Drawing: Denzel Washington in Fences

Autographed drawing of actor Denzel Washington in Fences at Broadway's Cort Theatre

This year’s Academy Award nominations were announced on Monday and while Denzel Washington’s name wasn’t included this time he has had his fair share of Oscar success. His nine nominations include two wins for Best Supporting Actor as Private Silas Trip in the American Civil War drama GLORY (1989) and Best Actor for his role as corrupt detective Alonzo Harris in TRAINING DAY (2001).

In fact he has received a career total of 96 Award nominations, winning 39, which also includes three Golden Globes. His sole Tony success was for his performance as Troy Maxson, a former baseball player working as a waste collector and struggling to support his family in the revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play FENCES, which opened at the Cort Theatre on Broadway in April 2010 for a limited 13 week engagement. It received ten Tony nominations, winning three, including Best Revival. In 2016 he starred, directed and produced the film adaption, which earned him Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Actor, winning the Screen Actors Guild award.

Seven years ago Denzel attended the premiere of FLIGHT at London’s Empire Cinema in Leicester Square in which he played an airline pilot with a drinking problem, and yes, as per usual was Oscar nominated. I managed to get him to sign my FENCES sketch as he walked the red carpet, not an easy feat given his popularity.

Drawing: Kristen Stewart

Autographed drawing of actor Kristen Stewart

American actress and director Kristen Stewart was in London last October, attending the 63rd BFI London Film Festival, where her film, SEBERG, which was released last Friday in the UK, screened, after its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival.

Directed by Benedict Andrews, the political thriller follows the FBI’s attempts to target and discredit French new-wave star Jean Seberg due to her support for the American Civil Rights movement and her romantic involvement with Black Panther activist Hakim Jamal. In her annual best performance list, TIME magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek placed Kirsten’s performance at number ten.

Kristen gained global recognition for playing Bella Swan in THE TWILIGHT SAGA film series between 2008-2012 and won the BAFTA Rising Star Award. In 2015 she was the first American to win a Caesar Award for Best Supporting Actress – the French ‘Oscar’ – for her portrayal of Valentine, a loyal PA to International star Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) in CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA. It was a role that also saw her collect other accolades, including the National Society of Critics, the New York Critics Circle and the Boston Society of Film Critics awards.

Kristen signed for me at the Corinthia Hotel in London on her way to the SEBERG screening at the BFI.

Drawing: Ben Elton

Autographed drawing of writer Ben Elton

British writer, actor, director and comedian extraordinaire Ben Elton is currently back on a live stand-up tour of the UK, his first since 2004. Ben’s style has been described as left-wing political satire. He was part of the ‘alternative comedy’ movement in the 1980’s, which made a conscious break with the mainstream comedic style that often incorporated racist and sexist material and avoided the reliance on a standardised structure of a sequence of jokes with punch lines.

Early in his career he became the writer for two successful TV series; THE YOUNG ONES and BLACKADDER, often appearing in them, while continuing stand-up on stage and screen. He has written 16 novels, most of which have appeared in the UK’s Top 10 best seller lists, including six No.1’s. He writes in the dystopian, comedy and crime genres, winning awards for POPCORN (1996) and HIGH SOCIETY (2002). POPCORN was adapted for the stage, winning an Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.

In 1985 he began a writing partnership with Richard Curtis, creating BLACKADDER II, BLACKADDER THE THIRD, and BLACKADDER GOES FOURTH with Rowan Atikinson in the title role. All became international hits, winning four BAFTA’s and an Emmy. He appeared in his own TV shows in the 1990’s, including BEN ELTON: THE MAN FROM AUNTIE (a take on the popular 1960’s MAN FROM UNCLE series and ‘Auntie’ is a nickname for the BBC) and THE BEN ELTON SHOW.

In 2016 he returned to television, writing the Shakespearean parody UPSTART CROW with David Mitchell as the Bard. He followed that with two more series and a stage version, which opens early next year at London’s Gielgud Theatre. Ben has also written two West End musicals; the Olivier Award-winning WE WILL ROCK YOU in 2002, featuring the music of Queen and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, LOVE NEVER DIES in 2010.

As part of his current UK tour he stopped off in London for a night, a couple of weeks ago at the Lyceum Theatre, where he also kindly signed and inscribed this quick portrait sketch for me.

Drawing: Willem Dafoe

Autographed drawing of actor Willem Dafoe

“It’s a pain in the ass, this name,” said Willem Dafoe in a 2007 interview for Esquire magazine, referring to his christian name. “People don’t know how to pronounce it, it’s embarrassing. I’ve thought of changing it back (William was the name given to him by his parents and on his passport) so many times. I hate the idea of an actor having a professional name, but then so many people already know me as Willem.” It was a college nickname – the Dutch version of William – that stuck. Dafoe on the other hand is French in origin.

Starting out in the acting profession he thought William was a bit bland so reinvented himself, starting with his moniker. Most people around him call him Willie or Will, which he likes better. But either way it’s a name that has attracted a lot of attention and accolades. After his first screen uncredited appearance in Michael Cimino’s epic western HEAVEN’S GATE IN 1979, as a cockfighter, that was reduced to a fleeting moment in the edit, Willem has assembled an impressive collection of memorable film appearances in such momentous movies as THE ENGLISH PATIENT and MISSISSIPPI BURNING.

He has received four Academy Award nominations, three in the Best Supporting Actor category starting with his role as Sergeant Elias Gordon in Oliver Stone’s PLATOON in 1986, followed by Max Schreck in SHADW OF THE VAMPIRE four years later and last year as motel manager Bobby Hicks in THE FLORIDA PROJECT, for which he also received a Golden Globe, SAG and a BAFTA nom.

This year he was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal as Vincent Van Gogh in AT ETERNITY’S GATE, which screened at the Curzon Mayfair last Saturday. Willem did a Q&A afterwards, signing my portrait on the way out.

Drawing: Bong Joon-ho

Autographed drawing of director Bong Joon-ho

South Korean director and screenwriter Bong Joon-ho is the filmmaking flavour of the year so far as the awards season builds momentum. The 50 year-old already has an impeccable track record, but stepped up his game with his latest release, the darkly comic thriller PARASITE, a brilliant, powerfully revealing social satire about greed and class discrimination. Co-written with Han Jin-won, the eerie tale of a street-wise family, steeped in poverty, who hustle their way into working for a wealthy, but naive household premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Palme d’Or.

It has gone on to collect a growing number of accolades, including Golden Globe Director, Screenplay and Foreign Language and the Screen Actors Guild Best Ensemble nominations and winning a clutch of Critics’ Awards. It is also the official Korean entry for the Best International Feature Film (formerly Best Foreign Language Film) at next year’s Academy Awards and was listed in TIME magazine’s 10 Best Movies of 2019.

Joon-ho signed my sketch at the Curzon Mayfair last week where he delivered a lecture in the BAFTA Screenwriters series, before introducing PARASITE.

Drawing: Dexter Fletcher

Autographed drawing of director Dexter Fletcher

British actor, director and writer Dexter Fletcher experienced the highs and lows of the entertainment business early in his career. A child star at the age of nine in films such as the 1978 musical gangster comedy BUGSY MALONE, where he played the down and out Baby Face, to actually being down and out, sleeping in cars in his twenties, according to a recent article in the Telegraph.

Now, at 53 he is collating an impressive CV. After featuring as small-time criminal Soap in Guy Richie’s iconic crime comedy LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, Dexter went on to lead roles in two successful TV series, as Staff Sergeant Johnny Martin in the Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg created war drama miniseries BAND OF BROTHERS in 2001 and head concierge Tony Casemore in HOTEL BABYLON from 2006-2009, before making his directorial debut in 2011 with the crime comedy drama WILD BILL, which he wrote with Danny King.

In 2017 Dexter replaced original director, Bryan Singer on the Oscar-winning Queen biopic BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY with two weeks scheduled principal photography remaining and the film two-thirds finished. However due to the Directors Guild rules he was credited as an executive producer. He followed that with ROCKETMAN, chronicling the life of Elton John, which premiered at this years Cannes Film Festival to a standing ovation, receiving the same reception from Oscar voters at the Academy screening.

Dexter is currently working on the third sequel to SHERLOCK HOLMES, due for release in 2021. He signed my sketch at his London agency earlier this year.

Drawing: David Mamet

Autographed drawing of writer David Mamet

Prominent American playwright David Mamet was in London earlier this year to direct his contentious dark comedy BITTER WHEAT at the Garrick Theatre. Based on the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which sparked the MeToo movement, it run from June to September, featuring John Malkovich’s return to the West End after thirty years, as Hollywood studio boss Barney Fein and his fall from power. David attracts frequent debate and controversy, and was once quoted, “Being a writer in Hollywood is like going to Hitler’s Eagle Nest with a great idea for a bar mitzvah.” Often described as the prime chronicler of the macho males and power struggles, his distinctive writing style, involving cynical, street-wise dialogue has become known as ‘Mamet speak.’ David’s 1983 play about four disparate real estate agents, GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, which premiered at the National Theatre in London, won the Pulitzer Prize and the subsequent Broadway production was nominated for four Tony Awards, including Best Play. Four years later SPEED-THE-PLOW also won a nomination for Best Play.

David has written a number of major screenplays, including my favourite, THE VERDICT and WAG THE DOG, both Oscar and Golden Globe nominated. He also wrote the script for the 1992 film version of GLENGARRY GLENN ROSS.

David signed my portrait sketch as he arrived for the BITTER WHEAT press night at the GarrickTheatre.

Drawing: Aisling Franciosi

Autographed drawing of actor Aisling Franciosi

Irish-Italian actress Aisling Franciosi was in London this week at a Q&A event following the screening of Jennifer Kent’s period thriller THE NIGHTINGALE at the Curzon Soho cinema. The 26 year-old plays Clare, a young Irish convict at the British penal colony based in Tasmania, Australia in 1825, seeking revenge after a young British soldier raped her then murdered her husband and child.

It premiered at the 75th Venice International Film Festival last year, winning a Special Jury Prize. Aisling won the Gotham Independent Film Awards Breakthrough Actor gong and the Best Actress Award at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards where THE NIGHTINGALE also won Best Film, Direction and Script. For her supporting role as Katie Benedetto in the British-Irish TV crime drama series THE FALL, Aisling received an Irish Film and Television Award in 2015. GAME OF THRONES fans will know her as Lyanna Stark during seasons six and seven.

Aisling signed my drawing when she arrived at the Curzon Soho last Saturday with co-star Sam Claflin.

Drawing: Pedro Almodovar

Autographed drawing of film maker Pedro Almodovar

Against his parents wishes Pedro Almodovar left the religious boarding school in the Spanish city of Caceres, where they hoped he would study to become a priest and moved to Madrid in 1967 to become a filmmaker. When dictator Francisco Franco closed the Madrid School Cinema, he became self-taught, influenced by fellow Spaniard Luis Bunuel.

Working at a number of jobs, he bought a super 8 camera with his first pay, making silent short films – it was too difficult to attach the thin magnetic soundtrack strip – which he would screen in bars, providing the music with a cassette and doing all the voiceovers live. He came to prominence during La Movida Madrilena, The Madrid Movement, a counterculture group and cultural renaissance that emerged following the death of Franco, becoming involved in experimental cinema and theatre, writing, acting, singing and contributing comic strips.

His first feature, PEPI, LUCI, BOM (1980), shot in 16mm, later blown up to 35mm was based on one of his comics. Pedro gained international recognition eight years later with his black and white feminist light comedy, WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, his first critical and commercial success, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Since then he has became a major player in the filmmaking industry, winning two Oscars, five BAFTAS, two Golden Globes, nine GOYAS (Spain’s national cinema award), four prizes at the Cannes Film Festival among a host of other accolades. He was presented with the French Legion of Honour in 1997, the Gold Medal of Merit in Fine Arts from his country’s Culture Ministry and Honorary Doctorates from both Harvard and Oxford.

Pedro was presenting one of this years BAFTA Screenwriters Lectures at the Curzon Soho Cinema in London last Saturday, where he kindly stopped to sign and dedicate my drawing.

Drawing: Petula Clark

Autographed drawing of actor Petula Clark

The amazing Petula Clark is still performing at 87, returning to the West End after twenty-two years in the acclaimed revival of MARY POPPINS, PL Traver’s magical story of the world’s favourite nanny at the Prince Edward Theatre. She plays the small but crucial role of the feed-dispensing ‘bird-woman’, who sings the iconic song ‘Feed the Birds’, which was, according to it’s composer Richard Sherman, Walt Disney’s favourite song in his classic 1964 film.

Considered a National Treasure, Petula has been performing for eight decades, becoming a star at nine singing for the troops stationed in England during WWII at live and on BBC Radio. she became the biggest British female recording artist of her time triggered by the 1964 phenomenon ‘Downtown’ written for her by Tony Hatch. It was an instant international hit going to No.1 across the globe, including the US Billboard, winning a Grammy for Best Rock and Roll recording. That was followed by a string of chart-toppers, ‘I Know A Place’, ‘Colour My World’, ‘Don’t Sleep In The Subway’ and the Charlie Chaplin penned ‘This Is My Song’ among others.

The multi-lingual Petula also recorded in German, French, Italian and Spanish, appeared on stage in both the West End and Broadway, including the role of Maria von Trapp in the 1981 London production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC featured in such memorable movies as FINIAN’S RAINBOW with Fred Astaire and GOODBYE MR CHIPS with Peter O’Toole. In a recent interview with the Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish just after her casting for POPPINS was announced, Petula commented on her role. “I see her as a spiritual person, who was grand once and has fallen on hard times. It’s not a song about bird-feed, it’s metaphysical, it’s about being generous.”

I left this montage portrait of Petula at the Prince Edward stage door, which incidentally was the site of the Queensbury All Services Club where she made her big breakthrough 77 years ago, and she kindly signed and returned it to me.