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.

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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.

Drawing: Paul Bettany in ‘The Collaboration’

Autographed drawing of Paul Bettany as Andy Warhol in The Collaboration at London's Young Vic Theatre

In February this year, British actor Paul Bettany returned to the theatre after an absence of 25 years, fourteen of them spent in Marvel’s AVENGERS franchise to play longtime international superstar Andy Warhol in Anthony McCarten‘s THE COLLABORATION at London’s Young Vic.  It sees the Pop Art icon return to painting after a quarter of a century of parties, gossip and lucrative printmaking.

Billed as a ‘prize-fight between two cultural heavyweights’, the play is set in New York in the summer of 1984. Warhol and the art scene’s newest wunderkid, Jean-Michel Basquiat (played by Jeremy Pope) agree to work together on what may be the most talked about exhibition in the history of modern art. “There are also a couple of titanic lead performances… and Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope really, really deliver… Bettany is a strange and riveting Warhol… he’s a fascinating creation”, wrote TimeOut’s theatre critic Andrzej Lukowski. After a successful run in London, the production has just opened on Broadway with the same leads and director Kwame Kwei-Armah at the Samuel J.Friedman Theater. All three are also central to a film version which is now in post production.

After dropping out of school, Paul lived in a small flat and earned money playing guitar as a busker on the London streets and working in a home for the elderly before enrolling in a three-year course at the Drama Centre London. He made his stage debut at the age of 19, playing Eric Birling in Stephen Daldry’s acclaimed West End revival of AN INSPECTOR CALLS at the Aldwych Theatre in 1993.

Six plays, including three for the Royal Shakespeare Company, 13 TV productions and 42 films later his career has be filled with many memorable highlights and accolades with nine wins from 19 award nominations. He received a BAFTA nom for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of surgeon and naturalist Stephen Maturinin in Peter Weir’s MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD (2003) and won the London Film Critic’s Award for Best British Actor and the Evening Standard Award for Best Actor. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe for his role as the posh android Vision in the TV miniseries WANDAVISION. He won the London Film Critics’ Circle Award in 2002 for his portrayal of Geoffrey Chaucer in THE KNIGHT’S TALE.

Paul signed my sketch in early March during the THE COLLABORATION’s six-week run at the Young Vic.

Drawing: Jodie Comer in PRIMA FACIE

Autographed Drawing of Jodie Comer in Prima Facie on West End

“West End debuts don’t come much more astonishing than this solo tour de force by Jodie Comer,” wrote The Telegraph’s Chief Theatre Critic Dominic Cavendish in his five-star review of the 90 minute, one-hander PRIMA FACIE, which ran this spring at the Harold Pinter Theatre, for a sold-out nine week season. The BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning actress plays Tessa Ensler, a brilliant barrister, who specialises in defending men accused of sexual assault, until she is raped by a colleague. It was only her second ever stage role, the first in Scarborough, thirteen years ago when she was 16, playing Ruby in THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

“The KILLING EVE star makes a masterful West End debut in Suzi Miller’s play about sexual assault and the legal system,” said the Guardian’s Arifa Akbar. The Evening Standard’s Nick Curtis wrote, “We all wanted to know if she’s as good live on stage as she is on screen. And the answer is no: she’s better.”

“Comer evolves the character as the play goes on, twisting Tessa’s charismatic confidence into traumatised, fidgety panic-duality expressed in the publicity poster, which overlays an image of a self-satisfied lawyer-mode Comer into one of her letting out an anguished scream… and she plays all the other supporting roles… we watch her slip between the prim prosperity and rounded vowels of Tessa’s Cambridge Professors to the crotch-scratching arrogance of policemen and Elton-boy drawl of her peers among many others,” wrote Yasmin Omar in her Curzon Cinemas review for the NT Live screening of the production in movie theatres.
Jodie will make her Broadway debut at the Schubert Theatre later this year when the production transfers to New York.

She kindly signed my sketch at the Pinter stage door after her final performance on 18 June where hundreds of fans gathered, fifteen deep.

Drawing: David McCallum

Autographed Drawing of actor David McCallum

Television transmission began in New Zealand in the early 1960s, coinciding with my formative years, influenced by many memorable programmes, including my favourite THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E with Robert Vaughn as the suave spy Napoleon Solo and his enigmatic partner, Russian Illya Kuryakin played by the Scottish-born David McCallum.

David’s father was the lead violinist for the London Philharmonic and his mother was a cellist so everything pointed to a musical career for their son and his favourite instrument, the oboe. A short stint at the Royal Academy of Music was replaced with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, igniting a distinguished film, TV and stage career spanning over seven decades beginning with voice work for the BBC Radio in 1947.

He became a household name as the mysterious Illya Kuryakin, a character originally intended as a peripheral role but his popularity and the on-screen chemistry with Robert persuaded the producers to elevate David to co-star status. He received more fan mail than any other actor in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s history, including MGM stars Clark Gable and Ellis Presley with two Primetime Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe nod. He subsequently featured in COLDITZ (1972-74) and SAPPHIRE & STEELE (1978-1982) alongside Joanna Lumley before taking on the role of Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard, the chief Medical Examiner in the American police procedural series NCIS since 2003. He is the only original cast member left, appearing briefly for season 19 last month.

David returned to his musical roots, recording four albums for Capitol Records in the 1960’s. In 2016 he published a crime novel ONCE A CROOKED MAN which centres on a young actor who foils a murder.

During the pandemic lockdowns I had the time to catch up on many of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E episodes and drawing this quick portrait sketch of David, which I sent it to him at his New York home. He returned it, signed which I will treasure.

Drawing: Ang Lee

Autographed Drawing of director Ang Lee

One of the most accomplished and popular contemporary filmmakers, Taiwanese-American director Ang Lee was ranked 27th in the Guardian’s top 40 directors and 41st in a list of greatest directors of all time in a 2007 poll conducted by Total Film magazine. Ang is also one of the nicest people in the business. I have a had the privilege of meeting him on a number of occasions over the past few years.

His 15 feature films have received a truck load of accolades, including 38 Oscar nominations (four for Best Picture) with 12 wins, 49 BAFTA nominations for 24 wins and 23 Golden Globe nominations for nine wins. Personally he has received five Academy Award nominations, winning two for Best Director for LIFE OF PI in 2013 and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN in 2006. He has won five BAFTAS, including Best Film for SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (1995) and the Fellowship in 2020 for his Outstanding Contributions to British Cinema. He has also been the recipient of a number of honours and decorations, including a Knight of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2012) and the Legion of Honor (2021) from the French Government in the same year he received the Presidential Culture Award from Taiman’s president Thai-Ing-wen.

I sent this sketch to Ang to his home in New York State last year with a signing request and received a very nice reply from his wife Jane, thanking me for my letter and informing me that Ang was working in New Zealand and due to the covid restrictions was going to be there for some time, but as soon as he returned home she would make sure he signed and returned it, which is exactly what happened.

Drawing: Ari Wegner

Autographed drawing of cinematographer Ari Wegner

In 2018 Ari Wegner received a phone call from New Zealand director Jane Campion, enquiring about her availability for the next two years. The brilliant Australian cinematographer immediately signed on to lens Jane’s first feature film in twelve years, the revisionist and submissive western THE POWER OF THE DOG, based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel about charismatic Montana rancher Phil Burbank, who inspires fear and awe in those around him.

Jane specifically wanted a female cinematographer. The Western was traditionally a masculine genre, but she wanted to approach it from a feminine point. Although Ari stressed that gender was only one of the many, many elements when you are viewing the dynamics of desire. Poetically, it was Jane’s 1983 short film PASSIONLESS MOMENTS, which her High School Media Studies teacher showed her that inspired Ari’s interest in film, eventually specialising in cinematography, completing her studies at the prestigious Victoria College of the Arts in her home town of Melbourne. Subsequently they worked together on an ad campaign for an Australian bank.

Photographing THE POWER OF THE DOG both invigorated and terrified her, Ari said in a recent New York Times interview. “You don’t want to be the DOP of the only Jane Campion film that didn’t look any good.” She said they clicked immediately, sharing both a similar aesthetic and an obsession with preparation. Jane said Ari was “good at working on problems until they’re solved, which is very reassuring.” They had the luxury of a year in pre-production. Jane rented a house in Central Otago in New Zealand’s South Island, which doubled as 1920’s Montana, where they spent each day drawing meticulous storyboards and scouting locations.

Ari’s influences included the work of English photographer Evelyn Cameron, who moved to Montana at the turn of the Twentieth century and Ken Burns’ documentary series THE WEST. The paintings of Andrew Wyeth and Lucian Freud were also additional points of reference. She also researched the rugged landscape of the American State before the the actual shoot took place in 2020, interrupted by the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

Ari’s breathtaking cinematography rightfully garnered many accolades as THE POWER OF THE DOG became the most celebrated film of the year. She made history, becoming the first woman in the British Society of Cinematographers 73-year history to win its feature prize and then receive a BAFTA nomination. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has only ever nominated two female cinematographers for the Oscar, Rachel Morrison in 2018 for MUDBOUND and this year, Ari. She also won a number of Film Critic’s Circle honours including Best Cinematography at the Critics Choice Awards, where the film also won Best Picture and Jane collected both Director and Adapted Screenplay Awards.

I meet Ari to get my sketch signed, when she was in London for the BFI London Film Festival last October. She immediately recognised my kiwi accent. I told her I was very familiar with the landscapes that her phenomenal photography captured having lived there most of my life.

Drawing: Jane Campion

Autographed drawing of director Jane Campion

It was a proud night to be a New Zealander after kiwi auteur Dame Jane Campion won the Academy Award for Best Director at this year’s Oscar ceremony on Sunday evening for helming THE POWER OF THE DOG, her universally acclaimed modernist western based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same title.

The psychological drama became one of the most celebrated films of the year, reflected in its 12 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and certainly the most honoured – with nearly 250 wins from over 300 noms – dominating all 10 Best Lists and Year-End critic groups’ Awards since its world premiere at the 78th Venice Film Festival last September, where Jane won the Silver Lion for Best Direction. She became the first woman to receive two Best Director Oscar nominations and the third to win the category.

The first was for THE PIANO in 1994, losing to Steven Spielberg for SCHLINDLER’S LIST. She did however collect the golden statue for her screenplay written directly for the screen. Steven was also nominated this year for Best Director, for his remake of WEST SIDE STORY. A couple of weeks prior to the Dolby Theatre ceremony, Jane won the BAFTA for Best Film and Direction, the Directors Guild Award and the Crictics Choice Awards for Picture, Direction and Adapted Screenplay all within a few hours of each other, which pretty much summed up the her whirlwind year. The self-proclaimed ‘shy extrovert’ collected just about every accolade going.

Author and academic Dana Polan stated in his 2001 book that Jane Campion is one of the few female directors who can be considered an auteur… “it is the disturbances in her work – the divergences, the dispersions, the tensions, for instance between quirky humour, making strange of the familiar and an interest in the ambiguous, even that which is uncomfortable and which makes the viewer uncomfortable.”

Glenn Whipp, writing recently in the LA Times summarized her contribution to cinema. “She has long been celebrated as an iconoclast, a woman whose radiant films meld beauty and barbarism in their depiction of the world and the flawed humans inhabiting it” Jane was the only woman to win the converted Palme d’Or at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival for THE PIANO until French director Julia Docournau won last year for TITANE, who presented her with the Lumiere Prize (considered to be cinema’s Nobel Prize) at the Lumiere film festival in Lyon in October.

I caught up with Jane last October at the BFI Southbank after her Screentalk at the London Film Festival, prior to the gala screening of THE POWER OF THE DOG, where we had brief chat and an antipodean connection while kindly signing my quick sketch.

Drawing: Saoirse Ronan in The Crucible

Autographed drawing of Saoirse Ronan in The Crucible on Broadway

American-born Irish actress Saoirse Ronan made her stage debut on Broadway as the main antagonist in the 2016 revival of Arthur Miller’s 1953 play THE CRUCIBLE at the Walter Kerr Theatre. She played the manipulative maid Abigail Williams, responsible for the deaths of 150 people accused of witchcraft in Salem in 1692. It was an allegory for McCarthyism. In his review for The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney called Saoirse’s performance “icy and commanding.” The production won the Tony Award for Best Revival.

Last year she made her London stage debut as Lady Macbeth in the Almeida Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH.

In 2020 the New York Times ranked her tenth on its list of this century’s Greatest Actors. She has been nominated for four Oscars – for her performances in ATONEMENT (2007), BROOKLYN (2015), LADY BIRD (2017), and LITTLE WOMEN (2019) and five BAFTA Awards in the same films with the addition of THE LOVELY BONES (2009). She won a Golden Globe for her title role as Christine ‘Lady Bird’ MacPherson in Greta Gerwig’s 2017 directorial debut LADY BIRD.

Saorise signed my sketch of her as Abigail at the Almeida Theatre during the final week of MACBETH In November 2021.