Pandora: Fiennes forgets his gift

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The Independent Online

Ralph Fiennes is in demand – so much so, in fact, that he appears to have lost track.

The well-bred actor was widely expected to star in The Gifted, written and directed by Jacob Aaron Estes, which chronicles the life of the controversial American philanthropist Zell Kravinsky.

But when I mentioned the project to him a few days ago, he claimed to know nothing of it. "That's off the cards," insisted a handler. "It's all fallen through."

Now Fiennes' agent has been in touch. "It hasn't fallen through, it just isn't imminent. He still wants to do it but he's very busy for the next 18 months."

In other words, folks: don't hold your breath.

Time out is called in a tale of two publishers

When Tony Elliott, founder of Time Out magazine, took to the stage at the Edinburgh Television Festival, few expected him to launch a ferocious attack on the BBC.

Calling for the corporation's Worldwide division to be dissolved, he claimed that its new-found majority ownership of the Lonely Planet travel guides, Time Out's main rival, represented "a deal too far" for an "out of control" body.

Now, in an unreleased interview, the Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler hits back at Elliot, accusing him of harbouring "sour grapes" and rubbishing the claim that the BBC's ownership has given Lonely Planet unfair publicity.

"If you were to look at where the name has popped up over five years, it would have been on just as many BBC programmes 12 months ago as it is today," he fumes to The Bookseller. "I don't think that would have changed one little bit."

Wheeler, who established Lonely Planet with his wife almost 40 years ago, argues that Elliott's appeal to the Office of Fair Trading is hypocritical, given that Time Out once enjoyed a similarly protected position.

"When Pearson bought Rough Guides, they had Dorling Kindersley already and they distributed Time Out. I thought, 'They have the whole empire and oh, this is unfair', but I didn't go and complain to the OFT about it."

Gavin's set point

There were conflicting allegiances for British musician Gavin Rossdale last night as his Swiss pal, Roger Federer, came up against Andy Murray, the only Brit to reach a Grand Slam final in a decade. Rossdale has been close friends with Federer since they met at a charity match, and cheered him on through his Wimbledon final. Rossdale backed Federer but his wife, Gwen Stefani, took the diplomatic route:

"Gwen stayed firmly out of this one," I'm told.

Boys are back in town

South London beware: Pete Doherty is bringing fluctuating tempos to town. His band Babyshambles will perform at the Brixton Academy to compensate for a banned show at the Moonfest in Wiltshire. At the time, police said the gig would be unsafe owing to Doherty's propensity to "speed up and then slow down the music" which, officers concluded, could "gee up the crowd and make them start fighting".

Interval for Webber

Disappointment for fans of Any Dream Will Do as Andrew Lloyd Webber announces he'll give reality television a miss in 2009.

"There won't be a custom show with the BBC next year – with me, anyway," he tells Closer magazine.

"I've been asked to do another Saturday show this year, but I think I need to give it a rest."

Instead, Webber says he plans to get on with rehersals for his new musical, Phantom 2.

Cumming to America (at last)

Eccentric Scottish actor Alan Cumming is finally making good on his long-held pledge to become an American citizen, scheduling a naturalisation exam for October.

"I've got the questions and the answers," he boasts.

"Now all I've got to do is memorise them. It's just like learning a lot of lines, so I kind of think that as an actor, I'll be better prepared than most." I can only assume that the die-hard liberal is feeling optimistic about the election's outcome; he once swore to leave the country if another Republican was elected.

But just in case, he has spent the past few months campaigning for Barack Obama, rallying Democratic voters with an undoubtedly rousing cry of "Hillary's not in the race anymore! Hello! Get over it!"

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