Drawing: Roger Deakins

Autographed drawing of cinematographer Roger Deakins

At one of the many crossroads earlier in my life, I entertained the notion of following a path to cinematography, influenced by the wonderful work of legendary lensman such as Haskell Wexler, Conrad Hall, Freddie Young, Vilmos Zsigmond, Gordon Willis and Sven Nyvist. I even subscribed to ‘American Cinematograper’, which proved a source of inspiration for my own, less ambitious super 8 and 16mm epics.

Often cited as one of the most influential cinematographers of all time is the Englishman Roger Deakins. ‘Sight & Sound’ listed him as one of the greatest artists of light and shade in movie history. His first dramatic feature as DP was ANOTHER TIME, ANOTHER PLACE in 1983, directed by his former schoolmate Michael Radford, who he teamed up with again the following year, appropriately to shoot the film version of George Orwell’s NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR. Roger used a bleach bypass process where silver is retained in the print to give it a washed out look reflecting The celebrated author’s bleak vision. Such ingenuity would be the hallmark of his illustrious career.

In 1991 he shot BARTON FINK, the first of 12 collaborations with Joel and Ethan Coen. Three years later he received the first of his 15 Academy Award nominations was for THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. Roger achieved a degree of notoriety, as much for his acclaimed body of work as for his surprising lack of success at the Oscars. It would take until his last two noms to win the converted gold statue, consecutively, for BLADE RUNNER 2049 in 2019 and again this year for the Sam Mendes helmed (their fourth collaboration) war film 1917, renowned for its continuous ‘single’ tracking shot – actually ‘two takes’ with a blackout just over an hour into the film, when the main protagonist Lance Corporal Will Scholfield is knocked unconscious, separating afternoon to dusk then night to dawn. He is also credited with being the Camera A Operator.

Among his many other accolades, Roger has received ten BAFTA nominations, winning five, including his Academy winning films and the Coen’s THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE (2001), NO COUNTER FOR OLD MEN (2007) and TRUE GRIT (2010) and has won five American Society of Cinematographer Awards.

I was very pleased to catch Roger at the Corinthia Hotel in London as he left for the Royal Albert Hall to attend this year’s BAFTA Awards in early February.

Drawing: Lise Davidsen

Autographed drawing of soprano Lise Davidsen

“It’s been a long time since a singer has generated as much buzz as the Norwegian soprano,” wrote the renowned Gramophone magazine in their review of Lise Davidsen’s self-titled debut album of Strauss and Wagner songs late last year. “A name you will want to remember and a voice, once heard, you won’t forget.” She is the first operatic soprano to debut at No 1 in the UK Classical Charts. “This album only reinforces the fact that she is one of the greatest vocal talents to have emerged in recent years, if not decades,” continued the Gramophone review, who awarded her Young Artist of the Year in 2018.

The Financial Times declared her ‘the real deal’. It was not alone with the Scandinavian lyric dramatic soprano gaining universal adoration and agreement that she ‘one of the greatest voices of her generation’.

Lise shot to prominence in the summer of 2015, winning the Queen Sonia Singing Competition in her homeland, before she ‘swept the board’, collecting the three top awards at the prestigious Operalia competition in London as well as being a triple winner at Amsterdam’s Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing contest. A series of acclaimed international Opera followed. Last year she debuted with the Metropolitan Opera in New York as the young, rich lover Lisa, in Tchaikovsky’s THE QUEEN OF SPADES, with the New York Time’s Zachary Woolf writing, ” Ms Davidsen’s voice is creamy in texture, but with a silvery shimmer that gives it a penetrating spine.” Her first appearance at the Royal Opera House was in Wagner RING CYCLE in 2018, returning this year alongside Jonas Kaufmann as the free-loving, cross-dressing, husband-rescuing heroine Lenore in Beethoven’s FIDELIO. The production sold out within 24 hours.

In his Backtrack review David Karlin wrote, “Covent Garden has seen many great role debuts over the years, but I doubt there have been many with quite the level of self-assurance.” Unfortunately the season was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which included a live screening to cinemas of the final performance on 17 March. Fortunately I managed to get Lise to sign my drawing of her in the Met role before the lockdown.

Drawing: Roman Griffin Davis in Jojo Rabbit

Autographed drawing of Roman Griffin Davis in Jojo Rabbit

One of the breakout film performances of 2019 was Roman Griffin Davis’ impressive acting debut as the twelve year old Hitler Youth member with his imaginary friend Adolf, Johannes ‘Jojo’ Betzler in Tamika Waititi’s Oscar-winning JOJO RABBIT. He received six award nominations, including a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild and a Critic’s Choice Award which he won. Roman’s twin brothers, Gilby and Hardly also featured in the dark comedy as Hitler Youth clones.

His follow up film is the festive-themed dark romance about an extended family gathering, SILENT NIGHT (working title) opposite Keira Knightley, written and directed by his mother, Camille Griffin. It’s been described as LOVE ACTUALLY with a killer sting. Filming started in February, and managed to finish ‘by the skin of their teeth’ before the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

Roman signed my drawing at the Soho Hotel in London as he left to attend the BAFTA Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in February.

Drawing: Jason Manford, Carley Stenson and Rebecca Lock in Curtains

Autographd drawing of Jason Manford, Carley Stenson and Rebecca Lock in Curtains at Wyndham's Theatre on London's West End

Kander and Ebb’s charming musical mystery comedy caper CURTAINS opened on Broadway at the Al Hirschfield Theatre in the spring of 2007 starring David Hyde Pierce as Lieutenant Frank Cioffi. Described as the ‘fun companion’ to the duos CHICAGO and CABARET, this classic whodunnit was nominated for eight Tony Awards with David winning for Leading Actor in a Musical.

The UK production, featuring comedian-singer Jason Manford in the lead role, premiered at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre last year, beginning a nationwide tour that included a belated but brief, unexpected five-week festive season filler at the Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End, due to the early closing of THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUITE.

Set in Boston in the 1950’s, the Broadway-bound musical ROBBIN’ HOOD OF THE OLD WEST is flopping, when its untalented star, Jessica Crenshaw is murdered during her opening night curtain call. Homicide cop and show tune-obsessed Frank is brought in to solve the case. Jason was joined by Carley Stenson as the show’s composer Georgina Hendricks, who replaces Jessica as the leading lady and Rebecca Lock as the brassy co-producer Carmen Bernstein.

The continuing UK tour was cancelled last month during its run at the Haymarket Theatre in Leicester due to the coronavirus pandemic. A recorded version streamed last week with profits going to the Funds For Freelancers charity.

Jason, Carley and Rebecca signed my montage sketch at the Wyndham’s Stage door in early January.

Drawing: Victoria Lucie and Molly Roberts in The Mousetrap

Autographed drawing of Victoria Lucie and Molly Roberts in The Mousetrap at the St Martin's Theatre on London's West End

The world’s longest continuously running play for the past 68 years, Agatha Christie’s THE MOUSTRAP in London’s West End has finally ended its ‘initial’ run. On March 16 this year, when the British Prime Minister issued a statement in response to the Covid-19 pandemic advising people to avoid gathering in theatres, cinemas, bars and restaurants, the producers appropriately ‘suspended’ all performances until 30 June at the earliest. All theatre’s are now dark until further notice after the lockdown was formalised a week later.

The timeless tale of ‘whodunnit’ by the ‘Queen of mystery’, involving a small group of people who gather at Monkswell Manor, where a murder takes place during a blizzard, opened at the Ambassadors Theatre on 25 November 1952, running until Saturday 23 March 1974, before transferring next door to St Martin’s on the Monday. It has become a West End staple ever since.

One of my recent routines is to draw the actresses playing the strange and aloof Miss Casewell and the Manor’s co-proprietor, Mollie Ralston after each cast change – in this case, Victoria Lucie and Mollie Roberts respectfully, who now have the distinction of being part of final cast of THE MOUSETRAP’s ‘initial’ run. Victoria is making her West End debut and has just finished a TV pilot for NOIR-MAN. Mollie is the Artistic Director for Poleroid Theatre and is a regular on stage and screen, receiving multiple Off West End Award nominations.

Both signed my sketch prior to the lockdown.

Drawing: Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Autographed drawing of Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Milos Forman’s 1975 film adaption of Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST is regarded as one of the greatest American films of all time, and a personal favourite of mine. It won the ‘Big Five Academy Awards’, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital, it centres on the rebellious and free-spirited con-man, Randle McMurphy, who is transferred from a prison work farm. Louise Fletcher collected the Oscar for her portrayal of his nemesis, the tyrannical and stereotypical ‘battle-axe’ head nurse Ratched. In her acceptance speech she thanked her deaf parents in sign language.

Nurse Ratched was named as the fifth greatest villain in film history and the second greatest villainess behind the Wicked Witch of the West in THE WIZARD OF OZ by the American Film Institute. In an interview Louise said that Ratched’s 1940’s hairstyle was “a symbol that life stopped for her a long time ago.” Louise also won the BAFTA and a Golden Globe Award.

I sent Louise this sketch to her Los Angeles agency, which she kindly signed and posted back last week.

Drawing: Hugo Weaving in The Visit

Autographed drawing of Hugo Weaving in The Visit at the National Theatre

Veteran Australian actor Hugo Weaving returned to the London stage last month in the National Theatre’s production of Fredrich Durrenmatt’s visionary 1956 revenge play THE VISIT or THE OLD LADY COMES TO CALL, directed by Jeremy Herrin. Adapted by Tony Kushner and set in mid-twentieth century, in Slurry, a poverty-stricken industrial town in Western, New York where billionaire heiress Claire Zachanassian returns after leaving 45 years earlier as a pregnant 16 year-old to seek revenge on her former lover Alfred Ill, who dumped her back then. The locals hope her arrival signals a change in their fortunes, but they soon realise that prosperity will only come at a terrible price. Hugo played Alfred and Lesley Melville was Claire.

The production unfortunately was cancelled in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Hugo signed and returned my drawing of him as Alfred I left at the National’s stage door before final curtain.

Drawing: Jim Carter in Downton Abbey

Autographed drawing of actor Jim Carter in Downton Abbey

Jim Carter’s portrayal of Charles Carson in the hugely successful and popular British historical drama DOWNTON ABBEY (2010-2015) is one of his most recognisable roles in a long and distinguished screen and stage career that began when he dropped out of his law studies at the University of Sussex fifty plus years ago to join a Brighton fringe theatre group for five quid a week, plus free board and lodgings.

His big stage break came with the National Theatre’s 1982 revival of GUYS AND DOLLS directed by Richard Eyre. At the same time he met his wife-to-be, Imelda Staunton, who was also in the show and they later appeared together in THE WIZARD OF OZ for the Royal Shakespeare Company – Imelda as Dorothy and Jim as the cowardly lion.

His film credits include THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE (1994), RICHARD III (1995), BRASSED OFF (1996) and SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998), which won the Outstanding Performance by a Cast Screen Actors Guild Award and the Oscar for Best Picture. On the small screen, Jim has appeared in so many, THE BILL, MIDSOMER MURDERS, ZORRO, CASUALTY, CRANFORD and THE SINGING DETECTIVE to name a few. Created and co-written by Julian Fellowes, DOWNTON ABBEY is based on the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey during the early part of the 20th Century.

Jim played a leading role as Mr Carson, the butler who is In charge of the male staff, the pantry, wine cellar and the dining room. Mr Carson is described as having a ‘fatherly disposition over the other servants’ while making sure that their duties are carried out to his exacting standards. For his portrayal Jim has received four Primetime Emmy nominations and has twice won the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble. He also reprised the role for the 2019 film version. Jim received the OBE for services to drama last year.

He signed my sketch last month at the Kiln Theatre in North London, where he was hosting a fundraising event with the screening of the 2014 film PRIDE followed by a cast Q&A.

Drawing: Rosamund Pike in Hitchcock Blonde

Autographed drawing of Rosamund Pike in Hitchcock Blonde at the Lyric Theatre on London's West End

Rosamud Pike played the ‘Blonde’ in Terry Johnson’s HITCHCOCK BLONDE, which opened at London’s Royal Court theatre in April 2003, before transferring to the Lyric in Shaftesbury Ave in the West End. The play interweaves between three time zones – a 1919 short film featuring a blonde woman that later fascinated ‘the master of suspense’, influential English film director Alfred Hitchcock, 1959, during the filming of his best-known film PSYCHO, where the blonde acts as a body double for Janet Leigh in the famous shower scene and in 1999 when a media studies professor and one of his students, a blonde woman, discover the 1919 short film and re-examine Hitchcock’s work through its lens.

Rosamund’s screen credits include her role as undercover M16 double agent Miranda Frost in the 2002 Bond film DIE ANOTHER DAY with Pierce Brosnan and the disappearing wife, Amy Dunne in David Fincher’s 2014 psychological thriller GONE GIRL, earning her SAG, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Academy Award nominations. This year she won a Primetime Emmy for her performance as Louise in the British Comedy about a disintegrating marriage, STATE OF THE UNION.

Rosamund was a guest on Dermot O’Leary’s BBC Radio 2 show at its studios in Wogan House earlier this month to discuss her latest role as Nobel Prize-winning Polish scientist Marie Curie in RADIOACTIVE, where she signed my sketch.

Drawing: Paul Simonon, The Clash

Autographed drawing of musician Paul Simonon of The Clash

British punk and experimental rock group The Clash’s landmark double-album LONDON CALLING, was released in the winter of 1979. To mark the 40th Anniversary, the British Film Institute screened Don Lett’s Grammy Award-winning doco, THE CLASH: WESTWAY TO THE WORLD, forty years to the day on 14 December 2019 with the band’s original members Mick Jones and Paul Simonon in attendance.

The apocalyptic, politically charged title track, written by the late Joe Strummer and Mick was influenced by the BBC World Service call signal and the panic that resulted in the Three Mile Island nuclear scare. The era-defining record is regarded as one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded. It was voted the Best Album of the 1980’s a decade later by Rolling Stone ranking it number 8 of all time and, in 2004 The Clash were ranked at number 28 on it’s Top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list.

The iconic cover design by Ray Lowry was based on Elvis Presley’s self-titled 1956 debut LP. It features the classic photo by Pennie Smith of the band’s bass guitarist Paul Simonon smashing his Fender Precision guitar in frustration at the bouncers stopping audience members from standing up out of their seats on the Palladium’s stage in New York on 20 December 1979. Pennie thought the image was too far out of focus and didn’t want it used, but Joe and Ray thought otherwise. In 2001 Q magazine called it the best ever rock ‘n roll photo, commenting, “it captured the ultimate rock and roll moment – total loss of control”. It also selected it the 9th best album cover design of all time.

I drew this montage sketch of Paul, including his immortalised instrument demolition, but my attempts to get it signed at the BFI event was thwarted by the large gathering of fans with similar ambitions, so I sent it to his home and he kindly signed and returned it.
The Museum of London also hosted an exclusive exhibition, LONDON CALLING:40 YEARS OF THE CLASH featuring over 100 personal items including Paul’s broken fender, which I visited last November.

Photo of The Clash smashed guitar from London Calling album cover