Irish-born tenor and actor Colm Wilkinson was voted by a Rolling Stone readers’ poll as one of the five greatest singers ever. He originated the lead role of Jean Valjean in LES MISERABLES for both the West End and Broadway productions for which he received both an Olivier and Tony Award nomination and the title role for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA for Andrew Lloyd Webber at the Sydmonton Festival and the Canadian production. He also represented Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest, placing fifth singing “Born to Sing” in 1978.
After collaborating with Andrew in the Dublin production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, playing the role of Judas Iscariot in 1972, they joined forces again in 1985 at the Sydmonton workshop in a deconsecrated 16th century chapel on the grounds of Lord Lloyd Webber’s country estate in Hampshire, where he would perform new works for a private audiences.
Colm originated the title role for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and was offered it for the West End debut, but choose to play Jean Valjean in LES MISERABLES instead, opening initially at the Barbican Centre in October 1985, before transferring to the Palace Theatre. He reprised the role for the Broadway premiere at the Broadway Theatre in 1987. Two years later he and his family relocated to Toronto for the Phantom role in the original Canadian production, which he would play for four and a half years. He did return to play Jean Valjean at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Toronto in 1998-99.
He also reprised the role for the 10th Anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1995 and was a special guest at the 25th Anniversary at London’s 02 Arena in 2010. A year later he was part of the 25th Anniversary celebrations of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at the Royal Albert Hall alongside a number of former global Phantoms. In the 2012 film version of LES MISERABLES, Colm played the Bishop of Digne, winning the National Board of Review Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination as part of the ensemble cast.
While Colm and his family predominately live in Canada (he became a Canadian citizen in 2000), he does have a house back in Ireland and I was fortunate to get my sketch to him on a recent return home, which he kindly dedicated, signed and returned to me.
While appearing in the most successful film of all time, Marvel’s AVENGERS:ENDGAME, reprising the role of Agent Peggy Carter, which she played in 2011 in the superhero film CAPTAIN AMERICA:THE FIRST AVENGER, Hayley Atwell appeared in three productions on the London stage.
The first, Sarah Burgess’s cut-throat comedy DRY POWDER at the Hampstead Theatre ran in the early Spring of 2018. Haley played the ‘acid-tongued, empathy-free Jenny alongside Tom Riley’s Seth as partners in a New York private equity firm reeling from a PR disaster caused by their boss. For the uninitiated ‘dry powder’ means the remaining capital in a private equity fund… if that helps. In his Financial Times review Ian Shuttleworth called Haley “the sharpest knife in the box.”
Later in the year she and Jack Lowden alternated lead roles in Josie Rourke‘s reimagined production of Shakespeare’s MEASURE FOR MEASURE, before her portrayal as the strident Rebecca West in Henrik Ibsen’s ROSERSHOLM at the Duke of York’s in the summer.
She kindly signed my DRY POWDER sketch at the Duke of York’s during the ROSERSHOLM run.
Robert Duvall has enshrined himself as one of the cinema’s greats over the past six decades with a body of acting work that includes many of my favourite films: NETWORK, MASH, THE GODFATHER, THE GODFATHER II and APOCALYPSE NOW. The latter; Francis Ford Coppola’s epic 1979 masterpiece on the Vietnam War, based on Joseph Conrad’s HEART OF DARKNESS; celebrated its 40th Anniversary this year. A savage and darkly comic examination of the absurdity and double standards of war. It includes one of the most iconic lines in cinema history, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
Bob played regiment commander and surfing fanatic Lt. Colonel William ‘Bill’ Kilgore, a role for which he received an Oscar nomination and won a BAFTA and a Golden Globe. In the midst of an early morning helicopter attack against an innocent village, Kilgore orders a napalm strike, then sees a Vietnamese woman toss a grenade into one of his choppers. “Savages” he spits. “You smell that? Do you smell that? Napalm son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
Bob has been nominated for an Academy Award seven times, winning the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of country and western singer Mac Sledge in TENDER MERCIES in 1983, adding to his BAFTA, two Emmys, four Golden Globes and a SAG award, among many more.
I drew and sent him this contemporary portrait combined with a Kilgore and quote sketch to Bob at his home in Virginia a couple of years ago and he kindly signed, dedicated and returned it to me.
Another legendary violinist returned to London this year. Pinchas Zuckerman was both soloist and conductor in an all-Beethoven concert at the Royal Festival Hall in March with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
After being discovered at the age of fourteen by Isaac Stern and Pablo Casals on their tour of Israel in 1962, Pinchas moved to the US to study at the Juilliard School, tutored by Isaac and Ivan Galamian, making his New York debut a year later. Since then his celebrated International career encompassing nearly six decades has seen him become one of the worlds leading violists, violists and conductors, working with some of the major orchestras with over 110 recordings which have garnered 21 Grammy nominations, winning two. He was also nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for his performance in Isaac Stern’s 60th Birthday concert at the Lincoln Centre. Pinchas has won numerous other accolades, including the National Medal of Arts from President Reagan in 1983.
In July this year Classical-music.com conducted a poll of 100 leading players to list the 20 greatest violinists of all-time. Pinchas was 12th.
He kindly signed and dedicated my drawing at the Royal Festival Hall.
One of Britain’s most successful comedy screenwriters and film directors, New Zealand-born Richard Curtis is equally known for humanitarian work. While completing a first-class Arts degree at Oxford University, he teamed up with Rowan Atkinson in the Oxford Revue, a collaboration that would be responsible for creating some of the UK’s most memorable comedy. Initially with Rowan and then Ben Elton, Richard wrote every episode of the BAFTA-Award winning BLACKADDER series from 1983-1989, in which Rowan starred in the title role. They teamed up again for the MR BEAN series from 1990-1995. Richard also wrote THE VICAR OF DIBLEY for Dawn French in 1994, the same year his film FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL won international acclaim. The resulting Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for his screenplay catapulted Richard to prominence.
He followed that with the very popular NOTTING HILL and BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY. He made his directorial debut with LOVE ACTUALLY in 2003, earning a Golden Globe nomination for his screenplay. It featured a Who’s Who of UK actors and has become a modern day Christmas staple. In 2007, Richard was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship.
In response to the famine in Ethiopia, Richard and comedian Sir Lenny Henry founded ‘Comic Relief’ with the highlight of the appeal being Red Nose Day, a biennial telethon alternating with its sister project ‘Sports Aid’. To date it has raised well over £1 billion.
Richard also established ‘Make Poverty History’ and organised the Live 8 concerts with Sir Bob Geldof to make people more aware of poverty, particularly in Africa and pressure G8 leaders to adopt proposals for ending it.
It’s always nice to meet Richard, who has always been very pleasant and chatty. He happily signed this quick portrait sketch I did of him as he arrived at Wogan House for a guest appearance on Zoe Ball’s BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show in March to promote this years Comic Relief appeal activities, which included the telecast of his short film ONE RED NOSE DAY AND A WEDDING reuniting many of the original cast.
In January this year I posted a portrait of British actor Richard E. Grant, ‘graphed with his iconic abbreviated ‘Reg’ signature; his initials. It was signed at the BFI London Film Festival’s Gala Screening of CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? Richard played Jack Hock, a small time criminal and drug dealer who helps frustrated, hard-drinking broke author Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) to sell forged letters and manuscripts of deceased celebrities. Both won several critics awards and were nominated for Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards.
As part of any ‘complete’ autograph collection it’s nice to include the variations a person may have with their signatures. At big events such as premieres, where large crowds gather a more ‘streamlined’ ‘graph enables the person to sign a lot more – some even shorten to a squiggle, mostly their christian and surname initials or even just a christian name.
Many tennis players, who in general are very good signers, use this siggy shorthand. Al Pacino often signs a stylized combo ‘AL’, Keira Knightley a simple ‘K’ or even less. When they are signing privately, in more relaxed surroundings, they have more time and are less rushed, so you usually get a more ‘fuller’ form. Which brings me to Richard, who I had meet on a few occasions at London events and when asked for his ‘graph he signed ‘Reg’.
It’s always great to meet people in person, but I was keen to collect a full ‘Richard E. Grant’, which I knew he did. It was time to use the post. I drew this quick montage of Richard as Jack Hock and sent it to him via his London agent. He kindly dedicated and signed it in full. Collection complete, unless, of course I discover another variation.
Hailed as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, self taught Mark Knopfler’s career as lead guitarist, singer and songwriter for the British rock band Dire Straits, followed by nine solo albums and nine film scores, including LOCAL HERO, THE PRINCESS BRIDE and THE COLOUR OF MONEY, has resulted in excess of 120 million album sales, four Grammys and three Brit awards among other accolades. His songs such as ‘Money For Nothing’, ‘Sultans of Swing’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and ‘Walk of Life’ have become standards.
Dire Straits was formed in London in 1977. The name referred to the band members’ initial financial situation, but they went on to become one of the best-selling music artists of all time. They disbanded in 1988, regrouping in the nineties for five years. Their trademark sound was produced by the frontman’s unique fingerpicking and laconic singing style influenced by Bob Dylan. Dire Straits spent 1,100 weeks on the UK album charts ranking fifth all time. Their 1985 album ‘Brothers in Arms’ was the first album to sell more than a million copies on the CD format, eventually reaching 30 million.
What’s equally cool is that Mark has an asteroid, 28151 markknofler and a species of dinosaur, that lived 65 million years ago, Masiakasarus knopfleri named after him. While left-handed, he plays the guitar right-handed.
Mark embarked on supposedly his last tour earlier this year. Entitled the ‘Down The Road Wherever’ tour, it included two nights at London’s Royal Albert Hall in May where he kindly signed my drawing for me.
Kenneth Lonergan’s tale of astronomy and midlife misery THE STARRY MESSENGER completed its British premiere at Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End over the summer. It featured Broadway royalty and double Tony winner Matthew Broderick and Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Elizabeth McGovern.
Kenneth, who won the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award for his 2016 film MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, wrote the play specifically for Matthew, a long-time friend, who played the lead role ten years ago in the original off-Broadway production. In his West End debut he reprised his role as Mark Williams, a disgruntled astronomer who teaches the subject at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, where his life is spiralling out of control and his marriage is on the rocks.
Elizabeth played his anxious wife Anne. In his Independent Review, Paul Taylor wrote, “The actors play characters that range from laugh-out-loud funny to twisty, wrong-footed ambivalence.”
Both Matthew and Elizabeth kindly signed my sketch based on early publicity images during rehearsals in early May
Wildcard entry Suzann Pettersen sank an eight foot putt on the last hole to clinch the Solheim Cup-the women’s equivalent to the Ryder Cup-for Europe at Scotland’s Gleneagles course on Sunday. The 38 year-old Norwegian and double Major-winner then announced her retirement. “This is perfect closure. That’s it I’m done. This is a good end to a great career,” she said after the finest conclusion in the tournament’s 29 year history.
After taking a career break to start a family, Suzann’s ranking had dropped to 635th in the world. She was a controversial wildcard choice by Europe’s Captain Catrina Matthews and was unable to participate in the opening foursomes due to illness on Friday.
Europe were the underdogs, written off before the start of play against a very strong US team and with half an hour to go on Sunday afternoon it looked inevitable they would claim victory and retain the Cup. But Suzann’s pressure putt and last hole heroics against Marina Alex gave the hosts the one point win.
She signed my sketch at the Ladies Scottish Open hosted by the Renaissance Club last month.