Coming to the West End: Withnail & I... and Jude

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The Independent Online

Twenty years after a booze-addled road-trip spawned the sharpest British film of its generation, Withnail & I is to make the most unlikely of comebacks. The cult film, which launched Richard E Grant's career, is being turned into a West End play which - if all goes according to plan - will star one of our foremost matinee idols: Jude Law.

News of the project slipped out yesterday in financial papers released by HandMade Films, a production company mounting a reverse takeover bid for a media firm called Equator.

According to HandMade's "offer document", the play's in the capable hands of Laurence Myers, the producer behind Jeffery Bernard and (more recently) Kathleen Turner's turn in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. "A UK theatrical show of Withnail has been agreed with the well-known London producer Laurence Myers," reads the offer document. "Production is anticipated for 2007."

HandMade, created by George Harrison in the 1970s, has made some of the most important British films of recent years.

Together with the original Withnail film, it produced Life of Brian, and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

The firm's chairman, Patrick Meehan, tells me casting is under way, and that Jude Law, who - despite his Hollywood cachet boasts a strong theatrical pedigree - has been offered the top job.

"It's scheduled for next year, and we have approached Jude about playing Richard E Grant's character," he said.

The secret cost of Harry's girlfriend

What, exactly, does Prince Harry's relationship with Zimbabwean bombshell Chelsey Davy cost the British taxpayer?

Last time the teenage beauty visited Britain, she was escorted through Heathrow by enough policemen to fill your average Freemasons' Hall.

Strangely, the Met Police have just refused a Freedom of Information request by this column, asking how much this operation set them back.

They reckon that releasing such figures would "prejudice the enforcement of law", and "increase the vulnerability of the girlfriend of Prince Harry".

Pandora disagrees, and has appealed against the decision. But I won't be holding my breath. The cops have an interest in keeping this one secret, since it was described at the time as a bungled operation.

If Davy had arrived on her own, few people would have noticed; the police escort shone like a beacon to Heathrow's resident paparazzi.

Daz blames Blair

If, heaven forbid, Britain scores nul points in Saturday's Eurovision Song Contest, blame Tony Blair. That, at least, is the verdict of Daz Samson, the bad boy singer who carries our hopes in the contest, with his track "Teenage Life".

Sampson chooses today's New! magazine to decry the "politicisation" of the Eurovision voting process.

"It has been political ever since that buffoon Mr Blair got us involved in a war no one wanted," he says. "If we don't stop political voting, Eurovision, which is the musical equivalent of the World Cup final, won't be here in five or six years' time."

Apopros of the benefits of fame, Sampson adds breezily: "It gets me a step closer to being in Blair's Cabinet and trying to sort out this country."

Carole smiley

For Carole Caplin, life after Cherie means reinventing herself as a British version of Jane Fonda.

Last week, she popped up at the Oasis of Peace - an Israeli village where Jews and Arabs live and educate their kids together - to inaugurate a $1m spiritual reconciliation centre.

"Carole was wearing a lovely white dress with shiny inlays, which showed off her amazingly structured bosom," says a guest.

"She spent the morning posing for pictures with kids, but sadly did a runner before the actual inauguration got underway."

No harm in that: "It was a drab affair, attended by rabbis, sheikhs, poets, and philosophers - but no one worthy of a decent photo-op.

Nothing's too good for the workers

Hugo Chavez is a sworn enemy of the moneyed classes. But, shown the trappings of wealth, he's like a pig in excrement.

During his current visit to London, the Venezuelan President has been dossing-down amid the Art Deco splendour of the Savoy.

"Imagine my surprise, while visiting the Savoy's downstairs gents on Sunday afternoon, to spot Chavez at the next-door urinal," says one guest.

"While this left-wing dissident was spending a penny, a besuited flunkey strode up behind him, and brushed the shoulders of his suit. He smiled gratefully, but forgot to leave a tip."

Hiring a floor of the Savoy, where suites start at £550, costs a pretty penny. However, the Venezuelan embassy insists luxury hotels were the only option, saying: "there's no accommodation here, it's just offices."

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