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George Clooney to get some face time on ‘Downton Abbey’ – well, sort of

September 12, 2014

Ellie Walker-Arnott of Radio Times reports today of what seems to be turning out to be closer to fact than fiction concerning that little British period drama we all know as Downton Abbey.

The definite ‘fact’ part of equation which everyone confirms is that George Clooney visited Highclere Castle back in May of this year supposedly scoping out venues for his upcoming wedding. The ‘rumor, but doubtful it is fact’ part of the equation has it that the American actor will actually rub elbows with the Crawley family on the forthcoming season of Downton Abbey. Initial reports had Clooney playing an American guest at a wedding which is taking place at the Abbey. According to sources close to the show, Clooney’s appearance “is the biggest moment in Downton history and shows it’s now the biggest drama in the world.

In reality, however, what looks to be a more accurate account of the couple’s trip to Highclere was that Clooney was there to make a special-guest appearance in a Downton Abbey-themed sketch that will appear during the overseas charity telethon, Text Santa, which will air in the U.K. around the holidays. So, erase that thought of the possibility of a George Clooney attempt to sweep Lady Mary off her feet right under the nose of Lord Grantham and Lady Cora.

While both America and Ellie Walker-Arnott of Radio Times may be ready to see the likes of Meryl Streep playing a no-nonsense Nonnatus House nun in Call the Midwife, or Angelina Jolie playing Sherlock‘s next nemesis, or even Jennifer Lawrence taking off with the Tardis in Doctor Who, I’m not sure how I feel about the possibility of George Clooney making a cameo appearance on Downton Abbey. Probably about the same as when I heard several series back that there was a chance that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were fans of the series and would entertain an opportunity to appear should something materialize. I know that we’ve seen the likes of Shirley MacLaine and Paul Giamatti for more lengthy roles playing the crazy Americans cousins, etc. but having someone the magnitude of George Clooney seems a bit jump-the-shark to me. Thankfully, it looks like it’s just a rumor…for now.

The Dowager Countess schools Isobel Crawley in the concept of ‘what men want’

September 11, 2014

As Downton Abbey Nation inches ever so close to the 21 September premiere on ITV, nothing but video greatness is coming out of the ITV Press Centre to promote the forthcoming series 5 premiere. We’ve already seen the potential of there being ‘trouble in River City’ (or Downton) with our first teaser where Mr. Carson ‘feels a shaking of the ground he is standing on’, Lady Edith proclaims ‘the world is changing’, Daisy finally realizes she just can’t follow orders for the rest of her life and it looks like while Downton is burning, Mr. Carson refuses to believe that the house in which he lives is catching up to the times they live in.

Next up is classic Dowager Countess in what will certainly go into the next installment of The “stuff” the Dowager Countess says. Here, Violet shares what looks to be a teachable moment with Isobel Crawley. She may not know “what at weekend is” but she certainly knows “what men want”.

As if the dates aren’t already circled in red on your calendars, Downton Abbey returns to ITV on Sunday, 21 September at 9p and then Sunday, January 4, 2015 on PBS in the States.

Downton Abbey’s Mrs. Hughes headed upstairs to guest star on ‘Bones’

September 10, 2014

Downton Abbey's Phyllis Logan to guest star on BonesAs has been the case since day one of Downton Abbey, the cast does their best to live up to the label of ‘hardest working group in show business’. Let’s just say they don’t idly sit by waiting for filming of the next series to begin. Many head to the West End for a little theater work, Hugh Bonneville has been know to head over to the BBC Light Entertainment department to film the likes of Twenty Twelve and W1A, others, both upstairs and downstairs, taking parts in other drama series for either the BBC or ITV and, if schedules match up, Elizabeth McGovern (Lady Cora) sings and plays guitar in her own band “Sadie and the Hotheads”. Penelope Wilton (Isobel Crawley) and the Dowager Countess herself, Maggie Smith, found time to film both the original and the sequel of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in their spare time. In recent memory, however, a number of the stars of Downton Abbey have begun passing the time when filming for the series is shut down (between the end of August and the beginning of March) by heading across the pond to try their hand at American television. A couple of years ago, Lesley Nichol (Mrs. Patmore) was a guest star on Fox’s Raising Hope.

Now it’s time for Mrs. Hughes to break away from the clutches of Mr. Carson, if just for a brief moment. Phyllis Logan, a.k.a. Downton Abbey‘s head housekeeper, will play a millionaire in an upcoming episode of Fox’s long-running hit series, Bones. According to Bones executive producer, Stephen Nathan, Logan’s character, Sandra Zins, “…is a wealthy woman whose housekeeper has been murdered. Her attempts to help are revealed to be a cover for something much darker.

Bones returns Thursday, September 25 at 8:00pmET/7:00pmCT on Fox with Phyllis Logan set to appear in the tenth season’s sixth episode slated to air in early November.

Avengers’ Loki takes to the stage to prepare for Hank Williams biopic

September 9, 2014

As we reported earlier, Tom Hiddleston (Thor, Avengers) will be lending his monster acting and, now, singing talents to the upcoming film, I Saw The Light. While Hiddleston is no stranger to belting out tunes, his role as the ‘King of the Hillbillies’ may be a bit of a challenge as he will not only have to bring with him a believable Alabama accent, but delve into the personal life of the star who, in his short 29 years of life, gained worldwide recognition for his “pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force” and ended by being enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In preparation for his upcoming role, Hiddleston took to the stage this past weekend at the Wheatland Music Festival to sing “Move It On Over”, Williams’ first major country hit in 1947. A tip of the hat to kzookev for the video from the crowd.

One of the major country music stars of the late 1940s and early 1950s, with eight No 1 country singles to his name, Williams died on New Year’s Day in 1953, a victim of his alcoholism and drug abuse. Based on the Colin Escott biography of Hank’s life, I Saw the Light is due to start filming in Louisiana next month. Don’t know about you but I can’t wait to hear Tom sing “Your Cheatin’ Heart”, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “Hey Good Lookin’”!

Will the dreaded street sign ruin this historic film location?

September 8, 2014

Michael Wilkinson from the Telegraph has uncovered some bad things happening in the sleepily little town of Corsham in Wiltshire. The famous High Street in Corsham was recently home to the forthcoming BBC re-boot of Poldark, starring Aidan Turner. In addition to its most recent transformation as 18th century Truro in Poldark, the Corsham High Street has been used to film the ITV Victorian drama, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, and the 1993 film The Remains of the Day, starring Anthony Hopkins.
Corsham's High Street transformed for Poldark

What has enamored filmmakers for some 20+ years is the street has remained almost unchanged since the 1800′s making it quite attractive given the great expense and effort it takes to transform streets today for a period drama. Enter the 21st century. Furious residents say that the historic street has been ‘blighted by a swathe of unnecessary new road signs’ erected by the town council. The new signs, which proclaim ‘No vehicles’ and ‘Cyclists dismount’ have triggered a 200-strong petition calling for them to be removed immediately to restore the street to its 18th century glory.
Local activist Nicholas Keysworth  and the offending sign in Corsham

In particular, Nicholas Keyworth, a former town councillor and local activist, said: “I, like so many others, am appalled by the new signs. They are totally inappropriate in scale and design in a small historic market town like Corsham“. In response, a Wiltshire Council spokesperson said: “The local community asked us to improve safety for pedestrians as cyclists and motor vehicles were going through the pedestrian areas potentially causing an accident. We listened to these concerns and worked with the town council and local community on the solution to have signs reminding cyclists to dismount and prevent illegal use of cars in the pedestrianised area. The cyclist signs have been placed on planters which means they can be moved out of the way for events or historic filming.

Street sign or no street sign, Poldark is headed to the small screen in 2015 on BBC One and PBS. After seeing the behind-the-scenes video below, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Seems like a sign that says ‘No vehicles’ fits right in, doesn’t it?

Behind the scenes with Ben Miller on the set of Doctor Who “Robot of Sherwood”

September 7, 2014

Last night’s “Robot of Sherwood” episode of Doctor Who was brilliant. One of the best in recent memory. Writer Mark Gatiss told Entertainment Weekly that he was determined not to do a “drab Robin Hood”. “I find it so depressing when people try to make it realistic. Robin Hood is a great fairytale and that’s what we tried to do with this.” Having watched now a second time, I think he succeeded.

It’s 11 March 2014 and Ben Miller (Worst Week of My Life, Primeval, Death in Paradise) finds himself on the receiving end of a very cryptic phone call from his agent while warming up on stage at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. “Can you ride a horse?“, Miller’s agent was asking? When the agents answer to Miller’s mildly flip retort of “Who wants to know?” was “Doctor Who“, Miller proceeded to act like he was born on a horse. It seems that Miller’s childhood fascination with The Doctor rivals only that of the current Doctor, Peter Capaldi. Returning to his dressing room, the awaiting email expressed an interest in Miller playing the Sheriff of Nottingham with an attachment that read, “Robot of Sherwood by Mark Gatiss.”
Ben Miller as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Doctor Who

From that fateful day, Miller’s diary from his first reading of the script to the final day of shooting on 1 May reads like every kids dream. For the full diary, courtesy of Ben Miller and Radio Times, click here. A few brief highlights…

  • 11 March – Tom Baker was my first idol, and the show gave me a fascination with time travel that inspired me to study physics. I lock my dressing-room door and sit down to read…
  • 14 March – Landing a part is like trying to join MI5, only with tighter security.
  • 16 March – During an in-depth discussion about my character what I really want to ask is, “Will the Master be coming back?
  • 7 April – Shout it from the rooftops: tomorrow I have my first day’s filming on Doctor Who
  • 8 April – I bump into Peter Capaldi, who is filming a different episode. “I’m like a kid in a sweet shop,” says Peter, grinning. “I was meant to have a day off yesterday, but I saw they were shooting a fight with the Daleks, so I came in anyway. Couldn’t miss that, could I?”
  • 9 April – Swordfight rehearsal. A little humbling. Tom Riley from Da Vinci’s Demons is playing Robin Hood. He is a master of the blade. When I wield my sword I look more like a painter and decorator trying to get some wallpaper up in a hurry.
  • 1 May – My last-scene-but-one is my swordfight with Tom Riley. What I hadn’t quite counted on was the fact that we rehearsed with wooden swords, but the ones we are shooting with today are very, very metal. After some particularly inept clanging on my part I end up making a new joint in Tom Riley’s thumb. He is far too polite to say anything, but when we say our goodbyes I can’t help noticing he shakes my hand with his elbow.

Before I watch for the third time, take a look at this Doctor Who Extra on the making of “Robot of Sherwood” and let us know what you think!


‘Mr. Selfridge’ adds (and subtracts) cast for series 3

September 6, 2014

As Planet Earth awaits the excruciatingly long-overdue return of Downton Abbey, lets not forget what’s on the horizon in early 2015 with the return of Mr. Selfridge, starring Jeremy Piven as Harry Gordon Selfridge, the man who changed the face retail by laying the groundwork for what we know today. Zoë Wanamaker, Kara Tointon, Hannah Tointon and Leon Ockenden have joined the cast of Mr Selfridge for its third series which is penciled in for transmission on both ITV and PBS for early 2015.
Jeremy Piven stars as Harry Gordon Selfridge in series 3 of Mr. Selfridge

The third series will pick up the story in 1919 just after the end of the first World War with the first episode opening with the joyous occasion of a wedding as Harry’s eldest daughter, Rosalie, marries Princess Marie’s son, Serge. Wanamaker (My Family, Harry Potter, Agatha Christie’s Poirot), will play the trouble-making Russian Princess, Marie de Bolotoff, with Serge being played by Waterloo Road actor Leon Ockenden. Rosalie will be played by former EastEnders actress Kara Tointon, while her real-life sister, former Hollyoaks star Hannah Tointon, will play her rebellious younger sister Violette marking the first time the sisters have ever appeared together on screen. Former Coronation Street actress Sacha Parkinson has also joined the cast as Kitty Hawkins’ ambitious younger sister, while Kelly Adams (Hustle, Bluestone 42 will play Harry’s new love interest, Nancy Webb.

As with the previous two series, filming is taking place on location in Greater London with a lavish replica of the 1909 Selfridge’s shop floor being recreated in a former carpet warehouse. The exterior of the store will, again, be filmed in the historic Dockyard Chatham in Kent. With all the cast additions for series 3, the forthcoming series will not include Frances O’Conner, who played Rose Selfridge, Harry’s wife. “Historically she wouldn’t have made it to the third series,” O’Connor told Digital Spy. The real Rose Selfridge died in 1918 while the third series takes place beginning in 1919.
Actress Frances O'Conner as Rose Selfridge

Kate Lewis, executive producer for ITV Studios gave a hint as to what will be in store for viewers next season saying: “We have some surprises in store for an audience in this third series. You only have to walk down Oxford St today to know that Selfridges Department Store continued to be successful, but for its founder, Harry Selfridge, things were very different. His story was a roller coaster ride that ended rather tragically. We pick up Series 3 in 1919, the point at which his life really begins to unravel.

Look for Mr. Selfridge to return to ITV in early 2015 and March 29, 2015 as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series in America.

Miss Fisher’s Essie Davis can’t get rid of ‘The Babadook’

September 5, 2014

As if I hadn’t already placed Australian actress Essie Davis on a pedestal awhile back after our brief Q&A preceding the premiere of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, along comes what could perhaps be the best horror flick to come out since William Friedkin’s The Exorcist back in 1973. If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook! For Essie Davis fans, The Babadook is definitely not your father’s Miss Fisher.
Essie Davis in The Babadook

Essie Davis (a.k.a. Miss Phryne Fisher) plays single mother Amelia, a caretaker to the elderly, who lives in an Australian town in a ramshackle, spooky house with her six year-old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Her husband Oskar died six years earlier, in a car accident, on the day his son was born. When a children’s book turns up, introducing the monster The Babadook, Samuel is scared- the monster is said to enter a house when invited, knocking on the door three timesand calling “dook-dook-dook!”, and never leaves.

The film, which plays to everyone’s childhood fear of the boogeyman and are scarily documented in a children’s book Mister Babadook which mysteriously appears in Amelia and Samuel’s lives, has received stellar reviews ever since its January 2014 premiere at Sundance including Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Indiewire. It has won eight international film awards out to ten nominations and has been released in both Australia and France so far. The film is set for a 24 October premiere in the UK and a November 28 premiere in the U.S.

Looks like it’s time to sleep with the light on beginning November 29.

‘Scott & Bailey’ to make Manchester streets safe again beginning Sept 10

September 4, 2014

It’s hard to believe that, after only three series, Scott & Bailey was one of the early adopters of the concept of featuring strong female police officers. The series was pretty much the lone-wolf on the telly when it came to showcasing strong female characters in roles that were more complicated and had substance. It now seems to be much more commonplace given the recent performances of Keeley Hawes and Vicky McClure in Line of Duty, Gillian Anderson in The Fall and Sarah Lancashire in Happy Valley. Based on an original idea by Suranne Jones and Sally Lindsay, who plays Rachel’s sister Alison in the drama, Scott & Bailey follows two female detectives who are part of the Major Incident Team (i.e. murder investigation, etc.) in Manchester.

Jones and Lesley Sharp will reprise their roles as Rachel Bailey and Janet Scott in series 4 with the always brilliant Amelia Bullmore not only returning as DCI Gill Murray but, given co-creator Sally Wainwright’s increased workload (Last Tango in Halifax, Happy Valley), will also take over lead writer duties for series four. Bullmore admits to having taken a deep intake of breath when she watched series one of Wainwright’s other creation, Happy Valley.

I watched it and thought, ‘God, look at that! Are we just sort of trotting around the car park here with Scott & Bailey?’” says Bullmore. “It was so intense and extreme. It was like Mummy suddenly had a Latin lover! But you have to hold your nerve. They are very different shows and Sally Wainwright made some really sound choices when she gave birth to Scott & Bailey all those years ago. So you just have to hang on to your hat.

While cast and crew remain tight-lipped about what will transpire following the rocky end to series 3 and the relationship between the two main characters, Sharp did reveal that while her character Janet Scott will be in competition with colleague Rachel Bailey (Suranne Jones) for a sergeant’s post, “…the competitiveness will not lead to a fresh bust-up”. Scott & Bailey returns on Wednesday, September 10 at 9:00pm on ITV. The series will return in early 2015 on public television stations in the States.

A first look at Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘The Imitation Game’.

September 3, 2014

THE IMITATION GAME with Benedict Cumberbatch staring as Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII, is set to hit theaters in both the US and the UK this November. Following WWII, Turing went on to assist with the development of computers at the University of Manchester after the war, but was prosecuted by the UK government in 1952 for homosexual acts which the country deemed illegal at the time.

The film, which also stars Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, the English cryptanalyst who also worked as a code-breaker at Bletchley Park during World War II, takes a close-up look at the race against time by Turing and his team of code-breakers at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) known as Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. The ‘team of code-breakers’ were comprised of a motley group of scholars, mathematicians, linguists, chess champions and intelligence officers with a powerful ally in Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It was Churchill who authorized the provision of any resource they required.

The film spans the key periods of Turing’s life: his unhappy teenage years at boarding school; the triumph of his secret wartime work on the revolutionary electro-mechanical bombe that was capable of breaking 3,000 Enigma-generated naval codes a day; and the tragedy of his post-war decline following his conviction for gross indecency, a now-outdated criminal offence stemming from his admission of maintaining a homosexual relationship.

In 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way he was treated” and, on 24 December, 2013, The Queen granted him a posthumous pardon.