People: No arias please, we're retired Australians

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The Independent Culture
THE OPERA diva Joan Sutherland, aged 67, has been persuaded to come out of retirement for her first speaking role in a film. She will play opposite a fellow Australian expatriate, Leo McKern, in On Our Selection, a remake of a 1930s film from a classic book by Steele Rudd about a dotty outback pioneering family. La Stupenda and Rumpole will play the droll but resilient characters of Mum and Dad. Shooting starts in Australia in October, and the producers say that Dame Joan 'most definitely won't be singing'.

ANOTHER old trouper, Sir Peter Ustinov, received the German Culture Prize on his 73rd birthday at the weekend, and was praised as a 'citizen of the world' and a 'practising European'. Sir Peter says that he will give the annual prize - worth 100,000 marks ( pounds 39,000) - to Unicef, the child relief agency for which he acts as an ambassador. But not without a few regrets. 'I've given them so many cheques in my life, though, that I'd like to keep this one for a while,' said Sir Peter.

REMEMBER Stormin' Norman? The retired US General Schwarzkopf, who masterminded Operation Desert Storm, has unfinished business with Saddam Hussein.

''I wish that we had blown up Saddam's statue,' he confessed, referring to a 30ft statue of Saddam in central Baghdad. 'That is the one thing I would have liked to have done. I wanted to get that for a long time and unfortunately the lawyers got involved in the thing at the end and we didn't blow it up. Now I wish we had.' He was on a 'purely social' visit to Kuwait, with his wife and two daughters.

SADDAM can number among his fans the wildman of Russian nationalism, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who plans a special visit to Baghdad for the Iraqi President's birthday on 28 April. Mr Zhirinovsky sees this as a chance to have a good time, and plans to make the day 'a real holiday'. He promises to take along a soccer team and a folk group to add to the fun. Let's hope he doesn't bump into Stormin' Norman: Zhirinovsky backs Iraq as 'a victim of reckless aggression by America and Israel'.

SPIN-OFFS from the Tonya Harding saga are still swirling about. Two men who sold their stories about the ice star to a US television show claim that their lawyer is hanging on to some dollars 60,000 ( pounds 40,000) he received on their behalf. Shane Stant and his uncle Derrick Smith are filing complaints against the attorney, Frederick Merrill. Stant admits striking Harding's rival, Nancy Kerrigan, with a metal bar and Smith admits driving the getaway car.

They claim that Mr Merrill arranged their appearances on a popular television news programme and received dollars 60,000 on their behalf. They also say that he made them sign away their print and film rights in an effort to boost his fees, in possible violation of ethics rules.

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