Tuesday, October 25, 2016


  The Mel Gibson who has emerged from the shadows after a series of scandals forced him into a ten year seclusion is more relaxed, more mellow and certainly more at ease than he was in previous interviews. 
   Gibson, 60, is heading for professional redemption with Hacksaw Ridge, a brutally violent but highly effective combat saga about a man of peace caught up in the inferno of World War 11. It is the first movie he has directed since the bloody and sadistic Apocalypto ten years ago and, as it stands a good chance of awards nominations later this year, it is likely to be the film that marks his re-entry into the heart of the Hollywood film industry. 
   When we met at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills Gibson had a bushy white beard which he continually stroked and twisted.  
    "I can’t wait to cut it off," he says, "but I'm making a film over in Ireland with Sean Penn (The Professor and the Madman) and we have to be in the 1800s. So we are going to look like the 1800s version of ZZ Top." 
   Gibson's problems began when he launched an anti-Semitic sexist rant after being arrested for drunken driving on Pacific Coast Highway in 2006. Then things went from bad to worse:     He was excoriated for the graphic violence in films such as The Passion Of The Christ and Apocalypto and criticised for fathering a daughter by a girlfriend 14 years his junior with whom he began an affair while still married to his wife of nearly 30 years.

  Then, worst of all, were the astonishing, rage-filled audio clips in which he was heard ranting and using racist and misogynist slurs at his girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, the mother of his youngest child, and threatening to murder her. Analysts who heard the leaked telephone conversations said they suggested he had a temperament of emotional violence.

  He later described his outbursts as "the worst moment" of his life saying that what he did "wasn't meant to be public."

  After the outcry that followed he retreated to his church---a devout member of a traditionalist Catholic group, he has built his own church in Malibu where the services are all in Latin. He spent time praying, went to therapy twice a week and attended counselling sessions. 

   "I worked on myself and I feel great," he says now. "And I am glad to be back and I am fortunate. I feel pretty cooled out and stuff doesn’t matter the way it used to. So I feel good and healthy, I have done the work and I feel pretty fit."

  He is romantically involved with equestrian vaulter Rosalind Ross, 34 years his junior, who is pregnant with their first---and Gibson's ninth---child. 

    "Regarding age and relationships, it’s just a number," he says. "We dig each other."

Thursday, October 20, 2016


  Californians pondering whether or not to vote for Proposition 64,  the measure on the November 8 ballot that, if passed, would legalise marijuana in the state, should check out how well Holland has embraced a similar law.
 In Amsterdam marijuana is openly sold and smoked in coffee shops; magic mushrooms are available in many stores and flower shops and stalls sell cannabis starter kits, cannabis lollipops seeds and everything a novice grower could want.
  For the tourists there are museums epitomised by the Hash Marijuana and Hemp Museum which claims to hold the “world’s largest collection of cannabis-related artifacts” and features displays on different kinds of dope and the myriad number of ways to use it

   It’s all because the inordinately sensible Dutch drug policy is dictated by the idea that every human being may decide about matters of his or her own health along with a conviction that hiding social negative phenomena does not make them disappear - on the contrary it makes them worse, because when concealed, they become far more difficult to influence and control.

There has been no indication that legalisation has led to an increase in crime, addiction or anything else the opponents of Proposition 64 grimly predict. In fact the Dutch point to the fact that the prohibition of alcohol in the U.S between 1919 and 1933 brought more crime and violence than ever before and virtually no positive social change.

  So hopefully California voters will see sense and follow in the footsteps of the enlightened Dutch lawmakers on November 8. 

Friday, October 7, 2016


Five years ago I talked with Colombia's president Juan Manuel Santos in a village outside Cartagena and he told me of his hopes for resolving the half-century-old guerrilla war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC..
 Since then he has continued to attempt to negotiate with FARC rebel commander Timochenko and finally succeeded in hammering out a historic treaty.
  Now his efforts have been rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize despite the fact that the treaty was narrowly defeated in a referendum, raising fears that the conflict could be re-ignited.
   The judging committee praised him for saying he will fight for peace until his last days in office, saying: "The committee hopes that the peace prize will give him strength to succeed in this demanding task. Further, it is hoped that in the years to come the Colombian people will reap the fruits of the reconciliation process."
  The award to President Santos came as a surprise because Syria's rescue workers, the White Helmets had been tipped as the people's favourites for the prize after pulling 62,000 people alive from smashed buildings in Syria, often with bombing still going on.

Thursday, October 6, 2016


Rosamund Pike
 Now the red carpets have been rolled up in Venice, Telluride and Toronto the film festival focus has shifted  back to Europe as the London Film Festival has kicked off with a lineup of more than 240 movies.
 European premieres are plentiful at the festival and include Manchester By The Sea, the controversial--and not very good, in my opinion---Birth of a Nation--and Trolls, which features the voice of Justin Timberlake.
  As well as the red carpet glamour, the awards-season promotions and big name stars, the festival also presents a mix of independent,  experimental and foreign movies.
  But the emphasis is on star power and there was plenty on view on the numerous red carpets throughout the city.
  Amy Adams, fresh from Toronto, was busy promoting two movies having their UK premieres---the alien invasion movie Arrival and Tom Ford's dark, psychological drama Nocturnal Animals. Ford himself is in town too, looking exactly like a Tom Ford model---- immaculate dark suit, white shirt, turquoise cuff-links, tinted glasses and just the right degree of carefully tended stubble.
amy adams
 In the last few weeks the the flamboyant fashion designer has been in New York, where he had launched his new "fall line" following a visit to the Venice Film Festival for the premiere of his new film Nocturnal Animals, and a brief stop at his house in Los Angeles before hitting Toronto and now London.

    Such a peripatetic schedule must surely dictate that he travels with a veritable wardrobe of suits?

     "In fact, I'm travelling with only carry-on luggage," he tells me. "I wear this same suit over and over and over. I have probably quite a lot of them but they're pretty much all the same. I have a uniform; it's easy: I get up in the morning and I put on that uniform."

   One of the first on the Odeon, Leicester Square red carpet this year was former Bond girl Rosamund Pike who stars in United Kingdom,which tells the true story of Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana — played by David Oyelowo — who controversially marries a white woman from London — Ruth Williams, played by Pike — in the late 1940.

  It is the second year running that a British film has opened the festival, following Suffragettes last year.  

   It kicks off a 12-day celebration of cinema in the capital which will also include the European premiere of Free Free starring Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley.

Also due to be shown as part of the festival is the film Lion, which stars Nicole Kidman, Dev Patel and Rooney Mara. It tells the true story of a five-year-old Indian boy who is separated from his family after taking the wrong train and ends up being raised by an Australian couple, and then tries to be reunited.

   There are many more to come but actresses who have brought their best and skimpiest dresses for the red carpets are hoping the weather, which has defied sunny forecasts, soon warms up.

Monday, October 3, 2016


Pitt and Cotillard in Allied
Probably nobody outside Hollywood  gives a toss but the hot topic around the studios and agents' hangouts is whether Allied, the soon to be released sexy spy drama starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, can survive the whispers that the two stars' on-set romance  (strongly denied, by the way) led to Pitt's breakup with Angelina Jolie.

  In a town where the take at the box office means everything,  there are two schools of thought: One camp firmly believes there is no such thing as bad publicity and that the rumours and gossip will lead to heightened interest in the film. After all, that's what happened with another sexy spy drama, Mr. And Mrs. Smith, the movie on which Pitt and Jolie got together-- a liaison which torpedoed Pitt's marriage to Jennifer Aniston and helped make the movie a huge hit at the box office.  

 Then there are those who take the opposite view and cite Proof of Life, the 2000 action romance that died at the box office after Meg Ryan's affair with her co-star Russell Crowe  sullied her America's sweetheart image and marked the end of her marriage to Dennis Quaid.

Pitt and Angelina in happier times
  There are millions of dollars at stake for Paramount, whose publicists are hoping against hope that Pitt agrees to help promote the film by red carpet appearances and risking awkward questions on the late night talk shows, something he has always been loathe to do even in the best of circumstances. 

  There is the possibility, of course, that he will only agree to appear if the subject of his marriage breakup is strictly off limits.

  Allied, by the way, is directed by Robert Zemeckis and set in 1942 Africa when two assassins (Pitt and Cotillard) are sent on a mission to kill a German official but fall in love, get married and then discover that one is a double agent that the other must eliminate.

  Sounds a bit like Mr. and Mrs. Smith.


  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...