Pandora: Cantona silences squawkers

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The Independent Online

Since hanging up his boots in 1997, the philosophising French fruitcake Eric Cantona has employed his charisma in the field of acting. Who can forget his part as a 16th-century French Ambassador in the Cate Blanchett-led Elizabeth? Eric had one line, telling the Queen's suitor, the Duc d'Anjou: "She is a woman, Sire. They say one thing but mean another. No man can unlock their secrets." There have since been minor movies and ads.

But finally! Success! The Gaul has received rave reviews from critics for Papillon Noir ("Black Butterfly"), his new psychological thriller on French telly. More than 8 million viewers watched a grizzly-bearded Eric swim across a lake wearing his pants. As Cantona has explained: "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea."

Crackers clears his desk and heads for the revolving door

Lock up your contacts books. The once light-fingered political mover David Cracknell, who joined the lobbying company FD-LLM in January amid great fanfare after six years as political editor of The Sunday Times, has already left his megabucks post.

Crackers, as he is affectionately known to colleagues and enemies, has quit as chairman after finding himself disoriented in the billowing fog of Westminster public relations. "It didn't work out. It was far too big a job," said a source.

"To throw him into managing people like that, and particularly to bring him in above the heads of much more experienced lobbyists, some of the toughest people in the business, was a big gamble. It caused resentment."

Crackers told PR Week magazine that he had another job lined up, but was understandably reluctant to elaborate. His group CEO, Charles Watson, said the departing Dave was a "a great guy" who helped to win the new Northern Rock account (at least someone's making some money out of the damn thing). However, another colleague said that was "a quite generous comment".

When Cracknell left a previous job at The Sunday Telegraph to enter Rupert Murdoch's Wapping fortress, he was famously discovered robbing his boss's juicy contacts folder off a laptop.

He subsequently had his security pass melted and was placed on gardening leave. Hopefully he can remember to take his own contacts book this time, and not a colleague's.

Oooh Chris, what an impression you made

The nerdish Coldplay crooner Chris Martin is notoriously protective of his private life. He and wife Gwyneth Paltrow refuse to be photographed together; only one such image exists.

A touching detail emerges of young Christopher, when he was a boy at the Dorset public school Sherborne. "Chris was all right, I suppose," recalls a fellow pupil in the Digby house. "I remember him well, not because he's famous now, but for his Frank Spencer impression. He would screw up his face and go 'Oooh Betty!' All the time. It was his catchphrase." (Note for younger readers: Spencer was the lead character in the Seventies sitcom Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, a wimpish beret-wearer played by Michael Crawford, prone to becoming embroiled in situations that rapidly spiralled into catastrophe.)

Sadly, on no occasion when Chris and Gwyneth are being pursued by paparazzi has the musician exclaimed: "Oooh... I'm being ha-RASSed!"

Massage for the ego

Toby Kebbell lives a charmed life. The British actor, 25, confidently debuted in the Shane Meadows film Dead Man's Shoes, going on to win parts for Oliver Stone, Woody Allen and in the Joy Division biopic Control. His next role, in a 1920s romance, sounds his best yet.

"I'm about to start on a new film called Cheri, by Stephen Frears, out this time next year," Kebbell tells me. "It's a small part but it's great. I play Michelle Pfeiffer's masseuse. Basically I'll travel to Paris and Cologne to massage Michelle Pfeiffer. You can't ask for better jobs."

Kebbell, speaking at the launch of Scarlet TV, has completed filming RocknRolla with Guy Ritchie. Surprise: it's another film about London gangsters. "I grew up in Nottingham, where I didn't notice much organised crime," adds Kebbell. "In Nottingham it's: 'All right blood can I have your watch?' – then 'Bang!'"

No Cottaging

It's the footballing equivalent of Ian Paisley walking into the Vatican and kissing the Pope's ring: why did Hugh Grant attend Chelsea's epic Champions League semi-final victory over Liverpool?

The actor is supposed to have long been a supporter of the Blues' fierce west-London rivals Fulham, owned by the Fuggin' Pharaoh, Mohamed Al Fayed. Grant has been a Fulham season-ticket holder and even worked as an assistant groundsman for the club in the summer of 1976. "I cleaned seats in the Riverside Stand," he explained. "The guy I worked with kept threatening me with a knife so I left." During his appearance on Desert Island Discs, Grant selected "Viva El Fulham", by the club's losing 1975 FA Cup final team. He may find himself less welcome at the team's Craven Cottage home.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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