Whatever happened to the Primrose Hill set?
Once they were the darlings of the press, feeding the gossip columns with their bed-hopping and break-ups. Andrew Johnson discovers how it worked out
Sunday 24 January 2010
It might be unkind to suggest that, when Sadie Frost takes to the stage on Tuesday in Sam Shepard's sexually charged drama Fool for Love, she will find herself in familiar territory. But as a leading member of the group of hard-partying celebrities who lived near each other in a small area of north London – dubbed "The Primrose Hill set" – the actress has seen plenty of bad behaviour and dramatic on-off relationships.
For a while in the 1990s, Primrose Hill, an enclave of brightly painted terraced houses next to trendy Camden Town, seemed the most fashionable place in Britain. Noel Gallagher of Oasis, the actress Sienna Miller, the supermodel Kate Moss, the heiress-turned-actress Davinia Taylor, Sadie Frost, Jude Law and a host of other musicians, actors and general celebrities lived next door to each other and seemed to be having a whale of a time with drink, drugs and bed-hopping.
They were a gift for tabloid newspaper editors. But, it seems, for many the years in Primrose Hill were cursed. Law and Frost, who had three children together, divorced in 2003, allegedly following a wife-swapping episode with fellow set members, designer Pearl Lowe and her husband, Supergrass drummer Danny Goffey. Lowe had a daughter, Daisy, today a fashion model, with Bush singer Gavin Rossdale – he is now married to fellow singer Gwen Stefani.
Law was then due to marry Sienna Miller, but that was called off after his affair with his children's nanny was revealed. Davinia Taylor's acting career has hit the buffers, while actor Jonny Lee Miller missed out to Daniel Craig for the role of James Bond and was instead in the BBC's adaptation of Emma. Welsh hell-raiser Rhys Ifans endured a high-profile split from Sienna Miller in 2008.
Little wonder, perhaps, that many have moved house.
Frost, 44, is now starring opposite the musician Carl Barat – who along with Pete Doherty was the creative force of The Libertines – in Fool for Love, a play at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, west London, about the violent passions between two people who can't live together or apart. She will then appear as Lady Anne in Richard III at the same theatre. She was in the news earlier this month after posing nude in Grazia.
Meanwhile, Law can be excused for feeling even more pleased with himself than usual after his critical success in Hamlet in London and on Broadway, and his role as Dr Watson in Guy Ritchie's most successful film in a decade, Sherlock Holmes. He has also been in the news for his relationship with the actress Sienna Miller, which is said to be back on.
Rhys Ifans will star as the drug trafficker Howard Marks in the biopic Mr Nice, based on Marks's autobiography, as well as taking on the role of Xenophilius Lovegood in the next Harry Potter film.
While the likes of Law and Ifans are enjoying great success, however, others are still paddling at the shallow end of celebrity.
Part of the group's mystique was created by their refusal to talk about it.
"They were a very tight group and never broke ranks to talk about each other," a source close to the group said. "They didn't see themselves as a set. They were just a bunch of friends, but they weren't living in a group like a football team."
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