Diary: Angelina's local point

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The Independent Online

It's at least five days since I last wrote about Angelina Jolie and, fresh from her publicity tour for the broad Cold War stereotyping of her spy thriller Salt, the star has revealed she's to make a more nuanced movie next.

On a "surprise visit" to Sarajevo this weekend, she announced – via the unusual means of a statement issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – that she's developing a romance set during the 1992-95 Bosnian War. Ms Jolie met returnees to Eastern Bosnia earlier this year, in her capacity as a UN Goodwill Ambassador.

On her latest visit, she discussed ways to help returning war refugees with members of the country's inter-ethnic presidency. Her solution? Cast actors from the various ethnicities of the former Yugoslavia: "I would like to involve as many local people as possible and learn as much as I can," she said. The film, about a couple who meet just before the outbreak of war, is, Ms Jolie insisted, "a love story, not a political statement". But then, everything is politics. (Especially in Bosnia.)

* Red-faced Russianist Orlando Figes last month agreed to pay damages to two fellow academics whose work he'd anonymously disparaged on the Amazon website. Figes has been unwell, and absent from his post as a history professor at Birkbeck College, University of London, since the scandal broke. He's now on the road to recovery, however, and took up an invitation to lecture at the Universidad Gabriela Mistral in Santiago last week, while on a long-planned holiday in Chile with his family. Figes's five lectures in four days included one about "Russia in the World" and another on "Private Life in Stalin's Russia". The trip, I'm told, was part of the Prof's "phased return to work", approved by Birkbeck and his doctors. Should he wish to take a break from Russia, as well as from the UK, then the nearby Bolivarian republics ought to keep a historian of socialism happy.

* Frank Skinner got into something of a spat with Edinburgh Fringe venue the Assembly Rooms when he pulled out of hosting a run of "talk shows" with fellow performers days before this year's festival kicked off. Skinner's reason was that there were "too many gaps" in the guest list, despite confirmed appearances from Alan Cumming, Ardal O'Hanlon, Mel Smith, Steven Berkoff, Omid Djalili, Jenny Eclair, Jo Brand, Alistair McGowan, Clive Anderson and Julian Clary (among others). "My bags were packed, my train ticket was in my pocket, and I was very excited about the whole thing," Skinner said. "[But] it seems it was harder to put together than anyone thought. I'm genuinely gutted." The venue booked Skinner's fellow comic Stephen K Amos to take his place, but its artistic director, William Burdett-Coutts, believed Skinner had just "changed his mind... It was not exactly ideal." Burdett-Coutts might be surprised to learn that Skinner has been enjoying the Fringe anyway. On Saturday the funnyman featured in the impromptu "Iranian dancing" finale of Irish-Iranian stand-up Patrick Monahan's show at the Gilded Balloon. He's yet to turn up, even as a reserve guest, at "The Talk Show".

* Yesterday, an invitation arrived to the annual Square Mile Masked Ball, a prestigious party for the great, the good and the exceedingly wealthy, featuring speeches by Boris Johnson and champagne by Louis Roederer. The event, on 1 September, concludes with an after-party at Boujis nightclub. Today, a second invitation arrives, this time directly from Boujis, offering places at the ball not for the standard rate of £2,000 per table or £200 per head, but a "very special Boujis rate": £2,500 per table, or £350 per head. Er...

* Celebrity spouse Alex Reid tells the latest issue of Star magazine that he's been working with Muslim children as part of a volunteer scheme to get youngsters into kick-boxing. "The guy who runs it is Muslim, as are a lot of the kids, and it has really taught me how good the religion is – Islam is about being peaceful." True, true. And Reid, who does some kick-boxing himself when he's not busy being Jordan's husband, says he's a role model for the children: "[I] teach them morals, as well as fighting skills."