Archive for the ‘Actors’ Category

What ever happened to The Breakfast Club?

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Emilio Estevez / Andrew Clark

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Then

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Now – he looks like his dad (Martin Sheen)

He followed up with the Brat Pack vehicle St Elmo’s Fire. Then some Hollywood fodder like Young Guns and Stake-out in the late 80s. And fades. Two momentary re-emergences: in 2006 when he wrote and directed the RFK movie Bobby and then again when he directed his dad in the low key The Way in 2010. The Breakfast Club was his finest moment. In latter years he hooked up with Macedonian model Sonja Magdevski and they grew pinot noir grapes together in their very own Malibu vineyard.

Anthony Michael Hall / Brian Johnson

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Then

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Now

Follows up with another (inferior) John Hughes – Weird Science. Then it’s death by TV, with just occasional small movie re-appearances such as The Dark Knight and Foxcatcher. He never married.

Judd Nelson / John Bender

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Then

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Now – Where the fuck have the dreams gone?

The same Brat Pack move – St Elmo’s Fire. Transformers in 1986. Then a descent into TV movie hell and Stuff You’ve Never Heard Of. It was his finest moment too, untranscendable.

Molly Ringwald / Claire Standish

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Then

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Now

A worthy John Hughes follow-up in Pretty in Pink. Then mostly TV mush. In 2013 she published a young-adult novel, When It Happens to You, and released a jazz record, Except Sometimes, on which the final track is a cover of Don’t You (Forget About Me), the Simple Minds’ theme tune for TBC. She’s had 3 children.

Ally Sheedy / Allison Reynolds

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Then

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Now

Ditto regarding St Elmo’s Fire. Then John Badham’s Short Circuit. Then movies you’ve never heard of and some telly. High Art in 1998 was by all accounts a notable exception. In the 1990s she was treated for sleeping pill addiction. She moved home to New York and teaches high school kids acting stuff.

It was all their finest moment and the stuff of our hopes and dreams.

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“My issue isn’t about physical aging; my issue is about wanting to remain vigorous and youthful in my spirit.” Rob Lowe (who played Billy Hicks in the ubiquitous ‘St Elmo’s Fire’)

 

 

The Oscars: AG v Academy

I’m starting a movie project later this morning for Channel 4 /All 4 short form so what better way to get in the mood than comparing my votes for the British Academy Awards (BAFTAs) with the actual winners tonight for the American Academy Awards (Oscars). While I’m at it, I’m going to do head-to-head on the (acting) categories which are artificially split into genders – will they combine these one day or do a head-to-head given there’s no physical difference between the sexes in this regard?

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Best picture 
AG: The Big Short
Spotlight

Best actress 
AG & Academy: Brie Larson, Room

Best actor 
AG: Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Leonardo diCaprio, The Revenant

Best director 
AG: Adam McKay, The Big Short
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant

Best original screenplay
AG: The Hateful Eight
Spotlight

Best original score 
AG & Academy: The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone

Best adapted screenplay 
AG & Academy: The Big Short

Best supporting actress
AG: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Best supporting actor
AG & Academy: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Best costume design
AG: Carol – Sandy Powell
Mad Max Fury Road – Jenny Beavan

Best animated film
AG & Academy: Inside Out

Best documentary
AG & Academy: Amy

Best cinematography
AG & Academy: The Revenant – Emmanuel Lubezki

Best make-up and hair
AG: Carol [not nominated]
Mad Max: Fury Road

Best visual effects
AG & Academy: Ex Machina

Best sound editing
AG & Academy: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best sound mixing
AG & Academy: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best editing
AG: The Big Short – Hank Corwin [he was robbed!]
Mad Max Fury Road – Margeret Sixel

BEST ACTOR/ACTRESS: Brie Larson, Room

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR/ACTRESS: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Tying some Oscar loose  ends including why I don’t reckon The Revenant

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To round off on this special day – being 29th of February, leap year day – I’d like to celebrate the considerable success of the UK film industry. I heard we had nominations in 21 of 24 categories (I haven’t counted them up to check). We had winners in 6:

  •  Best supporting actor: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies – in a league of his own
  • Best visual effects: Ex Machina – an amazing follow-up to Gravity’s success
  • Best documentary: Amy – masterfully realised by Asif Kapadia, fellow East Finchley resident
  • Best song: Sam Smith – raw youth
  • Best short: Stutterer – Anglo-Irish triumph
  • Best costume: Mad Max Fury Road

 

The Simple Pleasures Best Film of the Year 2015-2009

2015

The Big Short

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2014

20,000 Days on Earth

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2013

The Wolf of Wall Street

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2012

Silver Linings Playbook

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2011

Midnight in Paris

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2010

Inception

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2009

Inglourious Basterds

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Compared to the Best Picture Oscar:

2014 Birdman – one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, hated it

2013 12 Years a Slave – a worthy winner from Film4

2012 Argo – well done with a great turn from Alan Arkin

2011 The Artist – gimmicky but fun

2010 The King’s Speech – solid

2009 The Hurt Locker – admirably visceral

Compared to the Best Film BAFTA:

2014 Boyhood – a worthy winner for its innovation

2013 12 Years a Slave – proud that Brits & Film4 told this story to America

2012 Argo – with hindsight, Zero Dark Thirty may be the more enduring nominee

2011 The Artist – at least an imaginative choice for winner

2010 The King’s Speech – solid in a very British way

2009 The Hurt Locker – just not my cup of entertainment tea

The Reaper Grim and Not So Grim

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Youth

I’ve had three interesting encounters with Death – of an artistic kind – in the last few days of variable quality and insight…

Close Encounter of the 1st Kind: Me & Earl & The Dying Girl

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Me & Earl & The Dying Girl

I took my 11 year old nephew to a screening of this movie as it is a book he really likes, plus he has impeccable, mature taste in movies. He is the only other person I have met, for example, who noticed and loved A Long Long Way Back in 2013. We both really enjoyed Earl (one of the best two BAFTA/awards season movies I have seen so far) and in the wake of our evening out he lent me the book – and he, like me, both being Virgos, is very fussy about the state of his books.

I enjoyed reading the book – he had bunked school the day before the screening so he could read all day and finish the novel, be fully prepared.  I see it as being in the tradition of A Catcher in the Rye (i.e. a quality coming of age book) and it is interesting on being self-effacing to avoid engagement as well as on dealing with death close at hand. I also like what it has to say on just being, being together, hanging out. It would be a great book to give a teen in the face of cancer or other terminal illness in their close circles.

Close Encounter of the 2nd Kind: Here We Go

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Here We Go

Here We Go, apart from being the first book I ever read (Look, John, look),  is a new short play by Caryll Churchill. I used to go, taken by my mum, with her and my younger brother most Saturday mornings to get cheap tickets for the National Theatre. What sometimes seemed like a haul then we are both profoundly grateful for now as we saw the best of theatre in a golden era for the NT. So the three of us reunited for this trip. Unfortunately it was a pretty provocative piece. Us two siblings pronounced on it on exit and it turned out our judgments exactly matched the two reviews (of the previous night’s opening performance) we read on the way home. He said it was more like an arts performance piece. I said it was not right for such a big venue of that kind (the Lyttleton).

The first of the three scenes that make up the 40 minute piece (ticket cost over £20 – not right) is made up of fragments of conversation at a funeral party. The next scene is a monologue conducted in a spotlight in the dark by the dead man. The last scene is the most provocative – but also the most thought-provoking. The dead man, flashing back to his last years, is in an old age home. His care assistant gets him dressed for the day, slowly and deliberately, in real time, with all the appropriate health and safety precautions. He shuffles a few feet across to his armchair. She then gets him undressed and ready for bed. He shuffles back to the bed with his zimmerframe, sits down and she starts getting him dressed again. It takes about 10 minutes to do the whole process. It was repeated twice in its entirety. No dialogue. All through the second cycle you’re thinking, they’re going to pull the plug on this any minute …surely. They don’t. As the third cycle starts the scene very slowly fades to black. Thought-provoking but bloody annoying and arguably not the stuff of theatre in this kind of context. I just came away thinking whatever happens, never get yourself into a situation where every day is the same as the last …and the one before that.

Close Encounter of the 3rd Kind: Youth

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Youth

I went to a BAFTA screening in a cosy hotel screening room (Ham Yard) of this, the second English language film of Paolo Sorrentino, due to be attended by Michael Caine and Rachel Weitz. As it turned out the latter was unfortunately detained on set but the former was more than enough to make the screening special. What a grounded man for a famous movie star – and very funny, in a lovely dry London way (he’s from Elephant & Castle, similar territory to my hero, Charlie Chaplin). When asked how he felt about getting old, he replied: “Not too bad, considering the alternative.” Good perspective, one we often forget. That very English “Mustn’t grumble” is true.

I asked him a question about his fellow cast – How was it working with Harvey Keitel, and did he learn anything from him? He said the main thing was that they had both served in the infantry and that gave them both important common ground on which they founded a friendship.

The film was a free-ranging reflection on youth, age and approaching death – not totally my cup of tea but interesting, entertaining and original. The Grand Hotel Budapest meets Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. What was most inspiring was the dignity and joie de vivre Michael Caine aka Sir Disco Mike brought to being in your 80s. Certainly something to aspire to…

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4 reasons to go see Grandma

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Paul Weitz & Lily Tomlin at BAFTA screening of Grandma in Soho, London 29 Nov 2015

Spent this moist, sunless afternoon watching the brilliant ‘Grandma’, the best awards season movie I have seen to date, a welcome blast of old school American indie cinema. After the screening I had a quick chat with both the lead actress Lily Tomlin (Nashville, All of Me, Short Cuts) and the director/writer Paul Weitz (About a Boy, Antz, American Pie). During the Q&A I asked Paul about the source of the story – was it the issue (abortion)? the characters? or other? He said it started from the notion of a young woman without enough money to pay for the abortion she feels she urgently needs. Its treatment of the theme of abortion is refreshingly less conservative than the likes of the too mannered ‘Juno’.

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Elle (with Sage)

1. Lily Tomlin – who gives a feisty performance as Elle, a lesbian grandma who is there when her grand-daughter really needs her. Tomlin (76) has been in a relationship with her female partner, Jane, for over 40 years. Elle’s relationship and grieving for her recently deceased partner, Violet, is a deeply moving absence at the heart of the movie. Tomlin’s face is compelling to watch, unique and very particular.

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Sage

2. Julia Garner – plays Sage, the grand-daughter. She is absolutely captivating on screen, with something of the 40s/50s Hollywood studio star about her (a bit of Marilyn Monroe, perhaps a touch of Veronica Lake, that kind of vibe). She is known for The Perks of Being a Wallflower (a favourite of my young nephew Jake who has impeccable film taste) and Martha Marcy May Marlene. The chemistry between her and  Tomlin couldn’t be more perfect.

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Paul Weitz – scriptwriter (and director)

3. Paul Weitz – who wrote the excellent screenplay, really nuanced and fresh. ‘Grandma’ makes an interesting contrast to ‘Carol’ – another ‘lesbian movie’ currently doing the rounds – where, despite exemplary acting, the story is unsurprising and strangely linear.

4. The Indie Spirit – Weitz made this outstanding movie for $600,000 and shot it in 19 days. As a result he was under little pressure and the movie has a real lightness of touch and creative economy. He got the cash from a Greek benefactor and then Sony Classics picked up the finished film in the wake of Sundance.

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4 things I talked to Lily Tomlin about

  1. The joy of being a grand-parent, what a lovely relationship the grand-parent/grand-child one is, how much I’m looking forward to being one (PG, as my grandma would have said)
  2. Her grumpy grandpa and inspiring grandma in Kentucky
  3. Being born in Detroit, the city-country mix; Detroit: Requiem for a City (which she hasn’t seen yet), Julien Temple, The Sex Pistols
  4. That my grandpa, Ian Harris, would have been 100 last week; how special a man he was.
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‘Moment by Moment’ (1978)

4 things I talked to Paul Weitz about

  1. American indie films
  2. Me & Earl & the Dying Girl
  3. The abortion clinic shooting this week in the USA, how safe he is talking about Grandma in America, particularly the South
  4. Treadmill desks (as featured in the film), the office he shares with his brother, Chris (screenwriter & producer: The Golden Compass, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, American Pie), Chris’s treadmill desk.

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Charlie Chaplin’s first love

I’ve just written and published a Wikipedia article about Hetty Kelly, Charlie Chaplin’s first love, but just in case the Wikipolice shoot it down I’m going to save it here…

Hetty Kelly

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

photographic portrait of Hetty Kelly

Hetty Kelly (1893 – 4th November 1918) was an Irish-born dancer and music hall performer, and the first love of movie comedian Charlie Chaplin.

Chaplin met her in 1908 in London when they were both performing for impresario Fred Karno at the Streatham Empire. She was with a song and dance troupe, Bert Coutts’ Yankee-Doodle Girls, and Chaplin was playing a drunk in ‘Mumming Birds’. He was 19 and she was 15. He remembered her as “a slim gazelle, with a shapely oval face, a bewitching full mouth, and beautiful teeth”. She came to be the female ideal in Chaplin’s mind and he recreated her in some of the female leads in his movies. Chaplin wrote in his autobiography, written in 1964: “Although I had met her but five times, and scarcely any of our meetings had lasted longer than twenty minutes, that brief encounter affected me for a long time.”

Hetty married a British politician in 1915, had children and lived in Portman Square, London. She eventually died in the Spanish flu epidemic that ravaged Europe in the wake of the First World War. Chaplin did not learn of her death until three years later in 1921, on a visit to England.

Hetty’s sister was musical comedy actress Edith Kelly, who married US millionaire Frank Jay Gould[1].

Hetty Kelly was played by actress Moira Kelly in the 1992 movie Chaplin produced and directed by Richard Attenborough. She also played Oona O’Neill in the film.[2]

References

And just to save the code:

[[File:Hetty-Kelly.jpg|thumb|photographic portrait of Hetty Kelly]]

”’Hetty Kelly”’ (1893 – 4th November 1918) was an Irish-born dancer and music hall performer, and the first love of movie comedian [[Charlie Chaplin]].

Chaplin met her in 1908 in London when they were both performing for impresario [[Fred Karno]] at the Streatham Empire. She was with a song and dance troupe, Bert Coutts’ Yankee-Doodle Girls, and Chaplin was playing a drunk in ‘Mumming Birds’. He was 19 and she was 15. He remembered her as “a slim gazelle, with a shapely oval face, a bewitching full mouth, and beautiful teeth”. She came to be the female ideal in Chaplin’s mind and he recreated her in some of the female leads in his movies. Chaplin wrote in his autobiography, written in 1964: “Although I had met her but five times, and scarcely any of our meetings had lasted longer than twenty minutes, that brief encounter affected me for a long time.”

Hetty married a British politician in 1915, had children and lived in Portman Square, London. She eventually died in the Spanish flu epidemic that ravaged Europe in the wake of the First World War. Chaplin did not learn of her death until three years later in 1921, on a visit to England.

Hetty’s sister was musical comedy actress Edith Kelly, who married US millionaire [[Frank Jay Gould]]{{cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Frank J. Gould Did Wed Edith Kelly. His Marriage to Musical Comedy Actress in Paris Suburb. His First Wife, Mrs. Helen Kelly Gould, Is Expected to Marry Ralph Hill Thomas To-morrow.|url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9E02EFDD1E39E333A25753C1A9619C946196D6CF |quote= |work=[[New York Times]] |date=July 10, 1910 |accessdate=2008-12-22 }}.

Hetty Kelly was played by actress [[Moira Kelly]] in the 1992 movie [[Chaplin (film)|Chaplin]] produced and directed by Richard Attenborough. She also played [[Oona O’Neill]] in the film.{{cite news|url=http://www.nytimes.com/1993/01/03/movies/up-coming-moira-kelly-playing-two-roles-chaplin-while-dreaming-joan-arc.html?pagewanted=1|title=Moira Kelly; Playing Two Roles in ‘Chaplin’ While Dreaming of Joan of Arc|publisher=[[The New York Times]]|work=|date=1993-01-03|accessdate=2010-05-20|first=Jeff|last=Giles}}

==References==
{{reflist}}

Hooray for Hollywood

1 TV shoot, 1 legendary hotel, 2 friends, 3 studios, 4 happy campers – all in 2 days.

The day before yesterday began with an excursion to West Hollywood. We repaired to my office in Mel’s Diner on Sunset. After lunch I strolled over to Book Soup, a great old-school bookstore on the Strip, and picked up a book about music-making in Laurel Canyon in the 60s and 70s, the shop being in spitting distance of Whisky-a-go-go, the Rainbow Room and all the other music landmarks as well as being within a few miles of the Canyon itself.

From Sunset we headed out to Burbank to do the tour of Warner Bros. studio. I was a bit dubious about this excursion but it turned out to be fun, lead by a slightly chubby twentysomething who couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about TV and movies and couldn’t have fitted more words into the space of two hours. She buggied us around the lot from the only jungle set in Hollywood (most recently used in Jurassic Park – correctly guessed by Enfant Terrible No. 1 which was impressive) under the famous Warner Bros. water tower (there’s no longer enough water in California to fill such things) to the Typical American Town set which was used in the original Ocean’s Eleven (with Frank Sinatra) among others. We got to peruse lots of Batman stuff from Health Ledger’s nurse’s uniform from Dark Knight to the BatBike (which Christopher Nolan insisted on being a working vehicle, same as his Batmobile which he wanted to be designed as a mixture of a Lambo and a tank). Along the way we got to see the original pitching image from Scooby Doo and beautiful animation cells from The Jetsons and Bugs Bunny. I once met Chuck Jones and asked him about Bugs’s penchant for dressing as a female.

Chateau Marmont hotel sunset boulevard strip

Once that was all, folks, we headed back to Sunset and the Chateau Marmont, haunted by the shades of John Belushi and Helmut Newton. There our white Patriot Jeep was parked up by the valet (we’re enjoying that most American of things, the white Patriot, as a worthy follow-up to the ‘Red Tomay-to’ of our last family visit to California in 2005), we walked up and through the luxuriously chilled-out lounge out to the discreet sunlit courtyard, the white art deco buildings catching the last rays of the summer sun. After a while my old school friend showed up, I hadn’t seen him for a good while, he moved to LA when we were in our early 20s, and we enjoyed a beautiful reunion. He got on great with the Enfants Terribles, regaling them with delightful stories of Scarlett Johansson giving a well-known Latino star a post-Oscars blow-job in the Marmont’s lift and the like. It was an all-round happy evening with great chat, decent booze and classy food. My friend, who makes indy movies, now lives in Laurel Canyon, bringing the day to a neat circular conclusion.

Yesterday we kicked off with another studio tour, this time of the most beautiful studios with the greatest track-record, namely Paramount. One of my best friends is married to a senior lawyer there who kindly arranged for us to have a tour of the backlot followed by lunch in the commissary. Highlights included the New York street set which they were setting up, moving trees around on fork-lifts and other semi-surreal activities; the Chicago street corner where Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard robbed a pair of masks in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; the sound stages where The Godfather and The Godfather: Part 2 were shot, plus the ones used for Citizen Kane and the original King Kong; the massive pool (used as a blue-floored car park despite the sloping sides) with its huge sky-wall background which is a unique Paramount facility (last filled and used for Benjamin Button); and the familiar original gate of the studio, the Bronson Gate, from which Charles got his name. All of this bathed in the glow of Rockridge (now a car park) and Blazing Saddles which busts out of its studio confines through the gate we first entered to enjoy some more deluxe valet parking.

Two days of  Hollywood immersion climaxed in a visit to Quixote Studios in Glendale/Griffith Park where another old friend was starring in a detective series, Criminal Minds, he’s been doing for eleven seasons for US network television on CBS and syndicated to the international market (on Sky and Netflix in the UK). He plays one of the main FBI agents in an elite team of criminal profilers (think Cracker but good-looking and with a private jet), alongside fellow agent Joe Mantegna. After visiting the Godfather sound stages earlier in the afternoon my Golden Age of 70s Movies day was made complete with a conversation with Joe aka Joey Zasa of The Godfather: Part 3. I was in New York the day the movie opened  and lined up on that Christmas Day to see it.

Joey_Zasa_and_henchmen Godfather 3

We ate with the cast and crew before attending a read-through of the next episode, to be directed by Joe. A very entertaining 42 minutes it sounded, the Americans are so good at writing compelling formats which you have to have ‘just one more episode’ of before bedtime. The writers were present as well as the casting team. Before starting there was a round-table of everyone introducing themselves which extended to the Enfants Terribles who were slightly sheepish having no role or job-title.

Following the read-through we went into the studio to watch the current episode being shot. On the way we stopped off in the Lear jet set. It’s a fanciful addition to the Criminal Minds world as FBI agents barely get an economy airfare these days, let alone their own wings. The audience love it though, just as they love the literary quotes which are dropped in every episode, come rain or shine, at the beginning and end. We got to chat with various members of the cast between takes and the director, all super-friendly and welcoming.

Besides being really struck this time by how attractive LA is in its low-rise laid-back expanse, I have also really enjoyed how friendly and polite the Americans have been. Walking back to our Venice apartment this afternoon I was thrown a compliment by a passer-by for the third time this trip about my T-shirt (that’s three different T-shirts now). Hooray for Hollywood, the City of Angels and the good ol’ US of A.

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Criminal Minds

Boredom Boredom B’dum B’dum

spiral scratch buzzcocks record

Today is Record Shop Day. I’ve been frequenting mine (Alan’s in East Finchley) plenty recently so I’m just making an internal nod to indy record shops and I’ve just played a classic record Spiral Scratch by (the) Buzzcocks (albeit not on vinyl, I’m in the wrong room) – the track I played is Boredom because I’ve been thinking about it a lot yesterday and today.

I’m living in this movie
But it doesn’t move me
I’m the man that’s waiting for the phone to ring
Hear it ring-a-ding-a-fucking-ding

You know me, I’m acting dumb
You know the scene, very humdrum
Boredom, boredom, boredom

Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe

Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe

I was just out jogging, listening to a podcast with Irish writer John Banville talking about Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe. Banville, under his low-brow pen-name Benjamin Black (which I don’t much like – as fake as they come, a bit like Julian Barnes’ Dan Kavanagh), recently wrote a Marlowe book at the request of Chandler’s estate, The Black-Eyed Blonde. Marlowe stories usually start with the gumshoe sitting bored in his down-at-heel office waiting for something to happen, usually a dame walking through the door to give him a knight-errant mission.

Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe

Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe

Robert Donat as Richard Hannay

Robert Donat as Richard Hannay

Then late last night I was listening to a radio programme from BBC Radio 4 called The Buchan Tradition about John Buchan, marking the centenary year of The 39 Steps. Richard Hannay is bored in London at the start of that ripping yarn when lo and behold a spy dies on his living room carpet and the adventure begins.

Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes

Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes

That’s also often the case with Sherlock Holmes – he’s bored out of his brain, coked off his face, ennui has well and truly set in when a character shows up at 221b with a juicy mystery to solve.

Michael York and Simon Maccorkindale as Carruthers and Davies

Michael York and Simon Maccorkindale as Carruthers and Davies

One of my favourites, a resident of The Shelf of Honour, The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers, opens with the protagonist bored in the “dead and fermenting city”, London in the dog-days of late summer. When the opportunity crops up to sail around the Baltic and North Sea coasts, in spitting distance of imperial Germany, with an English eccentric in an Aran jumper, it’s the perfect cure not just to boredom, but also to the complacency and materialism of modern life. One of my favourite scenes is when Carruthers, the narrator, can’t fit his trunk through the opening into the Dulcibella, the boat he is due to go off for a trip in and he has to dump most of his stuff (which he never really needed).

Martin Sheen as Captain Willard

Martin Sheen as Captain Willard

Recently I watched again one of my all-time favourite movies, Apocalypse Now, with Enfant Terrible No. 1 (a convert to The Godfather movies). Damn it’s good. Great. Nearly perfect. It opens with Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) bored to near-death in a hotel room in Saigon. Waiting for a mission.

Saigon…shit. I’m only in Saigon.
Every time, I think I’m gonna wake up back in the jungle.

I’m here a week now.  Waiting for a mission.  Getting softer.  Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker.  And every minute Charlie squats in the bush…he gets stronger.  Each time I looked around…the walls moved in a little tighter.

Bored to death

Bored to death

There’s boredom as debilitating ennui as in Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. But there’s also boredom as a motivator, a prompt into adventure. The question is whether in real life the blonde walks through the door or the spy expires on your carpet? Does the ring-a-ding-a-fucking-ding really come?

Lauren-Bacalls-style-The-Big-Sleep Bogart office Marlowe

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Dear Dear Dickie – 4 ways to remember Richard Attenborough

The Great Escape (1963)

This one (from the year I made my debut on earth) is for me his most memorable role as an actor – as Bartlett, who can forget that tragic end, machine-gunned in a field by the heartless Nazis alongside his stalwart Scottish buddy, MacDonald (played by the ever dependable Gordon Jackson)?

The Great Escape poster Richard Attenborough

 

In Which We Serve (1942)

His fresh faced debut, already a screen presence to be reckoned with. Directed by David Lean and Noel Coward, a suitably English place to start.

In_Which_We_Serve richard attenborough actor

 

Chaplin (1992)

My hero well captured by the talented young Robert Downey Jnr. under the assured direction of Dickie.

richard attenborough chaplin robert downey jnr director

 

Cry Freedom (1987)

I remember this one opening my eyes to the outrages of apartheid South Africa back in my university days. Denzel Washington was powerful as Steve Biko and first came to international prominence under Dickie’s direction.

cry_freedom_denzel washington kevin Klein steve biko donald woods

Richard Attenborough was instrumental in the establishment of Channel 4 – Deputy Chairman from 1980 to 1986 as it got on its feet and Chairman from 1986 to 1992 through its golden age.

He was also a key leader in BAFTA, associated with the Academy for 30 years and President for over a decade.

richard-attenborough oscars academy awards

I interviewed Lord David Puttnam about him recently for my book, When Sparks Fly. I was thinking of including him in the Film chapter (Choose Life) which focuses on Danny Boyle. With its central theme of the creative rewards of openness and generosity, Attenborough struck me as the cinema embodiment of British public service values. Channel 4 and BAFTA are just two of many appointments which demonstrate his prodigious energy and unfailing commitment to public service media/arts, from the brilliant Chickenshed Theatre to the Mandela Statue Fund.

1964

1964

 

 

Stuff Done (Phase 2: Weeks 3 & 4)

Still not really in my rhythm but getting some stuff done. The highlights of the last couple of weeks (The Story conference displaced last week’s entry) are primarily interviews. Today I did an interview with Barbara Windsor who was one of the third generation of Joan Littlewood’s acting ensembles doing Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1959, before transferring to the West End, as well as Oh What a Lovely War on Broadway in 1965 (where Barbara was Tony-nominated). It was fascinating to hear how tricky Barbara found Joan’s loose, improvisational approach after a training in the West End where the script was the script and you did exactly what the director told you to do. But what emerged from the experience ultimately was the actress getting more in touch with her real self, after years of playing down her East End background. Joan really admired her work in EastEnders – and thought she was the only one with a decent Cockney accent. Barbara learnt from Joan during Fings at the Garrick when she was drifting into artifice and over-blown performance, too Judy Garland, not enough Bethnal Green, and carried that lesson forward for the rest of her career.

Barbara Windsor with Victor Spinetti

Barbara Windsor with Victor Spinetti

Last week I interviewed Hamish MacColl, son of Joan’s first husband Ewan MacColl (folk singer and playwright), brother of singer Kirsty MacColl. He was kind enough to share some of his memories of Joan from his teenage years. He has his mother living with him, Jean Newlove, the third corner of an artistic triangle at the core of the Theatre Workshop with Joan (director), Ewan (writer/music) and Jean (movement). Hamish arranged for me to interview Jean too. Jean is an associate and champion of Rudolf Laban’s analytical movement work, using people’s physical actions, in the theatre context, as a key to their character and portrayal. She is 91 now and sounded incredibly energetic and youthful, quite inspirational. She told me a bit about the early years of the Theatre Workshop including when they were camped out at Ormesby Hall near Middlesborough in a kind of proto-hippy thespian commune.

Movement was central to Joan Littlewood's approach to directing

Movement was central to Joan Littlewood’s approach to directing

I also sent my Proposal document off on the start of its journey to a potential publisher which would be a real coup if it all comes off. I sent it on a particular day to mark the memory of a friend of mine who checked out way too early.

Steve, put in a word with the Big Man for me

Steve, put in a word with the Big Man for me

So progress made, even if a little unevenly.

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