Drawing: Louis Theroux

Autographed drawing of documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux

It just so happens that while as I was contemplating my next post subject today, (20 May) it’s Louis Theroux’s 50th birthday, so what better reason to select him. After graduating from Oxford University, the British-American documentary filmmaker and author moved to the US and worked as a journalist, before becoming a TV presenter on Michael Moore’s satirical news magazine series TV NATION, providing off-beat cultural segments. He was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1995.

This led to a series of BBC Documentaries- LOUIS THEROUX’S WEIRD WEEKENDS (1998-2000) following mostly American subcultures and WHEN LOUIS MET… (2000-2002) accompanying a British celebrity, interviewing them during their daily lives. He won a BAFTA Award for each. He’s currently podcasting a BBC Sounds series called GROUNDED, speaking to celebs under covid lockdown.

Louis was a guest on Graham Norton’s BBC Radio2 show in September last year at the programmes studio in London’s Wogan House where he signed for me.

Drawing: Fernando Meirelles

Autographed drawing of director Fernando Meirelles

Brazilian film director Fernando Meirelles is not only an excellent filmmaker he’s an even better human being. I have had the privilege of meeting him in London on a few occasions and they have always been memorable. The last time was outside the Corinthia Hotel on the northern bank of the river Thames on the first Sunday in February this year as he prepared to go to the BAFTA Awards. His latest film THE TWO POPES with Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce playing Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis respectively was nominated for Best British Film.

Fernando became interested in filmmaking while studying architecture at the University of São Paulo. “An architect is someone who really doesn’t know how to build a building. They need engineers, just as directors need writers and actors. What both architects and directors do is bring a vision”, he has said. He followed the film path and with considerable success winning over 65 awards.

After initially working in television, he made his first feature MENINO MALUQUINHO 2:A ADVENTURA in 1998. Based on Paulo Lin’s best-seller CIDADE DE DEUS, his 2003 film adaptation, CITY OF GOD went on to huge success. It was a low budget production, with an intimidating story of the growth of organised crime in a Rio de Janeiro superb, involving over 350 characters, using mostly inexperienced actors.

Fernando was nominated for a Best Director Oscar and his direction was also recognised at the Cannes Film Festival. His next feature, John Ie Carre’s thriller THE CONSTANT GARDENER (2005) was nominated for four Academy Awards, ten BAFTAS, including Best Film and Director and three Golden Globes. BLINDESS, the story of a city ravaged by an epidemic of instant white blindness was nominated for the Palm d’Or in 2008.

Away from cinema and TV, Fernando has directed an opera, Bizet’s PEARL FISHERS and was one of the directors of the 2016 Olympics opening ceremony in Rio. He is also a farmer. He plants sugar cane, avocado, coffee and mahogany, developing ways to produce organically on a large scale. His future plans involve working on projects related to the environmental crisis and climate emergency. But he is quoted as saying, “I will never stop making a film. I can’t help myself.”

It was great to catch up with him for a brief chat at the Corinthia, where he signed for me on 2 February, before heading to the BAFTA ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall.

Drawing: Greg Jenner, ‘Dead Famous’

Autographed drawing of public historian Greg Jenner

Greg Jenner’s new book, ‘Dead Famous’ is launched today. The public historian and University of York Alumni is known for his entertaining and engaging communication of history through pop culture and humour. He is the consultant on the HORRIBLE HISTORIES books and TV series and the BAFTA-nominated HORRIBLE HISTORIES: THE MOVE- ROTTEN ROMANS. He also wrote the action-packed bestseller ‘A Million Years in a Day’. Greg is also an Hon Research Associate at Royal Holloway, University of London.

His latest publication, researched and written over the past four years, ‘Dead Famous: An Unexpected History of Celebrity, From Bronze Age to Silver Screen’ is a romp through the story of fame and fanhood. It explores the notion of ‘celebrity’ –which he claims is not a recent phenomenon– from its beginnings 300 years ago to the 1950’s, packed with anecdotes of famed individuals. He insists he’s ‘an historian of celebrity’ and not a ‘celebrity historian’, a term used in his Wikipedia page, which he is uncomfortable about.

Fara Dabhoiwala’s review in The Guardian said, “Jenner is equal parts wide-eyed historical buff and sassy polemist… who can’t help but entertain you, even as he’s pouring facts down your throat.” One chapter is entitled ‘The Fandom Menance’ and he describes Lord Byron as a “talented, pouty shag merchant with lustrous hair,” or Florence Nightingale as a “badass epidemiologist with a perch ant for pie chart innovation.” He even includes one of the Europe’s biggest celebrities, a 5,000 pound Indian rhino called Clara in the 1740’s. Greg’s personal favourite is alcoholic and celebrated Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean, who was nearly murdered by his own audience in the 1820’s.

My wife Frankie, who’s a big fan of Greg’s BBC Sounds podcast YOU’RE DEAD TO ME, and I joined a freshly hand sanitized, pandemic aware audience at the impressive Southwark Cathedral near London Bridge last week to hear Greg deliver an illustrated intro to ‘Dead Famous’ and sign advanced copies… as well as this quick sketch I did of him.

Drawing: Victoria Hamilton in Albion

Autographed drawing of Victoria Hamilton in Albion at the Almeida Theatre

Victoria Hamilton returned to the Almeida Theatre stage as the formidable matriarch Audrey in the revival of Mike Bartlett’s state-of-the-nation play ALBION last month. Directed by Rupert Gould, it premiered in October 2017. Audrey is a mover and shaker in her mid-50’s who sells up in London to live in a seven-bedroom crumbling estate she knew as a child. She plans to restore it to its former glory, including designing the garden as a memorial to her dead son who lost his life in war and his fellow veterans.

“Victoria Hamilton is on breathtaking form as a grieving mother in richly layered play inspired by Chekhov’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD.” wrote the Guardian’s Michael Billington in his original review.

Victoria has been nominated for two Olivier Awards, the first for her portrayal of Sheila in A DAY IN THE DEATH OF JOE EGG opposite Clive Owen and Eddie Izzard. The production transferred to Broadway, where Victoria was also nominated for a Tony. Her second Oliver nom was for her 2004 role as Catharine in Tennessee William’s SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER at the Lyceum Theatre in London. She won the London Critics’ Circle Theatre and Evening Standard Awards.

TV viewers will be familiar with Victoria as the younger Queen Victoria in the historical drama series, VICTORIA & ALBERT (2001) and as the Queen Mother in Netflix’s THE CROWN, which earned the cast successive Screen Actors Guild Award nominations in 2017 and 2018. She also plays Anna in DOCTOR FOSTER and this year’s COBRA, as the British Prime Minister’s Head of Staff, Anna Maxwell.

Victoria signed my sketch of her as Audrey at the Almeida Theatre on the show’s final day at the end of February.

BFI London Film Festival Guests: Robert DeNiro

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

Autographed drawing of actor Robert De Niro

Robert DeNiro attended this years Festival to support his latest film, Martin Scorsese’s Netflix epic THE IRISHMAN and deliver a Screen Talk at the BFI on London’s Southbank. The 76 year-old plays Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran, a World War II vet and Teamster unionist who recounts his alleged jobs as a hitman for the Bufalino crime family in Pennsylvania and his role in the disappearance of Labour Union leader and his longtime friend Jimmy Hoffa. It is the ninth collaboration with Martin, starting with MEAN STREETS in 1973.

Bobby, as Martin calls him, has received seven Academy Award nominations, winning two. His first, was for his Best Supporting Actor performance as the young Vito Corleone in THE GODFATHER PART II (1974), followed six years later for Best Actor as World Champion boxer Jake LaMotta in RAGING BULL. He also won the Golden Globe for that role and has collected six BAFTA, four Emmys and four SAG nominations.

Getting Robert’s much sort after autograph was challenging given the numbers who wanted it, but he managed to see my drawing, which includes a portrait of him as the young Vito amongst the sea of items smothering him after THE IRISHMAN Gala screening at the Embankment Garden cinema and signed it for me.

BFI London Film Festival Guests: Martin Scorsese

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

Autographed drawing of director Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese is widely regarded as one of the most significant and influential filmmakers in cinematic history. He returns to the genre he has helped define with a mystery that has never been solved in his latest epic crime film THE IRISHMAN, which closed this year’s Festival with Gala screenings at both the Odeon Luxe in Leicester Square and the pop-up Embankment Garden Cinema, after receiving its world premiere at the New York Film Festival in September.

It’s Marty’s ( as everyone who’s met him once calls him) ninth collaboration with Robert DeNiro, who plays Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran, a Labour Union Official and Mafia hitman connected with the killing of the infamous Teamsters head Jimmy Hoffa, With a budget of $160 million and a running time of three and a half hours, THE IRISHMAN (titled onscreen as I HEARD YOU PAINT HOUSES, based on Charles Brandt’s 2004 memoir of the same name) has become his best reviewed and most acclaimed film, heading GOODFELLAS and TAXI DRIVER with 100% rating from Top Critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

Only 23 films have achieved the perfect score, including CITIZEN KANE, REAR WINDOW and ALL ABOUT EVE. Many critics have called it his ‘magnus opus’ and given his astonishing career, with eight Oscar Best Director nominations, winning in 2006 for THE DEPARTED, nine BAFTA noms, winning in 1990 for GOODFELLAS, three Golden Globes wins, an Emmy victory and the Cannes Palme d’Or for TAXI DRIVER in 1976, among others, that is saying something.

Martin also delivered BAFTA’s prestigious David Lean Lecture while he was in London. He signed and dedicated my drawing after THE IRISHMAN screening at Embankment Garden.