Sometimes Ralph Fiennes finds it hard to let go. He loved playing Charles Dickens so much in The Invisible Woman that he was reluctant to shave his beard off at the end. ‘I kept telling myself we might have to reshoot some scenes.
The day I’m to meet René Redzepi, he cooks a disastrous omelette live on the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. With remarkable good humour he blames the frying pan for its lack of non-stickiness. No matter. Redzepi can afford to make the odd mistake. For a start, it humanises the Danish superstar chef whose Copenhagen restaurant, Noma (a conflation of “Nordic” and “mad”), was voted Best Restaurant in the World by Restaurant magazine for an astonishing three years from 2010 to 2012.
It’s been some year for David Morrissey, who despite being as affable as they come off screen, excels on screen as brutal characters with a glimmer of vulnerability. This might explain his phenomenal success as the inscrutable Governor in the zombie apocalypse hit The Walking Dead. Afraid of nothing and no one, The Governor — who may or may not have been killed just before season four took its mid-season hiatus — slays humans as readily as zombies.
It’s nearly 2am on 24 July 1993 and Kurt Cobain is lying on my king-size bed in a tacky Manhattan hotel. His tiny frame takes up virtually no space. He has discarded the disintegrating black and red jumper he wore on stage earlier at a “secret” gig at Roseland and now, freshly showered, is wearing a white T-shirt, ripped jeans and Converse decorated in graffiti. His red nail varnish is badly chipped. His dirty blonde hair is damp and frames his unexpectedly beautiful face. He is half watching the muted TV which is showing back-to-back episodes of Beavis & Butt-head; their meat-head stoner behaviour reminds him of the people he grew up with in Aberdeen, Washington State.
George Pelecanos novels come with the same Stephen King quote emblazoned on their covers year after year: “Perhaps the greatest living crime writer”. Tease Pelecanos about this and he will assert, in his unhurried Southern-tinged growl, “He said, ‘perhaps’.” There is no doubt, however, that the Washington DC-born author is one of the most able chroniclers of urban America. This we know not only from his 19 novels, but also from his work as a writer, producer and story editor on The Wire.
I am waiting in the lobby of central London’s Langham Hotel when I spot Chiwetel Ejiofor trying to negotiate his way through the revolving doors. Apparently unsure whether he’s coming or going, he goes round, then round again. I find myself shouting his name across the room and, finally, he hears me. He’s smiling broadly but clearly dazed after yet another full promotional day for 12 Years a Slave.
In David Attenborough’s New Year’s Day extravaganza, Natural History Museum Alive, there’s a scene in which he’s stalked down the silent corridors of the Kensington depository by the skeleton of a long-extinct sabre-toothed cat called the smiladon, while in another he watches the biggest snake you’ve never seen slither around. The new film is a clever mash-up of Night at the Museum and Jurassic Park, using special effects to bring to life some of the ancient creatures that once roamed our planet.
Many great men have been floored by Christopher Walken. Take Sean Penn, who worked with him on the 1986 film At Close Range and who doesn’t appear to be a man who’s easily impressed. A decade ago he told The New York Times, “Chris is like a poem. Trying to define him is like trying to define a cloud.”
In August this year, Variety, the American trade entertainment magazine, ran two features with dramatic headlines. The first appeared alarmist: ‘LA mayor declares state of emergency as movie and TV production flees Hollywood’. Until, that is, the second popped up. Illustrated with an image of Darth Vader set against a Union Jack background were the words that would please any geek this side of the Atlantic: ‘Star Wars deal marks latest coup for the UK’.