Drawing: George MacKay

Autographed drawing of actor George MacKay

Since being nominated for BAFTA’s Rising Star Award in 2014, London-born actor George MacKay’s star has certainly been on the rise. He is currently dominating the big screen in one of the best and most decorated pictures of the year, the Sir Sam Mendes directed, co-written ( with Krysty Wilson-Cairns) and produced WW1 epic, 1917. George plays the lead character, Lance Corporal William Schofield, who along with fellow Lance Corporal Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are given a seemingly impossible mission, to cross no man’s land to deliver a warning to the commanding officer of the Second Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment to call of an attack that will jeopardise the lives of 1,600 men, including Tom’s brother.

Sir Sam based the screenplay on a ‘fragment’ of a story, told to him as a child by his grandfather Alfred Mendes, a native of Trinidad, who was a messenger for the British on the Western Front. At its core it is “the story of a messenger, who has a message to carry”, said Sir Sam. George’s ‘messenger’ very rarely leaves the screen, because of the decision to film and edit the picture to appear as one take – actually two takes, split with a blackout at the midpoint when he is knocked unconscious – he is almost continuously on screen for the entire two hours of the film. 1917 was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning three and nine BAFTAs, winning seven including Best Picture.

It’s not the first war film George has starred in. He was Private Tommo Peaceful in the 2012 adaption of Michael Morpurgo’s PRIVATE PEACEFUL and Lutz, the son of a high-ranking SS officer in Nazi Germany in the rite-of-passage war drama WHERE HANDS TOUCH in 2018. In 2013 he won a Scottish BAFTA for his portrayal of Aaron, an ostracised misfit and sole survivor of a strange fishing accident in FOR THOSE IN PERIL. Other prominent roles included playing Viggo Mortensen’s son, Bodevan Cash in CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (2016), earning a Screen Actors Guild nomination as part of the cast. George won the Trophee Chopard last year at the Cannes Film Festival. His next film role is the outlaw Ned Kelly in Justin Kurzel’s TRUE HISTORY OF THE NED KELLY GANG with Russell Crowe, due for release in the UK at the end of February and the US in April.

He has also walked the boards in the West End, most recently as Mick in the Old Vic’s production of Harold Pinter’s THE CARETAKER (2016), opposite Timothy Spall and Daniel Mays.

George signed my sketch for me at the Corinthia Hotel in London as he was leaving to attend the BAFTA Awards earlier this month.

Drawing: Thelma Schoonmaker

Autographed drawing of editor Thelma Schoonmaker

I had the absolute privilege of meeting the legendary editor, Thelma Schoonmaker when she visited London earlier this month for the BAFTA Awards, receiving her eighth nomination for her cutting of Martin Scorsese’s THE IRISHMAN. It’s one of Hollywood’s greatest collaborations, working with Marty for over fifty years, since their first film in WHO’S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR, in 1967, after meeting on a six-week film-making course at New York University.

She made an uncredited contribution to TAXI DRIVER (1976) and has edited all his films after that, including RAGING BULL (1980), THE AVIATOR (2004) and THE DEPARTED (2006), winning an Academy Award for each. She is tied with Michael Kahn with the most nominations (8) for Best Editing in the Academy’s history.

Thelma along with Michael, Daniel Mandell and Ralph Dawson are the only people to win the Oscar on three occasions. She won the BAFTA for GOODFELLAS in 1992 and received the Fellowship last year. Asked how a nice lady like her could edit Martin’s violent gangster pictures, Thelma replied, “Ah, but they aren’t violent until I edit them.”

Thelma signed my quick portrait sketch as she was leaving the Corinthia Hotel for the BAFTA Award ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall.

Drawing: Sandy Powell

Autgraphed drawing of costume designer Sandy Powell

It’s BAFTA-Oscar week, and one of the awards’ season favourites is British costume designer extraordinaire Sandy Powell, who once again is nominated for both, for her work on the epic crime drama THE IRISHMAN, continuing her collaboration with Martin Scorsese after previously working on THE AVIATOR and GANGS OF NEW YORK.

Sandy has now received 15 nominations for both prestigious prizes, winning three each. Her Oscars were for SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998), THE AVIATOR (2004) and THE YOUNG VICTORIA (2009) and BAFTAs for VELVET GOLDMINE (1998), THE YOUNG VICTORIA (2009) and THE FAVOURITE (2018). She has received dual Oscar noms twice, in 1999 for SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE and VELVET GOLDMINE and again in 2016 for CINDERELLA and CAROL. On three occasions she has had BAFTA doubles, replicating her Academy success plus last year for THE FAVOURITE and MARY POPPINS RETURNS.

In an interview with the Guardian, when asked who would play her in a biopic, Sandy suggested Eddie Izzard. She was honoured by the London Film Critics’ Circle last week with the Dilys Powell Award for Excellence her career achievements in film at London’s May Fair Hotel, where she signed my sketch.

Drawing: Britt Ekland

Autographed drawing of actress Britt Ekland

Swedish actress and singer Britt Ekland was one of the most photographed celebrities during the 1970’s and 80’s due to her star status and high profile marriage to English actor and comedian Peter Sellers. She featured in numerous films, most notable THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKY’S directed by William Friedkin, for which she received critical acclaim playing Rachel Elizabeth Schpitendavel, an innocent Amish girl who arrives in New York intent on becoming a dancer but accidental ‘invents’ striptease. Britt has said it is her favourite film.

Her leading role in the 1971 iconic crime caper GET CARTER, opposite Michael Caine established her as a ‘blonde bombshell’, further enhanced when she was cast three years later as a Bond girl, Mary Goodnight, in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, the ninth film in the famous British spy franchise.

Britt was a guest on the BBC Radio 4 show LOOSE ENDS, which was recorded at it’s London studio last Friday, where she signed my portrait sketch.

Drawing: Alex Borstein and the Amstergang

Autographed drawing of Alex Borstein in Alex Borstein and the Amstergang at London's Soho Theatre

I was very happy to catch up with the delightful Alex – short for Alexandrea – Borstein when she popped into London in mid-December last year to do three nights at the Soho Theatre with her musical comedy show ALEX BORSTEIN AND THE AMSTERGANG. Described as a “little music, little comedy and a lot of dirty words” the show included original songs and hilarious versions of some of the classics.

I first encountered Alex with her recurring characters in GILMORE GIRLS, as Doris, harpist Drella and resident stylist and keeper of many a Hollywood secret Miss Celine. She has been the voice of Lois Griffin and many others in the animated comedy FAMILY GUY since 1999, (including writing and producing) winning an Emmy Award from numerous nominations. She also collected a further two Emmys as the irascible and scrappy rookie, ‘one tough cookie’ manager Susie Myerson in THE MARVELOUS MRS MAISEL and Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guid noms, winning the Critics Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy series this month. The ensemble cast has also collected successive Screen Actors Guild awards for the past two years.

Alex signed my sketch when she arrived at the Soho Theatre on Saturday 14 December.

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.