Stallone to talk Turkey with political 'hot potato'

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The Independent Online

* Sylvester Stallone is in town this week to promote his latest slice of testosterone-fuelled hokum, Rocky Balboa, which sees the ageing boxing champ return to the ring for one more fight. His next rumoured project will require more cerebral direction - if no less fake blood.

Stallone is touting the idea that he might direct an adaptation of the controversial novel The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, which describes the Turkish massacre of its Armenian community in 1915.

A movie based on the Austrian author Franz Werfel's 1934 fictionalised account would, Sly says, be "an epic about the complete destruction of a civilisation".

The topic is, to understate it somewhat, a thorny issue over in Turkey, where the claimed "genocide" has never been wholly accepted as historical fact.

A group calling themselves the Association on Struggle Against Armenian Genocide Acknowledgement is targeting Stallone with an angry letters campaign urging him not to make the film.

"The book is full of lies, since the author got his information from nationalist and radical Armenians," says the association's chairman, Savas Egilmez.

"We have already sent necessary documents about the mentioned days to the producer of the film. Our allies will urge the producer not to produce this film."

Stallone concedes: "Talk about a political hot potato. The Turks have been killing that subject for 85 years."

The uproar about Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ could seem tame.

* The author and transatlantic socialite Plum Sykes has a fractious relationship with the Fourth Estate.

In 2004, hours before the launch of her chic lit novel Bergdorf Blondes, Plum's embarrassed publisher rang the diarists of Her Majesty's Press Corps to announce that they could consider themselves uninvited.

Plum told perplexed gatecrashers that they were "ghastly", adding: "I don't like English journalists. Apart from anything else, they dress so badly." Harsh - given that her own brother, Tom, was a New York hack at the time. She blacklisted us.

So she was a surprise (if elusive) presence last night, then, at the launch of Tom Sykes's new book, A Drunkard's Tale, accounting 14 years of drugs and drinks since his expulsion from Eton.

Plum was clutching a shabby, ancient, leopard-print handbag and wearing a see-through black top.

Pot, kettle.

* Word has it that the latest addition to this rather shabby series of Celebrity Big Brother is uber-paparazzo Darren Lyons, the cockatoo-haired boss of the Big Pictures sleb photo agency.

Viewers of the pap's late-night television series may recall his "forthright" opinions and abrasive management style.

And Lyons has a head start on the other housemates: his friends cackle that he knows all about the racism row that has sparked rioting on the streets of India, and that he plans to wind up the other housemates (who are banned from knowledge of the outside world).

"Jade Goody's in the firing line," says a pal. "The contestants are about as sharp as bath sponges and probably won't realise Darren got rich by selling pictures of them falling over drunk with their nipples hanging out."

* Evening Standard theatre critic Nicholas de Jongh - known as "de Dongh Corleone" for his assassinations of new productions - was beside himself with praise yesterday for Days of Significance, now showing in Stratford.

The wannabe mafioso described the play, about a bunch of squaddies on the day before assignment to Basra, as a "brilliantly acted, in-yer-face and get-out-of-the-way promenade".

One distinguished theatregoer disagrees: "It was a load of rot, tantamount to treason, and very rough around the edges." He suggests cruelly that de Jongh's thumbs-up has something to do with the playwright Roy Williams, who happens to be the partner of Standard arts editor Fiona Hughes.

"Either that or he really loved it. He is normally very mean with his stars."

* The must-go event in Labour MPs' diaries for February is the 50th birthday party of Keith Vaz, the exuberant former minister and friend of the Hindujas. The invitation to the trendy Soho curry house The Red Fort on 21 February is adorned by a charming sepia photograph of the cherubic young Keith (aged seven?) astride what appears to be a rocking camel. (Like a rocking horse.) Guests are promised "amusing anecdotes" from the Lord Chancellor Charlie Falconer, Tony's old flatmate.

But what to do about the delicate subject of gifts? In 2001 the Parliamentary standards watchdog found Vaz guilty of failing to properly declare a donation; he was cleared of other severe charges. So bravo to KV, who asks his friends to send money to the Silver Star Mobile Diabetes Screening Unit in the Midlands. Who says a leopard never changes its spots?

pandora@independent.co.uk

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