buildings and motorcycle jumps. We can do shots that a real helicopter can't because we can do lower altitudes."

    In one scene a camera-equipped drone flew out of a window for an aerial view, then returned back through the same window, something that could never have been achieved with a helicopter.

   While drone use is still banned by federal law in America, the Expendables 3 filmmakers could make use of them because the movie was filmed in Bulgaria.

   Now the Motion Picture Association of America has filed a petition on behalf of seven aerial production companies asking for the regulations to be amended to allow the use of drones in the U.S. by
the film and television industry.

   "Unmanned aircraft systems offer the motion picture and television industry an innovative and safer option for filming," says MPAA official Neil Fried. "This new tool for storytellers will allow for
creative and exciting aerial shots."

   It will also make the filming of action movies a lot less expensive. Typically a helicopter with a camera operator costs between $4,500 and $20,000 a day while a drone costs between
$4,500 and $8,000 a day.

  Dan Kanes, a director of photography who has developed a video link that enables remote monitoring while filming with a drone, says: "Drones can make filmmaking safer as long as the people practicing it
are following safety protocol on set. It's a great way to get new perspectives. Instead of using a jib or a
crane, it allows you to have an infinite crane arm."

   The Federal Aviation Authority has said it will consider the issue and has cautioned: "All the associated safety issues must be carefully considered to make sure any hazards are appropriately mitigated."

  Filmmakers have already used drones in the U.K. for HBO's Game of Thrones and the upcoming BBC drama series Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell


 After watching Oliver Stone's movie Doors four times Dean Goodman left his job in 1992 and flew from New Zealand to Jim Morrison's old haunt of Venice Beach. Hooked on the Los Angeles lifestyle, he landed a job at Reuters news agency writing about pop music.
Dean Goodman....grumpy
  Now, 22 years later he has recorded his often bizarre experiences in a book, Strange Days: The Adventures of a Grumpy Rock 'n 'Roll Journalist in Los Angeles.
  Travelling around the city by bus, he landed interviews with most of the leading music figures of the 90s. He relates his interviews with David Bowie, Michael Hutchence and Gene Simmons among many others, and tells of talking with the Sex Pistols' Johnny Rotten in the bar of Ye Olde King's Head in Santa Monica. The interview ended with Rotten storming out, leaving his Guinness, which Goodman promptly drank.
  He also relates how Steve Tyler's drug-fuelled behaviour threatened Aerosmith's comeback, what Queen drummer Roger Taylor told him about Freddie Mercury's AIDS-related death, why Billy Idol was ridiculed for embracing the Internet and how Phil Collins's fans deserted him.
 Goodman is not afraid to tell stories against himself, among them how his exclusive story of the Spice Girls splitting up caused a sensation in the British newspapers and was instantly denied by the Spice Girls themselves. 
  The book, written with humour and insight, is a must-read for those who were either interested or involved in the Los Angeles rock scene of the 90s.   

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


   Millions watched Tim Howard carry the U.S. into extra time in the World Cup game against Belgium with an astounding 16 saves.
    But what viewers didn't see were his tics and twitches whenever the ball was at the other end of the pitch.
    Howard, 35, has suffered from Tourette's Syndrome since he was ten-years-old. And the bigger the game, the more his symptoms flare. 

 “I’ve never counted how many tics I have in a game,” he said in an online interview.  “It happens all the time, without any warning, and it increases the nearer an important game draws. It always occurs more when I am particularly nervous.”
 When the ball is far away, he says he indulges his twitches. But when an opposing striker approaches with the ball — which happened repeatedly on Tuesday — his muscles remain miraculously calm. “I have no idea how I do it,” he said. “Not even my doctors can explain it to me. It’s probably because at that moment my concentration on the game is stronger than the Tourette’s syndrome.”
   Although he twitches, his symptoms do not include involuntary swearing, which afflicts some Tourette's sufferers, but when he was with Manchester United the fans serenaded him with chants of "Tim-timminy, Tim-timminy, Tim-Tim Te-roo. We've got Tim Howard and he says Fuck You!
  The deeply religious Howard, the son of an African-American father and a Hungarian mother, spends his summers at his home in Memphis, Tennessee with Laura, his wife of ten years, and their two young children.
 In the winters he is in Liverpool, where he keeps goal for the Premiere League club Everton, who have extended his contract until 2018.


   His isn't a face that's well known but the characters he plays most certainly are. And, according to Andy Serkis, a lot more people recognise him than you would think. 
   It happens a lot, he says, and frequently during rush hour on a packed Tube train.
   “People will come up to me and try and be secretive and say, ‘Can you do the Gollum voice for me?’ And I’m like, ‘Are you kidding?’ It’s 8.30 in the morning on the Victoria Line,’”
he laughs as he tells me the story.
   He does, however, do voicemail messages for friends in the croaking gurgle he adopted for the voice of Gollum, the piteous and treacherous creature he portrayed in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
   His use of performance capture technology---a technique in which an actor wears a skin-tight suit with markers which allow his movements and expressions to be electronically tracked and translated into computer generated imagery (CGI) to bring a film character to life---has helped him rise from being a dependable though obscure British actor to one with a specific talent that has earned him industry-wide recognition and a dedicated fan following.
   He used performance capture techniques for the title role in King Kong and has continued in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the soon-to-be-released Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, in which he stars as Caesar, the dignified and almost-human leader of the band of apes.  
  It is the latest and most costly entry in the Planet of the Apes saga which began back in 1968 with the science-fiction classic which starred Charlton Heston and his immortal line, “Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape.” It spawned four sequels until 1972, and then came a one-off effort in 2001 which was directed by Tim Burton and featured Helena Bonham Carter in an ape suit.
   Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011 rebooted the franchise with Andy Serkis, performance capture and groundbreaking digital effects. It depicted a simian uprising on earth led by a biochemically enhanced chimpanzee named Caesar and grossed nearly 300 million pounds, making a sequel inevitable.
   I met up with Serkis in San Francisco because although the film was made on location in cold, rainy Vancouver, it is set in San Francisco where the survivors of a fatal pandemic of Simian Flu are holed up in a derelict Chinatown while the apes have formed a community in the woods above the city. 

 It is Serkis’s first visit to San Francisco and when we talk he has just returned from wandering the streets with his camera, taking pictures to show his wife, actress Lorraine Ashbourne and their three children back home. 
  When he has finished promoting the apes, he will direct The Jungle Book for Warner Bros., he has a major role in the new Star Wars movie and is planning to both direct and produce a new version of George Orwell's Animal Farm as well as providing the voice of the drink-sodden Captain Haddock in Tintin 2.
  But there is something else he plans to do as soon as possible. "Climbing has always been a huge passion for me," he says. "I climbed a lot in the Alps, I've climbed the Matterhorn and now I'm 50 one of the things I want to do this year is climb the Himalayas."


  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...