The 100 Hearts Night of Comedy at the London Palladium last week gave me an opportunity to catch some more of my favourite comics, including Greg Davies. The sold-out evening raised money for the Brompton and Harefield Hospital charity.
The English comedian is technically from Wales. Davies is a clue. While living in the West Midlands of England, his Welsh father drove his mother, across the border to ensure Greg was born in Wales… in St Asaph, Flintshire to be precise, fifty years ago.
TV viewers will know Greg from a number of small screen appearances, including Mr Gilbert, the archetypal misanthropic and permanently bitter comprehensive school teacher in THE INBETWEENERS, who treats his pupils with utter contempt with biting wit and sarcasm. In another classroom role Greg played Dan, a teacher who hates his job. Thirteen years teaching Drama and English, prior to his comedic career change would have given Greg plenty of material.
He is currently in his BAFTA-nominated role as Ken Thompson in the fifth episode of the popular BBC/Netflix sitcom CUCKOO. Other high profile appearances on the telly include LIVE AT THE APOLLO, MOCK THE WEEK, WOULD I LIE TO YOU? and the host of the panel game show TASKMASTER. I was waiting at the Palladium’s impressive new stage door for the talent to arrive.
You can’t miss Greg. He is literally one of the biggest comedy stars, standing 2.03 metres, (that’s 6’8″ in the old money). I presented my sketch of Greg as a suitably harassed teacher and his friend asked, “Who’s that?” “That’s me!” he replied, which is always a good sign when they recognise themselves in a drawing, which he was pleased to sign.
Born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero eighty-six years ago in Washington DC to a Scottish-Italian mother and a Puerto Rican father, Chita Rivera has became an absolute performing phenomenon, especially in musical theatre. Last year she received the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre in recognition of her stage contribution, which has spanned nearly seven decades, starting with her first Broadway role in 1951 in CALL ME MADAM, followed by lead roles in GUYS AND DOLLS and CAN CAN. Six years later she was cast as the firebrand Anita in WEST SIDE STORY, a role that launched her towards stardom and ensured her inclusion in Broadway folklore.
Chita has received a record ten Tony nominations, winning two for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Her first was in 1984 for her performance as Anna in THE RINK opposite Liza Minnelli and again in 1993 as the vampy diva Aurora, the title character in Kander and Ebb’s KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN at the Broadhurst Theatre after reprising the role from the West End production a year earlier. Both performances also earned Chita the Drama Desk Award. In 2009 she was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.
Chita signed and dedicated, adding her distinctive flower doodle, my montage sketch, including her as Anita from WEST SIDE STORY, last Saturday at Wogan House after she appeared on Graham Norton’s BBC Radio 2 show prior to her concert at London’s Cadogan Hall the following day.
After his breakthrough role as the painfully shy student Todd Anderson in 1989’s DEAD POET’S SOCIETY, Ethan Hawke has gone on to appear in nearly 70 films, helmed three features and a documentary, directed three off-Broadway plays, written three novels, earning numerous accolades including four Academy Award nominations, two for Best Adapted Screenplays for BEFORE SUNSET and BEFORE MIDNIGHT and two for Best Supporting Actor as Officer Jake Hoyt in TRAINING DAY (2001) and as the father, Mason Evans Snr. in BOYHOOD (2014). He has also collected a clutch of BAFTA, Golden Globe, SAG, WAG nominations.
In fact Ethan has won 53 awards from 134 nominations to date, including an Emmy as a voice cast member of INVASION! and this year received Best Actor awards from both the New York and the London Critics Circles, and the National Society of Film Critics, amongst others, for his performance as the Reverend Ernst Toller in FIRST REFORMED. Many believed it was a major surprise that he wasn’t also Oscar nominated.
However, Ethan has stated that theatre is his ‘first love’. He received a Best Featured Actor Tony nomination in 2007 for his performance as Mikhail Balcunin in Tom Stoppard’s trilogy THE COAST OF UTOPIA at New York’s Lincoln Centre Theatre.
I was fortunate to catch Ethan on stage in 2009 as part of the transatlantic Bridge Project at London’s Old Vic theatre in Sam Mendes’ double bill, Chekhov’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD and Shakespeare’s A WINTER’S TALE, in which he played Trofimov and Autolycus respectively, receiving excellent reviews.
Ethan returned to London last October for the BFI London Film Festival to support his film BLAZE, which he also wrote and featured in as a radio DJ. The non-conventional biopic of outlaw country musician Blaze Foley had it’s premiere at the Curzon Cinema in Soho, where he signed for me.
“Her technique and command over the instrument are breathe-taking, her playing being fully devoted to the music”, is how the German newspaper Nene Westfalische described Korean violist Hyeyoon Park.
Born in Seoul in 1992, she began to play at the age of four and made her orchestral debut five years later in her hometown with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. During her teens Hyeyoon emerged as one of the most promising violinists of her generation and an artist of outstanding style and virtuosity, winning the prestigious London Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award in 2011 and First Prize and two special prizes at the 58th ARD International Music Competition in Munich as a 17 year-old, the youngest person in the history of the competition.
Hyeyoon signed my portrait sketch after a recital at London’s Wigmore Hall a couple of weeks ago.
Hans Zimmer was listed as one of the Top 100 Living Geniuses by the Telegraph in 2007. Since 1980 the 61-year-old German composer has created the scores for over 150 films, including RAIN MAN, GLADIATOR, INCEPTION, the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN series and THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy, earning 11 Academy Award nominations and winning for Original Score for THE LION KING in 1995. He has also collected four Grammys, three Classical Brit Awards and two Golden Globes. He has been nominated for another Grammy at this Sunday’s ceremony for his BLADE RUNNER 2049 score.
“My father died when I was just a child and I escaped somehow into my music and music has been my best friend,” he said in an interview with the German radio station ZDF in 2006. His work is notable for integrating electronic music sounds with traditional orchestral arrangements. Hans is head of film music at the Dreamworks Studios and collaborates extensively with other composers through his own company and studio based in Santa Monica, California. In November 2017 a mainbelt asteroid discovered by Polish astronomers Michal Kusiak and Michal Zolnowski was named ‘Hanszimmer’.
Hans signed for me at the BFI London Film Festival’s Gala Screening of WIDOWS at the Cineworld’s Empire Cinema in Leicester Square last October.
Widely considered one of this century’s greatest violists, in fact one of the greatest from any century, Julia Fischer returned to London this week to perform with ‘the crowning glory of Russian culture’, the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall.
Not content with being a world-class violinist, Julia is also an outstanding concert pianist.
Born in Germany to a very musical family, she began playing the violin at the age of three and gained international recognition at a young age, winning a number of prestigious competitions including the 1995 International Yehudi Menuhin Violin Competition and the 8th Eurovision Competition for Young Instrumentalists the following year. Julia played a Stradivarius, the 1716 Booth, on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation for four years before changing to her current instrument, a 1742 Guadaguini. She also has a violin Philipp Augustin 2011 and usually uses a Benoit Rolland bow.
In 2018 she was listed by Classic FM as one of the twenty-five greatest violists of all time. When not performing she teaches in her hometown at the Munich University of Music and Performing Arts. In his review for the Evening Standard, Nick Kimberley wrote, “… a very mobile player, (Fischer) almost dancing round the stage-captured a free wheeling, improvisatory quality: in the third movement, the interplay between her and the wind players was delightfully fresh and frisky. Amazingly enough Fischer returned after the interval, not as a soloist, but as one of the galley slaves in the string section. Few superstars are willing to do that… and seemed to enjoy it.”
Julia signed and returned my drawing for me after I left it at the Artists Entrance.
Richard E. Grant was sitting with his daughter Olivia in a restaurant in Notting Hill Gate watching the live feed of this year’s Oscar nominations with earpieces in. They both burst into tears when his name was included in the Best Supporting Actor shortlist. After nearly four decades in the business, the 61-year-old British actor had finally won awards recognition with Academy, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe nominations for his acclaimed performance as the ‘decaying dandy’ Jack Hock in CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?
Richard, a teetotaller, returns to the same sozzled theatrical brilliance of his debut, when he played the perpetually inebriated title character in the cult film WITHNAIL AND I. Jack Hock is a drunken, gay grifter who was the real life partner-in-crime of down and out celebrity biographer Lee Israel, (Melissa McCarthy) who turned to literary forgery to make ends meet. Variety magazine’s Peter Debruge wrote about Richard’s character, “Jack can hardly pass a fire hydrant without asking for its phone number.” The real Jack Hock died of AIDS at the age of 47 in 1994.
It would be quicker to list the critic and festival Supporting Actor awards that Richard hasn’t won this year. And he has been part of ensemble casts that have won awards in the past, most notably his role as George in GOSFORD PARK, which won the SAG award in 2001, among others. Richard will be seen in STAR WARS EPISODE IX but we don’t know his character as yet land he’s been sworn to secrecy.
Richard attended the Gala Screening of CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? at the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square during last October’s BFI Film Festival. He managed to quickly sign for most of the large crowd that gathered with his iconic ‘reg’ initials graph, including one on my sketch.
Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of the late celebrity biographer and literary forger Leonore ‘Lee’ Israel in the dark-comedy drama biopic CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? has been recognised by all the major awards this year, including the Screen Actors Guild, the Golden Globes, BAFTA and Academy Award Best Actress nominations. The film is based on Lee’s 2008 confessional autobiography with the same title.
In desperate need of money in the early 1990’s, with her career flatlining, writers block, rent in arrears, alcoholism and a sick twelve-year-old cat with large vet bills, she turns to forging the letters of deceased celebrated writers like Noel Coward and Ernest Hemingway to earn an income. ‘CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?’ is a line which Lee adds to one of her forged letters by celebrated satirist and critic Dorothy Parker after a monumental hangover. “I’m a better Dorothy Parker than Dorothy Parker,” she says in one of the film’s memorable lines.
This is Melissa’s second Oscar, BAFTA and SAG combo nominations, having earned a Best Supporting Actress nod for her performance as Megan in the 2011 comedy BRIDESMAIDS. She is no stranger to winning either, having collected two Emmys for MIKE & MOLLY and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, where her 2017 impersonation of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was a highlight. Her role as the sad-sack anti-heroine Lee has also collected a clutch of critics awards from New York, Boston, San Francisco,Vancouver to name a few and the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Melissa attended the Gala Screening of CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? at Cineworld’s Empire Cinema in Leicester Square for the BFI London Film Festival last October. She loved this sketch and was more than happy to sign it… with her real name, so it’s not a forgery!
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.
London-based Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón stands on the brink of award-winning history. His Spanish language homage to his childhood, ROMA garnered 10 Academy Award nominations last week, having already collected seven BAFTA nods. It has been recognised as the year’s best by multiple critics groups and TIME magazine.
The semi-autobiographical take on Alfonso’s upbringing in Mexico City follows an emotional year in the life of a middle-class family’s live-in maid set against the domestic and political turmoil in 1970’s Mexico. The title refers to Colonia Roma a neighbourhood in the city. Alfonso’s personal haul of four Oscar nominations – Best Picture (Producer), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography is two short of Walt Disney who holds the record for individual nominations in the same year with six in 1954. Walt won four, but Alfonso could collect five, because the Best Foreign Language Award is given to the film’s director and their name is inscribed on the famous golden statue.
Six of ROMA’s seven BAFTA nods have gone to the Alfonso, a British Academy record. He is nominated in the same Oscar categories with the edition of editing. The film’s impressive black and white cinematography is the director’s lens work after his regular DP, old high school buddy and three-time Oscar winner Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki was unavailable due to a scheduling clash. The last film they collaborated on was GRAVITY in 2013. Both won Academy Awards, Alfonso for Direction and Editing and Chivo for his photography.
Alfonso attended a Gala Screening of ROMA at the BFI London Film Festival last October at the pop-up Embankment Cinema. I was there hoping to get my sketch signed. After a delayed arrival, he did press and was rushed in for the film’s intro. As he quickly passed me, he saw the drawing and promised to sign it on the way out. True to his word, he came over especially, before leaving.