Our man in Tashkent waits for word from Angelina

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The Independent Online

* A tale of morally dubious foreign ministers, torture, executions, oil and extra-marital love is shaping up to be the undiplomatic diplomatic movie of 2008. (New sub-genre.)

Craig Murray, Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan, was smeared and sacked by the Foreign Office in 2004 for commenting on human rights abuses in the Central Asian state - an ally in the US and Britain's "war on terror". He alleged that Britain conspired with the Bush administration to sanction the use of information extracted through torture. (The Uzbek president, Islam Karimov, is partial to boiling political dissidents in water.)

Murray's memoirs from the time, Murder in Samarkand, are being made into a film by British director Michael Winterbottom, funded by Paramount and Plan B (Brad Pitt's production company ). Sir David Hare has almost finished the script. Steve Coogan plays our whisky-swilling, kilt-wearer in Tashkent.

During his tour, Murray, 48, split with his wife for an Uzbek beauty, Nadira Alieva, in her early 20s.

Word has it that her role will be played by Angelina Jolie - with whom Winterbottom is currently filming A Mighty Heart in India, about the murdered Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl.

"I have been told that Angelina Jolie will be in the film, which is an extraordinary thing," says Murray. "I can't say for definite - speak to her for that. But the whole thing's astonishing."

A message left for Jolie's manager in Los Angeles remains unanswered. How very diplomatic.

* It looks as though the BBC may have lost one of the crown jewels from its comedy line-up.

Meera Syal, creator and star (with her husband Sanjeev Bhaskar) of The Kumars at No 42 - the chat show hosted by a fictional Indian family whose guests were paid their appearance fees in chutney - says she has no plans to continue the programme with the corporation.

"We won't do another series in its present form for the BBC because we have now done seven, amazingly," she says, adding that the Kumars may up sticks from Wembley and move to a rival channel.

"We have had interest from other quarters about doing something different - but keeping the family together. So we're exploring that."

In the meantime, she can busy herself filming the new Jekyll and Hyde series and caring for her nine-month-old son. Goodness gracious me!

* For a man who shares a bed with a lingerie model, Vic Reeves has a remarkably strange take on literary titillation.

Having been approached to write a racy novel by Virgin Books, he completely botched his erotic fiction debut.

"It wasn't erotic in the slightest," Reeves concedes. (Wait for it...)

"It was about a bloke who drove a Commer lorry up and down the A1 in 1963 with loads of Bic Biros on board.

"This bloke fancied himself, and he encouraged a woman to go into the back of the lorry. They thrashed about a bit and then she got stabbed in the back by one of the Biros and died."

Not really cold-shower stuff.

Reeves, mercifully, fares better in the non-fiction category - critics praising his recent childhood memoir, Me Moir.

* Former Coronation Street actor-cum-pop singer Adam Rickitt informed his public last week that he would "give both [his] arms and legs" to become a Tory MP.

The odds on him having to do just that shortened over the weekend, after an unexpected setback in East Anglia.

Despite Rickitt's status on David Cameron's vaunted "A-list" of hip [sic] young things being parachuted into seats for the next general election, the Conservatives of Mid Norfolk have decreed that the actor's particular combination of six-pack and political savvy is not for them.

Following interviews, he has been cut from the short list. He had already been rejected in Folkestone and Hythe.

Where next for the wannabe golden (haired) boy of Tory politics?

* Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, and Piers Morgan, the former Daily Mirror editor, have long waged (a fairly one-way) war.

"Piers threatened to turn me over," Hislop told Cancer Research's Turn the Tables lunch at the Savoy yesterday, where he was interrogated by the MP Bob Marshall-Andrews QC. "He sent reporters after me. One day our vicar rang: 'Ian, I've been apprehended by a man from the Mirror twice. He wondered if you've said anything juicy during confession.'"

Hislop worships at the Church of England. The idea of repentance is alien. Asked if he has ever felt guilty about hounding the newspaper tycoon and pensions thief, Robert Maxwell, to a watery grave, he replied: "No. Never. Every 5 November, when people are out celebrating Guy Fawkes Night, I'm celebrating Guy Drowns Night!"

pandora@independent.co.uk

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