The Mission: Impossible films are teeming with handy gadgets, from the famous masks and voice-changers to gloves that let you scale a Dubai skyscraper. Now, Tom Cruise has introduced the latest in Covid technology: two state-of-the-art robots that will patrol the set of Mission: Impossible 7. According to The Sun, Cruise paid “huge sums” for the robots. They will not only be an intimidating reminder to obey the Covid safety rules when filming resumes this week at Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, but can also administer on-the-spot tests to staff. A source on the film set said: “Tom is so serious about making sure the shoot isn’t shut down that he’s splashed out on these robots as he can’t be everywhere to ensure people are behaving themselves” They added: “The robots are really sophisticated and rather intimidating. It’s like the Terminator only not as violent.” Cruise has made his feelings about Covid safety extremely clear. His furious tirade, directed at crew members failing to social distance on the Mission: Impossible 7 set, became a viral sensation last month. The Hollywood megastar, clearly feeling the pressure of his own responsibility to the film industry, pointed out that getting movies back on track was “creating thousands of jobs”. Cruise has already spent serious money on ensuring the M:I franchise filming can continue, including £500,000 on an old cruise ship where cast and crew can isolate. It may seem extreme, but the shoot has run into problems before, with 12 people on set in Venice testing positive for Covid. That led to a crisis call between Cruise, director Christopher McQuarrie and Warner Brothers about how to keep the shoot afloat. Now, it seems like an almost impossible mission has been accepted - by our robot friends. Who knows: maybe they'll get a cameo in the next movie.
Anarchy, filth and fury will likely be exploding into living rooms around the world after it was announced this afternoon that Trainspotting filmmaker Danny Boyle will direct a six-part TV biopic about punk rockers the Sex Pistols. Pistol will be based on guitarist Steve Jones’s no-holds-barred 2016 autobiography Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol. Production will start in March with a cast including Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams. The film will focus on Jones’s early years and how the punk subculture caused both moral outrage and a fashion revolution in the buttoned-up London of the mid-1970s. “Imagine breaking into the world of The Crown and Downton Abbey with your mates and screaming your songs and your fury at all they represent,” Boyle said. “This is the moment that British society and culture changed forever. It is the detonation point for British high-street culture.” Pistol will star a host of young up-and-coming actors in the lead roles. Toby Wallace, who starred in last year’s coming-of-age film Babyteeth, will play Jones, 1917’s Anson Boon will portray singer John Lydon, while doomed bassist Sid Vicious will be played by Enola Holmes actor Louis Partridge. Fabien Frankel, who can currently be seen as naive French traveller Dominique Renelleau in BBC’s The Serpent, will play original bassist Glen Matlock, while Williams will play punk icon and early Pistols associate Jordan. It is unknown who’ll star as Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, the boutique owners who helped steer the band to success. Pistol will be made by FX Productions, the company behind A Teacher. No release date has been given and it is unclear which channel or platform the show will run on, although FX has an ongoing relationship with the BBC.
The tragi-comic saga of Tanya Roberts's death this week was a less-than-dignified exit for the former Bond star. After collapsing on Christmas Eve, it was announced on Monday that she’d died in a Los Angeles hospital, aged 65. There were reports across the press, and memories of her best-remembered roles: as Julie Rogers in Charlie’s Angels; in the cult fantasy The Beastmaster; and, of course, opposite Roger Moore in A View to a Kill. Later that day, Roberts’ publicist Mike Pingel – who had announced Roberts’ death and even sent out a press release – retracted the announcement. Tanya Roberts was, in fact, still alive, but in a “dire” condition. It emerged that Roberts’ partner, Lance O’Brien, had mistakenly thought she’d died in his arms. “He went to the hospital, and as he sat in her room she opened her eyes and tried to grab on to him,” reported TMZ, “but her eyes closed and she ‘faded.’” O’Brien was apparently so devastated that he left the hospital without talking to medical staff. He told Mike Pingel that she seemed to “slip away” and that he had “just said goodbye to Tanya”. In a bizarre twist, Lance O’Brien was being interviewed by US TV show Inside Edition when a call came through from the hospital, informing him that she wasn’t yet dead. “Now you're telling me she's alive?” said the choked-up O’Brien, in a moment captured on film. “Thank the Lord.” Obituaries were hastily unpublished and Roberts became a meme as she lay dying in hospital, subject of Bond puns (“You only die twice”) and other gags. A lesson, perhaps, in the perilous expediency of trending topics. But after the premature announcement, her death was confirmed on Tuesday. She had died from a urinary tract infection.
What does the film industry do during yet another lockdown? Assumes a bunker mentality, keeps its head down, and quietly presses on with what needs to be done. To the outside world, everything looks to be at a standstill – no cinemas are open, and there isn’t one huge release on the calendar until James Bond in early April. But production – when it can afford to – keeps calm and carries on. Shooting a blockbuster with a nine-figure price tag is certainly one professional activity that can’t be achieved at home. The situation is different now from last March, when a number of high-profile shoots went on hiatus to resume later in the summer, with a full set of Covid safety measures robustly in place. British film crews, renowned around the world for their problem-solving capabilities, have dealt with Covid-19 and adopted a new set of conditions for working despite it. In a high-spec facility like Pinewood, Shepperton or Leavesden Studios, this means daily temperature tests at the gate, strict hygiene, and bi-weekly testing, combined to create a kind of “green zone” in which many hundreds of crew and actors can responsibly work. Any positive tests are carefully tracked and traced to isolate those employees at risk. This all comes at enormous cost, though. Jurassic World: Dominion was the first major shoot to resume last July, and wrapped on November 7 at Pinewood, two days into the country’s second lockdown. The 100-day shoot was only possible because of 40,000 Covid tests and all the additional staff thus implied; 150 hand sanitiser stations, 60 extra sinks, you name it. This all cost something in the range of $6-8m extra for a film originally budgeted at $165m. (0.25 per cent of the tests done came back positive.) That film isn’t due for release until summer 2022, taking no chances with the uncertain timeline for cinemas reopening this year. Right now, similar practices are enabling other high-profile shoots in the UK to pick up where they left off in December, including Fantastic Beasts 3 at Leavesden and an undisclosed Disney+ Star Wars title at Pinewood, likely to be Diego Luna's Rogue One spin-off Andor.
It’s a bleak time for the arts industry once again, as the country plunges into a third national lockdown. The latest restrictions will last until at least mid-February in England and the end of January in Scotland, while existing rules have been tightened in both Northern Ireland and Wales. Arts workers are still able to rehearse for shows – however long it is until they can stage them before live audiences – while TV and film production can continue, under tight constraints. But in Britain, the simple pleasure of going to see a movie with other people feels further off than ever. However, the picture looks radically different on the nearby island of Guernsey. A successful system of rigorous testing, tracing and isolating early on meant that residents of the Crown dependency were able to return to life as normal by late June 2020. Other than a cluster in October, the island has seen no new cases since then. That’s great news for the Mallard Cinema – the only cinema on Guernsey – which, unlike its UK counterparts, is currently welcoming film fans to see movies such as Woman Woman 1984. “We closed during the full lockdown in March, then reopened in May. It’s been fine ever since,” says general manager Daniel Phillips-Smith. What about social distancing or capacity restrictions? “We did social distancing for a week or two, otherwise nothing,” he reports. “No one needs to wear masks, because we’re more or less free of new cases and there’s no transmission risk here. We’ve put up screens in the shop – that’s about it.”
As the Doctor Who legend goes, Sydney Newman was furious when he saw Terry Nation’s scripts for ‘The Daleks’. For Newman – the BBC’s head of drama and a key figure in the creation of the series – the Daleks were the very thing that Doctor Who shouldn’t be about: bug-eyed monsters. But Terry Nation, a former furniture salesman and gag writer for Tony Hancock, was adamant that his Daleks wouldn’t look like men in rubber suits. “I wanted to take the legs off, to take them away from any kind of human image,” he later said about their conception. It was a sentiment shared by the production team, including BBC staff designer Ray Cusick, who ended up designing the actual look of the Daleks after the original designer – a chap called Ridley Scott – had a schedule clash. Nation explained to Cusick over the phone that he was partially inspired by the Georgian State Dance Company, whose ballerinas seemed to glide across the stage thanks to large hooped skirts which covered their legs. Despite Sydney Newman’s reservations about the Daleks’ bug eyed-ness, no other scripts were ready. ‘The Daleks’ – sometimes called ‘The Mutants’ or ‘The Dead Planet’ – went into production and was brought forward as the second ever Doctor Who serial (following a meandering caveman story). Broadcast between December 21 1963 and February 1 1964, the seven-part serial peaked with 10.4 million viewers. So popular were the Daleks that Britain was soon in the grip of Dalekmania – a merchandise-spinning, quintessentially Sixties fad. “The Daleks made Doctor Who,” says actor, comedian and writer Toby Hadoke. “They were a last-minute expedient and an immediate hit. Now it seems almost too good to be true that they were the first ever monsters in Doctor Who. It feels like there should have been a few stumbles before they found the magic formula.”
It’s as much a Christmas tradition as tiresome clichés about sprouts and family arguments: “is Die Hard a Christmas film or not?” But this annual debate overlooks the film’s lesser yet more successful sequel, Die Hard 2: Die Harder. Now 30 years old, Die Hard 2 is one of the most sequel-y sequels ever made. It perfectly fits the template: not quite as good as the original but compensating by being swearier, more violent and, of course, more ridiculous. Never mind jumping off a skyscraper with a fire hose as a bungee, as per the original’s big set-piece. In Die Hard 2, Bruce Willis’s John McClane has a punch-up on the wing of a plane as it rockets down a runway, while simultaneously unscrewing the petrol cap so he can also blow it up. “To some extent you have to give the audience what they expect,” said director Renny Harlin in 1990 about making the sequel. “But you also want to give them more.” Die Hard 2 also cranks up the Christmas. Indeed, the sequel might not be as good as Die Hard – something that very few (if any) action films have achieved in 32 years – but Die Hard 2 is a better Christmas film. The original Die Hard’s relation to The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is really incidental; Christmas is just the backdrop. McClane flies into the decidedly un-festive Los Angeles to reconcile with his wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). After an argument – quite Christmassy, I suppose – Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber and his band of Euro-terrorists hijack the Christmas party. Cue McClane’s one-man war to save the Nakatomi Plaza. Last week I saw a tweet arguing that Die Hard isn’t a Christmas film because it isn’t about Christmas. I would argue against that. All McClane wants is to spend a nice Christmas with the family, a sentiment at the heart of almost every Christmas classic. He just has to kill a small army of terrorists first. And I’ve always seen McClane as sort of alternative action Santa Claus: instead of climbing down chimneys and leaving bundles of presents, he climbs down elevator shafts and leaves bundles of plastic explosives. But aside from the odd Christmas tune – “The weather outside is frightful,” sings sidekick cop Al to himself, “dum-de-dum delightful” – Die Hard’s Crimbo credentials aren’t solid enough for us all to agree on the issue.
It regularly tops the nation’s favourite Christmas movie polls. It’s packed with some of the country’s most adored actors – Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley – all falling in love with each other in a winding series of interconnected stories, rolled out in scenes that have become iconic. So why have I always hated Love Actually? During lockdown, my publisher finally gave me the green light to explain and explore my problems with it in a book. And now, having examined the film afresh, do you know what? I’ve realised I was absolutely right. Here are just some of the reasons why Love Actually is a terrible film. It doesn’t seem to understand Christmas Perhaps the most famous scene in Love Actually is when Andrew Lincoln’s Mark turns up on the doorstep of Keira Knightley’s Juliet, to declare his love for her via an armful of hastily drawn flashcards. The reason Mark says he’s declaring his love to his best friend’s wife (classy) is because Christmas is supposedly the time when people are meant to tell the truth to one another. Where writer-director Richard Curtis has come up with this from, I’m not sure. It’s certainly not something I’ve encountered as a tagline to any of my 40-plus Christmases on Earth. In fact, all I have found is evidence for the opposite. Christmas should be a time where people should keep their opinions to themselves, so as not to ruin Christmas. It has a women problem Love Actually, put simply, hates women. Be it the stalking of Keira Knightley; the continual fat-shaming of Martine McCutcheon; the ugly power dynamics of most of the trysts that pit powerful men against usually younger, less powerful women; the dominant notion that supermodels are the feminine ideal; or the fact that, in real life, Bill Nighy’s character, old rocker Billy Mack, would have undoubtedly had a knock on the door from Operation Yewtree – Love Actually is a homage not to love but to the objectification of women. It has a skewed idea of love Love Actually purports to be an exploration of all the different types of love, but is really only interested in eros, the Greek term for romantic sexual love, and a very puerile vision at that. There are moments of storge, or familial love, some traces of philia, or platonic love (although also much stronger examples of friends treating other friends very badly indeed), and, at a stretch, perhaps an example of xenia, the love shown when accepting a guest into your home, as seen when Colin travels to America to become a sex tourist.
As London’s cinemas close their doors for the third time this year, one of the West End’s beloved mainstays must heave another heavy sigh and go dark. This is the Prince Charles Cinema (PCC), the last true repertory house in town, which has been keeping film fans happy whenever it’s been allowed in 2020, with its patented mix of cult favourites, brand-new genre releases and, at least in theory, seasonally relevant strands. For starters, a large wodge of Christmas programming will be wrapped up and salted away under Tier 3 regulations: the eternal is-Die-Hard-a-Christmas-film? debate, it seems, will be taking a year off. (In fact, there’s just about time to catch a final 70mm screening of Bruce in his Santa hat, tonight before the PCC’s closure.) The cinema’s managing director, Ben Freedman, admits that December tends to be a busy month, and acknowledges some of the same ruefulness that hospitality venues all over town will be experiencing. “It will be another dent in a dented ship,” he puts it. “But the ship’s still afloat.” According to Freedman, the PCC’s management team have had a 12-month contingency plan ever since cinemas were first shuttered in March. Braced for impact, they’ve weathered each new lockdown or Tier-3-ing with a relatively philosophical outlook, but have also prepared themselves, unlike some of the country’s major chains, to reopen during more relaxed phases, and saw steady business under Tier 2. PCC patrons have thereby seized big-screen chances to see Tenet and Mank, to name two of the year’s more hyped releases. “It’s never as easy as people think, just to open and shut on cue,” Freedman clarifies. But it sounds like they’ve got the hang of it by now. He’s had faith in the cinema’s built-in audience to come back when they’ve had the chance, brushing off streaming fatigue to embrace the communal experience they’ve been missing, even a few mandatory seats apart. This enforced slashing of ticket sales, with seats in the main auditorium being reduced from 300 to just 60, makes it impossible for the cinema to make a profit – but they can at least break even. “We’ve had customers tell us they’ve felt safer here than they have at home,” Freedman tells me, when I raise the most frustrating statistic for cinema owners grappling with loss of business: the absolute dearth of evidence that Britain’s cinema screens have been Covid hot-houses. Not one instance of viral transmission has to date been pinned on a film venue.
It was no surprise that the first wave of obituaries for Dame Barbara Windsor, who died this week at 83 following a six-year struggle with Alzheimer’s, featured images of scenes she’d shared with Kenneth Williams. They went together like boiled beef and carrots, and were no less London-flavoured than Harry Champion’s song of that name. Williams could hide it well – most of us think of him first in his posh mode – but his birthplace in Barnsbury, Islington was a walkable distance from Barbara’s first address, in Shoreditch. Powerfully different personalities though they were, each saw something local and familiar in the other; an odd-couple friendship that would last 24 years until his death in 1988. Kenneth noted their connection immediately in his 1964 diary – which I would go on to edit and publish 30 years later – after one day’s work on the set of Carry On Spying at Pinewood: “I must say I like this Barbara Windsor. She is a charming little girl.” But of course Kenny’s definition of charm could be unconventional. Told by the lady herself, the tale takes on a different emphasis, starting with the early warning Bernard Cribbins gave her that “Mr Williams” normally took against newcomers to the cast on principle. The fake-bearded Mr W confirmed this by ticking Miss Windsor off when she fluffed a line. “Don’t you have a go at me,” she notoriously replied, “with Fenella Fielding’s minge hair round yer chops. I won’t stand for it.” “Oww!” cried Kenny. “Ain’t she lovely?” He was indeed charmed. That anecdote has been in unexpurgated print for more than twenty years, and was once retold live on BBC radio’s most distinguished late-night arts programme (I was there). It handsomely proves Dame Barbara’s lifelong talent for getting away with things. And there you have one of the reasons why Williams was so fascinated by her. Seeing him acting noisily among friends in a restaurant, you might have assumed his social life to be uninhibited, but we all know now that he was a recluse, his most daring physical encounters tentatively played out with young men in Morocco. With Barbara, everything was on display, especially sexual enjoyment. She said herself that once she’d found out that sex took place, she went ahead and did it – she thought everyone did. Her intimate affairs were possibly the least private of any celebrity’s, and her abortions almost badges of dauntlessness. It might seem ludicrous, in view of all this, that Kenneth should have proposed marriage to Barbara, and in a quaint form: “Do you think if you ever left Ronnie Knight you could marry me?” She thought it “a lovely thing to say”, but the follow-up had killed any chances of it actually happening off: “‘Mind you,’ he said, ‘there’d be no sex.’ I said, ‘Bugger you, then,’” she recounted. With Kenneth, this was all part of a pattern: he proposed marriage to several theatrical ladies – Annette Kerr, Nora Stapleton and Joan Sims are three that come to mind – and always “for companionship’s sake”; but they all wisely declined his offer. In the case of Windsor and Knight, Williams had participated at least symbolically in their marriage anyway, when he accompanied them on their Madeira honeymoon. It’s interesting that in late Victorian days, a honeymoon a trois was not all that uncommon among the well-to-do, but it usually involved a female friend of the bride’s, and not, as in this case, a male friend, plus his mother and half-sister. A poor hotel, and worse weather, didn’t help the mood, and the trip was the occasion of a rare falling-out between Kenneth and Barbara, when she started sermonising to Louie, Kenneth’s mother, about her son’s behaviour.
There is an old Hollywood superstition that film titles are cursed if they end with a question mark. It’s the unwritten rule that separates a Who Framed Roger Rabbit from a What About Bob? – one of which you’d have heard of, the other a notorious disaster only remembered by true Bill Murray devotees. The problems that engulfed the 2009 romantic comedy Did You Hear About the Morgans? weren’t exclusive to its title, but it was a succinct encapsulation of the curse’s apparent power. Not only did that unwieldy, unmemorable and too inquisitive name assist in sinking the cinematic romcom genre all together, it nearly took down Hugh Grant as well. Today, everyone loves Hugh Grant. That nervous, Four Weddings-era fidgeting that annoyed so many 25 years ago was, somewhere around Paddington 2 and A Very English Scandal, transformed into something deliciously self-mocking, grumpy, and occasionally unnerving. The Undoing, Grant’s recent Sky Atlantic limited series, cast him as a sleazy murder suspect, and he was genuinely brilliant. How he got to that point? As Grant tells it, Did You Hear About the Morgans? was to blame. “Hollywood gave me up because I made such a massive turkey with that film with Sarah Jessica Parker,” he told The Los Angeles Times last week. “Whether I wanted to or not after that, the days of being a very well-paid leading man were suddenly gone overnight.” Did You Hear About the Morgans? can be found among the dregs of Grant’s illustrious romcom career, just below Bridget Jones 2, in which Renee Zellweger spends far too long in a Bangkok prison, but above Nine Months – a film so bad that Grant’s arrest for picking up a sex worker while promoting it was somehow less embarrassing. Grant and Parker play a separated New York power couple named Paul and Meryl, who witness a murder while squabbling in the rain. After both are subsequently pursued by a hitman, they are placed in the witness protection programme, which sends them to a remote Wyoming town for safety. There, bears roam front gardens, food can only be bought in bulk, and the local nightlife begins and ends with line-dancing. Because it is 2009, a Sarah Palin reference gets the only laugh. The third collaboration between Grant and director Marc Lawrence, after the far better Two Weeks Notice and Music and Lyrics, Did You Hear About the Morgans? is uniquely atrocious; a laugh-free slog in which jokes linger helplessly in the air, awaiting an audience chuckle that never comes. It feels like a rough sketch of a movie, one that hopes and prays its two stars can muster enough comic CPR to inspire giggles because the script isn’t up to scratch. Poor Elisabeth Moss, on a hiatus from early Mad Men and playing Parker’s Blackberry-magnetised assistant, seems just happy to be there, The Handmaid’s Tale and The Invisible Man still a long while off.
Forty years ago, the Canadian criminal psychologist Dr Robert Hare drew up an innovative checklist to determine whether or not a person is a psychopath. Among some 20 traits, he included pathological lying, glib and superficial charm, a grandiose estimation of self, juvenile delinquency, sexual promiscuity, criminal versatility and, of course, a lack of remorse. It isn’t known whether Charles Sobhraj, a now 76-year-old Frenchman variously known as the Bikini Killer, the Splitting Killer and the Serpent, who murdered at least a dozen young people across South Asia in the 1970s, evading capture for so long he became Interpol’s most-wanted man, has ever taken Hare’s test. But to Herman Knippenberg, the man who eventually halted Sobhraj’s reign of horror, that doesn’t matter. He is convinced. ‘Sobhraj is just absolutely a psychopath. He fits all the criteria. Every single one,’ Knippenberg says, emphatically. He repeats one particular characteristic with gusto. ‘A total. Absence. Of empathy.’ The twisted, grisly and at times absurd tale of Charles Sobhraj isn’t widely known in Britain. In France, though, where he was born and where (after one prison release), he lived as a despised but swaggering public figure, or southeast Asia, where he committed many of his known murders, or India, where he served a 20-year prison sentence, or Nepal, where he is currently pent up on a life term, his case is as infamous as that of any serial killer.
"I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot," the actor wrote on Twitter.
The 1977 red carpet premiere of George Lucas’s Star Wars should have been the moment of greatest triumph in Dave Prowse’s life. Instead it proved to be the cruelest betrayal. This became horribly clear minutes in when Darth Vader – the character George Lucas had sought out the 6’ 6” Englishman to portray – spoke for the first time. “I thought, ‘Oh my goodness – that’s not me. I wonder what they’ve done?’” Prowse, who has passed away after a short illness at age 85, would recall. What Lucas had done was hire James Earl Jones to redub Vader’s dialogue, originally delivered by Prowse in his West Country accent and muffled by that iconic black helmet. Apparently it was the rural twang that really got in the way. Carrie Fisher, aka Princess Leia, is said to have referred to Prowse on set as “Darth Farmer”. “It wasn’t until afterwards that I tackled George,” Prowse lamented. “He said, ‘We got James Earl Jones to come in’.” The tragedy of David Prowse’s life was that he loved Star Wars almost as much as Lucas. The movie’s A-list cast had worked tirelessly to escape the shadow of the Jedi juggernaut. Through the Eighties, Harrison Ford, in particular, seemed to turn puce with irritation whenever Han Solo was mentioned. Prowse, though, adored Star Wars and Darth Vader. And when he and Lucas had a falling out – not directly related to James Earl Jones, though it can’t have helped – the former body-builder took it personally. And now, after struggles with arthritis, prostate cancer and dementia, he has taken the feud to the grave with him. “People ask, ‘What went wrong with George Lucas?’ but to be honest, I still don’t really know,” he told the Sun in 2015. “All I know is that I am one of the film’s best characters. It was Darth Vader people talked about the most, not Harrison Ford or Carrie Fisher.” Lucasfilm – the Star Wars studio which Lucas sold to Disney in 2012 – barred him from attending official Star Wars conventions in 2010 and thus interfered with his ability to make a living (like many on the sci-fi convention circuit Prowse's income came largely from signing autographs). The rumour was that Lucas had never been able to forgive Prowse for supposedly leaking to journalists the big reveal in the Empire Strikes Back that – 40-year-old spoiler alert – Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father.
Following Boris Johnson's announcement on December 30, most areas of England will enter Tier 4, the highest level of restrictions. The majority of the remaining areas will be in Tier 3. It's more bad news for Marvel’s Wonder Woman 1984, one of the few big studio releases this winter. So, where will punters be able to watch it, and who will they be able to go with? Tier 1 The "rule of six" is still in force across all tiers. This means that you will only be able to meet up to five others in any indoor or outdoor setting. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls must also close at 11pm. But, crucially, screenings which start before 10pm will be allowed to conclude. So plans for a midnight Wonder Woman watch party, or a birthday Die Hard screening are, sadly, off the cards. There are capacity limits for all indoor and outdoor events, too. Cinemas will only be able to open with 50 per cent capacity or 1,000 people indoors - whichever is lower. In actuality, though, given the dearth of new releases, attracting those numbers may well be a distance dream for many cinema owners.
Whether it’s Bing Crosby crooning about sleigh bells or Macauley Culkin beating a grown man around the head with a shovel, there’s something for everybody when it comes to Christmas movies. With that in mind, The Telegraph has compiled a collection of festive favourites for every possible predilection. (And for more festive film inspiration, read our guide on the best Christmas movies on Netflix.) Best Christmas movies of all time The Shop Around The Corner (1940) Ernst Lubitsch’s bittersweet classic makes the Christmas shopping season the occasion for a forlorn epistolary romance. Little does Margaret Sullavan know it’s her least favourite store-clerk, Jimmy Stewart, whose words she's falling for. Grab that mistletoe. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) Vincent Minnelli’s sumptuous musical about family love and romantic awakening gives us an entire year in the life of the Smith family. But it’s perfect Christmas viewing not only because it contains the melancholy beauty of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, sung by Judy Garland, but also because the values it displays amidst the comedy and the drama are ones you’ll want to cherish. And it snows in a satisfyingly deep manner.
The Oscar-winning actor and star of Good Will Hunting died by suicide in 2014
Home Alone was the costliest mistake Warner Brothers ever made. The studio loved John Hughes, who wrote and produced the film, but they loved him because he was able to deliver box office results on modest budgets. Hughes, whose films included Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club, specialised in teen movies. But Home Alone, which recently turned 30, wasn't a teen movie. It was a movie with a 10-year-old child in the lead role, playing a boy who has to fend off burglars by himself after his family accidentally leave him at home when they take a trip to Paris. Warner Brothers agreed with Hughes that the budget would be capped at $10 million. As it slowly became apparent that this would be impossible, Warner Brothers jumped off, and 20th Century Fox – whom Hughes had been secretly wooing anyway – jumped on. Home Alone was released on November 16, 1990. And, on a budget of $18 million, it went on to make more than $476 million, becoming – for 14 years – the highest-grossing live-action comedy of all time. In the lead role, Kevin McAllister, Hughes wanted Macaulay Culkin, as he had been in his most recent film, Uncle Buck, playing a headstrong eight-year-old called Miles. Chris Columbus, who directed Home Alone, didn't want to say yes without auditioning other kids. Casting director Janet Hirshenson says, “The first task was to see if there was anybody in New York or Chicago other than Macaulay.”
When Phoebe Waller-Bridge was hired as a writer for No Time to Die – the still-unreleased Bond 25 – many critics remarked it was about time that a female writer was signed up for the Bond franchise. Though Waller-Bridge isn’t the first woman to work on a Bond screenplay – Johanna Harwood co-scripted Dr No and adapted From Russia with Love; and Dana Stevens, though uncredited, worked on The World is Not Enough – for a series that goes back almost 60 years, female writers number few. But what critics of Bond’s old boys’ network forget is that a woman, producer Barbara Broccoli, has been one of the primary creative forces behind James Bond for more than a quarter of a century – starting with the ever-popular GoldenEye, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this week. Barbara Broccoli – daughter of Bond film impresario Albert “Cubby” Broccoli – took control of the Bond production company EON, along with her half-brother and producing partner Michael G Wilson, back in 1990. Though famously private and low-key, Barbara Broccoli is widely reported to be a powerful, hands-on presence behind the scenes. “Barbara scares the hell out of people,” Michael Wilson told the New York Times in 2015. “Everyone is frightened to death of her.” Speaking to Variety, Sam Mendes, director of Skyfall and Spectre, was less sensationalist in his assessment. “She is vivacious, and funny, and smart, and extremely warm-hearted, and the most loyal person you will ever meet,” Mendes said. “But she is absolutely old-school. She wants all of the attention to be on the movie. She hates it when producers try to make it about them.”
In September 1983, filmmaker Meir Zarchi came to Britain for an appearance on the Tyne Tees Television show Friday Live. He was there to debate critics of his notorious rape-revenge movie I Spit on Your Grave. Zarchi came face-to-face with Joan Austin, whose 18-year-old son Martin had been found guilty of raping two women. The boy was supposedly triggered by watching "video nasties", including I Spit on Your Grave. “I believe that videos like yours corrupted him and changed his behaviour,” said Austin to Zarchi. “He became addicted to them and they gave him urges that were never there before.” Zarchi responded, undercutting the argument against video nasties: “I'm a father myself and I have two teenage children. They see all kinds of pictures. It doesn't mean they would go and do something wrong. I sympathise with you... But can you turn the blame away from your son and put it on my shoulders? Emotionally you're right to feel what you do. Rationally I can't make any judgment without knowing your son's character.” At the time, Britain was in the grip of a moral panic over the so-called video nasties – exploitation films whose budgets were often as brutally low as their content was brutally violent. They slipped through the net, at first unregulated, with the emergence of home video. But soon enough, the films were outlawed or sliced up by censors. I Spit on Your Grave – written, directed, and edited by Meir Zarchi in 1978 – tells the story of Jennifer (Camille Keaton), a writer from New York who rents a summer house in rural Connecticut and arouses the attention of four local hicks. The gang attack and repeatedly rape her across a 25-minute ordeal. Jennifer exacts violent revenge on her attackers one-by-one: death by hanging, axe, boat propeller, and – in true exploitation style – castration with a butcher’s knife. “I loved it,” Camille Keaton says about those scenes. “It was great to do the revenge part. I always tell people – watch the last half of the film.”