BFI London Film Festival Guest: Alejandro Landes

This year’s BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL has just concluded. Here is one of the guests that I met at the event:

Autographed drawing of director Alejandro Landes

Alejandro Landes. The Brazilian-born Colombian-Ecuadorian director’s third feature MONOS, the hallucinogenic and intoxicating thriller about child soldiers, set on a remote mountain top in Latin America is one of the most talked-about films of the year and won the top prize at the London Festival, adding to the numerous accolades already collected, including the Jury Prize at Sundance where it premiered in January and is Colombia’s Official entry for the Academy Awards.

Alejandro signed my sketch at the first screening of MONOS at the Vue Cinema in Leicester Square.

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Drawing: Viola Davis

Autographed drawing of actor Viola Davis

Viola Davis is one the most celebrated actors on stage and screen. She is one of only twenty-four people who have achieved the American entertainment industry’s ‘triple crown’, winning a competitive Academy Award, Primetime Emmy and a Tony Award.

The first of her two Tonys was for her role as Tonya, a 35 year-old mother fighting for the right to abort a pregnancy in KING HEDLEY II at the Virginia Theatre in 2001.The second was for her portrayal of the dutiful yet strong minded Rose Maxson, opposite Denzel Washington in the first Broadway revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning FENCES at the Cort Theatre in 2010. Both reprised their roles in the 2016 film adaption, directed by Denzel, with Viola winning the Oscar, the BAFTA and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. Her Primetime Emmy was for her lead actress role as criminal defence attorney Annalise Keating in the television series HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER in 2015.

She has also won five Screen Actors Guild Awards. Overall, from 213 award nominations she has won 102. Away from acting she is a producer, a published children’s book author and is involved in a number of philanthropic activities and her advocacy and support of human rights.

Viola signed and dedicated my montage sketch at last year’s gala screening of Steve McQueen’s WIDOWS, which opened the 62nd BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL at Cineworld in Leicester Square.

Drawing: Hayley Atwell as Jenny in Dry Powder

Autographed drawing of Hayley Atwell as Jenny in Dry Powder at the Hampstead Theatre in London

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 Roukre’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.

Drawing: Robert Duvall

Autographed drawing of actor Robert Duvall

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.

Drawing: Richard Curtis

Autographed drawing of writer Richard Curtis

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 JONE’S 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.

Drawing: Richard E. Grant as Jack Hock in Can You Ever Forgive Me

Autographed drawing of Richard E Grant as Jack Hock

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.

Drawing: Jerry Seinfeld

Comic genius and car collector Jerry Seinfeld returned to London last week to perform four shows over two nights at the Hammersmith Apollo. He is listed as the 12th Greatest Stand-up Comedian of All Time by Comedy Central with his ‘observational comedy’. A couple of examples to remind us of his brilliance, “It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper” or “Make no mistake about why these babies are here-they are here to replace us.”
In collaboration with Larry David, he created and wrote the self-titled sitcom SEINFELD, in which he plays a fictional version of himself, a mild germaphobe and neat freak, minor celeb, stand-up comedian with his best friend George (Jason Alexander), friend and former girlfriend Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and the neighbour across the hall, Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards), set in a Manhattan apartment building on New York’s Upper West Side.

SEINFELD ran for nine seasons from July 5, 1989 – May 14, 1998, collecting 41 major awards, including 10 Primetime Emmys and three Golden Globes. It is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential sitcoms ever, and ranked the best TV show by Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone and TV Guide among others. The dialogue incorporated ‘Seinfeldian’ code words and recurring phrases, often referred to as ‘Seinlanguage’ that have become cemented in popular culture such as ‘Hello, Newman!’, ‘Not that there’s anything wrong with that’, ‘It’s not a lie if you believe it’….’Yada, yada, yada.’

Jerry also has an impressive collection of 150 cars, including 43 Porches, housed in a three-story, $1.4m Manhattan garage with it’s own dedicated fleet management team. Some of the vehicles appear in his talk show, COMEDIANS IN CARS GETTING COFFEE.
Jerry very kindly dedicated and signed my sketch for me at the Apollo.

Drawing: Kenneth Lonergan

Autographed drawing of writer Kenneth Lonergan

American film director, screenwriter and playwright Kenneth Lonergan was in London recently, visiting Wyndham’s theatre where his play THE STARRY MESSENGER opened last month with Matthew Broderick and Elizabeth McGovern. The original 2009 off-Broadway production also featured Matthew and Kenneth’s wife, J.Smith-Cameron.
Kenneth’s playwriting prowess came to prominence in 1996 with THIS IS OUR YOUTH, followed by THE WAVERLY GALLERY three years later, earning him a Pulitzer Prize nomination and LOBBY HERO in 2002. All three plays collected Tony Award nominations for their respective revivals.

Kenneth’s most notable film work is YOU CAN COUNT ON ME (2000) and MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016), both written and directed by him and both included Matthew in their cast. He received Academy Award Best Original Screenplay nominations the two films, collecting the Oscar for the later. He also won the BAFTA Award. David Fear, writing in Rolling Stone said that MANCHESTER proved Kenneth was “practically peerless in portraying loss as a living, breathing thing without resorting to the vocabulary of griefporn.” In 2002 he co-wrote Martin Scorsese’s GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002), once again receiving Academy recognition with an Original Screenplay nomination.

It was great to meet Kenneth at Wyndham’s Theatre, where he kindly signed my drawing.

Drawing: Sidney Poitier

Autographed drawing of actor Sidney Poitier

I was super pleased to receive this back in the mail last week. Sidney Poitier, or should I say Sir Sidney is one of my all-time favourite people.

His parents were farmers on Cat Island in the central Bahamas, which was then a British colony. Sidney was born in Miami, Florida, while they were visiting to sell their produce. He was two months premature and not expected to live. But live he certainly did, celebrating his 92nd birthday this year.

In 1964 he became the first African-American to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, for his role as itinerant worker Homer Smith in LILIES OF THE FIELD. He also won a Golden Globe. It was his second Oscar nomination, having received recognition six years earlier for his portrayal of Noah Cullen in THE DEFIANT ONES, for which he won the BAFTA. His groundbreaking work continued in 1967 with three roles, Mark Thackeray in TO SIR, WITH LOVE, Dr. John Wade Prentice in GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER and Detective Virgil Tibbs in my personal favourite, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, that all dealt with issues of race and race relations.

Both the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences and the British Academy presented him with an Honorary Oscar and a Fellowship respectively. Sidney has also directed nine films, including the box-office hit STIR CRAZY. Sir Sidney was knighted in 1974, and from 1997-2007 he was the Bahamian Ambassador to Japan. In 2009, President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian honour.

Yes, indeed, super, super pleased he signed and returned my drawing.

Drawing: Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange

Autographed drawing of Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange

When Stanley Kubrick’s dystopian crime film A CLOCKWORK ORANGE was first released in NewZealand nearly fifty years ago, the Censor gave it an R20 classification, resulting in public protests, which subsequently resulted in a lower rating a few years later. As a high school student at the time, it was considered the ultimate bragging right, amongst pubescent teenage boys to be able to successfully enter the cinema, acquire a ticket, (usually via an older sibling) stay for the duration without underage detection and emerge triumphant at its conclusion. I did not claim such bragging rights, instead enjoying the ritual vicariously through the few that achieved such status.

Based on Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel of the same name, its central theme is behaviourism, specifically youth subcultures and juvenile delinquency, which was on the rise in Britain during the early sixties. It questions the definition of ‘goodness’ and the use of aversion therapy to stop immoral behaviour.

The story is set in ‘near-future’ London. The central character is Alex played by Malcolm McDowell, who leads his band of ‘droogs’. They hang out at Korova milk bar, embarking on ‘a little ultraviolence’ while warbling ‘Singin’ in the Rain.’ After he is jailed and subjected to behaviour modification therapy, Alex is released back into society, only to become prey at the hands of his former victims. Considered a cult classic now, the 1971 film went on to collect four Oscar and seven BAFTA nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Malcolm was nominated in the Best Actor categories at the Golden Globe, National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Awards.

As part of the Stanley Kubrick Season at the British Film Institute for the past two months, Malcolm McDowell made a guest appearance, participating in a Q&A after the initial screening of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, where he signed for me.