Prominent American playwright David Mamet was in London earlier this year to direct his contentious dark comedy BITTER WHEAT at the Garrick Theatre. Based on the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which sparked the MeToo movement, it run from June to September, featuring John Malkovich’s return to the West End after thirty years, as Hollywood studio boss Barney Fein and his fall from power. David attracts frequent debate and controversy, and was once quoted, “Being a writer in Hollywood is like going to Hitler’s Eagle Nest with a great idea for a bar mitzvah.” Often described as the prime chronicler of the macho males and power struggles, his distinctive writing style, involving cynical, street-wise dialogue has become known as ‘Mamet speak.’ David’s 1983 play about four disparate real estate agents, GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, which premiered at the National Theatre in London, won the Pulitzer Prize and the subsequent Broadway production was nominated for four Tony Awards, including Best Play. Four years later SPEED-THE-PLOW also won a nomination for Best Play.
David has written a number of major screenplays, including my favourite, THE VERDICT and WAG THE DOG, both Oscar and Golden Globe nominated. He also wrote the script for the 1992 film version of GLENGARRY GLENN ROSS.
David signed my portrait sketch as he arrived for the BITTER WHEAT press night at the GarrickTheatre.
Indian-born British author Sir Salman Rushdie’s career has been both celebrated and controversial. His second novel MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN, written while he was still a copywriter at the advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather ‘catapulted him into literary notability’. It follows the life of a child, born at the stroke of midnight as India gained its independence, who is endowed with special powers and a connection to other children during the birth of the modern Indian nation. The novel won the 1981 Booker Prize and was selected as the Best of the Bookers from all the previous winners at both the 25th and 40th anniversaries of the prestigious award, the latter was voted by the public.
His most controversial work was his fourth novel THE SATANIC VERSES, also shortlisted for the Booker, published seven years later. It was seen by some as an irreverent depiction of Muhammad, resulting protests in many countries and death threats were made against him. His books often focus on the role of religion in society and conflicts between faiths and non-faiths. He combines ‘magical realism’ with ‘historical fiction’ based on the connections between Eastern and Western civilisations.
Sir Salman’s fourteenth novel QUICHOTTE, inspired by Miguel de Cervantes classic work DON QUIXOTE was published this year and also shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He joined the five other finalists for a reading at London’s Royal Festival Hall the day before the Prize announcement, where he signed my portrait sketch for me.
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 JONES’ 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.
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.
Daniel Kaluuya’s status as a ‘rising star’ was bolstered last year when he received the British Academy’s Rising Star Award. Born in London to Ugandan parents, Daniel was raised on a council estate. He wrote his first play at the age of nine and started his acting career in improvisational theatre. He featured as part of the original cast of the British teen comedy drama TV series SKINS, co-writing some episodes.
His entry into mainstream theatre drew plenty of attention, playing the lead role in the Royal Court’s 2010 production of SUCKER PUNCH by Roy Williams. The play and cast received rave reviews with Daniel winning both the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards for his performance as Leon, a young boxer.
Daniel’s International screen breakthrough was his role as photographer Chris Washington in the horror GET OUT in 2017, for which he received Academy Award, BAFTA, SAG, Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe Award nominations. He followed that with Marvel Studio’s blockbuster BLACK PANTHER, playing chief of the Border Tribe, W’Kabi.
Daniel signed for me at the Gala Screening of Steve McQueen’s heist film WIDOWS, which opened last years BFI Londo Film Festival at Cineworld’s Empire Cinema in Leicester Square.
After his critically acclaimed debut feature MEDICINE FOR THE MELANCHOLY in 2008, American director and writer Barry Jenkins took an eight year hiatus from feature filmmaking, working as a carpenter and co-founding an advertising agency ‘Strike Anywhere’. The 39-year-old’s return to the feature film fold was meteoric with the LGBT coming-of-age triptych MOONLIGHT, described by Vanity Fair as “an aching drama of identity that captivated film lovers in 2016.” The script was written by Barry and Tarell Alvin McCraney, based on Tarell’s unpublished play.
Both won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and it eventually won Best Picture at the 89th Academy Awards after a dramatic few minutes when LA LA LAND was initially announced. Barry was also nominated for Best Director and is only the second black person to direct a Best Picture winner, after Steve McQueen won for 12 YEARS A SLAVE three years earlier. MOONLIGHT also won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – DRAMA.
Barry is once again in the awards spotlight as we head into the season’s final month. His latest film IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, based on James Baldwin’s novel of the same name is included in both the BAFTA and Oscar nom list with Barry once again being honoured for his writing. He has already collected the National Board of Review and Critics’ Choice awards and was nominated for a Golden Globe.
I was lucky enough to meet Barry after a Gala Screening of IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK at the BFI London Film Festival’s Embankment Cinema last October. When I asked him to sign my drawing, he warned me that his handwriting was the worst in the world and didn’t want to ruin my artwork, so he used the space under the sketch. I think you’ll agree he was a tad modest. His hand and screen writing skills are just right.
Anglo-Irish playwright, screenwriter and director Martin McDonagh’s latest stage play A VERY VERY VERY DARK MATTER opened last week at London’s Bridge Theatre. Set in Copenhagen, it delves behind the dark sources of the beloved fairytales of Danish children’s author Hans Christian Anderson.
Martin is a person I admire greatly. With no formal training he wrote a stack of plays in 1990s that made him one of the most celebrated new English-language dramatists of his generation. The first six, separated into two trilogies, are located in and around County Galway on Ireland’s western seaboard, where he spent most of his childhood holidays. His first non-Irish play, THE PILLOWMAN was staged at the National Theatre in 2003, winning the Olivier Award for Best New Play and was also Tony nominated in 2005. He had previously won the Olivier for THE LIEUTENANT OF INISMORE and collected his third for HANGMEN in 2016. He is yet to win a Tony after four nominations.
Martin has stated that it’s the screen, not the stage that is his favourite medium. In that realm, he is very very very much in demand after his third feature, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, which he wrote and directed, featured heavily during the latest awards season with seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Original Screenplay. It won five BAFTAs from nine nominations, winning Best Film and Best British Film and Best Original Screenplay for Martin who also claimed the producing, writing and directing Golden Globes. He’s no stranger to film awards. His screenplay for his first feature, IN BRUGES (2008) won the BAFTA and he received his fourth nomination for an Oscar, which he won on his first attempt in 2005 for SIX SHOOTER in the Best Live Action Short category.
I was very very very pleased to meet Martin at the World Premiere of A VERY VERY VERY DARK MATTER at the Bridge Theatre last week where he signed my sketch.
Although Sir David Hare is best known for his multi-award winning stage work, the distinguished English writer and director has also had great success with his screen career. He won the BAFTA for writing and directing LICKING HITLER in 1978, a television play about the black propaganda unit operating in England during WWII, and has been nominated for two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes for his THE HOURS (2003) and THE READER (2009) adapted screenplays. He won the Writers Guild of America award for the former.
Sir David signed my quick portrait sketch at the recent BFI London Film Festival’s Gala screening of THE WHITE CROW, which he wrote about Soviet ballet legend Rudolph Nureyev’s defection to the West, directed by Ralph Fiennes.
“I like stories and I am always looking for the one which I imagine to be irresistible,” wrote British novelist and screenwriter Ian McEwan, considered one of the most powerful people in UK culture and listed by The Times in the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.
Winner of numerous accolades, including six nominations for the Man Booker Prize, Ian won the prestigious award in 1998 for his novel AMSTERDAM. The acclaimed screen adaption of his romantic war drama ATONEMENT collected Oscars, BAFTAs and a Golden Globe.
I had hoped to catch Ian in person at the premiere of his latest film adaption THE CHILDREN’S ACT at the Curzon Mayfair, but missed him, so sent this sketch to his agent and it came back signed and dedicated.
The final signed sketch in this week’s writers series is Dame Hilary Mantel, who I was lucky to meet after her second appearance at the Man Booker 50 Series, the weekend long festival dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Man Booker Prize at various venues in London’s Southbank Centre. Dame Hilary has won the Booker twice-the first British author and only woman to win it more than once.
In 2009 WOLF HALL, the fictional account of Thomas Cromwell’s rapid rise to power the court of Henry VIII collected the award and three years later the sequel to the dark Tudor tale, BRING UP THE BODIES repeated the win.
The third instalment in the Cromwell trilogy, THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT is in progress. Described by the judges as an “extraordinary piece of storytelling”, this very modern novel, which happens to be set in the 16th Century, the 650 page WOLF HALL was also one of the five shortlisted books for the special one-off Golden Man Booker anniversary prize, to select the best work of fiction over the five decades of Britain’s most prestigious literary accolade.
I managed to catch Dame Hilary as she left the Purcell Room on Saturday afternoon , where she signed this quick portrait sketch for me.