Drawing: Kate Beckinsale

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Kate Beckinsale signed my sketch at the Total Recall UK premiere at the Vue cinema in Leicester Square, London in August 2012.

The film was a remake of the 1990 dystopian sci-fi action flick of the same name, which was in turn loosely based on the 1966 short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick.

Drawing: Tom Cruise

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It’s April – not that the weather’s come to the party, as it continued to chuck down the white stuff…. but, as they say ‘there’s no business like snow business.’

Appropriately, a white carpet (or maybe originally it was red!) awaited Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko and director Joseph Kosinski for the UK premiere of the Sci Fi saga Oblivion at the BFI IMAX near London’s Waterloo station.

One of the highest paid and most sought-after actors in screen history, Tom Cruise, has played a bartender, soldier, pilot, special agent, samurai, contract killer, senator, magazine owner, lawyer, sports agent, student, vampire, race-car driver and pool player can now add one of the few remaining drone repairmen assigned to an Earth devastated by decades of war with the alien Scavs.

One forecast was guaranteed, whatever the weather, Thomas Cruise Mapother IV would not disappoint his frozen fans. Thankfully, he shortened his moniker, or it would be Summer before he finished signing. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Tom doesn’t rush. He always arrives early, completes media commitments, and then spends as much time as it takes ‘signing the line’ (that’s graphers lingo for everyone).

The planet’s biggest star is also its biggest signer. An interesting fact: he’s actually left handed but signs with his right hand. He has been known to spend up to 3 hours signing siggies and posing for pics prior to screenings. That’s quality and quantity, but then he’s good with numbers. Each one of his three wives have been 11 years younger than the previous one. And they were all 33 when the marriages ended. So maybe he’s more of a numerologist than a Scientologist.

By the time he got to me which was around half an hour after he started down Sharpie street, he must have signed nigh on 100 ‘graphs. When he saw my sketch he was really pleased with it and we had a brief chat and he signed and dedicated it. Mission: Acccomplished

Drawing: Sir Alec Guinness – the theatrical Jedi Knight

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In a galaxy far, far away… actually, in 1994, I drew a quick caricature of Sir Alec Guinness. In the absence of a stage door to stand at or a reliable agent’s address, I found out that he was a member of The Garrick Club, Charing Cross Road in London. I was in the city at the time, so I made a couple of copies, wrote a note and left it with a stamped self addressed envelope before heading back to New Zealand.

This month I read that the British Library had recently bought 1000 letters and 100 volumes of his hand written diaries from his family for £320,000. The archive will go on display next year.

Catherine Ostler in the Daily Mail wrote: “To some fans, Sir Alec Guinness will always be remembered as Obi Wan Kenobi, the sagacious Jedi Knight of the Star Wars films. To others, he is The Bridge On The River Kwai’s resolute but misguided Colonel Nicholson.

These and other brilliant performances — in Ealing comedies, Lawrence Of Arabia, Dr Zhivago and TV’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy — should surely have left him secure in the knowledge that he stood at the pinnacle of his profession. Yet his private writings, previously unseen by the public, reveal this titan of the screen and stage to have been a flawed, insecure man who found release in petty malice.”

Nobody escaped his barbed comments, from the Queen down. Even the great Sir Laurence Olivier. For more than half a century they shared the accolades as the greatest actors of their generation, but behind the scenes a poisonous rivalry existed. He called his fellow thespian “cruel, unpleasant, destructive and pretentious.” He did, however, balance that by praising Lord Larry as a “total actor – technically brilliant.”

It is common knowledge he disliked the Star Wars trilogy and would throw away fanmail associated with it. he called it “fairy-tale rubbish”. In spite of an Academy Award and Golden Globe nomination for his role, the theatrical knight wanted the Jedi Knight killed off and convinced George Lucas that it would make the character stronger (and he wouldn’t have to go on speaking that bloody awful, excruciating, banal dialogue, he confided).

The Star Wars films did, however, provide an income for the rest of his life. While he hated the films, he was shrewd enough to realise that the public wouldn’t, so struck a deal for 2% of the gross royalties, along with his initial salary. The franchise went on to become one of the most successful ever. He later said, “I have no complaints, I can live the rest of my life in the reasonably modest way I am now used to and I can afford to refuse work that doesn’t appeal to me.”

One person who he did like, and who sympathised with him was co-star Harrison Ford. Apparently, he said to the director, “George, you can type this shit, but you can’t say it!”

There was no doubt Sir Alec was a complex man – a shy introvert who shone on stage and screen. Melvyn Bragg said he was the weirdest, strangest person he’d ever interviewed. But, back in 1994 he signed my drawing and added some self-mockery. Six years later he passed away,aged 86.  I wonder if I’m mentioned in his diary dispatches. A visit to the British Library next year could be worth it. The force (and the graph) is indeed with me, always.

Drawing: Martin Freeman in Clybourne Park at Royal Court Theatre

Martin Freeman002The Moêt British Independent Film Awards were held at the Old Billingsgate Fish Market in the Shadow of Tower Bridge in December 2010. This time I was on the other side, covering the event for the Irish World – always awkward asking for ‘graphs when you’re interviewing the stars and supping on the sponsor’s product!

However, Martin is one of us: normal, nice and no expletives deleted. I had a couple of sketches on me from his role in the award winning Royal Court play Clybourne Park.

As a member of the forth estate one has to remain professional at all times… so I politely showed Martin the sketches and and said I could send them to his agent. He said “I’ll save you the stamps,” and we had a brief chat about his upcoming trip to Middle Earth (New Zealand) to play Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson‘s Hobbit.

As I write this, I discover that Martin has just won the Best Actor perspex trophy at the Empire Film Awards across town at the Grosvenor Hotel, for his Hobbit role, beating Lincoln and James Bond (Daniel Day Lewis and Daniel Craig).