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: Juan Diego Florez

Autographed drawing of tenor Juan Diego Florez

Peruvian opera superstar Juan Diego Florez is considered by those who consider such things as the best tenor on the planet and certainly the most sort after at the world’s finest venues since making his international breakthrough in 1996 at the age of 23 at the Rossini Festival in the Italian city of Pesaro (Rossini’s birthplace) as the leading tenor in MATILDE DI SHABRAN. He made his Covent Garden debut a year later as Count Potoski in the Royal Opera’s world premiere concert of Donizetti’s ELISABETTA.

Standing ovations are the norm when he performs. The Telegraph’s opera reviewer Rupert Christiansen calls him the “Roger Federer of Opera… an exceptional virtuoso with an immaculate technique, who has enjoyed an exemplary career, free of scandal or disaster and marked by sound decisions, vocal consistency and a serious commitment to a charitable foundation back home.”

Coincidentally he said Roger, a fellow Rolex Ambassador, inspired him along with Pavarotti and incidentally he also likes to play a bit of tennis. Juan Diego has just finished his latest Covent Garden engagement, performing the title role of the Royal Opera’s third revival of Massenet’s WERTHER, described by The Guardian’s Tim Ashley as “hugely moving as the obsessive romantic.” He kindly signed and dedicated my sketch at the Royal Opera House.

Drawing: Laurie Kynaston, Amanda Abbington, John Light and Amaka Okafor in The Son

Autographed drawing of Laurie Kynaston, Amanda Abington, John Light and Amaka Okafor in The Son at London's Kiln Theatre

French playwrighting phenomenon Florian Zeller’s frightening tale of teen depression, THE SON made its UK debut at London’s Kiln Theatre in February with a sold-out run before transferring to the Duke of York’s in the West End for a ten-week season. Directed by Michael Longhurst and translated by Christopher Hampton this “immaculate production” (The Guardian’s Michael Billington) completes the French writer’s trilogy of plays; THE FATHER, focused on aged dementia and THE MOTHER on middle-aged psychosis.

THE SON is “the most powerful of all,” according to Ann Treneman in her five-star review in The Times, “superbly acted with a rhythm that keeps you on the edge of your seat.”

After skipping school and self-harming, 17 year-old Nicolas (Laurie Kynaston) moves out of his mother (Amanda Abbington) Anne’s house to live with his father Pierre (John Light) and Pierre’s lover Sofia (Amaka Okafor) and their new baby. In his Evening Standard review, Nick Curtis called the play an “unnerving and beautifully sensitive drama… a lacerating examination of the effect of a son’s mental illness has on his divorced parents.”

The four cast members signed my drawing at the theatre a few weeks ago as they arrived for a Saturday matinee.

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: Alison Moyet

Autographed drawing of singer Alison Moyet

One of my favourite singers with her distinctive ‘bluesy contralto’ ( yes, I did research this) voice is Alison Moyet and her debut solo album ‘Alf’, which I had on a cassette tape in 1984, that wore out through excessive play in my native New Zealand, where it not only went to No 1, but reached platinum eight times over, with memorable singles such as ‘Love Resurrection’, ‘All Cried Out’, and ‘Invisible’. It also climbed to the top spot in a number of countries, including the UK, where it reached quadruple platinum and won Alison her first of three Brit Awards. ‘Alf’ was Alison’s punk-era nickname.

She also released a single, ‘That Ole Devil Called Love Again,’ not featured in ‘Alf’, which went to No 2 and remains her highest charting UK single. Alison’s nine studio albums and three collaborations have all charted in the UK Top 30 and have sold over 23 million copies worldwide with over 2 million singles sold.

Alison has also appeared on the London stage. She made her West End debut as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton in CHICAGO in 2001 and again in SMALLER opposite Dawn French at the Lyric Theatre.

She kindly signed my montage sketch at London’s Royal Festival Hall last week where she was performing for the Michel Legrand tribute.

Drawing: Colm Wilkinson in Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera

Autographed drawing of actor Colm Wilkinson in Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera

Irish-born tenor and actor Colm Wilkinson was voted by a Rolling Stone readers’ poll as one of the five greatest singers ever. He originated the lead role of Jean Valjean in LES MISERABLES for both the West End and Broadway productions for which he received both an Olivier and Tony Award nomination and the title role for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA for Andrew Lloyd Webber at the Sydmonton Festival and the Canadian production. He also represented Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest, placing fifth singing “Born to Sing” in 1978.

After collaborating with Andrew in the Dublin production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, playing the role of Judas Iscariot in 1972, they joined forces again in 1985 at the Sydmonton workshop in a deconsecrated 16th century chapel on the grounds of Lord Lloyd Webber’s country estate in Hampshire, where he would perform new works for a private audiences.

Colm originated the title role for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and was offered it for the West End debut, but choose to play Jean Valjean in LES MISERABLES instead, opening initially at the Barbican Centre in October 1985, before transferring to the Palace Theatre. He reprised the role for the Broadway premiere at the Broadway Theatre in 1987. Two years later he and his family relocated to Toronto for the Phantom role in the original Canadian production, which he would play for four and a half years. He did return to play Jean Valjean at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Toronto in 1998-99.

He also reprised the role for the 10th Anniversary concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1995 and was a special guest at the 25th Anniversary at London’s 02 Arena in 2010. A year later he was part of the 25th Anniversary celebrations of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at the Royal Albert Hall alongside a number of former global Phantoms. In the 2012 film version of LES MISERABLES, Colm played the Bishop of Digne, winning the National Board of Review Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination as part of the ensemble cast.

While Colm and his family predominately live in Canada (he became a Canadian citizen in 2000), he does have a house back in Ireland and I was fortunate to get my sketch to him on a recent return home, which he kindly dedicated, signed and returned to me.

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: Pinchas Zuckerman

Autographed drawing of violinist Pinchas Zuckerman

Another legendary violinist returned to London this year. Pinchas Zuckerman was both soloist and conductor in an all-Beethoven concert at the Royal Festival Hall in March with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

After being discovered at the age of fourteen by Isaac Stern and Pablo Casals on their tour of Israel in 1962, Pinchas moved to the US to study at the Juilliard School, tutored by Isaac and Ivan Galamian, making his New York debut a year later. Since then his celebrated International career encompassing nearly six decades has seen him become one of the worlds leading violists, violists and conductors, working with some of the major orchestras with over 110 recordings which have garnered 21 Grammy nominations, winning two. He was also nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for his performance in Isaac Stern’s 60th Birthday concert at the Lincoln Centre. Pinchas has won numerous other accolades, including the National Medal of Arts from President Reagan in 1983.

In July this year Classical-music.com conducted a poll of 100 leading players to list the 20 greatest violinists of all-time. Pinchas was 12th.

He kindly signed and dedicated my drawing at the Royal Festival Hall.

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.