Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (26/02/12)

With full supporting cast


Hillary Clinton made a personal intervention to secure Jeremy Irons a US visa, I can disclose. The Brideshead Revisited star tells me he had to pull some strings when he discovered he was unable to begin filming in New York for Margin Call last year, because his work permit had run out. "It all happened very quickly, as I was cast only eight days before shooting began," he says. "To my horror, my visa had expired and, to complicate matters further, after I had been to the American embassy on the Friday, there was a public holiday on Martin Luther King Day the following Monday, and shooting was due to start on the Tuesday. So Mrs Clinton was part of an extraordinary effort to have my visa ferreted out of the embassy on the Monday night, so that I was able to fly on Tuesday and start shooting first thing Wednesday morning. Most producers would have just recast my role, because it was touch-and-go up to 12 hours before I walked on set." It's unclear how Mr Irons and the Secretary of State came to be on such good terms, but his charm is legendary.

Paintings by Rolf Harris, Ken Howard and Theo Fennell went for bargain prices to members of the Chelsea Arts Club last week, after a charity auction ended in some confusion. As I reported last Sunday, the works were being sold to raise funds for The Artists' Benevolent Fund, founded by J M W Turner. The silent auction was, in theory, open to members of the public, with bids being invited until Wednesday. But once the deadline had passed, organisers decided to keep the bidding open a bit longer, but inside a club room only. "We were outbid, after the deadline, with no chance to up our own figure, although we were prepared to go much higher," laments one non-member. "Someone inside the club certainly got a bargain. To be honest, it looks a bit cosy. This charity is for artists who fall on hard times, and it would simply have got more money if we had been allowed to stay in the race." The club was approached for an explanation, but answer there came none. One can only wonder how Rolf and friends feel about donating works that appear to have been flogged off cheap to club members.

Helen Mirren was famously duped into appearing in a porn film, when the makers of Caligula spliced already fairly raunchy scenes with actual pornography. It's traditional for all those involved, including Gore Vidal and Malcolm McDowell, to claim they were furious, but Dame Helen seems to revel in the memory of it all. "Every time I bump into her in Los Angeles, all she wants to do is talk about that time we shot Caligula," sighs McDowell, speaking to my man on the red carpet in Hollywood. "I try to keep it hidden away, but she loves it." McDowell, who you might have noticed playing the butler in The Artist, claims he was responsible for getting Mirren into Caligula, having promised her £100,000 for 12 weeks' shooting. "It was the biggest pay cheque she'd ever got, though the producers were thinking 'we can't pay her that much'." Happily for them, Dame Helen's never been shy about taking all her clothes off.

A recently published assessment of Greece is certainly frank: "The only known example of a state that's really been bankrupt since the day it was born... resources lent to it are wasted by its government without any gain for the people... it can't pay its debts, whilst its rich find ways to evade their obligations to the state." Except this freshly minted statement isn't having its first outing – it was written by Frenchman Edmond About, in his book Contemporary Greece, published by Hachette in Paris in 1863. Apparently this rediscovery has sparked much I-told-you-so-ing in Brussels.

John Penrose, the tourism minister, is valiantly undeterred in his efforts to keep churning out his entertaining blog. A few weeks ago, the diary wondered whether Mr Penrose might not have more pressing tasks, in the year of the Olympics, than to ruminate on the origin of the hors d'oeuvre on the DCMS website. The answer, it seems, is no. "I hesitate to mention all this, of course," he writes after a new posting about the word "centime", "for fear that all this airy nonsense will further upset The Independent on Sunday's Matthew Bell." Mr Penrose, who used to publish school textbooks for a living, then accuses the diary of suffering from "a fit of the vapors [sic]". Call me old fashioned, but if you're going to represent the Government in words, you might want to use a spell-checker. Something tells me Mr Penrose's blog could be a rich new seam.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own