Tag Archives: Dennis Pennis

#11: Absolutely positively the very last Cannes diary extract from 1997. In which Mike Leigh is a “patronising twat”

26 Jul
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I found myself lunching with Alan Parker, fresh from directing Madonna in Evita

Cannes, Monday May 12, 1997. Having called a halt to post-party drinking at the Petit Carlton last night at 4.30am, I woke up just in time to get to the Polygram lunch at the posh Carlton at 12.30. I introduced myself to legend-in-his-own-lunchtime Baz Bamigboye from The Daily Mail, about whom everyone here has a story to tell.

I told Baz the one I’d heard about him crawling for hours through bushes to get into a closed set, and finally getting caught by a security guard at which Baz says, “It’s okay, I’m a security guard too.” The guy replies – this is in America, mind – “No you’re not, you’re Baz Bamigboye. Now f**k off.”

Jonathan Pryce was there, but having seen his ground-breaking Hamlet when I was 13, where he was both Hamlet and, in a voice ripped from somewhere deep inside of him, the ghost of his father, I was too awed to say hi. Geoff Andrew is an old hand at these things, and told me he’d work out the best table to sit at for lunch. Accordingly he latched onto veteran BBC film critic Barry Norman – a good plan, since host Stewart Till turned out to be sat next to him, and the Guest of Honour, Alan Parker, turned out to be the man whose Reserved notice we shoved one along to make way for Geoff and me.

The director of Midnight Express and Fame was never high on Time Out film critics’ list of beloved auteurs, and his appointment as head the BFI was proving controversial, so I introduced myself as “editor of your least favourite magazine”, and we got on famously. Parker looks completely square, block-headed, compact, like a human battering ram; younger and healthier than I expected, especially after surfacing from filming Evita with Madonna; amusing, articulate and definitely not suffering fools gladly. He was particularly undiplomatic about Mike Leigh, whom he called a “patronising twat” – Parker had offered him the cash to make two films, only to find Leigh taking the piss out of his accent later.

I also asked Barry Norman what he thought of Dennis Pennis, who asks embarrassing questions of stars on the red carpet by pretending to be a “proper” BBC interviewer, which I imagine makes life hard for the real arts journos. Barry said he saw him chased by some bodyguards last year after some prank and all but shouted out “Yes! Get him!”

After which, my time in Cannes was nearly up. I just had time to look in on the New Producers’ Alliance party on the way to the station, carrying my bags with me, but for the first time fell foul of Cannes accreditation bureaucracy. Instead I found a BFI party at the British Pavilion to spend my final hour with. And then, too soon, it was time to go. Will I ever make it back here?

Little did I know that, 15 years later, I’d be back with a short film of my own I had co-written, Colonel Badd: see here. My previous 1997 Cannes diary extracts start here.

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#10: Secret Cannes Diary of a Time Out Editor, Aged 33¼. Spice Girls v James Woods!

25 Jul
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Spice 1997: the Spice Girls bring girl power to a Cannes rooftop

I have finally been reunited with my Cannes diary from 1997, so I can at last continue with my extracts. (You can read the first 1997 extract here.) Is it just me, or was life more colourful back then? 🙂

Cannes, Sunday May 11, 1997: Jon Ronson [with whom I was staying while he wrote gags for Dennis Pennis, see past 1997 Cannes diaries] went to cover the press conference for Spice World this morning. I didn’t bother, but I did see the Spice Girls posing on a roof above the Croisette, the tarty little troopers, Geri Halliwell at one stage running right across it ostensibly to blow someone a kiss, but really just to make her breasts jiggle up and down; Victoria competing by showing more cleavage than the norm but looking as vacant as ever. (I love the story of Frank Skinner impersonating her by looking completely blank from different angles for a good two minutes, as the laughter built.) Each Cannes needs a starlet, and this year it’s our Spices.

Which reminds me: Emma from Electric was furious last night at Demi Moore’s upstaging antics: she rushed into Woody Harrelson’s car at the lights and went up the red carpet with him and tried to deflect the snappers’ bulbs on to her, which apparently just isn’t done my dear, all because she hadn’t got quite enough attention for her own film a couple of nights back.

I bumped into two people I had previously met at the peculiar 18 Awards which I judged at the Savoy, where they literally pushed my partner off the dancefloor in order to snap me with two nude body-painted showgirls – made me sympathise with set-up Tory MPs. The first was Nigel Wingrove, head of Redemption Films and director of Visions of Ecstasy which is the only film to have been banned on grounds of blasphemy; the second was Mark Deitch, programming director for cable channel Bravo, who waxed irate about censorship laws. The BBC is governed by the BBFC, whereas other channels are by the arcane and loosely worded code of the ITC – meaning that films shown uncut on the Beeb such as Day of the Dead can’t be shown on Bravo, which is arguably a cultier audience more likely to know they are getting transgressive material.

That evening I met up with Jon and Bugs actress Jaye Griffiths at the Soho House boat, chatted to Nigel Floyd finally, and headed off a beach party, which we weren’t kicked out of till 2.30am. Metrodome’s Tony Kirkhope apologised to me for trying to pour his G&T into my trousers at the London Film Festival party last year – I’d seen the mischievous glint in his eye and jumped back just in time. He claims to be sober now, and looked miserable. [Foot-note: he sadly died in his sleep a few weeks later, at just 47 years old.]

The best thing by far about the party was seeing livewire actor James Woods, a great hero of mine: shorter, fatter, older in real life, but Jesus! What a great dancer! He was with this preposterous bimbo woman, to whom he’d apparently just got engaged that afternoon. She was so straight and brittle you felt she’d break if anyone put their hand around her wasp-waist, a plastic face under blonde hair, and there was a great to-do over a purse she thought was stolen. She had PR Annabel rushing all over the place looking for it until eventually she saw the woman with it after all: “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, not very apologetically, “I should probably have told you. I found it already.”

“I’m sorry,” I mimicked to PR Tina, “I should have told you, I found it was lodged up my ass all this time…”

For my 2013 Cannes blogs, click here. Final 1997 extract is here.

#8: Secret Cannes diary of a Time Out Editor, aged 33¼

24 May
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Continuing the extracts from my Cannes diary from 1997. This time: partying on the Soho House boat with a young Anna Friel, Sadie Frost, Jude Law, David Thewlis…
May 10. Woke up at 9, or so I thought — my watch had stopped, and it turned out to be 12.30. Started off feeling terrible, then thought hey! It’s Cannes! And the sun is shining! And immediately became annoyingly cheerful.Forced down some bread and pate, then watched Jon and Paul (Ronson and Kaye, see previous blog) rehearse the new character Jon’s been writing for him. I giggled in the kitchen, even though I’d heard the jokes before; Paul’s delivery brought them to life.

Nothing planned till 5.30, so spent much of the afternoon wandering up the Croisette, where the crowds prevent you moving any faster than a zombie, and overheard a smart French woman tourist say, “Oh, mais il n’y a même pas des starlets nues.” Bought a phonecard and phoned Jonathan Rutter of DDA to beg tix for a party the next evening, which he said he was giving to only three people, Jon and I being two, then off to join the Young British Talent.

Normally you can’t get into the colossal Palais des Festivals without an accredited pass. Bureaucracy is such that I had prepared a speech in French for when I was inevitably  refused entry despite having a printed invitation to the roof-top reception, but no problems. There are gorgeous views from up there, and the view improved even more when the Brits arrived.

They’d all been styled in designer gear, and looked stunning: Joely Richardson in a ’30s-looking, calf-length shimmery dress; Sadie Frost with little horns, a tattoo, and killer blue eyes (and later in bare feet); Anna Friel (above) thin and poised in a black dress with plunging back, behaving like a naughty schoolgirl during the speech and making signs to Sadie; Catherine McCormack in Doc Marten’s beneath her dress; and then the boys — Rufus Sewell, Jude Law, Jon’s friend James Frayn — all dressed to kill in Paul Smith tuxes and exuding a raffish charm.

I introduced myself to Anna Friel and thanked her for being kind to Brian Case (Time Out‘s legendary Senior Editor) when he went on location recently for Landgirls. Brian had told me he was worried that his drinker’s reputation had preceded him, because Anna always seemed to have a bottle of wine to offer, even in the morning; but she said that’s just what she always did, with a deliberately insouciant air that shouted “See? I may come from the soaps but I’m a bad girl, really!”

Jon turned up late, and still gloomy, having a Bad Birthday. He introduced me to ??, head of MTV, who had produced his Jon Ronson Mission, and cheered up  when I told him the young stars were all off to dinner at the Soho House boat — so we could mosey along and somehow inveigle our way in…. which we did.

Barry Norman (the BBC film critic) was standing proud on the top deck, gazing into the distance like an Admiral, very much in command and in his element. We ligged into the bar area for free champagne and Sea Breezes, where Jon had two coups and two foot-in-mouths.

Catherine McCormack was effusive in her praise of Jon’s Omar documentary (earlier he’d said his great ambition was to meet Mike Leigh, but he was too frightened he’d snub him. I had joked that he’d probably say “Jon Ronson! I’m a great admirer of your films…”). This delighted him, though he spoilt the warm glow by saying to her, in the end, “So what do you do?” Oops. Mind you, I hadn’t realised she had starred in Braveheart, either.

Same with David Thewlis, who actually sought Jon out to praise him for his documentary; but when Jon started going on about meeting David’s ex-wife, and how he really liked her, it spolit the mood…

I meanwhile patched things up with Richard Jobson, who I worried might bear a grudge for a nasty Sideline in Time Out years back making fun of his dyslexia, which at the time made him furious. But no: he wanted to make a deal with Time Out to help out with his series of London movies [our News Editor Tony Thompson eventually co-produced with him], and sorted us out with VIP tix to the massive MTV party that night…

In the next episode, a fight breaks out at the MTV party… click here to read

#7: The Secret Cannes Diary of a Time Out Editor, aged 33¼

23 May
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I stayed in Cannes with Jon Ronson, who was then writing for Paul Kaye aka Dennis Pennis (above), terroriser to the stars

I’m back in England, but still blogging on the Cannes Film Festival. How? I found my diary from 1997, when as Editor of Time Out magazine I spent a wild long weekend in Cannes. This is the first extract, slightly edited for length…

May 9, 1997: Having arrived on the overnight sleeper train, I took it easy the first day at Cannes. Jon Ronson had kindly agreed to let me sleep on his floor. He had been a Time Out columnist, and now was being paid a fortune by the Standard to write a Cannes diary, as well as writing gags for TV menace Dennis Pennis, who would ask horrible trick questions of stars who were unaware at first that he wasn’t a “proper” BBC reporter. I met Jon for breakfast at 8am – he was up after a mostly sleepless night. The rest of his crew were asleep – Paul Kaye, better known to the TV-watching world as Dennis Pennis, was kipping late, having slept on the pavement to avoid waking up Jon’s flatmate who had pulled.

They had managed a heroic triumph in the small hours of morning, breaking through Michael Jackson’s notoriously tight security after 12 hours of trying, and “Dennis Pennis” managed to ask him two questions before they were bundled off: “Are you thinking of having any more children? Or are you worried about being arrested?” And: “Do you like 3T? Or do you prefer Boys2Men?”

After a lazy day, the evening started at the Majestic Hotel, where we were meeting Laura from Electric Pictures on the occasion of her birthday. Supposedly you can’t get in without accreditation, but I put on my power purple jacket and breezed through. The drinks were reassuringly expensive, 200 Francs for two Bloody Marys and a tomato juice – the latter for Boyd Farrow, Editor of Screen International and a dead ringer for Stanley Tucci, who had written the intro for the customarily invaluable Time Out guide to Cannes.

The next couple of hours were a chaos of people and escalating bar bills, plans going awry, people going off to dinner and never being seen again… Laura worried at mucking up all the arrangements, but it seems obvious to me that at Cannes, you just go with the flow.

Which Jon and I did, in pangs of hunger roundabout 9.30pm, to meet the Dennis Pennis mob in a tiny bar.

They were in a glum and savage mood, having waited to accost Charlie Sheen only to have him walk straight past them, early, while they were chatting. Paul Kaye is actually strikingly handsome in the flesh, with piercing blue eyes, an intelligent face and a nice smile – from zero to hero, as they say. Later, when he put on his heavy Pennis specs, he utterly transformed.

Geoff Andrew (Time Out Film Editor, now programmer of the BFI) turned up, having been sitting in the restaurant unnoticed with Jonathan Romney. Geoff’s been very helpful, writing me two sheets of telephone numbers and tips and maps before he left for Cannes.

We went off to party by the beach for Hanif Kureishi’s new film, leaving Paul Kaye to hit up Charlie Sheen later. It was a good do. I talked to Buena Vista supremo Daniel Battsek, and saw him for the first time look quite small and vulnerable when I witnessed a Big Swinging Dick competition straight out of Tom Wolfe.

A guy from UIP barged in on our conversation and started saying how the release dates of his new Bond film and Battsek’s Starship Troopers coincided, and he certainly wasn’t going to move, because if there was a war, he wasn’t the one going to get stomped over. “Real unzip your flies time,” said Daniel when he’d gone.

I found designer Pam Hogg on the beach, dressed in red rubber, yelling about “projectile pissing” at the top of her voice. The last time I saw her, she was bringing in pictures for our Weird Sex issue of herself naked and in chains… I shared a taxi with her once in a traffic jam after a radio interview, and we got on then, and we had a great chat now.

Danced with Laura from Electric to the Spice Girls and drank enough champagne to hurt my head. The beach was magical because of the lights from Cannes all around, the waves high and inviting. Jon disappeared to the Soho House boat with Paul Kaye, and I finally crashed out on Jon’s floor sometime around 3.30, waking occasionally in order to hurt in my head.

In the next episode, Anna Friel is naughty on a yacht while Sadie Frost wears devil horns: click here to read

Yes we Cannes! Colonel Badd posters up for film festival

19 Apr

Exciting news – x2! First, we now have some great-looking character posters for Colonel Badd, the short film I wrote about here. I loved Avengers Assemble, so it’s cool to be part of a terrifying team-up of scarifying supervillains. Every good story needs a strong hook, and in this one, I’m it (top left)! [Photography by Giulia Pizzi.]

Secondly, Colonel Badd has been accepted into the Short Film Corner at Cannes, and director Tony Errico (lower left) has been good enough to put me down for one of the precious Accreditations. So it looks all of a sudden like I’ll be going! If anyone knows anyone with a room/floor/couch available cheapish during the Festival, please email me. I’m a good cook, fun to have around, and fully house-trained.

Last time I went, I slept on Jon Ronson’s floor as he wrote gags for carrot-topped TV terror Dennis Pennis (aka Paul Kaye), partied on a yacht with the cream of young Brit talent such as Anna Friel and David Thewlis, danced in a beach marquee with James Woods, and lunched with Alan Parker and Barry Norman.

Then, I was Editor of Time Out. Now, I’m the lowest of the low on the film pecking order: the humble writer. Co-writer, even. But it will be fascinating to experience the other side of the festival – not the acme of international cinematic art, but the world’s biggest commercial movie fair.

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