Hit & Run: Dick Dastardly?

Richard Dreyfuss, the Oscar-winning film star, maverick thespian and prickly customer, is returning to the London stage in January. The star of Jaws (he played Matt, the specky marine biologist) will appear in Complicit at the Old Vic in London. The play, by Joe Sutton, will be directed by the Vic's boss, Kevin Spacey. It concerns a Pulitzer-winning journalist who appears before the US Supreme Court to defend his belief in the freedom of the press.

Spacey's praise of his friend ("He's a brilliant actor whom I've long admired") doesn't allay concerns about Dreyfuss's reputation. It's not that he's a bad actor, just that strange or annoying things tend to happen when he's around. He has, for instance, closed shows simply by turning up. His stage debut, But Seriously... lasted barely weeks. A later play, Total Abandon, packed up after one day. In 2004, he was slated to play Max Bialystock in the $5.5m (£3.4m) stage musical of Mel Brooks's The Producers. Only days before it opened, Dreyfuss was dropped. His departure was blamed on "a shoulder injury" but the real reason was that Dreyfuss had told a journalist that he was a rubbish vaudevillean. "I can't sing or dance," he said, "Actually, I sing like a seal and dance like your uncle Leo at a wedding when he got up and went 'Ya Ya Ya.'" This went down badly, as did Dreyfuss's subsequent advice to Frank Skinner on his TV show, that "no one should go to see this show until the New Year".

Commenting this week on his Old Vic appearance, he said, with typical persiflage: "There is no greater place to be human than in front of humans. No greater way to reflect being human. No greater place than The Old Vic. I'm very excited to have a chance of not being fired before the opening." Clearly, The Producers experience still rankles. But the Old Vic producers will be watching him closely, for signs of his compulsion to shoot his mouth off. Publicising Oliver Stone's new movie W. (in which he plays Dick Cheney), he told his startled TV host that it was "eight-tenths of a good movie" and, speaking of Stone, said it was possible for someone to be a fascist even if he was "of the left". Cheers for that, Richard.

I experienced his verbal incontinence a few years ago when he was in London starring in The Prisoner of Second Avenue at the Haymarket. A letter arrived that read: "Dear John Walsh, your article in today's Independent regarding cruise ships is without doubt the stupidest, most irresponsible piece of crap I have read since I arrived in London in January." I'd written, you see, a piece about the inexplicable popularity of cruise-line holidays in the wake of the Titanic movie, and mentioned that the biggest liner of all – the 250,000-ton America World City – would shortly be launched. A pity, I said, if that wound up on the seabed.

Mr Dreyfuss, it turned out, is a ferocious patriot. On Desert Island Discs, he chose Simon and Garfunkel's "America" and John Stewart's tearful "Mother Country". He disliked my imagining that an emblem of America could sink under the sea.

The movie website Hollywood.com defines his appeal thus: "Thanks to his uncanny ability to make annoyingly vain, pompous, whiney or supercilious characters seem heroic and likeable, he rose to the top of the Hollywood heap." Uncanny indeed. John Walsh



Step away from the little black dress...

It's party season, and those crazy ladies at Grazia magazine throw us a curveball. The evening jumpsuit, they say, now has the edge on the LBD. The EJ is a silken all-in-one with wide-legged trousers, looks best in dark colours, and is honoured with a place in the Costume Institute in New York (a black number by Seventies disco-chic designer Halston). Don't be put off by recent photographs of Katie Holmes getting the EJ a bit wrong – the bifurcated glamour-garment can be more flattering than a dress. As an occasional wearer, I've learnt this much: pick one that shows plenty of back; wear heels, and more jewellery than normal; allow an extra 10 minutes when visiting the loo. Susie Rushton



Excuses that won't hold any water

Heather Mills claims that her £1m swimming pool – what is it filled with, Moët? – shouldn't be demolished, despite its lack of planning permission. She reasons that it should be given a stay of execution because... the Sussex fire brigade can use it. Any time they like. And not for a quick splash, you understand, but to extinguish any fires in the locality. As excuses go, this is up there with "the dog ate my homework". Surely Mills could have come up with something better – maybe along the lines of "a big boy did it and ran away" – or perhaps she should just say that the planners can use it when they fancy a dip. Rebecca Armstrong

Why showing your rear isn’t such a bad idea

"Britain's Best Bums" blares the latest cover of Loaded magazine. Although Kate Winslet doesn't make the cut, the actress can content herself with having her derriere featured in the more glossy Vanity Fair. At least, we think it's hers. After the photo-shopping controversies with GQ and Vogue, who can be sure? Either way, baring your rear can't do any harm if it helps secure a cover story in a magazine that is devoured by Hollywood power-players. Especially when you are in line for an Oscar. "Do I want it?" asks Kate in reference to an Academy Award. "You bet your ****ing a** I do." As if to prove the point, she gets hers out, too.

But not everyone thinks this was a smart move.

As publicist James Herring points out: "These super-slim pictures will probably unsettle her fan base of fellow mums." But Jason Fraser, the celebrity photographer, points out that the image recalls a scene from the film Titanic where Winslet's character is painted nude.

What's more, Kate, who has a new film to promote, knew that pictures would be plastered across the red tops without her having to directly engage with those ghastly tabloid journalists. It's a win-win situation. Ian Burrell

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