Monday, June 20, 2011

Copernicus Had Those Renaissance Ladies Crazy About His Telescope

Claudia Winkleman has accepted that she is 'a rubbish celebrity.' Yeah. Next ... The King Of... host revealed that she never had any desire to become famous and continues to be 'in awe' of even the most minor stars 'I'm rubbish at being a celebrity,' she told the Scum Mail On Sunday. 'That's mainly because I don't want to be one. I don't know anyone remotely famous. I'd sooner be at home making cheese on toast than making small talk with Bryan Ferry at some posh do. I'd love to pretend that Bill Oddie and Sean Connery are always popping round to raid my larder, but they've never been near my front door.' She added: 'I'm easily star-struck. I once spotted Christopher Biggins at the fish counter in my local supermarket. I was so excited I could hardly breathe. I had to restrain myself from running up the aisle and licking his face.' That's nothing to the fishmonger's reaction, I'm guessing. 'Oi, Biggins, leave my lemon sole alone!' She continued: 'The reception at BBC2 is a good place to spot famous people. The last time I popped my head around the door I saw Rod Stewart, Jeremy Irons and Su Pollard. I thought to myself, "Girl, you are living the dream."' The former It Takes Two host also expressed doubts over her capability as a presenter, arguing that she had the potential to mess up an 'idiot-proof' job. 'Any idiot could do my job - it's not nuclear physics. To be a TV presenter all you have to do is dye your skin a walnut colour, use an entire eyeliner stick on each eye and try not to fall over while you're reading from an autocue. You could argue that the hard part is making it look easy. But I don't even succeed at that. I make it look completely terrifying. I'm sure the only reason people employ me is that they like the sense of jeopardy I bring to live television.' Winkleman recently described her King Of... programme as 'absolutely the shittest show you will ever see.' Which, to be completely fair to Claudia it isn't. Because that would give it a notoriety it doesn't, even remotely, deserve.

ex Pussycat Doll Melody Thornton has become the third - alleged - 'celebrity' to be axed from Popstar to Operastar. Sadly it was not using an actual axe. Because, to be honest, that I'd've watched. The programme, presented by vile, full-of-her-own-importance Myleene Klass - who looked as though she'd stuck her fingers in an electrical socket to get her new Crystal Tipps-style big hair before last night's fiasco - continues next week. Tragically. The episode in question, incidentally, had an overnight audience of just over three million, meaning that it has lost nearly a half of the 5.98m audience who watched the series opening episode on 4 June. Which is, of course, very sad for poor Myleene and her hopes of doing anything other than reading an autocue and looking pretty.

Jason Isaacs has claimed that his new NBC drama series Awake is 'high concept' and 'a risk' for network TV. Awake follows the story of a detective who finds himself living out two realities. In one, his wife has died in a car crash and in the other his son has died. He is unsure which life is a dream and doesn't want to find out the truth because he doesn't want to lose either family member. Speaking about the dangers of broadcasting such a complex story on a major network, Isaacs insisted that he wouldn't be willing to dilute the plot to ensure the show gets a full season. Isaacs told the Gruniad: 'There's a risk Awake is too high-concept for US networks. The US shows I love - Mad Men, Sopranos - would never work on network TV. This has to work on network TV, like House or CSI. And I've got producer credit. Lots of shows get canned mid-series because they didn't sell to middle America. If it flops, I'll live with it. I don't want to be in crap. Mind you, Brotherhood [his 2006 TV series] was critically praised and nobody watched it. I hanker for something that gets a critical mauling but is enormously successful.' Isaacs added: 'I think this show I'm going to do, Awake, if it's done well, will not only be provocative and entertaining, but help people. I want to do that.'

Ex Leicester City, Blackburn Rovers and Derby County irritating midfielder Robbie Savage is rumoured to have been approached to be a contestant in this year's Strictly Come Dancing. The Welsh ex-footballer, loathed the length and breadth of the land in a way that only compatriot Craig Bellamy can hope to match, is reportedly a big fan of the series, and is hoping to be the first footballer to be crowned champion, according to the News of the World. So, that'll probably be a bunch of lies, then. A 'source' allegedly close to Savage allegedly said: 'He wants to be the first footballer to win Strictly and nothing is going to stop him.' A 'BBC insider' - anonymous and, therefore, probably non-existent - allegedly added: 'Robbie is exactly what we want for Strictly – someone who will make waves. Every football fan in the country is going to want to see how ridiculous he looks wearing tight lycra and sequined outfits.' Actually, to be fair, that is true. Savage co-hosts BBC Radio 5Live's 606 phone-in, which used to be really good until he got involved in it. He was awarded the Sony Radio Academy 'Rising Star' Award for his work in May. The award was chosen by members of the public. The stupid ones, basically.

There is increasing industry speculation that Thursday 14 July will be the start date for the new ten-part series of Torchwood. That's a week after it is scheduled to begin in the US. There's still no confirmation of this, however, and there's unlikely to be for a while yet as final schedules are seldom locked down until between fourteen and ten days prior to transmission. The main press screening for the opening episode took place on Monday 20 June and a further event is alleged to be scheduled for 3 July. More news on that, if and when.

Opponents of the BBC's decision to relocate parts of its television and radio output to Salford are 'living in the dark ages' and should 'drop their outdated prejudices' against the North of England, the shadow lack of culture secretary, Ivan Lewis, will say on Monday according to the Gruniad Morning Star which, apparently, got a leaked copy of his speech. Wonder how that happened. In a direct challenge to BBC employees such as full-of-himself presenter Chris Hollins, who has criticised the move, Lewis will say that the corporation will be strengthened by employing a 'more diverse talent pool' and viewing events not solely through 'a London-centric prism.' Detractors, he said, should stop seeing Britain as 'London plus the rest.' The BBC has faced intense criticism - mostly from vested-interest quarters - over its decision to relocate its Breakfast television programme and Radio 5Live to MediaCityUK in Salford. Sian Williams, the main presenter of Breakfast, has declined to move north for family reasons. Hollins, the sports presenter and winner of Strictly Come Dancing, has also refused after condemning the move as 'merely a political decision.' Well, it's a geographical one as well, Chris. That's sort of undeniable. In all, forty six per cent of the team working on Breakfast have declined to relocate to Salford, where the programme will be based from April 2012. Bill Turnbull and Susanna Reid, the show's other main presenters, are staying with it. Turnbull said the move to Salford would be a challenge though he added that he was 'confident the programme can be as successful in its new home as it has been for the past few years in Television Centre.' Lewis, a Mancunian who is the MP for Bury South, will dismiss the criticisms of the relocation as crass and ignorant. In an address at the Impact of MediaCity conference in Manchester, he will tell the audience: 'Let me say this to those commentators, celebrities and BBC staff who have railed against the BBC move to Salford and the investment in MediaCity – shame on you for your outdated prejudices, one-dimensional view of Britain and negativity about the north, which belongs in the dark ages. Alongside the NHS, the BBC is one of our great national institutions, one of Britain's greatest achievements. It is right that she accepts her responsibility to support the regions, but also the quality of her output will be immensely strengthened by seeking out a more diverse talent pool and range of experiences. If the BBC is to be the authentic voice of Britain it must look like Britain.' The shadow lack of culture secretary will say that the relocation to Salford will offer economic and cultural benefits and could help to challenge the way in which debates are conducted. He will say that detractors have short memories because they fail to remember the days when Manchester was a major media centre. 'This move should be seen as the "high-speed media-link" between north and south, not an opportunity to perpetuate a backward-looking north-south divide,' Lewis will say. 'The critics should be challenged not only for their prejudice but a small-minded, limiting view of Britain as London plus the rest. Their memories do not stretch to the halcyon days of the Manchester Guardian or the great pioneers who founded Granada TV.' Monday's speech is designed to show that the North-West of England can play a central role in rebalancing the British economy away from its dependence on financial services. Lewis believes that Britain's creative industries, as the second largest driver of jobs and growth after financial services, will be at the forefront of this rebalancing. He will say: 'We do not want to be the passive, grateful recipients of the proceeds of growth created in London and the south-east. We want to be the wealth creators and innovators playing our full part in steering our country through this difficult time and into a period of new, sustainable growth. Britain needs a thriving London and south-east but our country will never fulfil its potential unless we balance the important contribution of our financial services with other key sectors of the economy and ensure all of our regions are firing on all cylinders. That is why recent developments are so important and signpost the many opportunities which lie ahead to support locally produced, high quality content and facilitate the creation of new partnerships with organisations including independent producers, cutting-edge digital companies and universities across the North-West.'

Staying in the North West, the Manchester Evening News recently reported that Coronation Street's Shobna Gulati has quit Twitter after receiving racial abuse thereon. The forty four-year-old actress, who plays Sunita Alahan, has reportedly received race hate messages over the past two weeks. The newspaper says that she posted a message on Twitter saying 'Surprised at the racial abuse and desire to try and hurt people for no reason. I think I'm giving Twitter a wee rest. Gobsmacked.' But she has now decided to quit Twitter altogether telling her eighteen thousand plus followers 'Thanks for the banter. I've enjoyed my time on Twitter. Over and out.' Shobna who is of Indian descent, has campaigned against racism and intolerance and used Twitter to spread information about her campaigns. Her cast-mate Steve Hulson who played Eddie Windass in the soap posted a message saying 'Absolutely disgusted to see that my lovely friend has been driven off Twitter because of racists. Shame on them.' In other Coronation Street twittering news Anthony Cotton has threatened to report another Twitter user to police after he received homophobic messages. The messages, sent by a now-defunct user delighting in the spectacularly stupid username kittykatlovex called Anthony 'a faggot.' One posting also said 'I hope you get AIDS and die you freak.' Ah, a Daily Scum Mail reader, one imagines. Although, 'reader' is probably giving him or her (but, probably him) a bit too much credit. There's some sick bastards in the world, dear blog reader. Just in case you weren't already aware of that.

And, still in the North-West, MTV has reportedly commissioned a Geordie Shore spin-off based in Liverpool, according to tabloid reports. Mersey Shores, one images. Thank Christ for that, it'll give everybody in the country another city to laugh at and provide the chance for yet more gobshite MPs to get morally outraged and highly quotable for the tabloids. Bring it on.

The Sun and The Sunday Times - both, curiously, owned by a man who has previously indicted that he'd like to buy the sport - have alleged that the BBC plans to scrap their Formula 1 coverage. The Sun's piece alleges - in a way that only the Sun can - that this is 'to save BBC4 - home to shows such as Come Clog Dancing.' And lots of other shows - one has to wonder why the Scum would pick on that particular, inoffensive, little programme other than that it might appeal to some of the prejudices of a numskull portion of their readership. The Daily Scum Mail used much the same tactics in their coverage of the story. The Beeb - which signed a three hundred million pound five-year deal to air motor racing in 2009 - is 'desperate to save the high-brow channel,' claims the Sun. Perhaps significantly, there's been no confirmation from anyone within the BBC that this is so. 'At almost three million pounds a race, the BBC's coverage of F1 costs more each hour than the most expensive dramas like the lavish Cranford and Doctor Who. The yearly cost of covering F1 is more than the entire budget for BBC4 which has won critical acclaim for its biopics of Enid Blyton, Hattie Jacques, Kenneth Williams and Margot Fonteyn,' writes the Scum Mail.
A slightly - but only slightly - less sensationalist report by The Sunday Times claims that the BBC is looking to drop its coverage of Formula 1 in the UK from 2013. According to the report, 'sources in the organisation' said that the sixty million pounds the BBC spends on broadcasting the sport each year could go towards keeping one of its digital channel, BBC4, on air. However, this is not the first time that dropping F1 has been mentioned as a way for the BBC to cope with the freeze in licence fees until 2017, with the Gruniad publishing a similar story in March. 'It has emerged that F1 costs one pound a head for every viewer, compared with the average seven pence an hour broadcast cost for BBC1 and BBC2,' The Sunday Times said. 'Apart from the British Grand Prix, most races attract only between two and four million viewers.' Yet these statistics appear to be open to interpretation as GPUpdate recently reported that the Monaco and Spanish Grands Prix both had fifteen-minute peak audience figures of over six million on the BBC. Plus, Formula 1 Teams Association chairman and McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said the story undersold the value of F1 to the BBC. 'Formula 1 insiders have been surprised by the recent newspaper reports, since they contain significant statistical inaccuracies,' Whitmarsh told the Daily Torygraph. 'The reality is that the Formula 1 viewing figures in the UK are high and getting higher.' In terms of average viewership, peak viewership and average share of viewership – the three key indices for TV executives – more people are watching Formula 1 this year than last. For example, the average share of viewership for the BBC's coverage of the recent Chinese Grand Prix, which Lewis Hamilton won, was more than fifty per cent. The TV viewing figures for other recent Grands Prix have been massively impressive too.' For as long as F1 has been broadcast in the UK, the sport has been on free-to-air and many of the teams sponsorship deals depend on the extra exposure that brings to the sport. Whitmarsh said that it would 'hit the teams hard' if the rights were bought by a subscription channel such as Murdoch's Sky. 'It's crucial to the commercial model of Formula 1 that TV coverage should remain free-to-air, and therefore universally accessible, and therefore widely consumed and enjoyed by large numbers of viewers – and the BBC delivers that in the UK. Moreover, besides the quantity of viewership, the quality of the BBC's coverage is consistently high too – which is just as important,' Whitmarsh continued. 'Also important is the demographic data – which shows that F1 is now attracting an increasing number of younger and female viewers, which is also very positive. Formula 1 is the pinnacle of world motorsport. As such, it's appropriate that the BBC should continue to cover it. I think it would be very sad, and most unwise, if the BBC were to disappoint so many millions of British sports fans by axeing it, and that's why I don't believe for a moment that they'd seriously consider doing such a thing.' Bernie Ecclestone has also spoken out against the fresh claims, telling The Times he will do his best to keep Formula 1 on the BBC. Ecclestone, works on behalf of CVC Capital Partners to manage F1's commercial rights. 'We want Formula 1 to stay free to viewers,' Ecclestone said. 'That is one hundred per cent. The BBC have done a great job for us and we like their shows and the people obviously like it because so many are watching. They did warn me that they were facing problems but, so far, nothing more has been said. I hope they want to keep us because it is such a success and I will do my best to keep Formula 1 on the BBC.'

Broadcasters and television networks in the US have snapped up twenty new drama projects from BBC Worldwide. The Los Angeles-based arm of BBC Worldwide, has been working on several projects developed specifically for a US audience, and has also been revamping series for the American market as it bids to fully crack Hollywood, according to the Financial Times. It has sold Criminal Justice, a New York-set adaptation of the BBC mini-series, to HBO - and Oscar-winning screenwriter Steven Zalian, the man behind the new Brad Pitt movie Moneyball, will write a ten-episode series with Richard Price. Jane Tranter, of BBC Worldwide Productions, told the FT she had changed the firm's focus to target scripted programming for US cable channels, as well as non-scripted series, such as Top Gear and Dancing with the Stars. She said: 'We thought that the best thing to do was to try and conquer cable. There's more editorial simpatico between the BBC and cable-scripted [programming] than there is with broadcast network [programming].' Last time I heard somebody using the word 'simpatico' it was a serial killer in Luther. is there anything you want to share with us, Jane?

Despite the expectations generated by the huge success of the film Avatar and the tens of millions invested by companies such as BSkyB, 3D TV will 'struggle' to take off and will not become part of mainstream viewing, according to a report. Last year one hundred and twenty five thousand UK households bought a 3D-ready TV set and almost ninety per cent of them were 'active' viewers of 3D shows, according to research from Informa Telecoms and Media. Such a high adoption rate is likely to have buoyed broadcaster expectations in the future potential of 3D TV – particularly for BSkyB, which has pushed the technology hard. In March the satellite broadcaster said it had shown more that one hundred sporting events including golf's Ryder Cup, darts and the Champions League, as well as more eclectic fare such as Sir David Attenborough's award-winning Flying Monsters, and the final of talent contest Got To Dance. But despite BSkyB's enthusiasm the report forecasts a patchy future for 3D TV. While the number of households in the UK with 3D TV sets will climb to almost eleven million by 2016 – about a third of the total number of homes – only forty two per cent are expected to actually use them to watch any 3D programming on a regular basis. '3D TV has the backing of the major UK broadcasters like Sky and Virgin, and most recently the BBC,' said Adam Thomas, senior analyst at IT&M. 'However despite this public reaction has been mixed, due to both a lack of content and a simple failure of the public to engage.' BSkyB is far ahead of rivals in the 3D market. It launched Europe's first 3D TV channel in October, while Virgin Media has argued that the technology is likely to be of limited interest to customers, possibly as an on-demand offering only. BSkyB has been providing the service free to Sky HD customers and IF&T says that 3D has been pushed as 'the next big thing' in mainstream TV viewing and a 'natural successor' to HD. Sky has had huge success with HD with 3.7m customers, close to forty per cent of the satellite company's total customer base, signing up. 'Instead of unique selling point, 3D is now often marketed as just one of the set's benefits along with features such as Internet-connection capability and LED backlighting,' said Thomas. However, if Sky can continue to dominate the 3D TV market then it will still be tapping significant revenues from the approximately 4.6m households expected to be 'regular' viewers of 3D content in 2016. Virgin offers 3D movies on demand to viewers with a compatible TV. The BBC is to make its first foray into 3D TV with its coverage of the men's and women's Wimbledon finals this year.

There's an excellent piece by Charlie Brooker in the Gruniad on the sentimentality attached to Television Centre: 'I was one of the howlers. TVC, as it is known, was opened in 1960, eleven years before I was born. Which means that for as long as I've been alive, it's been visually synonymous with "telly", continually looming in the background, providing refreshingly non-glamorous incidental scenery for everything from Swap Shop to Strictly Come Dancing. It made countless appearances in children's programmes, light entertainment extravaganzas and comedy shows, from Python to Partridge (even making it into the opening titles of A Bit of Fry and Laurie and Alexei Sayle's Stuff). The building is being sold to save money. But most of its value is purely symbolic. It's fair to say the vast majority of people working in television today will have at some point dreamed of working at TV Centre. Glaswegian comedy writer-performer Robert Florence (Burnistoun) wrote that telling an aspiring comedy writer that TV Centre won't be around any more is like telling a budding astronaut the moon has disappeared. Some of those who actually use the building on a daily basis have had all the sentimentality ground out of them: the building itself is a higgledy-piggledy, curving-corridored pain in the arse, they'll tell you. But for anyone who merely drops by on an irregular basis, each and every visit provides a palpable buzz. Ooh, you think to yourself, ooh. I'm fulfilling a childhood fantasy. And that excitement, that sense of history, makes you think about what you're doing in a slightly different way. Things change, of course. TV Centre has already changed. It's no longer exclusively the domain of the BBC, for one thing. Because it's so synonymous with the Beeb, it sometimes confuses people when they discover that its seven studios are routinely hired out for shows for other channels. For instance, when I was appearing on the first series of 10 O'Clock Live (Channel 4), I spent my Thursdays there; meanwhile, Harry Hill's TV Burp (ITV) was in the studio next door. At the end of the day, it's just a building. So why feel so pained about its sell-off?'

David Mitchell has expressed his support for Matt Lucas and David Walliams after a columnist wrote a piece attacking the pair for their show Little Britain. Sour-faced columnist Barbara Ellen (see left, looking particularly sour faced, it must be said) wrote an article in the Observer headlined 'Farewell and good riddance to Little Britain', in which she described the comedy as 'one of the most sneering, cold-hearted, nasty little shows ever seen on British TV.' Babs continued: 'Rewarding middle-class, educated, comedy workaholics for lampooning people without any of their advantages, struggling on the margins of society - was this where we'd come to, a boorish festival of exploitation and contempt?' Mitchell, who writes a weekly column in the same Sunday newspaper - usually full of his own trademark sneeringly cold-hearted attacks on something or other - wrote on Twitter: "I hate Barbara Ellen's attack on Matt Lucas and David Walliams. Spiteful and unfair about two properly funny men. I hope that doesn't make things awkward at the Observer Christmas party. Luckily, they never fucking throw one.' Or, if they do, they just don't invite you, mate. He later added to Peep Show writer Simon Blackwell: 'She clearly takes comedy very seriously.' Well, she used to write for the NME, David so, that's pretty much a given, I'd've said. For what it's worth, I actually agree more with Babs than I do with Mitch. I'm sure David and Matt are lovely chaps and all that, but I never really got what many people found so thigh-slappingly high-effing-larious about Little Britain. May be a failing of mine rather than theirs, I freely admit, and people whose opinions I greatly respect on the subject of what TV shows are good and what aren't, have tried to convince me of Little Britain's total and utter brilliance. But I always found it a rather crude comedy which appeared to me at any rate to be nowhere near as funny as it seemed to think it was. Meanwhile Sky1's new comedy panel show Wall of Fame hosted by Walliams debuted with an audience of just one hundred and forty thousand viewers - a hugely below par performance for the channel slot.

Channel Four has ordered a second, longer run of Beeny's Restoration Nightmare from Renegade Pictures. The six episode run will give an insight into property expert, Sarah Beeny's life, as she juggles her various commitments. And, regular pregnancies. The new series will continue to show Beeny and her husband Graham Swift restoring their ninety seven room mansion, Rise Hall, looking at its social and architectural history. The first three-part series also saw them tackling the challenge of restoring the Yorkshire mansion. Andrew Jackson and Katie Horswell from C4 features ordered the series which will be executive produced by Sue Davidson. Jackson said: 'The first series proved that Beeny fans loved seeing our Sarah putting her reputation on the line and the second series will be just as tough for her and Graham.'

The actor Brian Blessed has announced he will stand for the chancellorship of Cambridge University. He said he was 'thrilled' after a student Facebook campaign gained him enough nominations to stand against supermarket heir Lord Sainsbury. Local shopkeeper Abdul Arain is also running for the prestigious role, currently held by the Duke of Edinburgh, who is retiring. Arain said: 'I'm standing for the whole Cambridge community.' The election for chancellor is now a race rather than a straightforward handover. The university only has to nominate one official candidate and has already declared that to be Lord Sainsbury. Any other candidates must win fifty nominations from the university senate by 17 June. Blessed has secured his fifty nominations and has been confirmed as a candidate. The senate is made up of anyone who has an MA or higher degree from Cambridge. Seth Alexander Thevoz, who set up the Facebook campaign to get Blessed nominated, said: 'Cambridge can do much better for itself. The man, the myth, the legend that is the actor Brian Blessed would make an amazing chancellor. Picture him loudly reciting the Latin at graduation ceremonies and you have some idea of what a legend Brian would be.' After the group reached its target the accomplished mountaineer accepted the nomination. He said: 'For me, Cambridge has always been the centre of the earth, there is a brightness and light there that rivals that on Mount Everest. The whole setting is wonderful and enchants the soul.' His competition, Mr Arain, runs a grocery shop on Mill Road and is protesting at plans for a Sainsbury's to open on the same street. On 3 June he had forty nominations and was confident he would have the full fifty by 17 June to make the October election. Arain said: 'Cambridge should be an institution that nurtures the community as well as world-renowned educational values.' Whoever becomes chancellor will get a role for life as constitutional head of the university, advising on difficult issues and conferring honorary degrees at an annual ceremony.

BBC Scotland has poached Shine Television executive Natalie Humphreys to become its new head of specialist factual department. Reporting to BBC Scotland's head of factual Andrea Miller, Humphreys will be responsible for developing the broadcaster's slate of specialist factual programming. as her job title suggests. I mean, they were hardly going to put her in charge of sitcoms, were they? The corporation said that her appointment is 'a key element of the BBC's strategy to increase television production from national centres.' Humphreys joins from Shine TV, and her credits include various programmes for the BBC, including History Cold Case and Wonderstuff. She also helped develop How Does That Work? for Discovery and the ITV drama Wild At Heart. 'It's about being genre-defining and I'm looking forward to working with some exceptional talent both on and off screen,' Humphreys said. Celebrating her appointment, Miller commented: 'I am delighted that a programme maker of Natalie's reputation and experience, both in the UK and internationally, is joining our team. We've built up a very strong specialist factual unit in Scotland on BBC1 and 2 with shows like Food Factory, Men Of Rock and A History Of Scotland, and it is exciting to take this next step with Natalie leading further expansion.' BBC Scotland's chief creative officer Pat Younge added: 'Natalie is one of the most creative, inventive and skilled factual programme makers and her arrival is a significant vote of confidence for in-house production. I expect her energy and drive to have a real impact on the BBC's specialist factual slate in Scotland, and I'm delighted she's joining the team.' Humphreys will work alongside Andrew Cohen, head of the science unit at London factual, and Andrew Jackson, head of the natural history unit in Bristol.

And staying in Scotland, Ewan McGregor has spoken at the Edinburgh Film Festival about the joy of starring alongside his uncle in his latest film. The forty-year-old performed with Denis Lawson on SF drama, Perfect Sense. McGregor said of Local Hero star Lawson: 'I was always waiting for something really special to do with him and this came to fruition.' Eva Green, Ewen Bremner and Alistair Mackenzie also feature in the film directed by David Mackenzie. The movie, which had its European premiere at the festival, sees McGregor playing a chef who falls in love with a scientist played by Green as a global disease breaks out in which people begin to lose their five senses one-by-one. McGregor said: 'It's the first time I've acted with my uncle ever. I've been directed by him in a play in London and then we did a short film in Edinburgh called Solid Geometry and if he hadn't been an actor I'm sure I wouldn't have thought to be one. He has inspired me all my life and yet I've never acted with him and I was always waiting for something really special to do with him and this came to fruition and I was really really happy to do it. It was quite unusual and lovely to be playing scenes with him, after thirty nine years of waiting it felt very natural and easy, it was good.' McGregor told how he was drawn to the script and also wanted to work again with Mackenzie, who directed him in Young Adam. He said: 'I loved the story, I just thought the script was fantastic, a really strong story. It's an unusual story, a love story set against a very odd backdrop. I always felt reading it and certainly playing it that it was a hopeful film in an unusual way.' Green was not at the premiere of the movie, which was mainly shot in Glasgow. Lawson, who played Wedge in the original Star Wars films and Eddie Cass in Dead Head, said: 'Scotland is extraordinary as a location, the light is amazing, for instance on the west coast. Edinburgh is a phenomenal location for movies and should be used more. We shot this in Glasgow most of it, but Edinburgh is an incredible location, everywhere you look there's a great angle.'

With Cheryl Cole 'on a hiatus' after getting the old tin-tack from X Factor and Nadine Coyle hoping that we all forget about her Tesco fiasco, it's Ginger Aloud Nicola Roberts' turn to take up the two words which usually spell the beginning of the end for a group's popularity. 'Solo career.' The singer took to the T4 stage to give the first televised performance of her debut single 'Beat of My Drum' over the weekend. Wearing hot pants and what appeared to be a pink bin-bag on her head. Interesting image change, Nicola. Roberts has recently said she was 'desperate' to work with Kate Bush on her debut solo CD. The singer told the Digital Spy website that she told her record label to sound out the notoriously reclusive singer about a possible collaboration, but that it was unable to track Bush down. Probably because she'd gone into hiding at the very thought of such a thing.

The newspaper notorious for its sting operations has been the victim of a sting perpetrated on it. The News of the World was hoaxed into believing that a footballer had sent sexually explicit text messages to 'a mystery woman.' Under the headline Ex-Celtic keeper is a real glove rat, the paper claimed that he had been deceiving his pregnant fiancée by sending the - nameless - woman 'explicit X-rated messages' and 'sordid photos.' It published the story, about the Polish international player, Artur Boruc, in its Scottish edition in July last year. The story was wholly untrue. Boruc sued the paper for defamation and the case had been expected to go to trial. But the court of session in Edinburgh was told on Friday that the newspaper had now conceded that it was in the wrong. It had therefore agreed, in an out-of-court settlement, to apologise to Boruc and pay him seventy thousand pounds, which is believed to be a record amount in a Scottish libel case. The paper will also pay all of his legal expenses. According to the News of the World's barrister, Roddy Dunlop QC, the paper had been 'the victim of a highly complex deceit by one man.' The court was told the man, identified as Kevin O'Donnell, posed as Boruc's financial adviser and then wove a web of elaborate lies, with many interlinked strands which appeared to corroborate the story. He set up a fake Facebook page and added bogus comments purporting to come from Boruc's girlfriend. In one text image, he used a photoshopped picture of a man's torso in order to add a monkey tattoo, similar to one Boruc was known to have. The scam only unravelled when mobile phone records showed that the calls had been made from a Glasgow hotel at a time when Boruc - who now plays for the Italian team Fiorentina - was on holiday in Sardinia. Dunlop told the court that the defendants (News Group, the paper's publishers) 'accept that they were entirely taken in by this fraud' but he added: 'They were not reckless or irresponsible in the beliefs that they held.' Boruc's lawyer told the court that the allegations against his client had been 'extremely upsetting.' He said footballers 'outed for misbehaviour faced being pilloried by rival fans.' Moving on from the court report, and turning to the original published story, however one notes these two paragraphs: 'Last night a friend of the Hoops hero said: "This is not a good time for this to come out. Artur's been stupid." The pal, who asked not to be named, added: "He can't remember what he sent her but he should NEVER have done it."' In light of the paper's admission that the story itself was entirely untrue, these quotes - from Boruc's 'pal' would appear, therefore, to have been exposed as being concocted by the newspaper themselves. It illustrates, once again, just how difficult it is to believe anything one reads in the News of the World.

According to that bastion to trust and honest reportage the Sun, Imogen Thomas is set to 'move on from her affair with footie ace Ryan Giggs' by making a TV show 'about her hunt for a new fella.' What a class act, eh? That is, of course, if this report is true. Given that it's in the Sun, the sister paper of the News of the World (see above) I'll leave that one up to you, dear blog reader. Using a suspiciously familiar term, 'pals', the papers claim that friend of Thomas - 'who had a six-month fling with married Giggs' - has 'had several offers.' She is now in talks to make Imogen Finds A Husband, which will 'follow the former Big Brother beauty' as she 'gets her life back on track after the scandal - and looks for a new man.'

Australian-born comedian Barry Humphries, who is best known for his alter-ego Dame Edna Everage, is to join the cast of The Hobbit. Director Peter Jackson said on Facebook he was 'highly excited' the seventy seven-year-old actor would be playing the evil Goblin King. Jackson added the character would be created using motion capture technology, as Gollum was created for his Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy. The first of Jackson's two Hobbit films is due to be released in December 2012. 'Barry is perhaps best known for his business and social connections as the long-time manager of Dame Edna Everage,' Jackson lied. 'However, in his spare time, Barry is also a fine actor, and we're looking forward to seeing him invest the Goblin King with the delicate sensitivity and emotional depth this character deserves.' Jackson also announced that former Lost actress Evangeline Lilly has joined the cast as a new character - Tauriel, the Woodland Elf. 'Evangeline and Barry, along with Welsh actor Luke Evans as Bard and Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug, just about rounds out the major casting. I cannot wait to get stuck into these new scenes!' the director said. Actors reprising their Lord of the Rings roles include Sir Ian McKellen and Elijah Wood, who return as Gandalf and Frodo respectively. Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Sir Christopher Lee and Andy Serkis will all also return. Martin Freeman takes on the central role of Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. And, Stephen Fry will also appear in the movies although his role has not yet been confirmed.

The white dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch has sold for $4.6m at an auction in Los Angeles. The dress was part of a collection of film memorabilia collected by actress Debbie Reynolds over four decades. She had hoped to house them in a museum but the project never came to fruition. Other lots included Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra headdress, a Charlie Chaplin bowler hat and the guitar played by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. Reynolds, seventy nine, was in tears as the auction on the iconic Seven Year Itch dress closed, CNN reported. Auction house Profiles in History had expected it to reach around two million dollars. It was bought by an unidentified buyer bidding by telephone. A red sequined dress and feathered headdress worn for Monroe's role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes reached $1.47m and a saloon girl costume from River of No Return for five hundred and ten thousand dollars. Many of the items had been given to Reynolds by her close friend Dame Elizabeth Taylor, who died earlier this year. The horse racing outfit worn by Taylor as a child in National Velvet sold for seventy three thousand dollars. The trademark bowler hat worn by Charlie Chaplin in several films, including The Little Tramp, reached one hundred and thirty five thousand dollars while a dress and pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the filming of The Wizard of Oz sold for $1.75m despite not having appeared in the actual film. Keya Morgan, a collector of memorabilia and author of a book on Monroe, said the auction was 'totally crazy, especially in this recession.' She told CNN that Monroe would have been amazed to see her old outfits sell for so much. Reynolds began collecting props and costumes in 1970 and had amassed some three thousand five hundred items. Speaking before the auction, she said the cost of maintaining them had become too high and that by selling them 'I won't have quite so much responsibility and I can rest a little more.'

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day features what I think I'm right in saying was Hawkwind's only ever 'live in the studio, miming' appearance of British TV, from 1977 on Marc. (Yes, I know 'Silver Machine' featured on Top of the Pops but that was a specially made film of them playing live at Dunstable.) The miming aspect probably explains why Dave Brock is conspicuous by his absence from this performance although, at the time, it was blamed on his car breaking down on the way the studio. That's more than made up for, however, by good old mad-as-toast Bob Calvert with a stuffed falcon on his arm. Quark, strangeness and charm, indeed.

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