Jean Simmons at the 9th Bradford Film Festival in 2003. Her trip to Bradford came about via a conversation I had in the museum lift with Amanda Nevill. “What do you think of Jean Simmons as a potential festival guest?” she asked me as we rode up to our various floors together. “What do I think?” I said. “Varinia from Spartacus? Are you joking?” She wasn’t. Her friend David Hurn, the photographer, knew Jean, then living in semi retirement in Malibu, and could get a message to her on our behalf. I wrote to him, he wrote to Jean and, just a few short days later I was speaking to one of the heroines of my youth. The end result was that Jean agreed to be be our guest of honour. Her appearance in Bradford led to some resonance. She was snapped up by Jonathan Ross to guest on Film 2003 – he, like us, couldn’t believe he had landed one of the truly great British stars – and her appearance in Bradford is one of my fondest memories of that festival. (Image by Jim Moran)
I first interviewed John Hurt in 1998 on the release of Love and Death on Long Island, in which he played a middle-aged Englishman infatuated with a handsome young American actor. Later there was a big international press conference for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, at which John was lost amidst a multitudinous cast that included Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz. Then there came an opportunity to present him with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 16th Bradford International Film Festival. John was pleased to be the recipient of a substantial season of films and TV work. Last week (May 10 2014) we again spoke on stage before a live audience as part of the 1st Derby Film Festival, an event hosted by the three-screen QUAD centre of which he is a patron. John is a delightful, witty man – full of stories and anecdotes. The conversation considered directors as diverse as Fred Zinnemann and Terry Gilliam, breakthrough roles in A Man for All Seasons, The Naked Civil Servant and The Elephant Man, and collaborations with Marlon Brando, Richard Burton and Helen Mirren. Afterwards John said: “I enjoyed every minute of that.” So did I. (Image by Darrell Buxton)
I was 30 when this photograph was taken. I look pleased because I’m standing with Freddie Francis, the Oscar-winning cinematographer who was also a director for Hammer and Amicus in the ’60s and ’70s. He got a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guild of Regional Film Writers; I was highly commended in the awards for film journalism. He was a lovely man.
As part of the 2012 Cambridge Film Festival I hosted a strand entitled Hold the Front Page, focusing on journalism in the movies. Titles included Ace in the Hole, Citizen Kane, All the President’s Men and Page One: Inside the New York Times, the documentary on the New York Times. The latter presented an opportunity to lead a post screening Q&A with columnist David Carr. As the interview concluded I asked, “Was that okay?” to which he replied in his inimitable raspy voice, “You were fuckin’ great, man!” Sadly, David died in 2015. Read more HERE.
Simon Callow is a fine actor who also doubles as a magnificent writer. His magnum opus – still on-going after more than 25 years – is the life story of Orson Welles. His quest to tell the truth about this remarkable man has led him to pen three biographies. His third volume, One Man Band, was the focus of an event at 2016’s Derby Book Festival, and I hosted an ‘in conversation’ session with him. It followed on from a similar set at Derby Film Festival, where Simon revealed that he first visited Derby in 1974 and hadn’t been back in the intervening 42 years. Then, suddenly, he popped up twice in the space of a month! We’re pictured after our Q&A, and after Simon had signed a stack of books. He also signed my copy with the words “To Tony, my new regular (and best) interviewer.” And I didn’t pay him to say that.