Arts and Entertainment Chiwetel Ejiofor (second from right) stars as kidnapped slave Solomon Northup in '12 Years A Slave'

The Steve McQueen film made £2.5m in its opening weekend

Dear Uma, I'm your number one fan...

You're deeply in love with Uma Thurman/Colin Firth/Tim Henman. You really are. 'Course you are. It's just that you've never met and s/he is oblivious to your existence. Join the club, says Eleanor Bailey

LETTER : Save Bridget!

Sir: How can you possibly contemplate sacking Bridget Jones? Her interview with Colin Firth (Magazine, 29 March) could be the precursor of greater things to come. Her examination of past glories would be ideally suited to an interview with Mr Major, and as for a preoccupation with wet shirts, many of us have wondered about Mr Blair, or even Mr Ashdown.

Firth left cold by screen heat

Colin Firth, the actor who set female hearts racing as Charles Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, claims the heaving bodices in the hit series left him cold.

Television preview: Recommended viewing this weekend

I'm hazarding a guess here, but I imagine that the one thing that most media-savvy, post-literate people know about Joseph Conrad's Nostromo is that the film director David Lean spent the latter stages of his life plotting to bring it to the screen. Conrad's 1904 novel also fascinated the screenwriter Robert Bolt during the 1960s, but it has taken a combination of British, American, Italian and Spanish money to finally nail the beast. Moreover, given its multi-national funding and casting (from Colin Firth and Brian Dennehy to Claudia Cardinale), and the hugely ambitious nature of the book (the intellectual and political forces which distort individuals and nations), Nostromo (Sat BBC2) is remarkably coherent.

A MAN OF MANY PARTS

Before `Pride & Prejudice', Colin Firth was a moderately successful young actor, looking forward to a moderately successful career. Then every woman in the land fell for Mr Darcy. Now he's the first choice for everything from BBC adaptations of Conrad to Nick Hornby's `Fever Pitch'. But what does the man himself make of all the fuss?

The morning after two nights before

No 154: DUREX

TV tribute to Eric and Ernie

Morecambe and Wise were voted Britain's best television comedy act last night at a special awards ceremony to mark 60 years of BBC television.

Here is Islamic Barbie, complete with chador and devout expression

Call me a drooling pervert, but I've become obsessed with Barbie dolls. I love the way they're supposed to embody, in nine inches of plastic, the supposed dreams and career plans of today's girls; and the way, in the interests of offering an eclectic portfolio of hobbies to the nation's seven-year-olds, the manufacturers keep coming up with more and more ridiculous things for her to do. With the help of my indefatigable assistant, Sophie (nine), I've identified: Mountain-Climbing Barbie, Skiing Barbie, Magic Songbird Barbie, Twirling Ballerina Barbie, Beach and Lifeguard Barbie, Barbie And Her Horse Nibbles, Teacher Barbie and Mermaid Barbie. Then there are the smutty variants for aspirant good-time girls - Gymnastic Barbie, and "Overnight Barbie With Overnight Bag" and, I dare say, one or two bags under her eyes as well ....

Firth rides back as Conrad replaces Austen

Ivan Waterman on the off-screen saga of love, greed and stormy weather that produced 'Nostromo', to be broadcast this autumn

'Jane Austen (can we really believe that name? I imagine some corpulent copywriter with a tax-bill to pay) makes a very poor fist of Mrs Bennett'

I've been reading Pride and Prejudice recently, a novelisation of Andrew Davies's classic television series of the same name. The paperback is adorned with a full colour photograph of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Lizzie, so I think there's little doubt that it is a shameless attempt to cash in on the success of the original, now drawing over 9m viewers every week. And while I don't want to sound puritanical about it, I have to say I'm a little disappointed with the liberties that have been taken with Mr Davies's creation.

THEATRE / Another time, another place: Julian Mitchell's 'Another Country' catapulted a generation of young actors to fame: for Kenneth Branagh, Rupert Everett and Daniel Day-Lewis it was their first West End theatre job. Can Mitchell work the trick again with his new play? Robert Butler reports

ONE OF the odd things about playwrights is the way they write things that do wonders for other people's careers. Take Julian Mitchell, for instance. He has a new play, Falling Over England, opening at the Greenwich Theatre next month. It deals with an upper-middle-class family (from 1945, via Suez in 1956, to the present). The last time Mitchell had a new play at Greenwich that dealt with upper-middle-class England it launched a generation of British actors. That was in 1981. The past is Another Country.

FILM / Other New Releases: Final days in flashback: Bhaji on the Beach (15), Dir: Gurinder Chadha (UK); Calendar, Director: Atom Egoyan (Can); The Hour of the Pig (15), Dir: Leslie Megahey (UK/Fr); Man's Best Friend (15), Director: John Lafia (US); Son In Law (12), Director: Steve Rash (US); Tombstone (15) Dir: George Cosmatos (US)

Atom Egoyan, a Canadian independent director majoring in the tangled relationship between sex, lies and videotape, has a chilly cerebralism that has never appealed to British audiences, but with Calendar, an elegant and playful jigsaw puzzle story, he has made his warmest and probably most accessible film. Egoyan plays a Canadian- Armenian photographer on an assignment to shoot 12 historic Armenian churches for a calendar. With him is his wife (Arsinee Khanjian, Egoyan's real-life spouse) acting as his interpreter. In the course of the trip, the couple quarrel and split up: Khanjian is surprised and disappointed at her husband's indifference towards his roots, and drifts into the arms of their Armenian driver. All of which gradually emerges in the video the couple shot on their journey, now viewed by the photographer alone in his empty apartment.

TELEVISION / Into the heart of darkness

'IT'S BETTER to light a candle than sit and curse the dark . . .' A nearly naked man is chanting as he squats striking matches, turning his cell into a demon's grotto. He looks like a wild Christ, or Crusoe before he found Friday; cadaverous eye-sockets bruised the colour of grape, a prophet's beard. When the candles are lit he starts a fierce jig, sploshing through pools of wax and singing along with pipe music we can hear a long way off: 'Auld Lang Syne' filtered through a madman's brain. Dance, dance, wherever you may be. Even if it's Beirut. Especially if it's Beirut and you are Brian Keenan consigned to dank oblivion and going out of a mind that is the only thing they have left you. But this isn't Keenan, this is an actor playing a character called Keenan performing a routine drafted by a writer. They need a credit at the bottom of the screen: from the original suffering by Brian Keenan.
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