Saturday, March 28, 2015


Daniel Craig on the trail of an assassin
   Have just spent four days in Mexico City where Daniel Craig is filming Spectre, the 24th James Bond adventure. It is a huge production and Craig and the movie's cast, crew and 1500 extras have taken over parts of the city, including the historic Plaza de la Constitucion, for three weeks of explosions, chases, fist fights and virtually non-stop action.

  Gigantic skulls and skeletons have been built in the square in front of the National Palace for a scene in which Craig chases an assassin through more than a thousand extras dressed in macabre costumes revelling in the festivities of Dia de los Muertos and then leaps into a helicopter. Spectators lined the sidewalks to watch as he dashed frantically through a carnival parade of inflatable skulls and skeletons.

   Earlier, wearing a dapper grey suit, he walked coolly away from an explosion which sent rubble and smoke across the cobblestone streets.
Day of the Dead carnival procession
 Although details of the plot are being kept under wraps it is safe to say that Mexico City, which is battling a serious image problem because of drug-related violence, will look like a tourists' dream when the movie is released. The government, which has been hit by corruption scandals and human rights violations, reportedly paid the Bond producers $20 million to film in the city as a promotional ploy to boost tourism.

  So parts of the original script have been changed to make the city look good including the opening scenes during Dia de los Muertos, a popular Mexican national holiday, which were originally reportedly set during a cage fight.

  Also, Mexican actress Stephanie Sigman was cast in a small role as a last minute addition; the character of the Mayor of Mexico City---a target for assassination---was replaced and helicopters buzzed over the city filming aerial shots of its parks and buildings. 

A chat with a couple of Day of the Dead zombies
 Spectre, directed by Sam Mendes, is due to be released on November 6. It features the re-introduction of the global terrorist group SPECTRE----the Special Executive for Counter-Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.

  Producer Michael Wilson told me: "The story concerns a puzzle which Bond has to piece together and solve."

   Monica Bellucci costars with Craig along with with MI6 allies Tanner (Rory Kinnear), quartermaster/gadget man Q (Ben Whishaw), fellow agent Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and the new M (Ralph Fiennes).

  The official synopsis on IMDB reveals 'A cryptic message from Bond's past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation.
'While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.'

Friday, March 20, 2015


   Judi Dench wasn't kidding when she told me recently that she thought retirement was a rude word.
The 80-year-old Dame is more active than ever, working on three films and a TV series since returning from India for the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. 
   Although macular degeneration is destroying her sight and she finds it impossible to read scripts any more---someone reads them to her--- she keeps her brain sharp by making it a point to learn at least one new thing every day.
  What had she learned today I asked her when we talked in London "Do you know what a man who makes arrows is called?" she asked me. "No? Well, he's called a fletcher. I learned that today. And yesterday I learned about Shakespeare's mother whose name was Mary and who had two daughters who died. I didn't know that." 
  With the aid of a  magnifying lamp she has recently taken up embroidery and, she says: "I've just done a very rude cushion for a friend."    
  She is currently working on two movies at the same time---Peregrine's House of Peculiars and chadenfreude, has finished Tulip Fever for Harvey Weinstein and is portraying Cecily, Duchess of York in The Hollow Crown TV mini-series. 
 Quite a woman!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


  Had an interesting talk with Shailene Woodley, the hot young actress who stars in the "young adult" movies The Fault in Our Stars, Divergent and its sequel Insurgent.  
   Unlike Jennifer Lawrence, with whom she has been compared, and other young stars, 23-year-old Shailene has no qualms about appearing nude on screen.
   "When somebody's doing a sex scene and they're wearing a bra and underwear that's not how it happens in real life," says Shailene, who displays full  nudity in the film White Bird in a Blizzard, which had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.and in which she plays a 17-year-old engaging in on-screen sex and seducing a middle-aged cop played by Thomas Jane. 
   . "If I'm going to say yes to a movie where this is necessary then I'm going to bring truth to that situation," she says." Nudity's not difficult because when I am changing clothes that happens, so I feel like it's pretty normal."
   Shailene is contracted to two more films in the Divergent series---Allegiant, the final book in the trilogy is being split into two films---and is currently filming Snowden for Oliver Stone, playing Edward Snowden's girlfriend Lindsey Mills. 


  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...