Tuesday, March 29, 2016


The original Seven
  I was invited to Sony Studios the other day to see a 15 minute clip of the highly-anticipated remake of that classic 1960 Western The Magnificent Seven and to talk with its director Anton Fuqua.
  But because Sony has imposed an embargo on it, hoping to keep details secret until nearer the movie's release in September, I can't write about anything I saw or heard while at the studio.
  I can, however, reveal from other sources that this time the Seven---a bunch of outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns--- are far more diverse than the original group. They are headed by Denzel Washington in the role played by Yul Brynner, with Chris Pratt in the Steve McQueen role. The other members of the Seven are Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, the Korean actor Byung-hun Lee, the Mexican Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and the Native American Martin Sensmeier, whose character Red Harvest is a wiz with a bow and arrow.
Denzel Washington
   This time, instead of defending a Mexican village, the Seven come to the rescue of the townsfolk in the sleepy western town of Rose Creek which is under the deadly control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue, played by Peter Sarsgaard, and his men.
    Although I'm not allowed to relate what Anton Fuqua told me I can pass on what Ethan Hawke said recently when I talked with him.
Ethan Hawke
  "There's a lot of guns and high jinks and it's fun," said Hawke, who previously starred with Denzel Washington in Training Day, which was also directed by Fuqua. "I play a rebel soldier who Denzel has befriended and now we're partners. It was fantastic to be on the set again with Denzel and Antoine in such a different situation. We were in the desert riding around on horses so it was a great experience. Some movies are work and some are all about acting and character but this was about learning to ride a horse and shoot a six-gun at the same time. I really enjoyed it." 
  The Magnificent Seven. which was filmed in Louisiana and New Mexico, will be released on September 23.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


  You'd think that anyone with an ego big enough to call himself John Legend would be a big-head
full of bombast.
   But not the case. In fact the Oscar-winning singer-composer turns out to be a modest, quietly-spoken, low-key guy when we meet at the Four Seasons Hotel to talk about the TV series Underground, which he is producing.
   Born John Stephens, he explains his name change: "John Legend started off as just a nickname among a group of friends in the studio but eventually I decided to take it on as a stage name. I knew it was a bit ballsy and I knew there was a risk that if I failed it would be a pretty silly name to have but I decided to just work hard to try and live up to it and that's what I've been doing."
 He certainly has. Nominated for 24 Grammy awards and winning seven, he also won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for composing the song Glory for Selma with Common; he has produced two shows on the New York stage and his film company has produced several films and television shows. His song All of Me, which he wrote for his wife, supermodel and TV chef Chrissy Teigen, was an international chart success and is one of the biggest-selling digital singles of all time. His TV series,  Underground centres on a group of slaves who plan a daring escape from a Georgia plantation., aided by the Underground Railroad.
  He was half an hour late for our meeting because he was at the doctor's with Chrissy, whom he married in 2013 after they dated for four years, and who is expecting their first baby in June.
  She is a success story in her own right. As well as appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue, she writes a cooking blog, has hosted TV cooking shows and has written a best-selling cookery book, Cravings.
  "I  put on weight and gained about 5 or 6 pounds while she was writing the book but it was fun," says John. "It was a very enjoyable weight gain."

Monday, March 21, 2016


   Everyone thinks Barbra Streisand likes to watch musicals on TV but not so, says her husband of 18 years James Brolin.
    Streisand, who has starred in some of the biggest movie and stage musicals of the past 50 years, much prefers what he calls "guy stuff." 
    Brolin, 75, tells me: "She likes the serious thriller, bondage kind of things. She's really into it. It's funny."
    Marriage to the 73-year-old diva, he says, is "great," although "if I was going to complain about something it's that she's such a hard worker. I'll go, 'Honey..." and she'll say 'I'm working.' So OK, I'll come back in ten minutes.'
   "I love spunky women."   

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


  Harrison Ford has talked about it for a long time but now it's finally happening----he is returning as Indiana Jones for a fifth installment of the adventures of the fedora-wearing archeologist.
  But this time instead of the excitement that has greeted previous Indiana Jones movies,  the announcement has brought howls of derision and ridicule. 
  The new movie, which is as yet untitled, is due to be released in 2019 when Ford will  be 76 and Internet pranksters are having fun with possible titles for the new movie. 
 Some suggestions:

Indiana Jones and the Titanium Hip
Indiana Jones and the Nursing Home Mystery
Indiana Jones and the Cursed Catheter
Indiana Jones and the Early Bird Special
Indiana Jones and the Zimmer Frame
Indiana Jones and the Search for Bladder Control
etc.... etc...

Saturday, March 5, 2016


Sacha as Sacha
  Sacha Baron Cohen likes to do his interviews in character---be it as Borat, Bruno or the Dictator. But when I met him at the Four Seasons the other day he was elegantly dressed in a three-piece suit and talked eruditely about Grimsby, the new, outrageously funny new movie in which he plays Nobby, a dimwitted soccer hooligan.
   Known to be elusive and enigmatic when not in character, he was erudite, friendly and funny as he sipped coffee and talked about the making of Grimsby, how he and his fellow writers come up with some of the scenes and about comedy in general and the state of Hollywood.
 Many of the scenes in Grimsby are so gross and over-the-top it is impossible to describe them in writing but I can reveal that the climax takes place at the World Cup final where England beat Germany 2-1 on a goal scored by Raheem Sterling, playing himself.
  Sacha admits the scene was a bit of a stretch.  "It's wish fulfillment," he told me with a laugh. "We had amazing special effects on this movie and the hardest one was to make it appear that England could actually look like they could win the World Cup final."
Sacha as Nobby on the red carpet
   One scene, involving Nobby and his brother hiding in an elephant's vagina (don't ask!) when a male elephant decides to have sex, particularly delighted him. "We have got all these Oscar-winning special effects guys there and we have 14 tons of fluid and I can't believe that some idiot has actually given me money to make these scenes" he said. "It's completely mad."
   Later the same day Sacha changed from his suit into an England football shirt and a signature Donald Trump red cap to appear on the red carpet at the Grimsby premiere and berate Trump as "the ultimate soccer hooligan" and "a loud ranting bloke."
    He said: : "It was Donald's rallies that won me over. It’s like football matches in England---shouting, violence and abuse."  


  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...