BFI London Film Festival Guests: Atom Egoyan

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

Autographed drawing of director Atom Egoyan

Atom Egoyan. The Canadian stage and film director Atom Egoyan is one of the most celebrated contemporary filmmakers. His latest feature GUEST OF HONOUR, a story of family secrets with David Thewlis screened in the Festival’s Thrill category also on Tuesday 8 October.

His work is known for exploring the themes of alienation and isolation. One of my favourite Atom Egoyan films is THE SWEET HEREAFTER (1997) with Ian Holm. It won the Grand Prix and Jury Prizes at the 50th Cannes Film Festival and Atom was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director Oscars. He also took part in the LFF Connects series at the BFI on 8 October, where he signed my sketch.

Advertisements

BFI London Film Festival Guests: Rian Johnson

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

Autographed drawing of director Rian Johnson

Rian Johnson. Described as a ‘genre-hopping’ director, Rian’s fifth feature film, KNIVES OUT, a ‘wickedly witty and stylish murder mystery’, featuring Christopher Plummer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette and Michael Shannon to name a few, had Gala screenings at both the Odeon Luxe and the Embankment Garden’s pop-up cinema on Tuesday 8 October. Rian, who wrote and directed one of the most successful movies of all time, STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI also did a Screen Talk on the same day at the BFI on London’s Southbank where he signed my sketch afterwards.

BFI London Film Festival Guest: Marielle Heller

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 Marielle Heller

Marielle Heller. Marielle’s third feature, A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD, featuring Tom Hanks as the American Television icon Fred Rogers was the BFI Patron’s Gala screening at the Odeon Luxe Cinema in Leicester Square last Friday. Marielle’s directing debut was the award-winning 2015 comedy-drama THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL, which she also wrote, based on Phoebe Gloeckner’s hybrid novel of the same name. She followed that with last year’s sleeper hit and Oscar-nominated CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? featuring Melissa McCarthy and Richard E Grant.

Marielle signed my drawing at the Odeon Luxe after her introduction on Friday night.

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.

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: The Barrett Brothers

Autographed drawing of All Blacks the Barrett Brothers

No, not the musical duo from the Kentish coast, sorry to disappoint the disciples, but New Zealand’s Barrett Brothers, Beauden, Scott and Jodie, who made rugby history this week, becoming the first trio of sibblings to play for the reigning World Champion All Blacks at a World Cup when they cruised past Canada, 63-0 in their second Pool match at the Oita Stadium in Japan. To add to the occasion all three scored tries. It’s not uncommon for two brothers to play for the hallowed AB’s. There have been 46 sets of siblings who have worn the famous black jersey and there has been three other trios, but they did not play all at the same time or at a World Cup.

They were the first trio of brothers to be selected for an All Black starting lineup XV when all three were picked to play in the first test against France at Auckland’s Eden Park in 2018, a match won by the AB’s, 52-11.

Twenty-seven year-old two-time World Rugby Player of the Year and the oldest, but shortest at 6’2″, Beauden is the most capped and plays at first five-eighth as we Kiwis call it, but internationally known as fly-half although at this World Cup he’s at full-back. Scott (25), the tallest at 6’6″ is a lock forward and at times a flanker on the side of the scrum. The youngest, Jordie (22) is 6’5″ and plays pretty much in every back position, regarded as one of the world’s most skilful utility players. Sport was always in the Barrett DNA. Their father, Kevin played provincial rugby for Taranaki in 167 games and their mother Robyn was a renowned runner, netballer and basketballer. When Kevin retired from the game, he stated that he was “going to breed a few All Blacks”, and indeed he did. Growing up on a dairy farm on the West Coast of New Zealand’s North Island meant they had plenty of ‘backyard’ to practice in.

I found out where the ABs were staying in London last November as they prepared for the Autumn International against England, so quickly did this sketch of the ‘ABarrett Bros’, as I labelled them, and they signed it for me.

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.

RIP Tom O’Connor

Drawing of Greenwich Legend Tom O'Connor

The first day we came to Greenwich was the first day we met Tom. We’d just seen the estate agent regarding our flat and popped into a cosy little pub down the street for some lunch afterwards. Little did we know that the shabby former student bar-cum-restaurant was soon to be giving Gordon Ramsay a run for his money.

Tom was a force of nature. As head waiter, head chef and head raconteur of the Green Pea, Tom didn’t believe in offering his patrons a paper menu with a list of food, he just reeled off what he was serving that day from memory and more often than not simply told you what you wanted. And then told you off if you didn’t finish your vegetables. But he did it with such charisma that nobody minded.

An eccentric Irishman (raised in an orphanage in Sligo, we now know) with a flat cap and a check shirt, Tom’s food was easily some of the best in London. The Trip Advisor reviews agreed when he broke into the top ten ranking and the Green Pea’s popularity exploded. The pies were “to die for”, he served “the best ham in London” and his chocolate cake was a thing of beauty. I won’t even go into the magic this man could perform with a cabbage.

My wife often borrowed books from Tom. He had all sorts – from Vladimir Nabokov and Truman Capote to Edna O’Brien. His bookshelves were a reflection of the man himself; scruffy yet immaculate. And just like his menus, you could pick something off them seemingly at random and be sure that you would thoroughly enjoy it.

There are ~20,000 restaurants in London. To this day the Green Pea is still ranked in the top ~100 and is easily the best Irish restaurant.

You will be missed. RIP you spectacular bastard, and thanks for the grub