Stop all the clocks

Our neighbour very unexpectedly passed away at the age of 71 last week. We weren’t close but we were friendly and her sudden passing came as a bit of a shock. Her husband and two grown up children were left devastated. The funeral was held this morning, we attended with a few of our other neighbours and it brings home to me yet again how much I hate funerals… It’s so tough seeing the ones who were so close to the deceased struggling to deal with their loss and brings back memories of my own loss. The programme is always the same: there is music, there are speeches, sometimes readings – with every funeral I go to, the words of WH Auden, beginning with “stop all the clocks”, ring in my head (also so beautifully performed by John Hannah in Four Weddings and a Funeral) …

… and afterwards there’s coffee and tea and people lining up to give their condolences to the grieving loved ones.

I’m thinking that maybe, when I go, I don’t want a funeral… it’s too heartbreaking for the loved ones left behind. Just everyone have a party if they must and then have everyone just leave… No endless sad speeches and sad music, no endless line of people shaking hands and paying respects… Just party, send me on my way with images of things I have loved, like this…

… or this…

… or this…

… or this…

… or this…

… or this most recent one….

… and be done with it!

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The cat is out of the bag

Now that Jane has made this little film public, I can now share it here as well!

This little film has been sitting on my phone for the last 10 days and I have watched it over and over again countless times! Christine was so sweet asking Richard to do this for her friend Jane and Richard was so sweet to do it. As I set up the video, Christine made a move to step aside but Richard wouldn’t let her. He says at the very beginning of this clip “you be in it” to her and gently invites her in and puts his arm around her shoulder so she too would be in this video. I love the look of joy on Christine’s face and that very tender look on Richard’s, this is such a little gem! It’s made me smile a lot over the past 10 days.

Speaking of cats, I got home late from work today (after watching the Christine-Richard-for-Jane video again on my phone on my way home), sat down on the couch and within seconds was welcomed by this little man who joined me there (he never lies on our laps, just nestles up against us)…

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It’s so nice having cats out of the bag (and such beautifully joyous reactions to go with that!) and cats lying against me. 🙂

April 3rd actors & me…

Today is the 96th birthday of Doris Day (and yes, she’s still alive, and I always really liked her!)

Doris Day

It’s the 94th birthday of Marlon Brando (but he is no longer living and I was never a big fan)

Marlon Brando

It’s the 60th birthday of Alec Baldwin (I’m neutral on him)

Alec Baldwin

And it’s the 57th birthday of Eddie Murphy (used to quite like him, not sure what he’s up to now)

Eddie Murphy

It’s Matthew Goode’s 40th birthday (oooh, I quite like him!)

Matthew Goode

And Cobie Smulders’ 36th birthday (I quite like the few things I’ve seen of her as well, especially How I Met Your Mother)

Cobie SmuldersAnd today is also my birthday (the 48th one) and just look how pleased I am with my own actor birthday gift!

RA & ES2Thank you for the meet & greet, Richard Armitage. 🙂

RA & I – the sequel: NIFF part 2

So, Richard Armitage at the Newcastle International Film Festival, part two (continuing on from here)…

The taxi ride from the Mining Institute to the Biscuit Factory for the Urban and the Shed Crew premiere was only a few minutes, it totally beat a 20 minute walk in the rain. There was champagne and hors d’oeuvres awaiting us. Perfect for a little bit to eat and I may have sipped the champagne a little too quickly in my excitement. I went to the bathroom and when I got back I immediately sensed a hubbub – that could only mean one thing: the Armitage was in the house and had made an appearance! As I was no way near the man, I decided it was time to take out the big guns: my camera, so that I could use my zoom lens to take pictures! Someone made a little video during the drinks portion of the evening and at about 1 minute 22 into the video you can see me moving in, starting to take pictures.

NIFF Craig Wilde La Di Da video

Source of video here

From such a distance working with a flash was useless, so some of the pictures came out quite dark and as the man didn’t stand still much, the pictures aren’t that sharp either. Still, they are worth sharing…

This following picture I took was so dark I converted it to black & white and sepia, and you see a Richard a bit better, even though still dark and grainy. I really liked his smile here…

I did get some nice crinkly forehead shots (again, click on images to enlarge) while he was listening and talking to people…

As the programme was running a little late, we were very soon told to follow Richard and the young actor Fraser Kelly (who had played the role of Urban) to the screening room, which was hidden away in another part of the building. They passed right by me…

… and in the screening room seated themselves on some tables at the front to the side, together with Candida Brady (the director), waiting for the room to fill up. It was a large room with a big screen set up in the front and large round tables with chairs around them. The room wasn’t full, it wasn’t sold out, but it was busy enough, busier than the Mining Institute event had been. We settled in the second row of tables (if you could call it a row). I tried taking pics with flash which led to a lot of red-eye action – ugh-  and pics without flash, which led to images getting a little blurred. Ok, I’m just really not a professional photographer, but hey, I tried. 🙂 Anyway, here are those pictures…

Once everyone was settled, Candida, Fraser and Richard went up to the front. They welcomed everyone, thanked them for coming and told us to enjoy the film.

And a few more Richard-only shots…

The movie followed and here is a longer trailer than the one on the Blenheim Films website

On the whole, I really enjoyed the movie! Especially the acting of Richard, Anna Friel (that woman is amazing and really goes all out!) and Fraser was exceptional! The film felt a little episodic to me at times, and a little long here and there, but on the other hand I didn’t want to miss a single scene, especially with Richard in it. And he was in a lot of the scenes! Despite that I did miss some more of the back story of Chop, of why he himself was a bit of a mess. You do get that in the book but alas not so much in the film. The film does show that Chop becomes part of the group exactly because he is so different and really a bit like the children. On reflection, I feel the film would maybe have benefitted from more clearly choosing one point of view, either that of Chop or that of Urban. Now the story felt a little distant at times, told from an outside observer point of view. Having said that, I really did like this movie, it really did have something to say, and I think this is the best thing I have seen Richard do since The Crucible!

Two parts in the movie really stood out for me. First, the part when Chop (Richard) tells these disadvantaged kids the story of King Arthur one night while they are at the shed. That really had me totally mesmerized. The man can really tell a story, it almost makes me want to listen to audiobooks after all 😉 ! And then the part, closer to the end, when Chop goes to pieces, trying to accept that he is actually doing something right and cries in the arms of a fellow social worker (a glimpse of that can be seen at 2 minutes 18 in the video above). Wow, so very very powerful! Yes, I am really looking forward to seeing this film again, it really is one to study again and again, especially because of the acting! I was very pleased to learn later that the film had won Best Actor (for Richard, yay!) and Best Film awards at NIFF!

The lights went on after the movie and everyone was still a little dazed. Richard, Fraser and Candida came to the front while the credits were still rolling…

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What followed was a Q&A session about the film and I am ashamed to say, I don’t remember that much of what was said specifically. Richard and Candida did announce that by the end of next week (if I recall correctly!) the movie would be available for download/streaming (they first said download, then streaming, which is not quite the same thing) and it would be released on DVD as well. It would be available region-free, so worldwide, which is excellent news! The questions and answers were mostly about how good it was that this film was made and how important it is to highlight this issue of neglected youth and some people mentioned the way it affected them personally. One lady said that reading the book way back when had helped her decide to become a social worker, which was awesome. Someone asked about a scene where Richard had to jump into the water and save Fraser from drowning and Richard laughed and pointed to a man standing in the back who he said had jumped into the water for him! The questions weren’t exactly flowing, though, and after about 15 minutes Richard joked that maybe it was time to get to bed. 🙂

Of course I also took some pictures during the Q&A, here’s one of Richard leaning forward, listening to a question being asked…

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… and he was plucking away at his beard a lot while listening to others speak…

Here he’s listening to Fraser Kelly who I found to be very well-spoken and warm-hearted…

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Some more pics…

I loved Richard leaning on his hand, like here below, and smiling in this picture. As the picture isn’t quite sharp, I tried editing it to black & white and sepia as well. You can pick your own fave version…

And the last few Q&A pics…

The Q&A ended a few minutes later and after that Richard, Candida and Fraser lingered to interact with the audience on a more personal level.

A row formed of people wanting to speak to Richard.  The atmosphere was very relaxed, everyone was very patient awaiting their turn and Richard really took his time with each and every fan! He asked people where they were from, very readily and patiently posed for pictures and selfies, listened to stories, answered brief questions. It was really delightful to watch! I had already packed away my big camera (I had felt a little self-conscious taking all these photos with my large camera) but then spontaneously started snapping some shots with my phone of Richard interacting with fans…

While Richard was talking with fans we also spoke with Fraser Kelly for a bit. Such a gentlemanly young man! He said he was working for his finals now and wanted to pursue acting after. We also talked to Candida Brady for a bit, thanked her for the film and she said it wouldn’t still be here and ‘alive’ if it hadn’t been for the Armitage Army. She thanked us for all the support and drew us into a big hug, first individually and then into a group hug, which was totally sweet.

A few of ‘my’ group also got things signed by Richard, like Ella (I cropped her out of these pictures but will gladly put her back in if she doesn’t mind being published here)…

And Hariclea got the festival booklet signed (I also cropped her out of the pictures)…

Christine asked Richard if he would record a message for a fellow-fan in special circumstances and she had asked me to film that video message, which I of course gladly did. Here a picture of Richard listening to Christine’s request, followed by some stills of the little video greeting Richard had so extremely kindly done (again, I cropped Christine out as much as I could)…

And I too had my moment with Richard! Regular readers here may remember that a few years ago my mother had painted a watercolour of The Crucible and gave me that watercolor as a birthday gift. That image that I absolutely adore has featured as my blog header since then. I took a picture of that image and made it into a phone cover for my Samsung smartphone a few years ago and again this year when I got a new phone. When it was my turn, I showed Richard my phone and told him my mother had painted that for me a few years ago as a watercolour. I asked him to sign the cover. “That’s an iPhone cover, you want me to sign?” he asked. I said yes (but not an iPhone). He studied the image a little more closely and said ‘That’s The Crucible, isn’t it?” I said yes again, and something more (I think about loving The Crucible) but I can’t remember what! He asked me where he should sign it. I indicated an empty spot in the middle of the image but he said, “Oh no, I couldn’t do that! I don’t want to ruin your beautiful picture!” He hesitated a bit and then decided on signing his initials in the upper right corner. This is the result 🙂 ….

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I was so thrilled! I babbled my thanks and I can’t remember what else, and made room for the person after, which was Judit. Ella was so sweet to take a few pictures from a distance of Richard with Judit and me which you can see here… and Judit was so generous to get him a little gift! I had done that as well at The Old Vic stage door a few years ago but I hadn’t even thought of doing that this time around…

I tell you, I was shaking afterwards, the moments had been so special. Someone told me later that I seemed so calm but then I showed her my hand, which was still shaking from all the excitement. I’m still giddy now when I think back on it.

We thought that would be it, and started getting our stuff together, but then we saw a few people go in for ‘seconds’ and Richard very kindly humoring everyone. We thought that maybe we could bother Richard one more time as well and ask him to be in a group picture with us. After everyone else was done and Richard was turning to see what’s next, I approached him one more time and asked him whether he would mind being in a group picture with us. He said he would do so very gladly! Hari said she didn’t really want to be in the picture so she generously offered to take it, and Ella, Linda, Judit and I posed together with Richard. I would love to show you all the whole picture, but I don’t have the ladies’ permission, so for now will only share the cutout with just Richard and me on it… I don’t much like how I look here (tired and bad hair!) but hey, it is what it is… 🙂

Richard, Candida and Fraser posed one more time together, I think I it was for one of the festival people. I almost missed it but was able to take a quick shot myself.

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They disappeared after that and we left. It was 10.45 pm or so, 45 minutes later than we had expected it all to end. We took a taxi back to the hotel where Hariclea, Linda and Ella were staying at. We were all too keyed up to go to bed, so we stayed in the hotel bar, ordered a bottle of wine, some water and some nibbles (thank you Hariclea for being so generous!) and sat there for quite a while longer, talking over every detail of the evening!

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At around 2.30 am Judit and I got taxis back to our respective hotels. We said goodbye to both Judit and Ella who would be leaving the next morning. Back at the hotel I was too keyed up to sleep and I didn’t switch off my light till close to 4 am!

I had to be up early the next morning, as breakfast was only served till 9 am at my hotel. I sat down to breakfast, a little bleary eyed, at 5 minutes before 9. I packed and checked out after and went back to the other hotel where Hariclea and Linda were still having breakfast. Had another cup of tea there myself (needed liquids as I had a bit of a headache) and surprisingly Dorothea from the ‘Just wanna say…’ blog came over and introduced herself. I recognized her from the evening before and it was very nice briefly meeting her (read her post on the effect Urban had on her and her coming from a coal mining family here)!

Hariclea was leaving at noon and we had to say our goodbyes, but Linda and I had some time to kill before travelling. I convinced Linda to come with me to the coastal town of Tynemouth (accessible via the Newcastle metro system). I knew there was a weekly Sunday market there from the time I had lived in Newcastle for 5 months, twenty odd years ago. We walked through the charming market in the station there (the two pictures on the right were taken by Linda)…

Then we went into the town and walked near the coast for a bit (first pic taken by Linda)…

We ended our short time in Tynemouth with a cream tea…

Tynemouth 06

… and then it was back to Newcastle again. We said our goodbyes and I travelled back to The Netherlands, while Linda travelled on for a stay in Edinburgh!

Oh, what a marvelous trip this has been! It was absolutely wonderful meeting some very lovely Richard Armitage fans and sharing this experience and ‘richarding’ with them. It was even more wonderful meeting the man himself again, who had been so very generous with his time! It felt like I had been gone far longer than roughly 38 hours and memories to last me a lifetime have been made… 🙂

P.S. If you want to view a nice collection of other fan reactions to Richard at NIFF, see Servetus’ post here!

RA & I – the sequel: NIFF part 1

Three and a half years ago, I had the opportunity of meeting Richard Armitage in person at The Old Vic’s stage door in London after a performance of The Crucible. Two days ago, I had the pleasure of meeting him again, this time at the Newcastle International Film Festival (NIFF)! I’ve been excited about going there and meeting him for a week or so leading up to this after I decided, on an impulse, to go! I should listen to my impulses more often… 🙂

I flew in to Newcastle on an early morning flight from Amsterdam on Saturday morning, landing at 8.45 am. The weather in Amsterdam had been lovely but the weather in Newcastle was less so – it was grey and wet! I got into the city and walked around a bit, first around Monument where I had gotten off the metro, then into the charming Grainger Market which is roofed and was dry but still quiet because it was still early, and I took a peek at the Central Arcade.

It was so wet, I then decided to escape the rain for a cup of chai tea latte at Costas. Perfect place to warm up and get my bearings…

I stayed there for quite a while, just watching the world pass me by, which was lovely, and then decided to brave the weather again. I walked down to the bridges, doing my best to juggle a small back pack, my handbag, a fold-up umbrella and my camera. Suffice it to say, pics didn’t quite come out as planned, also because I had to keep on drying my camera lens. Anyway, despite the rain and the not so great pics, I had a lovely time walking around!

At 12.30 I walked to a city center hotel where I met up with Hariclea, whom I have met before and who was staying there. A little while later a fellow-fan, Linda Sechzig, joined us.  She and Hari already knew each other and we both met Judit. Then Ella from the Nellindreams blog joined us as well soon after. Such lovely ladies! Judit went to her hotel for a bit and the rest of us set off for a nearby restaurant for lunch. We had real English food, steak and guinness pies and fish and chips, and got to know each other a little better which was fun! The 3 ladies I had lunch with were staying in the same hotel. I was in another hotel a little to the north of the center, so we separated and went to our respective hotels to check in and freshen up.

At 5.30 pm we all met up at the Mining Institute, where the Actors on Actors session with Caroline Goodall interviewing Richard Armitage would be taking place. While waiting in line I also briefly met Christine Loy who is a native Geordie, all of this was happening in her home town! At 6 pm we were ushered into this small, old-fashioned, charming lecture hall, which was wood panelled all around. I was so excited, I didn’t think to take any pictures of the room, but I found a nice one online, so you can get an idea of what it looks like.

First impression was that this was quite tiny and it was quite warm in there too. I think there were less than 100 people there, maybe 75-80?  They told us to not sit in the first row, so Hariclea, Linda and I sat in the second row on the left, with Ella and Judit right behind us. Our view on the empty chairs was this one, and I wondered if Richard would be sitting on the throne, befitting a king under the mountain…

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No one came to sit in front of us, so in effect we were sitting in the front row! Eek! This also meant that I did not feel comfortable taking out my large camera. My camera clicks every time I take a picture and the lens is a zoom one, so larger than a regular lens, and I immediately knew it would feel intrusive if I sat there clicking away. So, for this session, I decided to just use my phone. We were asked to not take any pictures during the interview as the whole thing was being taped (wonder when and where we will get to see the whole thing online!); if we wanted to take pictures we could do so at the beginning while they settled in. So, I did just that. I positioned my phone on my lap and just pressed the button for a picture every now and again. I didn’t use a flash (again, intrusive) so many pictures turned out somewhat blurry, but I’ll share them (the ones that aren’t too blurry in any case) here.

They also asked us to not keep Richard up for too long after the session as he had to be somewhere else right after. Just like most of us, we joked, which got some laughs and the announcer laughed as well. She said there’d be an opportunity to meet and greet Richard after the Urban premiere. That sounded good!

Shortly after, Richard and Caroline made their way down. They walked right past me, virtually brushing me as they walked by. There was a little looking around, figuring what chairs to sit in. Richard joked about wanting to sit on the throne then said it would be awkward and decided for the smaller chair beside it instead (click on images to enlarge, goes for all the images I post here that are grouped together)…

So, he sat down and they settled in while I just tapped away on my phone, taking pictures…

And some more pictures…

Caroline briefly introduced Richard, saying what a nice man he was, how she so very much enjoyed working with him even if they had only shared one scene in Berlin Station and how he has become a friend. She is one of the organizers of NIFF and said that Richard had been eager to come and support the festival and the Urban film. He had told the organizers to not bother with the logistics of getting him there, he would make his way there on his own. She really sang his praises and Richard just let it wash over him. Then the interview began and Richard started talking with his hands (and I put my phone away)…

Speaking of Richard’s hands, and general appearance. He is tall but also sleek and I think because of that he almost looks slight! He is well-groomed and his hands are indeed mesmerizing, they are not only expressive but they look soft as well. I saw a lot of him in profile and it reiterated yet again just how much I love his profile and that prominent, sleek nose! I also loved his outfit, he looked so very dashing with that leather jacket and Hari totally fell in love with his shirt.

The interview will I hope soon come online somewhere and Dorothea over on her ‘Just wanna say’ blog has already given a nice short summary of some of the things that were discussed. So, I’ll just mention the stuff that stuck with me most from that interview.

The first half of the interview was pretty much all stuff we had heard before and, yes, even the circus was mentioned and how Richard realized that if he wasn’t smiling more doing musical theater it meant he wasn’t enjoying it as he should. He also mentioned the death scene in The Hobbit, after Caroline had told him how much that scene moved her to tears. He mentioned how he insisted on lying there undisturbed for 3 hours while the scene was being filmed and how later the crew had started putting down little crosses and flowers to commemorate the spot of Thorin’s death. The thing I didn’t know (I don’t think) is that the back injury he had while auditioning for Thorin was an injury that still bothers him!

I didn’t mind the repetition of familiar stories in the first half of this session so much, as it meant I could focus on observing. It did get more interesting in the second half, though.

There was a very interesting discussion about Richard living in New York. ‘Life’ had taken him there and he still feels it is a good place to be for his career, nicely in the middle between LA and London. He spoke of the fact that as he grows older, he is more aware of how rooted he is in England. He spoke of the difference between American and English film and TV. He felt that in the US it was all more focussed on psychology where in England it is all more focussed on storytelling. He said that attitudes are different as well, in the US it really is a film industry and you have to act more businesslike to get what you want whereas in England you basically just take anything because you’re glad to be working as an actor at all. He mentioned how his American accent was getting better and then laughingly asked Caroline whether she remembered he had tried his US accent out on her and she had thought it was his Irish accent! It was funny but had been a slightly sobering moment as well for him.

There was talk of salaries and he insisted that he never ever picked a project just for the money. He said he had done some things to help open doors but that basically it is always the project itself that attracts him and not the money. Sometimes he is surprised he gets paid for something he enjoys doing so much. There was talk of what genres he likes and he mentioned how surprised he is to have done many violent roles when he himself is not a violent man at all. He mentioned that he had done just about enough spy roles. I guess that means that those who may be rooting for James Bond for Richard may have to let that dream go… He also mentioned how he never wanted to do horror and especially horror involving children and yet he has just finished making a horror movie called The Lodge which also involves children! He understands the irony but says the movie is more psychological thriller than horror and he was excited to be working with the people making the movie.

His future plans were interesting to hear. My Zoe with Julie Delpy is still happening! He was in awe of how Julie Delpy can produce, direct and act all in one. He mentioned how he’d love to be able to multitask like that. He says Sandra Bullock also has the multitasking talent, how incredible she was on the Oceans 8 movie that is coming up. He says he always intends to pay attention and tries to get involved with all aspects of a movie (directing and producing) but in the end finds that all his attention gets sucked up into the acting and he can’t do anything else besides that.

He mentioned still wanting to do Bridget Cleary, although it wasn’t clear how far any of that is production-wise. He mentioned collaborating with Yael Farber again and possibly getting their version of The Crucible filmed; it had been a while since the Daniel Day-Lewis version and they still need permission from the Arthur Miller estate. They also want to do Oedipus together, but on film and not stage, as Faber is trying her hand at film directing now. When asked if he wanted to do anything period, he mentioned how he suddenly of late has this very strong feeling he should do something with Charles II, that he strongly feels the relevance it has in the world today, that it also has something to say to the current political climate in the west. I don’t know anything about Charles II off-hand, will have to look into that.

When asked if he wanted to do any plays of current new exciting English writers, he said absolutely, but it didn’t seem like something he was actively pursuing right now. He was also asked who his acting heroes were, he immediately answered Gary Oldman and how deserved it was that he had won ‘that prize’. He loves how Gary Oldman can disappear into a role.

I’m thinking there may have been more, but I can’t quite remember now, off the top of my head. The whole interview lasted about 45 minutes and it was just absolutely wonderful hearing the man talk and seeing him up close and personal like that. He is very relaxed and pleasant, but I get a sense of shyness from him as well. He looks at the person asking a question and pays attention to them while answering but while talking he also lowers his eyes a lot or looks around but rarely fixing his eyes on the general audience he is talking to. I found that endearing in a way. He’s not an outgoing performer personality, like say Tom Hiddleston is, he is more reserved. Of course, I knew that already, but more than ever I got that sensitive artist vibe from him.

The talk over, everyone got up and I snapped a few more blurry pictures with my phone (and Caroline threw on a sweater)…

Hariclea, Linda and I were just about the last ones to file out after Richard left. Caroline Goodall was also one of the last to leave, and as we were so near to her, I thanked her for the interview and said we’d really enjoyed it. She seemed pleased.

Out in the hall we saw that Richard had been stopped for some pictures after all…

… but he was soon whisked away in the hustle and bustle of it all, on to the next location. Hariclea had arranged for a taxi to get us to the next location as well and when we came out, the taxi was awaiting us. The five of us climbed in to be driven to the Biscuit Factory where the Urban premiere would be. More about that in my next post, as this one has gotten so long already! So, don’t worry, NIFF report is continued here… 🙂