The Diary: Roald Dahl; Marina Lewycka; Eva Mendes; Charlotte Rampling; Lars von Trier; Wilton's Vintage Christmas

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Never a Dahl moment

It sounds unlikely, but the late children's author Roald Dahl once received a death threat, according to his daughter, Lucy. She recalls returning from the theatre to her childhood home in Oxfordshire with her father, when her brother Theo picked up the anonymous, threatening phone call. Her father called the police immediately, but treated it "like a game", so as not to scare his children. "I really have no idea or recollection of its source. I do not remember being frightened," she adds. Speaking about the annual Roald Dahl Funny Prize, whose winners this year were Louise Rennison and Louise Yates, Dahl also revealed that she is working on a TV show, Nuclear Family, to be produced by NBC and Working Title, which will be based on her experiences as a mother of seven at the age of 32 (her husband had five children and she had two). "I got the idea when I was going through my stepson's backpack one day. It's a truthful, modern-day version of The Brady Bunch." It will include sex, drugs and plenty of teen spirit.

Tortuous comic path

The comic writer Marina Lewycka admits to feeling momentarily stumped when looking for passages featuring torture to read aloud at an evening to raise funds for the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture."Well, I thought of the passage in Pat Barker's Regeneration when a man is tortured with electrodes, because it has a particular resonance and it goes against the idea that torture happens to people in other, far away countries." And then there's Milton, she adds. "There's a part in Paradise Lost when the fallen angels are being tormented in Hell, but it's epic and medieval, and so beautiful that it doesn't seem like torture." In the end, she may read neither. "I like to think of myself as a comic writer, and I if I read these passages I think everyone's going to be thoroughly miserable by the end of the night. I might read from George Eliot or John Donne instead." For more information about the event on 14 December, go to

Mendes in mysterious new project

Eva Mendes, who was billed, alongside John Malkovich and Gael García Bernal, as one of the judges for thisyear's Marrakech Film Festival, had only just arrived in Moroccan city last week when she announced she would have to abandon the task. When asked why, the actress cited a mysterious new project that needed urgent attention. "It's an independent film and I'll be working with a child. It's so hard getting an independent film running these days, so I feel so superstitious about it," maintains Mendes. "There are so many times that you are so close to filming and the film goes away. It's heartbreaking."

Von Trier keeps quiet

Charlotte Rampling reveals that two decades after the director Lars von Trier asked her (in vain) to star in his Europa trilogy, she has finally ended up working with him on Melancholia. Von Trier has earned a fearsome reputation as a director (most recently for the genital self-mutilation scene in Antichrist, which left Charlotte Gainsbourg deeply affected), and Rampling was duly braced for an eventful experience. "You hear the stories and these stories give him this aura," she says, "but he was quite quiet." The worst thing about the experience, she says, was having to go to Trollhättan in Sweden, for the filming. "It's the dullest place on Earth."

This is not a panto

Wilton's Vintage Christmas, now playing at London's Wilton's Music Hall, starring Graham Seed (of The Archers), was originally conceived as a site-specific promenade, which would take audiences on a walk across the grittier side of the city. When it started snowing, though, the director Nick Hutchinson brought the show indoors. Hutchinson, who has chosen pieces by Dylan Thomas and T S Eliot, believes we have over-sentimentalised Dickens and wanted to put the radical social message back into a Victorian Christmas story. "Dickesns was furious about poverty. He felt it was only Christmas when it applied to everyone." It's a festive show, he adds, "but it's not panto."