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.

Drawing: Bob Newhart

Autographed drawing of comedian Bob Newhart

I have many favourite American comedians. Bob Newhart is among them. Known for his deadpan, slightly stammering delivery, Bob came to prominence with his 1960 album of comedic monologues entitled THE BUTTON-DOWN WORLD OF BOB NEWHART, which went to No.1 on the Billboard pop album chart. It still remains the 20th best-selling comedy album of all time. He won two Grammy Awards and another one for the follow-up album THE BUTTON-DOWN MIND STRIKES BACK! While primarily known as a TV star and stand-up comic, Bob has appeared in notable films such as Mike Nichols war satire CATCH 22 and ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER.

In 1996 TV Guide published the 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time, listing Bob at 17th. His self-titled TV hit THE BOB NEWHART SHOW ran from 1972-1978, playing dry Chicago psychologist Dr. Robert Hartley, followed by his role as Dick Loudon, a Vermont innkeeper and talk-show host in NEWHART during the 1980s. Surprisingly it wasn’t until 2013 that Bob won his first Primetime Emmy Award as Professor Proton in six guest appearances in THE BIG BANG THEORY.

One of Bob’s signature routines was his improvisational, one-sided telephone conversations, which appeared in the opening shot of the original TV series and in almost every episode. I incorporated this in my sketch, which I sent to Bob, who is now 90, which he kindly signed and returned it to me.

Drawing: Marsha Mason in The Goodbye Girl

Autographed drawing of actor Marsha Mason in The Goodbye Girl

Neil Simon’s THE GOODBYE GIRL remains one of my all-time favourite films because of his script and its delivery. The 1977 film, directed by Herbert Ross about an odd trio thrown together in “one of life’s little jests,” features Marsha Mason as Paula McFadden, a former Broadway dancer bringing up her ten year-old daughter Lucy (Quinn Cummings) when a struggling actor, Elliot Garfield (Richard Dreyfuss) arrives at their New York apartment in the middle of the night, because Paula’s ex-lover has fled to Europe, subletting it… without telling her.

The film was a critical and commercial success with Richard winning the Best Actor Oscar, BAFTA and a Golden Globe. Marsha was also nominated for all three awards, winning the Globe. Her Actress in a Leading Role Academy Award nom was her second of four.

She had previously been acknowledged for her Golden Globe winning performance as prostitute Maggie Paul in CINDERELLA LIBERTY (1973). She played actresses Jennie MacLaine in CHAPTER TWO (1979) and Georgina Hines in ONLY WHEN I LAUGH (1981), receiving Oscar nominations for both. They were written by Neil Simon, who was her husband at the time. Marsha will be familiar to fans of the sitcom FRASIER, in which she had a recurring role as the fun-loving, brash and crass bartender Sherry Dempsey in the late 1990’s, receiving an Emmy nomination.

I sent this GOODBYE GIRL montage of Marsha to her Connecticut home a few weeks ago after my wife and I watched the film for the millionth time, and she kindly signed and returned it to me.

Drawing: Matt Smith in American Psycho

Autographed drawing of actor Matt Smith in American Psycho at the Almeida Theatre

British actor Matt Smith made his name on the stage before becoming the youngest and eleventh incarnation of the Doctor (2010-2014) in the long-running BBC television series DOCTOR WHO, winning two National TV Awards and a BAFTA nomination. He has returned to the London boards in the revival of LUNGS alongside his THE CROWN co-star Claire Foy at the Old Vic. They play a nameless couple wrestling with the planet’s biggest dilemmas. While shopping in Ikea, he mentions the idea of having a baby which unleashes an absurd hour of verbal fireworks.

He made his West End debut playing Guy in the world premiere of the stage adaption of the dark comedy-drama SWIMMING WITH SHARKS at the Vaudeville Theatre in October 2007 opposite Christian Slater. A year later he won acclaim and an Evening Standard Award for his performance as Henry, an aspiring artist who left school to care for his mother in Polly Stenham’s THAT FACE at the Royal Court Theatre, before a West End transfer. The cast were nominated for an Olivier Award.

After leaving DOCTOR WHO, Matt returned to the stage in another world premiere. He played the sociopathic investment banker Patrick Bateman who embarks on a deadly journey as a Manhattan serial killer in Rupert Goold’s musical adaption of the 2000 film AMERICAN PSYCHO in the winter of 2013. The season sold out and was extended.

Matt kindly signed my drawing of him as Patrick Bateman, which I had been carrying around in my folder for the past six years, after a LUNGS rehearsal session at the Old Vic stage door.

Drawing: Claire Foy

Autographed drawing of actor Claire Foy

Claire Foy has returned to the London stage for the first time after her acclaimed portrayal of Lady Macbeth opposite James McAvoy’s MACBETH at the Trafalgar Studios in 2013. She reunites with her THE CROWN on-screen husband Matt Smith in Matthew Warchus’s revival of Duncan MacMillian’s hilarious two-hander LUNGS at the Old Vic for a short run, which ends this Saturday. They play an unnamed couple freaking out over what to do with their lives in the face of imminent climate catastrophe.

After being nominated for a BAFTA for her performance as the ill-fated queen Anne Boleyn in the BBC television serial WOLF HALL (2015), Claire received further international recognition for her role as the young Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasons of Peter Morgan’s Netflix series THE CROWN opposite Matt, who played her consort, Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, winning a Golden Globe, an Emmy and two SAG Awards. She was also BAFTA nominated as she was for her performance as Neil Armstrong’s wife Janet in Damien Chazelle’s 2018 biopic FIRST MAN.

In his TimeOut review, Andrzej Lukowski wrote, “Claire Foy and Matt Smith are magnetic in this big stage outing.”

Claire kindly signed this sketch for me during rehearsals at the Old Vic.

Drawing: Annette Bening

Autographed drawing of actor Anette Bening

Autographed drawing of actor Anette Bening

Annette Bening has received four Academy Award nominations. Her first was for her supporting role as Myra Langtry in the new-noir crime drama THE GRIFTERS (1990). She also received a BAFTA nomination. Nine years later, she appeared as Carolyn Burnham in the Best Picture winner, AMERICAN BEAUTY, earning her second nom and first for Best Actress. She did win two SAG awards-one as Best Actress and the other as a member of the cast and collected the Best Actress BAFTA. Her third Oscar nomination was for her portrayal as the popular, but disillusioned theatre actress Julia Lambert in BEING JULIA (2004), winning a Golden Globe. Her last Academy recognition was for the 2010 comedy drama about a same-sex couple raising two teenagers, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT. Once again she won a Globe.

Many Marvel fans will know her as Supreme Intelligence and Mar-vell/Wendy Lawson in the CAPTAIN MARVEL films and was a guest at this years BFI London Film Festival, attending the Gala screening of her latest movie about the CIA’s post 9/11 detention and interrogation Programme, THE REPORT, in which she plays Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Annette has also been nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Jean Harris in the 2005 TV movie MRS HARRIS. She began her acting career on the stage and earlier this year returned to Broadway after a 32 year absence as Kate Keller in Arthur Miller’s ALL MY SONS, receiving a Tony Award nomination, to go with the her first in 1987, as photographer Holly Dancer in COASTAL DISTURBANCES.
Annette kindly signed my portrait montage I sent to the American Airlines Theatre in New York, during the ALL MY SONS run in May this year.

BFI London Film Festival Guests: Al Pacino

Autographed drawing of actor Al Pacino

Al Pacino joined Robert DeNiro and director Martin Scorsese on Sunday 13 October at the Closing Night Gala screenings of THE IRISHMAN, an epic saga of organised crime in America, at both the Odeon Luxe in Leicester Square and the Embankment Garden Cinema. While it’s not the first time the bona fide acting legends have worked together it is, surprisingly, the first movie Al has done with Marty. He has known Robert since 1968, appearing together in a handful of memorable films, beginning with the second instalment of Francis Ford Coppola’s THE GODFATHER trilogy in 1974.

THE IRISHMAN centres on Robert’s title character, a reminiscing geriatric union official and New York hitman Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran and his involvement in the disappearance of powerful Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa played by Al.

Accolades have been frequent during Al’s five decade career. In a 2003 Channel 4 poll, British TV viewers voted him the greatest film star of all time. He is one of the few to win the triple crown of acting-a competitive Oscar, Emmy and Tony. His single Oscar win (from eight nominations) was for his portrayal of blind and medically retired Army Officer Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade in SCENT OF A WOMAN (1993). He also received the Best Actor BAFTA in 1976 for his roles as bank robber Sonny Wortzik in DOG DAY AFTERNOON and Michael Corleone, the crime family’s Don in THE GODFTHER PART II.

His two Emmys were for his portrayal of lawyer Roy Cohn in ANGELS IN AMERICA (2004) , which also won him a Golden Globe and Dr Jack Kevorkian in YOU DON’T KNOW JACK (2010) collecting a SAG Award as well. His double Tony wins were for his role as Bickham, a teenage drug addict in DOES A TIGER WEAR A NECKTIE (1969) and eight years later for the title role as a Vietnam soldier in THE BASIC TRAINING OF PAVLO HUMMEL. Al also received a Director’s Guild Award for the documentary LOOKING FOR RICHARD in 1997.

If critical response is any indication, his portrayal of Jimmy Hoffa will see additions to his trophy collection. The first was collected last night for Best Supporting Actor at the Hollywood Film Awards in Santa Monica.

Al signed for me as he was leaving the Corinthia Hotel in London on his way to the Gala screenings.

BFI London Film Festival Guests: Adam Driver

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

Autographed drawing of actor Adam Driver

Adam Driver had two films in this years BFI London Film Festival. He plays a report writer in THE REPORT investigating the CIA’s use of torture following the 9/11 attacks. Written and directed by Scott Z. Burns, it screened in the ‘Debate’ themed category at the Embankment Garden cinema on Saturday 5 October. Adam also starred in the comedy-drama MARRIAGE STORY as Charlie, a New York-based theatre director and his California-based wife Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), described as “vintage cinema about breaking up, while trying to keep it together.”

It had two Gala Screenings at the Odeon Luxe in Leicester Square and the Embankment Garden cinema on Sunday 6 October. Adam played the role of Adam Sackler in the HBO comedy-drama series GIRLS from 2012-2017, receiving three Emmy nominations, before achieving wider recognition as Kylo Ren in the STAR WARS sequel trilogy THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015), THE LAST JEDI (2017) and soon to be released, THE RISE OF SKYWALKER.

Last year he earned an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of Dect. Philip ‘Flip’ Zimmerman in Spike Lee’s BLACKkKLANSMAN. He also returned to Broadway this year in BURN THIS at the Hudson Theatre, receiving a Tony Award nomination for his performance as Pale.

Adam signed my sketch at the Embankment Garden cinema before THE REPORT screening.