The Diary: Pitt to star in Homer's 'Odyssey' set in space

A space Odyssey

Brad Pitt is reported to be dusting off his sword and sandals to create a futuristic version of Homer's 'Odyssey' set in space. Traditionalists might baulk, but Robin Lane Fox, an Oxford don and father of the internet entrepreneur Martha, tells me he would be happy to lend an expert hand in bringing the surreal vision to our screens. Lane Fox, a classics fellow at New College, said the intergalactic setting was perfectly in keeping with the spirit of Homer's original, waylaid as Odysseus was by all sorts of fantastical creatures. "Why not set the adventures on a planet far away? If you are making a historical film, you are obliged to keep the historical framework, but this is a film based on myth," he says. Lane Fox, who advised director Oliver Stone for 'Alexander', says he could do with a second stint in Hollywood. "I was plucked from my dreary surroundings to become historical consultant for 'Alexander'. I think they would be very stupid not to ask me back."

Raging Bartley

Fresh from the critical success of his film 'Somers Town', the director Shane Meadows spoke to me about his next project, a biopic of the "King of the Gypsies", a champion bare-knuckle boxer called Bartley Gorman whose growing religious bent led him to tire of the violence of his life. The director and his father knew the fighter, who died in 2002. Meadows said the film would be the nearest thing to a British version of Martin Scorsese's 'Raging Bull'. Filming begins in Britain by the end of 2009, and Paddy Considine stars.

Rock on the Nile

A set of musical rocks dating from 5,000BC, used in Sudan as an ancient "drum kit", is coming to the British Museum. For centuries, the rock formations near the Nile were deemed of little historical interest. But, after a 10-year study, they've been found to be granite gongs that produce melodious sounds when struck with a pebble. The museum says the rocks may exhibited in a way that permits the public to "play" them. What's the bet that the marketing will talk of this being the earliest "rock music" at some point?

Sex is harder now

Jilly Cooper, the grand dame of the bonkbuster, says writing sex scenes is getting harder because "it's difficult to write a sex scene with a condom". She thought sex was also better off the written page in times gone by. Not so in the 1960s, when she and her husband Leo were always being asked by other couples to go to bed with them. Speaking at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, the author also bemoaned age banding books because it "makes young people want to read the naughty books more".

Byzantine indeed...

When a silver cup was discovered in 1911 in Turkey, it was hailed as the Holy Grail. Years later, the theory that this was the vessel Jesus used at the Last Supper was tarnished when experts dated the cup's mount to the 6th century. Conspiracy theories raged on, and now, experts have said it is not a chalice but a lamp. Professor Robin Cormack of the Royal Academy of Arts said: "For 50 years, people thought it was the Holy Grail. Maybe some still think it is. Now they say it is a lamp." Whatever the experts call it, it still takes pride of place at the RA's latest blockbuster, Byzantium, opening tomorrow.

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