Thursday, December 17, 2015


  There are two new faces in the Star Wars saga now. Two Brits, John Boyega as Finn and Daisy Ridley as Rey are clearly destined to take over the starring roles in future movies---and Disney intends to turn out a new one every two years.
  But in the current, just-released blockbuster The Force Awakens it is veteran Harrison Ford, returning as Han Solo, who steals the show. While his fellow Star Wars alumni Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill have cameo roles, Ford is the fully-fledged star, back in the Millennium Falcon and at the center of the action. 
  Although after Return of the Jedi he said he never wanted to come back again as Han Solo, he told me when we chatted before the premiere why he had changed his mind. 
 "I did it as usual for myself," he says."And because it was a very good script it seemed like  really good idea.
  "And besides that I didn't have a job. So it was easy and I slotted in and I was delighted to do it. You might not think I'd want to because of statements I made years ago that I was tired of putting on that costume. But 25 years later there it is in the back of the closet and it's got a nice look to it so I thought I'd try it on again.  
   "It's true that I said I wanted Han Solo to die in the original but that wasn't because I didn't want to play the character but because I didn't anticipate there would ever be another film. 
 "So I thought ti would be great if he sacrificed himself and lent some gravitas to the enterprise.
  "But George Lucas said  'no'"

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


  Had a cuddle the other day with veteran Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher, who endeared herself to generations of obsessive fans as Princess Leia.
  Carrie, who in the past has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction as well as bipolar disorder, is back in the new Star Wars saga, The Force Awakens, and winning new fans as General Leia.
   Carrie and I had a mutual friend in the wonderful screenwriter Charles Bennett, her next-door neighbour for many years in Coldwater Canyon.
Carrie as Princess Leia
  Charles, who died in 1995 aged 95, wrote several of Alfred Hitchock's films and was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay for Foreign Correspondent.
   I used to visit him regularly and sit at his bar for the "cocktail hour" he observed every day at 5pm.
   When I reminded Carrie of this she nodded knowingly. "Yes," she said. "Charles used to drink a lot."
   Serendipitously, Carrie's mother Debbie Reynolds now lives in Charles's old house and when I went to interview her there before she embarked on a concert tour of England, I was glad to see Charles's battered bar, where he enjoyed so many cocktail hours, was still there..   


Fans in the bleachers
Bitterly cold winds, unprecedented security checks, long lines at metal detectors and thousands of screaming
fans all combined to make the Star Wars The Force Awakens world premiere the biggest and most costly ever held.
  I booked into the venerable Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel to avoid battling the traffic and navigating around the streets that had been shut down, but even getting across Hollywood Boulevard to the famed Chinese Theatre proved something of a problem.
  But I can't review the film yet or say what I thought of it because Disney has imposed a strict embargo until Wednesday.
  It took three cinemas showing the movie simultaneously and a quarter-of-a-mile-long red carpet and party held in a massive tent-turned Star Wars museum to launch the latest episode of the Star Wars saga.

  Thousands of fans---many in costume and some who had waited for more than a week --- lined the barricades and jammed the bleachers along the blocked-off Hollywood Boulevard to cheer and scream as the stars arrived at the foot of the longest red carpet in the world.
The Star Wars cast on stage
   All the stars of the movie, along with many other celebrities were there to walk through the tented tunnel lined with stormtroopers, screens showing scenes from previous Star War movies and models of the Star Wars characters.
  The movie was nearly 90 minutes late starting but no one seemed to mind and the audience roared and cheered with applause as the words "a long time ago in a galaxy far far away" scrolled across the screen.
    The Force Awakens marks the beginning of a whole new and vibrant life for the Star Wars franchise as Disney plans to churn out a new film every two or three years indefinitely. It plans to use Star Wars on its TV networks and Star Wars attractions exist in four Disney parks and more are planned, especially in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
   George Lucas, who sold his Lucasfilm, which includes the Star Wars franchise, to Disney for four billion dollars, said: “I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me. I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime.”
Harrison Ford does  a selfie and (top right) John Boyega and Daisy Ridley



  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...