Drawing: Dave Grusin

Autographed drawing of composer Dave Grusin

One of my favourite and frequently viewed films is Sydney Pollack’s meticulously directed 1975 political thriller THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, featuring Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, John Houseman and Max von Sydow. And one of the many reasons for its favouritism is the wonderful musical score by the great and prolific legendary American jazz pianist and composer Dave Grusin. It’s considered to be one of the best and most memorable spy film soundtracks of the 1970’s. Described as ‘jazzy with an R&B funk infusion, characterised by a haunting mellow jazz with heavy strings and a smooth saxophone lead.

It’s one of Dave’s many great scores, included in nearly 100 movie titles, including THE GRADUATE (1967),  HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1979), THE CHAMP (1980), ON GOLDEN POND (1982), THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS (1990), HAVANA (1991), THE FIRM (1994) and countless TV productions such as COLUMBO, BARETTA, ST ELSEWHERE, and THE WILD,WILD WEST. During the 15-year period between 1979-1994 Dave received eight Academy Award nominations, winning the Oscar for Best Original Score for THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR in 1989. He has been nominated for the Grammy Award 38 times, winning ten and has also received two BAFTA, two Primetime Emmys and four Golden Globe Award nominations.

He was the subject of a feature-length documentary DAVE GRUSIN: NOT ENOUGH TIME in 2018 and a person high on my list to meet and have a drawing signed. I planned to post a letter and drawing to him, but then discovered that he was a frequent performer at Ronnie Scott’s in London with one of his regular collaborators, guitarist Lee Ritenour. My timing of this revelation was less than impressive. He and Lee had just finished a four-day gig at the iconic Soho jazz club. He was, however, scheduled to return the following year, but due to the Covid pandemic and resulting lockdowns that was cancelled. Eventually he did return in July this year and I finally got to meet him, get my sketch signed and tell him in person how much I loved his work, especially the THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR score.


Drawing: Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in DARKEST HOUR

Autographed drawing of Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour

Gary Oldman unsuccessfully applied for a place in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He was told he could apply again the following year, but was also advised to “find something else for a living.”  Forty years on his films have grossed over $11 billion worldwide, making him one of the highest-grossing actors of all time. Back in the 1970’s he did, in fact already have a variety of jobs on assembly lines, selling shoes, a porter in an operating theatre and beheading pigs at an abattoir while he attended the Young People’s Theatre in Greenwich, before gaining a scholarship at the Rose Bruford College in south-east London, graduating with a BA in acting.

His stage career began in 1979 and he made his film debut in REMEMBRANCE three years later. By the second half of the 1980’s, having already won acclaim in the theatre with the Royal Court in London and the Royal Shakespeare Company, Gary quickly established himself as a new major force in film, first in Britain then in Hollywood. He was recognised as a member of the ‘Brit Pack’ – a term first used in an article by Elissa Van Poznak in the January edition of ‘The Face’.

BFI season programmer Geoff Andrew wrote, “His playing of real-life figures as different as Joe Orton, Lee Harvey Oswald and Winston Churchill demonstrates his extraordinary versatility; moreover, he’s always been prepared to portray a character’s less than attractive qualities. At the same time, his tonal range has extended from the frighteningly powerful (THE FIRM’s Clive Bissel) to the quietly reticent Le Carre’s George Smiley in TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY)” His career was frontloaded with exceptional performances before moving to America, where he worked with Oliver Stone on JFK and Francis Ford Coppola on BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA as well as becoming a necessary stable in the HARRY POTTER and BATMAN film franchises.

With over 70 feature films, spanning forty-years, Gary has 64 wins from 101 award nominations. It was his portrayal of Britain’s wartime prime minister Winston Churchill in Joe Wright’s  DARKEST HOUR (2017), that has won him the most accolades. Written by Anthony McCarten, it covers the critical month in the early days of Churchill’s premiership and the 1940 war cabinet crisis with his refusal to seek a peace treaty with Nazi Germany amid their advance into Western Europe.

Gary’s memorable and mesmerizing performance won the Oscar, the BAFTA, a Golden Globe and the SAG award plus numerous critics gongs including the Critic’s Choice Award. Last years BFI London Film Festival celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Gary’s singular directoral masterpiece, NIL BY MOUTH with a screening of a 4K remastered print. It was followed by a Gary Oldman Season with the man himself taking part in an In Conversation at BFI Southbank on 20 October, when I was fortunate to meet him and get my drawing signed.

Drawing: Baz Luhrmann

Autographed drawing of director Baz Luhrmann

I had this sketch of Australian auteur Baz Luhrmann in my ‘current’ folder for a few years, hoping for the chance that he may pop up at a premiere or press night… or my local Sainsbury’s. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the London premiere of his latest box office hit, ELVIS, but I did have the opportunity to catch him at the BFI in January this year. He was doing an ‘In Conversation’ piece. I missed him going in and he was rushed out afterwards, running late for another engagement, apologising, but couldn’t stop to sign. However, I discovered the main reason for him being in London was to attend the press night at the Piccadilly Theatre for the Musical MOULIN ROUGE!, based on his revolutionary 2001 film. I was determined to catch him there and through good fortune and a very kind security person, did so. We had a brief chat and he was more than happy to sign my drawing for me. Mission accomplished… out of current working folder, processed, filed and onto this post. 

Originally bursting on to the scene with the Red Curtain Trilogy: STRICTLY BALLROOM (1992), William Shakespeare’s ROMEO+JULIET (1996) and MOULIN ROUGE! (2001),  Baz is, to quote the BFI’s event blurb, “a master storyteller and pioneer of pop culture working across film,opera, theatre, events and music. His signature blend of fantasy, romance and decadence fuses high and low culture, a unique sonic and cinematic language and trademark theatrical aesthetic that continuously captivates audiences and ignites imaginations around. His most recent film, ELVIS, an exhilarating, whirlwind biopic of the legendary King of Rock and Roll, landed as the second-highest grossing musical biopic of all time, globally and his highest grossing film of all time in the UK.”

Baz’s six feature films have collected 66 award nominations, resulting in 39 wins, with more to follow as ELVIS gains momentum and nominations heading into the crunch end of the Awards season.

MOULIN ROUGE! was nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award in 2002. He has received seven BAFTA noms, winning two-Direction and Adapted Screenplay for ROMEO+JULIET. He has  four Grammy nominations and won the Best Musical Tony award in 2020 for MOULIN ROUGE!

His original christian names, Mark Anthony were changed by deed poll to ‘Bazmark’ joining his nickname ‘Baz’ and his birth monikers; so called because his hairstyle resembled the puppet Basil Brush. Baz has certainly made a name for himself since.

Drawing: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Autographed drawing of director Alejandro González Iñárritu

The brilliant Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu attended last year’s BFI london Film Festival with his latest feature BARDO, FALSE CHRONICLE OF A HANDFUL OF TRUTHS. While I had been lucky enough to meet him briefly on a handful of occasions, I finally got my act together and drew this portrait sketch for him to sign, which he did outside his London hotel, stopping for a chat and a graph… as you do. It’s intriguing reading about his teenage years and what shaped his future direction. He was apparently a poor student, expelled from high school for poor grades and misbehaviour, running off to Acapulco,with a girl from a wealthy family, influenced by the Milos Forman film HAIR, which lasted a week, before returning home to Mexico City. After a stint working on cargo boats, he travelled around Europe for a year, which had a great influence as a filmmaker.

 Known for his, and I quote, “modern psychological drama films about the human condition”, which have garnered plenty of Awards recognition -126 wins from 168 nominations to be precise, according to IMDb. They includes five Oscars, three BAFTAs and four Golden Globes. His 2014 black comedy-drama BIRDMAN or (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) won the Best Picture, Director and Original Screenplay Academy Awards. He was the third person (and the first in 65 years) to win consecutive Best Director Oscars, taking the prize the following year for THE REVENANT. In 2018 he received a Special Achievement Award in for FLESH AND SAND (CARNE Y ARENA), a short (7 minute) virtual reality project from the POV of migrants crossing the Mexican/US  border, which was the first ever VR installation presented at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. In 2019, he was made Commander of the Order of the Arts and Letters in France.

Drawing: Guillermo del Toro

Autographed drawing of director Guillermo del Toro

The list of foreign-born film directors who have reached the pinnacle of their careers on Oscar night is long, but few countries can claim to have produced a cohesive group of collaborators with the level of success that three Mexican auteurs have enjoyed for more than two decades. The Academy Award-dominating trio; Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro G. Inarritu and Guillermo del Toro, collectively known as ‘The Three Amigos of Cinema’; have won Best Director five times in six years from 2013-2018. They are three of my favourite helmers, who I have been fortunate to meet at the BFI London Film Festival, Alfonso in 2018 and Alejandro and Guillermo at last years event. They are very affable and accommodating, graciously sharing their time.

Guillermo attended the 2022 Festival for the World Premiere of PINOCCHIO, his Netflix stop-motion animated musical fantasy, co-directed with Mark Gustafson (in his feature debut), loosely based on Carlo Collodi’s classic 1883 book ‘The Adventures of Pinocchio’, which re-imagines the story of a wooden puppet who comes to life as the son of his carver Geppetto, set in Fascist Italy during the interwar period and WW ll. It has been received with critical acclaim, and has been recognised as we enter the business end of the awards season, including three Golden Globe noms including Best Animated Feature. More nominations are inevitable.

Guillermo’s body of work has collected many accolades. His 12 feature films have been recognised with many awards, including six Oscar nominations, winning two – Best Picture and Best Director for THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017), the romantic fantasy that follows a mute cleaner at a high-security Government lab, who falls in love with a captured humanoid amphibian creature and decides to help him escape. He has also won two BAFTA’s from five nominations.

TIME magazine included him in their 2018 most influential people in the world list.

Guillermo signed my quick portrait sketch at the PINOCCHIO premiere on 15 October 2022.