Monday, August 29, 2016


With Sully Sullenberger in West Hollywood
When US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of geese on leaving La Guardia airport, the pilot Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger 111 made the decision to put the plane down on the Hudson River. 
  "I knew it was going to be a life changing event and I knew it was going to be the worst day of my life," he told me. 
  Well, he was right about the first part, but not the second. In fact his successful water landing was without doubt the best thing that ever happened to him.
  All the passengers and crew survived and Sully, as he likes to be called, was hailed as a hero and has been reaping the benefits ever since. He has become an international speaker on airline safety, is the Aviation and Safety Expert for CBS News, has written two books, was presented with the Key to the City of New York by Mayor Bloomberg, who dubbed hm "Captain Cool," and he threw out the first pitch of the 2009 baseball season for the San Francisco Giants.  
Tom Hanks as Sully
   On top of everything else he is the subject of a new film, Sully, which was directed by Clint Eastwood and in which he is played by the ubiquitous Tom Hanks..
  He says of Hanks: "I think he did a masterful job and he really transforms himself in every way, the speech, the cadence of the walk, the mannerisms and the attitude that he has about things.
  "I have seen the film twice and it was a very emotional experience --- almost an out of body experience---to see someone else become like me."
  Currently hired by Warner Bros. to help promote the movie, it seems he does not tire of relating the events of January 15 2009 when the Airbus A320 bound for Charlotte, North Carolina, hit the flock of birds shortly after take off and both engines were disabled. 
  "No one had ever trained for an event like this but I was confident that I could take what I did know and adapt it and apply it in a new way and do something that I had never done before and get it right the first time," he said. "And if I did it well enough then the airplane would remain intact, and it would float long enough for us to be rescued.
  "And that is what happened."

Friday, August 26, 2016


with Jennifer in New York, the Hudson River in the background.
 Not surprisingly, Jennifer Lawrence is the highest-paid actress in the world for the second year running, having pulled in $46 million last year.

  The free-spirited young actress with the sunny disposition enjoys her money and is happy to share her good fortune with her family and friends.

 But the dark cloud hanging over her life is the permanent presence of  hordes of paparazzi who follow her everywhere.

   "They are outside my house when I go to sleep at night and they are there when I wake up in the morning,"  she tells me.  "I knew the paparazzi were going to be a reality in my life, but I didn’t know that I would feel anxiety every time I open my front door, or that being chased by 10 men you don’t know, or being surrounded, feels invasive and makes me feel scared and gets my adrenaline going every day,”

  That is why the 26-year-old Oscar-winning actress has sold a two-bedroom condo she has owned for ten years in Santa Monica and is preparing to leave her $7 million home in the Hollywood Hills. She is now  house-hunting in New York in search of a paparazzi-proof condo and is particularly interested in a building on Greenwich Street in the Downtown area, where condos go for up to $55 million.

 "You can say that invasion of privacy is part of my job and it's going to be a reality of my life and I'm a poor little millionaire for complaining, but what you don’t expect is how your body and how your emotions are going to react to it,” she says.

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Jack Huston in the new Ben-Hur
  When will Hollywood finally learn that remakes of classic old movies are destined to flop? Recently we've had Point Break, The Legend of Tarzan, Ghostbusters and now--- probably the worst of the lot--- Ben-Hur.

   One wonders what on earth possessed the studios to try and remake the epic 1959 movie which starred Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins and Stephen Boyd and won 11 Oscars?
Charlton Heston in 1959

 And of casting lightweights Jack Huston and Toby Kebbell in the leading roles?

 And, as the Hollywood Reporter asks: Of creating a chariot race so heavily digitized and over-edited that it's the worst scene in the picture?

  It is, says the critic, "misguided, diminished and dismally done in every way."

   But if that's not bad enough there are plenty more remakes and reboots coming down the line, among them All Quiet on the Western Front, A Star is Born, Barbarella, The Birds, Dirty Dancing and The Seven Samurai.

   My prediction is that the only remake to succeed in a big way at the box-office this year will be The Magnificent Seven,. which stars Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt and looks to be nearly up to the standard of the 1960 Oscar-nominated original which starred Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen.

  But it's another remake so I could be wrong.

Friday, August 12, 2016


  It has taken a long time but English actresses are at last following their male counterparts into leading roles in American TV series. 

  I talked with two of them at the Four Seasons recently and although their series are very different there are a lot of similarities between Michelle Dockery and Hayley Atwell: Both are 34 years old, both have appeared on the London stage and both are unattached, friendly and down-to-earth.  

Michelle:  Essex girl
   Michelle Dockery, last seen on TV as the prim and proper Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey, has opted for a total change of image in Good Behavior, in which she plays a hard-drinking, drug-abusing petty thief and con artist who vomits, falls down drunk and plays by her own rules.

  It is a lip-smacking role that Essex girl Dockery relishes, with lines such as: "I'm a piece of shit. Why keep fighting it, you know?"
   It came Dockery's way at an ideal time. The final episode of Downton Abbey had come and gone and she was dealing with the tragic loss of her fiancĂ© John Dineen, who died of cancer in December aged 34.

   "For me, acting can help at certain times in your life and it's a release in some sense and it was very fortunate for me that this came along at  the right time," she says.

Hayley: from Ladbroke Grove
  "It wasn't a conscious decision to do something so totally different from Lady Mary but I was completely hooked on the script from the first page and I loved the complexity of the character.

  "She's a joy to play and a real blessing for me."

   And Hayley Atwell, who was brought up in Ladbroke Grove, West London, is on to her second U.S. series having kicked butt as Agent Carter in the Captain America and Avengers movies and in her own TV series, Agent Carter.

   Now, like Dockery, she has a change of pace in the new series Conviction in which she plays the rebellious, party-going daughter of a former President who is blackmailed into taking a job as the head of New York's newly created Conviction Integrity Unit, examining cases in which the wrong person may have been convicted of a crime.

   Although it is shot in the U.S., Hayley still lives in London and commutes to the set.   

  "London has always been my home base," she tells me. "It's where my mother is and when I come to LA, I objectively see what London is and the strengths it has---- the art scene,  the diversity and the wit and the irony and the eccentricity that Londoners are famous for."


Friday, August 5, 2016


Fleet Street today
  The last newspaper office in Fleet Street, the London HQ of the Dundee-based Sunday Post, is closing up and leaving what was once seen as the centre of UK journalism as well as  frequent  drunkenness and bad behaviour.
   For 300 years Fleet Street was synonymous with the nation's biggest newspapers and also some of its biggest drinkers.
 The first British daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, was published in Fleet Street on 11 March 1702.
 News agency Reuters was among the last newsrooms on Fleet Street before it moved staff to new offices in Canary Wharf in 2005. Agence France Press departed a few years later in 2009.
old Fleet Street
 At its height, "the Street of Shame" - as it was dubbed by some - was the pinnacle of a journalist's career, with nearly every national paper and several provincial newspapers having offices within a half-mile radius.
 The street was famous for its many bars and pubs, constantly occupied by journalists both socialising and seeking stories and, at closing time, staggering either to the Press Club, which stayed open until 2am, or Covent Garden where the pubs opened before dawn for the flower market workers.
Sunday Post building
 While many of the pubs, like the newspapers, have closed, a few
remain as nostalgic throwbacks to a bygone era: El Vino's which for years insisted on patrons
wearing a jacket and tie and where no women were allowed; the Old Bell, designed by Christopher Wren and still an occasional venue for journalist reunions; the Cheshire Cheese, which has been in the same spot since 1538 and where Charles Dickens was a regular; The Punch and Ye Old Cock are still there although the clientele is now very different.



  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...