BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Judi Dench would gladly see a female secret agent on the big screen… as long as they don’t play 007 because he’s JAMES Bond
Judi Dench thinks women can do anything they want when it comes to film — except play James Bond.
The great dame, who herself pulled off a gender switch when she was cast as MI6 spymaster M in 1995’s GoldenEye, told me she was strongly opposed to 007 swapping sex and being played by a woman.
‘No,’ she said firmly. ‘Bond ought not to be a woman because, essentially, that kind of model — Bond as a woman — was not in the writing.’
She said in the world of acting women ‘should have a go at anything’ — but she said the description of Bond was ‘very specific’. ‘What would Ian Fleming say?’ she mused. ‘Well, he’s not here to ask,’ she added, with a giggle.
Judi Dench thinks women can do anything they want when it comes to film — except play James Bond
The great dame, who herself pulled off a gender switch when she was cast as MI6 spymaster M in 1995’s GoldenEye, told me she was strongly opposed to 007 swapping sex and being played by a woman. Above with Pierce Brosnan as Bond in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough
‘No,’ Dench said firmly. ‘Bond ought not to be a woman because, essentially, that kind of model — Bond as a woman — was not in the writing.’ Above, with Daniel Craig in Skyfall (2012)
Dench said she thought someone should ‘create a character, for a female agent to play front and centre, that’s nothing to do with Fleming, and not make Bond a woman. Is that clear?!’ Perfectly.
We had met to discuss her beautifully judged performance as Madame Arcati in director Edward Hall’s sparkling big screen adaptation of Noel Coward’s dark comedy Blithe Spirit.
In the film, which has just moved its release date from May 1 to September 4, her medium inadvertently conjures up the late first wife of playboy writer Charles Condomine (Dan Stevens).
Would she like to be conjured up as M again, I wondered? ‘I died, Baz!’ she said.
‘It was 18 years,’ she added wistfully, referring to the time she spent filming her role in the Bond films. She said that perhaps ‘I’ll come back as Ghostie M’. I like the sound of Ghostie M. If the Bond folks don’t take it up, it’d be the perfect name for a rapper.
Dench has always had a talent to amuse. Lately she has been tickling the nation’s funny bone during the Covid-19 crisis by appearing in two hilarious videos on social media.
She gave a great turn as a purring cat when she recited Edward Lear’s The Owl And The Pussy-Cat ditty with Gyles Brandreth while they demonstrated washing hands.
Then on Wednesday her daughter Finty Williams posted a ten second clip of ‘Ma’ wearing a furry dog hat with flip-up ears as she declared: ‘Just keep laughing! That’s all we can do.’
Boris should draft her in as comedienne-in-chief, and booster of the nation’s spirits, immediately.
Stephen Sondheim, titan of musical theatre, is 90 on Sunday
Stephen Sondheim, titan of musical theatre, is 90 on Sunday.
Director Marianne Elliott’s acclaimed production of Sondheim’s Company was due to have opened on Broadway that night, to coincide with the composer’s birthday.
Fans are also eager that his Sunday In The Park With George, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, still gets a run at the Savoy Theatre — and that there’s time for Terry Gilliam to direct Into The Woods at the Old Vic this year.
As Sondheim quipped in The Ladies Who Lunch: ‘I’ll drink to that!’
The show must go on… online
Out of the darkness, some light … the UK theatre world was crippled on Tuesday when venues on and off the West End — and all over the country — shut their doors due to the virus.
Yes, there’s real hardship for the vast majority of those who work in the theatrical arts. Contrary to the assumption that actors, directors and playwrights get paid loads of money, most struggle; living hand-to-mouth and job to job.
But within hours, social media was fit to burst with artists coming up with a variety of ideas of putting shows online — performed in living rooms, garden sheds; you name it.
And organisations ranging from the National Theatre to the London Symphony Orchestra to the Almeida and The Kiln talked about streaming productions lucky enough to be filmed, or curating other glorious activities. What struck me was that it was all about sharing their bounty with those of us trapped in our homes.
The Stage, the trade weekly, has been keeping a tally of what’s going on, so check them out on Twitter.
One that I must cite is a Half A Sixpence dance-a-thon, set up live on Instagram by choreographer Andrew Wright. It was Wright who created the gobsmacking routines for the recent Cameron Mackintosh production of the musical that ran at Chichester Festival Theatre and then the Noel Coward, with Charlie Stemp, Devon-Elise Johnson and Emma Williams.
He and colleague Jaye Elster were meant to be reviving Sixpence at Kilworth House Theatre in South Leicestershire. ‘We want people to join us in their living rooms, and feel happiness again,’ Wright told me. Find him on Instagram (instagram.com/andrew wrightchoreographer/) for details of the event at 2pm (GMT) on March 27.
Why it’s love, actually, for caring Keira
Keira Knightley has been praised for ‘leading from the front’ to ensure her latest film finished shooting before the pandemic-induced shutdown.
‘We finished by the skin of our teeth — because of her,’ said Matthew Vaughn, producer of the untitled movie, a dark romance set around Christmas described to me as Love Actually with a killer sting.
Vaughn told me last night that he’s ‘thrilled’ that they managed to get the film shot before the coronavirus derailed it; and laid much of the credit at his leading lady’s door. ‘Kiera’s exceptional in the film,’ he said, ‘and she was exceptional behind the scenes as well. She really led from the front.’
Keira Knightley has been praised for ‘leading from the front’ to ensure her latest film finished shooting before the pandemic-induced shutdown
He added that the actress, star of the recently released Misbehaviour, ‘lifted our spirits’ during filming.
Some have been calling the picture Silent Night, but Vaughn told me it won’t be released with that title.
Written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Camille Griffin, it stars Knightley as a woman married to a character played by Matthew Goode.
Their screen son is played by Roman Griffin Davis, who played the eponymous Jojo Rabbit in the Oscar-nominated film. His mother is Ms Griffin.
Matthew Vaughn, producer of the untitled movie, said that Keira, star of the recently released Misbehaviour (pictured), ‘lifted our spirits’ during filming
Knightley and her film ‘family’ gather with friends and relatives for what’s supposed to be a festive celebration.
The true nature of the gathering is being kept strictly under wraps.
Post production — the editing, scoring and fine-tuning — will have to wait until life returns to a semblance of ‘normal’.
However, Vaughn revealed that he’s going to go through footage that has already been edited and cut a promo reel to sell in the market place at the Cannes Film Festival. Last night, the film bonanza in the South of France was postponed; and a new date in late June is being considered.
But I imagine that even then there will be a series of global ‘meeting rooms’, with call-ins for scores of people, so buyers can bid for films like this one.
Sales agents and distributors from around the world will be able to sit in their offices in London, Los Angeles, Paris, Rome or Sydney and participate in an auction to buy rights to release the movie.
It’s gonna be the new reality. For a while, at least.
Movies on pause before big reboot
Eric Fellner, the co-chairman of film company Working Title, sat in his top-floor office with sweeping, picture-window views of the choicest parts of Marylebone, and pronounced that the ‘only people who can earn money right now are screenwriters’.
Fellner, who runs the famous firm with Tim Bevan, said the dramatic Covid-19 crisis had shut down the film business ‘as if someone flipped a switch … and that’s it.’
Everything stopped. He’s spent the past few days writing to the cast and crews of films that had to be closed down days, or sometimes weeks, before filming.
They included Lena Dunham’s Catherine, Called Birdy: a movie about a teenage girl in medieval times; and The Swimmers, about the Syrian refugees who swam at the Rio Olympics.
Other pictures, such as Rebecca, starring Lily James, Armie Hammer and Kristin Scott Thomas, directed by Ben Wheatley, and Edgar Wright’s Last Night In Soho with Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith, have been halted in post-production.
But, Fellner told me, ‘next week is about rebooting’.
‘It’s how we’re going to work in the future and what projects we’re going to do,’ he said.
‘People have wanted stories, and story-telling, for ever. And they’ll want it when we’re out the other side.’
He reckoned that there’ll be ‘a lot of virus, contagion and plague-type scripts in development … but I can guarantee you no one’s going to want to watch them when this is all over’.
He mentioned the circulars on social media, listing the films people want to watch while isolating; and the suggestions from family friends and associates. ‘They’re all upbeat, romantic, funny,’ he said. ‘That’s what we want.’
Watch out for…
Benedict Cumberbatch who’s been on one of the few sets in the world where filming is still taking place.
He’s in New Zealand, starring in Jane Campion’s film The Power Of The Dog.
It’s based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel about two brothers in 1920s Montana (Campion’s movie is still set in the U.S. state) who fall out when one of them gets married.
Benedict Cumberbatch is on one of the few sets in the world where filming is still taking place. He’s in New Zealand, starring in Jane Campion’s film The Power Of The Dog
Jesse Plemons plays the sibling who marries a widow, played by Kirsten Dunst; while Cumberbatch is the repressed brother who attempts to ruin the newlyweds’ happiness.
Bachi Valishvili and Levan Gelbakhiani, in Levan Atkin’s love story And Then We Danced about a pair of Georgian dancers in Tbilisi.
The picture soars when they dance. It’s available via the Curzon Home Cinema site online. From next week you can also find it on the British Film Institute’s BFI Player service.
Trolls ready to star in your living room
With cinemas shutting, Hollywood has been scrambling to rearrange release dates for big pictures.
However, one forthcoming film is coming straight to a screen near you … in your home.
Trolls World Tour, follow-up to 2016’s animated hit Trolls, will be available to rent via various video on-demand platforms, including Sky Store, from April 6 — for a fee of £15.99 for 48 hours’ viewing.
One American film executive I spoke to observed that the figure was a bargain for a family of four, sitting at home watching Trolls World Tour on a loop (well, the kids will no doubt view it endlessly).
Trolls World Tour, follow-up to 2016’s animated hit Trolls, will be available to rent via various video on-demand platforms, including Sky Store, from April 6 — for a fee of £15.99 for 48 hours’ viewing
Referring to the U.S. dollar fee, he said: ‘Two parents and two children seeing it at the cinema would cost, say, $60 for one visit.
‘But if they download and rent it at home for $19.99, and have it available to them for two whole days, then that’s a huge bargain.
‘The communal idea of going to the movies, buying popcorn, hot dogs and whatever will be missing. But, hey, cinemas are going to be shut for a helluva long stretch, so it’s a smart move,’ the executive told me.
However, cinema owners won’t be happy if such viewing behaviour continues when life as we knew it resumes.
Plus, while people love their dose of Netflix and other streamers, most prefer the spectacle of watching pictures on giant screens, in the dark.
Some recently opened films from Universal, such as The Invisible Man and Emma, will be available to rent on a limited basis from today.
Trolls World Tour stars Anna Kendrick, voicing the super-positive, candy-coloured Troll Princess Poppy; Justin Timberlake as Branch, her gloomy friend; and Mary J. Blige as Queen Essence.
Timberlake sang the original film’s Oscar-nominated hit song Can’t Stop The Feeling, which he co-wrote with Max Martin, the superstar songwriter behind the stage musical & Juliet.
Trolls World Tour stars Anna Kendrick, voicing the super-positive, candy-coloured Troll Princess Poppy; Justin Timberlake as Branch, her gloomy friend; and Mary J. Blige as Queen Essence
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