Diary: Natalie's way with words

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The Independent Online

The plot of ballet-based thriller Black Swan, which opens in the UK today, sees Natalie Portman's crazed prima ballerina come to believe that her sexy frenemy, as played by Mila Kunis, is plotting to steal her career. When the two actors' subsequent projects come to our screens, audiences may be forgiven for thinking that life had imitated art. Portman and Ashton Kutcher are soon to star in No Strings Attached, a film about two friends who start having casual sex before, inevitably, falling in love. The project was previously entitled Friends With Benefits, until its producers learned of another production with an identical name, starring Kunis and Justin Timberlake as two friends who start having casual sex before, inevitably, falling in love. How, exactly, to tell the two films apart? This week, Portman told the American talk-show host Conan O'Brien that the original working title for her picture was "Fuck Buddies". Now that would probably have done the trick.

* Gordon Brown, now (if my spies are correct) the proud owner of professionally cleaned pearly whites, was among the most generous world leaders of 2009. No, I don't mean the G20 deal, but his gift to President Obama of a pen, with a pen holder made from the wood of the HMS Gannet. Along with a couple of history books, this made up the third most expensive gift ($16,510) given to the President that year – behind the Saudi King's marble and gold "desert scene" ($34,000, one for the White House loo) and Hu Jintao's silk embroidered portrait of the Obama family ($20,000, one for the White House attic). Documents released by the State Department this week also reveal that the Queen and Prince Philip gave the President a framed photograph of themselves, worth a paltry $775 – one for the White House recycling bin?

* This column's hard-won reputation for factual vagueness was enhanced earlier this week, when I revealed that glamour model-bothering Lembit Opik, ex-MP for Montgomeryshire and star of my notional sitcom Anyone But Lembit, had sailed to New York "and back" as a cruise ship entertainer with Cunard. In fact – as eagle-eyed reader Lloydy321 spotted – Lembit made the return trip by air. "I could swear it was him I saw in the Virgin Clubhouse at JFK with the requisite (non-cheeky) mystery blonde as I quaffed my pre-flight G&T last Friday evening," Lloyd writes. As for Lembit's maiden voyage, he asks: "Did he only make it halfway (round-trip-wise)? If so, did they send him back, or dump him at the quay?"

* As I reported yesterday, the embattled Speaker, Cuban-heeled Senor John Bercow, interrupted the Prime Minister as part of his performance at PMQs this week, in order to deliver a moving monologue of his own. (Meryl Streep was watching, and it's being suggested – by me, here, now – that Senor Bercow was auditioning for a role in her Thatcher biopic.) I'm reminded that this isn't the first time Senor Bercow has disrupted Dave's flow: the pair were once regular tennis partners. The PM is a passable player, it's said, though not quite as skilful as Tony Blair. Senor Bercow, however, was one of the country's top junior racquet-wielders in the 1970s, until a bout of glandular fever kept him from the court. A sporting career sadly eluded Senor Bercow but, like a tiny squirrel darting from branch to branch, he remains sufficiently nimble to have hammered the future PM (then a heavy smoker) in straight sets whenever they played.

* Having chosen to vote against the Government over the transfer of parliamentary powers to Brussels, callow Conservative Chris Kelly MP, 32, was moved to tears by a dressing down from the Prime Minister – or so reported the Mail. Perhaps hoping to prove his mettle to his formidable dad, trucker magnate Chris Kelly Snr, the 32-year-old has explained to the Dudley News that he just had something in his eye, honest. "Man's inhumanity to man and genocide is what makes me cry, not Prime Ministers," Kelly Jr insisted, as if auditioning to become Miss West Midlands 2011. "I will always put my country, my constituency of Dudley South and my residents first," he went on, bottom lip trembling almost imperceptibly. Just as well, since a sweary Dave (PM) supposedly assured him he'd never be a minister now, anyway.