Legendary Director John Boorman talks morality, living in Ireland, and 50 years in film

Based in Wicklow for nearly 50 years, legendary film director John Boorman is celebrated for classics like Point Blank and Deliverance. In a fascinating interview, he reflects on the making of those movies, his experiences in Hollywood, the changing face of Ireland, coping with personal trauma, mortality – and his recently published debut novel, Crime Of Passion.

While we here at Hot Press are commemorating our 40th anniversary, renowned film maker John Boorman is also celebrating a momentous milestone this year: it’s exactly 50 years since he first jetted over to LA – on the back of his hugely successful debut flick about The Dave Clarke Five band – to make his first Hollywood picture, Point Blank.

A hard boiled thriller, shot in 1967, it cemented Boorman’s reputation as a brilliant new talent. On the set of the first film to be made at Alcatraz after the prison had closed, Boorman formed a life-long friendship with its star, Lee Marvin. Indeed, there was such a strong bond between the two men that Boorman named one of his seven children after the Hollywood star; and he made a documentary about Marvin in 1998, which he subtitled “A Personal Portrait”.

The two men made Hell in the Pacific (1968) together, but it was Boorman’s 1972 film, Deliverance, that made him a household name – even today, movie buffs still talk about the film’s infamously brutal buggering scene, which leaves very little to the imagination.

Shortly before making Deliverance, for which he was nominated for Best Director and Best Film Oscars, Boorman relocated permanently to Co. Wicklow. Over the past 46 years, he has made some of the finest movies ever to come from these islands, including the Cannes award-winning The General, Excalibur and Hope and Glory, which was nominated for five Oscars.

Boorman also directed Exorcist II: The Heretic, which is often described as one of the worst movies ever made.

Boorman has written several non-fiction books. Now, at 84, Boorman has dipped his toes into the world of fiction with his first novel, Crime of Passion. He has clearly taken to heart the advice to write about what you know best: his highly entertaining novel is the story of a film director and producer who decide to put together a movie that is both sexy and violent enough to deliver them an worldwide smash hit.

Jason O’Toole: Were you a big film fan growing up?

John Boorman: At the age of 15, I was seeing everything that was on at the local cinema and I became very much a fan. I had to join the army for two years at the age of 18. A few months before I went into the army, the National Film Theatre opened on the South Bank in London and they showed all the great silent movies like Intolerance and Abel Gance’s Napoleon. So, I haunted the place. I was steeped in the silent cinema. And then when I came out of the army, I got a job as a trainee assistant film editor. My career developed organically. I didn’t set out to become a film director. I was interested in film – and one thing led to another.

Was your first feature, Catch Us If You Can with The Dave Clark Five in 1965, influenced by The Beatles’ movie A Hard Day’s Night?

Yes. It came about because The Beatles’ films were a great success. I had carte blanche to do whatever I wanted. The odd thing was, when it opened in America, Pauline Kael – who was a very influential figure in film criticism – praised it much more than it deserved! As a result, I started to get offers from the States. So, everything about my career has been a sort of a series of accidents.

The Lee Marvin vehicle Point Blank, which is regarded as one of the best film noir movies ever made, came next.

Because of Pauline Kael’s influence, this American producer came to London and gave me this script. He said, ‘What do you think of it?’ I said, ‘It’s terrible!’ He said, ‘I agree with you’. I said, ‘The character is interesting’. So, we met several times and I described how I could see it developing and it touched something in Lee.

What do you mean?

Lee was wounded in the Pacific War. But he was also wounded psychologically. He’d been rather brutalised. He was, in a sense, trying to redefine his humanity. And he could see a parallel to his own experience in this story about a man who is shot and left for dead and somehow comes back to life. I think this is what gives the film its power.

I re-watched it last night and it feels like a European art house film.

I was very much influenced by Renoir. And I was very influenced by Harold Pinter in the dialogue.

You had carte blanche on Point Blank too, which is highly unusual for a novice in Hollywood.

When I went out there, Lee Marvin knew better than I did how difficult it was going to be to make the film that I envisaged. So, he called a meeting with the head of the studio and the producers and he reminded them that he had script and cast approval. And they agreed that he had it in his contract. And he said, ‘I defer those approvals to John’. And then he walked out of the room – and these guys were staring at me angrily! Here is this young English director who had total control over the film (laughs). Lee was so supportive of me throughout.

Were you nervous doing such a big Hollywood production?

There was one moment. We were in Alcatraz. We’d flown down from LA on the previous night and I was exhausted from the whole thing and I lost it for a moment: I couldn’t think what to do. And Lee came over to me and he said, ‘Are you in trouble?’ I said, ‘I’m trying to break down this scene’. He then started to act drunk! He started to shout, sing and fall over. And the production manager came up to me and said, ‘Do you see the state Lee’s in? You can’t shoot with him like this’. So, immediately the pressure was off me. All I needed was 10 minutes without the pressure to figure it out – and he gave me that.

Have you ever thrown a tantrum or screamed and shouted on set?

No. I’m quite severe. I prepare very carefully and I give careful instructions to everyone on what they have to do. And if they don’t do it, I have righteous anger!

How did you manage to persuade MGM not to take a scissors to Point Blank?

There was a very good editor at MGM called Margaret Booth. She cut Gone With The Wind. She was a greatly feared woman because she re-cut all their pictures. So, I had to show the film to her and she made one or two suggestions, which were good, and I made the changes. And then I had to show it to the executives and they got up at the end and started mumbling about reshoots. And Margaret Booth said, ‘You cut a frame of this film over my dead body!’ So, that’s how it came about. I was very fortunate.

The film you’re most fondly remembered for is probably Deliverance.

Warners said they would do it if I get two major stars. Jack Nicholson was on the up at the time and I got him. And he said, ‘Who’s going to play the other part? What about Marlon Brando?’ I went to Marlon and I spent the day with him. It was just before he made The Godfather. He agreed to do it. I said to Marlon, ‘Ok, who’s your agent?’ He said, ‘I don’t have an agent anymore. I’m not in the business!’ He said he hadn’t worked for years. And he was considered box office poison. I said, ‘How much do you want for doing this picture?’ He said, ‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do: pay me the same that you paid Jack Nicholson’.

So, why weren’t Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando in Deliverance?

I went to Jack’s agent and I said, ‘What do you want for Jack to do the picture?’ He said half a million dollars! Now, I knew that he never been paid more than $50,000 for a picture! I said, ‘That’s outrageous. He hasn’t done a big picture’. He said, ‘Well, that’s what we want. He’s going to be a great star’. I went to the studio and I said, ‘You wanted me to get two stars. Here they are: Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando’. And they said, ‘Jack is up-and-coming and we’d like to do a picture with him. But Marlon Brando! Who cares about Marlon Brando? He’s finished!’ So, I said, I think they’d match up very well’. He said, ‘What does Brando want?’ I said, ‘I agreed to pay him the same as Jack’. And that killed it because Ted Ashley, who was running the studio, said, ‘If I paid Marlon Brando half a million dollars I’d be laughed out of town’. So they said to me, ‘Make it with unknowns, for a very low price’.”

How much did you pay Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight?

Very little. Burt got $50,000 and Jon got $75,000. Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox had both never made a film or been on a TV show. I made the film very cheaply. They kept beating me up about the budget and I cut everything back. I didn’t even have an art director on the film. And then they still needed me to cut the budget. I had the money for a composer and an orchestra, so I cut them and I got two musicians to make the score – and that’s how I got down to a budget of $1.7million. Of course, the picture went through the roof and they made millions out of it.

You’re not credited for it, but did you do a lot of work on the script?

It was James Dickey’s novel. He did a draft of a script before I came into the picture and then we worked together on a new draft. And then we fell out over the direction of the script and I took it on myself and wrote the final draft. But since it was based on his novel and they were his characters, he got the credit. The Writers’ Guild were intent on protecting writers from producers – they gave him the credit. But that was OK because it was very much his story, his characters – and he deserved it. When the film was finished, Dickey was thrilled with it and told everyone, ‘It’s better than the novel’. But in later life, he disowned the film and sent his script to every studio, trying to get them to remake it.

There’s a story that you fought with Dickey onset – and came out of it badly.

Absolutely not! He’s supposed to have knocked my teeth out – but miraculously I still have them!

Do you think, as Burt Reynolds character says, that it’s justifiable homicide to murder a rapist?

They debate it: whether they should go to the police or not. And they decide to bury the man and say nothing – and that all comes back to haunt them. What do I think (laughs)? It doesn’t really matter what I think. It’s what the characters thought that matters.

So what was going through the characters’ minds?

You had Ronnie Cox as the moral compass of the group, and he was all for reporting it to the police; Jon Voight was hesitant, he didn’t know which way to go; and Ned Beatty sided with Burt because he didn’t want this whole thing getting around – being buggered. Lewis (Burt Reynolds) desperately wanted the experience of killing a man. He felt that his view of masculinity was that he had to go through fire – you had to experience these things – and the ultimate was to kill a man. So, they all had their different views. Voight was the indecisive character: the one who never really committed to anything, didn’t really stand up for anything. So, he becomes the one who eventually has to take the harsh decision. He’s the one who’s most changed by it. That’s the heart of it.

If you were in such a horrifying position, do you think you would’ve been able to draw the bow and arrow?

No, I couldn’t have done that. I have a shotgun, and many years ago there was a rather drunken burglar trying to break into my house and I got the loaded shotgun and confronted him. And I thought, ‘What am I going to do (laughs)? I don’t want to kill him. How shall I wound him? And where would I shoot him? Maybe in the feet or the leg?’ And I knew the guy! He was a local labourer. And I thought, ‘I can’t shoot him in the leg because that would incapacitate him. He wouldn’t be able to work as a labourer!’ I couldn’t bring myself to shoot him or wound him. But the threat of the gun was sufficient and he went off.

Your house was broken into by Martin Cahill, aka The General.

I was away, but the police identified him as the thief. He stole this gold record for Duelling Banjos (from Deliverance). I’m sure he was horrified when he found it was just gold paint on vinyl! And so I put that scene in the film (laughs). I got my own back on him!

If you had been there during the burglary, would you have been able to shot him?

I don’t think so. No, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t.

Your last big budget Hollywood movie was Exorcist II: The Heretic.

I was actually offered the original and I turned it down!

Why would you turn down directing the greatest horror ever made?

Because to me, it was a film about the torture of a child. And, as a father of seven children, I found that absolutely impossible to contemplate. So, with Exorcist II, I made the mistake of making a film, which in a sense, was an answer to the original. It was a big mistake because what the audiences were entitled to expect was more of the same, since it was a sequel. I think the film has a great deal of quality, but it was aimed at the wrong audience.

Did you rate Richard Burton – the star of The Heretic – as an actor?

Richard had this fantastic voice, but he was not physical: all his acting was from the neck upwards. He couldn’t use his body! He was the antithesis of Lee Marvin, who could use his body like a ballet dancer – so you could make complex shots and movements. Burton was static and I had to work the scenes around that limitation.

Brian Hoyle’s book on your work mentions that you were struck down with a mysterious illness and almost died, filming The Heretic.

We imported desert sand into one of the stages for a scene. It contained spores that cause Valley Fever. It causes very high temperatures. I was hospitalised and shooting was stopped for four days.

Did you turn down any other blockbusters?

Oh, I’ve turned down projects that have made a lot of money – Rocky being one! My friend Bob Chartoff, who recently died, produced a couple of my films and he sent me the script and asked me to do it. I wrote back and said I thought the script was ridiculous. I said, ‘Not only am I not going to do it, but I strongly advise you not to!’ He put my letter in a frame and had it up in his office (laughs)! I turned down Alien, which also made a lot of money.

Why did you turn down Alien?

It was set on a spaceship and I didn’t know what I could do to make it interesting. And, of course, that (film) had the wonderful scene of the alien breaking out of John Hurt’s stomach. John was my great friend. He died just a few days ago.

His death must have hit you hard.

Yes. We did two short films together. We did Two Nudes Bathing and I Dreamt I Woke Up.

Was he good to work with?

He was great. Always drunk but always good! This film, I Dreamt I Woke Up – someone put that on Facebook. You could have a look at that. It’s partly documentary and partly spiritual. He plays my alter ego and we actually have scenes in which we talk to each other.

Was it a conscious decision to move away from Hollywood after the Exorcist sequel?

I was getting more and more disillusioned with the studio system and living in Hollywood. And when I made Leo the Last with Marcello Mastroianni in London, I left LA to do that. I did the post-production at Ardmore and fell in love with the landscape and the mountains – and bought this house that I still live in, 45 years later. That became my home and my base and that’s where I brought-up my children. And so, I elected to work at arm’s length from Hollywood. In fact, I made Deliverance entirely on location in South Carolina, after I’d left LA. So I never had to go anywhere near the studio, nor did they interfere in any way.

Is it true that Stanley Kubrick was an uncredited technical advisor on Zardoz, which starred Sean Connery?

No. And I never discussed it with him. But I was inspired by the magnificent 2001 – to imagine that I too could dare to make a metaphysical futuristic movie.

You were good friends with Stanley Kubrick.

I was. I greatly admired him. For several years, Stanley would call me once a month, or once a week, always looking for information about film making, about the technical aspects, always asking about how I did a certain shot, a certain sequence and things like that. And I remember, after about three or four years, I said, ‘We should meet and have lunch’. And he said, ‘Why? We have a perfectly good telephone relationship!’ (Laughs) But we did meet and we did have lunch. He was an extraordinary man.

In the poster for Zardoz, Sean Connery seems to be wearing a nappy. How did you talk him into wearing that?

I had no problem with the red thing, but he was a bit reluctant to go into the wedding dress. But fundamentally, he’s an actor and plays parts. He was great. I love Sean.

What happened with your planned Lord of the Rings movie?

Before Deliverance, I wanted to make my Arthurian story and I went to United Artists with it and they said, ‘We own the film rights to Lord of the Rings. Why don’t you think about that? You’re interested in this kind of thing’. So, I did. And I spent several months on making a script. It was before CGI. And not only did I have to find a way of making the story in script form, but I also had to find a way of solving the special effects problems, particularly, for instance, the hobbits being half the size of men. I researched all sorts of traditional film techniques. By the time I’d written it, United Artists had run out money and couldn’t afford it. And so I didn’t make it. The idea I had for the hobbits was that I would cast nine- or ten-year-old boys who were roughly half the size of a man and put on facial hair and dub them with adult voices. So, that might have worked but it might have not (laughs)! It’s just as well I didn’t do it. If I did make it, I think Peter Jackson’s trilogy would not have been made. Anyway, all the research I did, I was able to apply it to Excalibur.

How do you rate Peter Jackson’s trilogy?

It is one of the great accomplishments of cinema. And so, in a sense, it was fortuitous that I didn’t make it because it wouldn’t have been anywhere nearly as good as Peter Jackson’s. Because I didn’t have the facilities of CGI to do those astonishing effects.

Of your own films, which is your favourite?

I’m fondest of Hope and Glory because it’s a film about my own family. It’s a film that was very successful, with lots of Oscar nominations and prizes around the world. And it’s probably the only film I ever made that had universally good reviews – except for one! And it was the very first review, which was in Variety. Variety said, ‘It’s not art and it’s not commercial (laughs)!’ And, of course, you only ever remember the bad reviews. When Point Blank came out, the review in Time magazine was: ‘Point Blank is a fog of a film!’ One line! That was it. You always remember the bad ones.

Technically, which is your best film?

I’ve spoken about Excalibur and doing all the special effects with the camera – so that was certainly one. Excalibur was made before CGI. There was no post-production effects. All the tricks were done in the camera. It was probably the last effects picture to have been done before CGI. But, I think, oddly enough, The Heretic was the most complex in terms of special effects and the whole complexity of shooting it.

Will we ever see a new director’s cut of Excalibur – or any of your other films?

My movies are my cuts for better or worst. No wish to revisit.

Which of your films do you like the least?

I asked Billy Wilder how Buddy Buddy had worked out. He had just finished it. He said, ‘John, our movies are like our children. When we have a kid we hope he will grow up to be Einstein, but sometimes they turn out to be congenital idiots!’ I don’t dislike any of mine, but the failure of The Heretic was painful.

Who are the best actors you’ve ever worked with?

I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best film actors: Lee Marvin, Macello Mastroianni – and I’d put Brendan Gleeson alongside them. Brendan Gleeson is one of the best film actors around.

Do you have fond thoughts about Where The Heart Is? Your daughter Telsche – who passed away from ovarian cancer in 1997 – wrote the script.

That went through a few incarnations! It started off as a modern version of King Lear where Sean Connery was to play the head of this corporation, who decides to retire and give it over to his daughters. It was a way of talking about contemporary young people. And then he fell out of it.

It was your first big Hollywood film after The Heretic.

I had a big problem with Disney because they kept wanting to change it. And the head of Disney (laughs) – after we’d been struggling back and forth – said to me, ‘The problem with this film is it’s still a Boorman film and not a Disney film’ (laughs)!

I can’t even begin to imagine the ordeal you went through losing your daughter.

You never get over it. It was a terrible thing to lose a child.

What’s your fondest memory of Telsche?

We were playing tennis on our court. It was a windless autumn day when a little birch tree caught a private breeze. It shook, and its leaves dropped in a shower. We were the (only) two people in the world who witnessed this and we smiled at each other. It was a metaphor for all the things of life that we shared together. Is it why you never left your base in Wicklow – that she grew up in this house?

Yes, that’s true.

You’ve lived in Ireland for almost 50 years now. Do you feel Irish in any way?

No, I don’t feel Irish and I don’t feel English! But I always felt European. I have a love of Ireland and a love of England too. But I don’t feel connected. In England, I was always very critical of Britain and its colonial past. And I’ve always felt that patriotism is a ghastly thing. I don’t like it when it’s ugliness appears in England. And also in Ireland. I find people cheering for their football team rather vulgar.

What are your thoughts about Brexit?

I feel European, which is why I was so dismayed when Britain decided to leave. I thought the European idea was one of the most promising ideas, sociological ideas, since Athens. And for all its faults, it’s a brilliant notion – and it’s such a pity that Britain’s not going to be part of it.

What do you make of Boris Johnson?

He’s a buffoon!

And your thoughts about Donald Trump?

(Laughs) I think he’s a dangerous, narcissistic bully.

What did you make of Trump holding Theresa May’s hand?

He wanted her to love him as much as he loves himself!

Has Ireland changed much since you came?

Very much so. I think that two things changed. Well, first of all going into the EU and the EU put all the money into building roads and the infrastructure, which opened up the country tremendously. And then, the other thing was the big property bubble, which everybody who had a house became a millionaire and everybody got very cocky. And when it all came crashing down, I think, Ireland – the new Ireland with a recognition of technology – began to grow up after 2008. It was painful, but I think what’s happened since then – despite an ineffectual government – it’s growing in a very good way. There’s a maturity that’s come into Ireland, which I find very good.

Has the country improved since you attacked it in your movie The Tiger’s Tail?

Perhaps it’s lost some of its easy-going charm from when I first arrived. But it’s now much more rooted and much more mature. It’s growing into itself. Ireland was the first country in the world to pass a referendum on same sex marriage.

Would you have believed it possible 10 or 20 years ago?

No (laughs)! Especially as the Church had instructed every Catholic to vote against it. I think most people in Ireland didn’t give a toss about same sex marriage, one way or the other. But it was a very good way of cocking a snoot at the Church.

What about repealing the Eighth Amendment: are we mature enough to do it?

I think so, yes.

Back in the days of the Troubles, did you receive any death threats from the IRA because you’re English?

One night there was a knock on my door and it was the Official IRA guys! And they said, ‘We would like to use your land for training purposes?’ (Laughs) So, I said, ‘Do I have a choice?’ And they said, ‘Yes. We’d only want to do it if you approved’. And I said, ‘Well, I’d rather not’. And they moved on.

Was that your only contact with the IRA?

The only other connection was making Zardoz. I needed a lot of guns and I wanted to import them from London and there was strict prohibition about importing weapons, even though these weapons wouldn’t fire bullets (laughs). It was a big problem. It almost toppled the production. And then one of the carpenters came up to me and said, ‘The lads above can get you all the weapons you want!’ (Laughs)

How did you solve the problem?

I went to the government. Justin Keating was the Minister at the time and I told him and he sorted it out and I got the weapons. Anyway, I could’ve got them from the IRA (laughs)! My dealings with the IRA were, on the whole, rather positive!

The General is a black and white film – but it was released in colour and even dubbed in parts for the US market.

I wanted to do it in black and white and we couldn’t find enough black and white stock to shoot it because nobody uses it anymore. So, I shot it in colour and then desaturated it to black and white. I hate the idea of it having a life as a colour film: it was lit for black and white.

You were criticised for portraying Martin Cahill as a lovable rogue.

(Laughs) I got a lot of criticism for glamorising a gangster – despite all the cruel and brutal acts he committed in the film. The thing was, I kept making him do more and more nasty things and whatever he did, it didn’t seem to make any difference – people just loved him. But I think it was partly to do with Brendan. You see, Brendan is a very, very beautiful man and somehow his beauty, his goodness shone through the character, even though it was so nasty. Hitchcock said, ‘Only a good person can play a good person and vice versa’. But Brendan gave a brilliant performance in that picture. It launched his career. He is a wonderful actor.

It was widely reported that you retired after making Queen and Country, the sequel to Hope and Glory. Will you make another film?

Some mornings, when I wake up stiff and everything aches, I think not! But then on good days I think, ‘Maybe I will’. I’ve got a project and I’ve got most of the money for it and I’m just trying to make up my mind. I’ll make it in Ireland. I’ve got three scripts that I would’ve liked to have made, but I certainly won’t make them all – I might make one of them.

You’ve just written your first novel, Crimes of Passion. Why did you decide to turn your hand to fiction?

I write every day and I’ve written several books and I did this series of Projections (books) with Walter Donohue. So, I had this idea for a novel about these guys making a film and the sort of background to what goes on in the making of a film and how a film develops and takes on its own life. It’s just being translated into French. Some people like it (laughs).

How closely does the protagonist Daniel Shaw resemble you?

I put myself into the book as a character in the Cannes Film Festival because I wanted to separate myself from Daniel Shaw (laughs)! There are aspects of me in Daniel Shaw, but he’s very different from me and from the way I work. He’s a compilation of two or three English directors I’ve known. He’s much more manic and possessed than I am (laughs)!

Was it a big leap, into writing fiction?

Scripts are fiction – so writing scripts is not too far away from novel writing. The only thing is: when I look back at the book, I probably didn’t describe the character enough. You don’t have to describe the characters in a movie script because they are going to be up there on the screen. In fact, it’s better not to put in too many characteristics because it can often dissuade an actor from playing a part – if you say that he’s fat or sweaty, it’s very hard to cast that (laughs).

What’s next?

I’m writing another memoir, bringing it up to date. I call it Conclusions. I think it’s the last thing I’ll write. You know, I’m 84 – things come to an end. I’ve had a good innings.

Have you started to think a lot about your own mortality?

You have to wind down and it’s very important for you to contemplate death. And that’s what I’m doing. I think about it a lot.

It must be very emotional?

No, it’s rational. I’ve seven children and I’ve got grandchildren. In a sense, I stay alive for them rather than for myself. But I’m ready to go anytime that they call (laughs).

You had three children later in life, during your second marriage, which ended in divorce about ten years ago.

My three young one are grown up now. They’re 24, 21 and 18. I’m very, very devoted to those three because they still need help and guidance and I love them dearly. I’ve always loved children. I’ve always loved playing with them and helping them and doing things with them. And that’s been one of the great joys of my life. And I was very fortunate to have a second litter, as it were!

Are you religious?

No. I was brought up as a Christian, but I’m not a believer.

So, you don’t believe in heaven or hell?

No. I believe in oblivion.

What are your thoughts on euthanasia?

I’m all in favour. I think suicide has had a very bad name. But I believe that everyone should be allowed to end their life when they see fit. And the notion of what we see today – of people living into their 90s and living just a half life, of pain and aching bones and dementia – it’s a dreadful thing. Society is being plunged into this abyss of decrepit age, supporting a vast part of society which is old and useless. We should all be given a pill at the age of 80 – it would solve all the problems (laughs)! Which means I would’ve died four years ago!

Would you go to Dignitas in Switzerland to end your life?

I would find some way, I think, yeah. I don’t know about Switzerland – but there are ways and means!

Do you have any regrets?

Yes, I have lots of regrets (laughs)! I’ve worked incredibly hard and I’ve fought and struggled to make films and it cost me a huge amount of effort. And I think I’ve often neglected people I love, and my relationships, because of devoting myself so much to the work. That’s my regret.

You never won an Oscar, even though you’ve been nominated five times – does it bother you?

Not in the least (laughs). If you look at the history of the Oscars their record is not great in terms of the films that have lived. A lot of great films – like for instance Citizen Kane – didn’t win an Oscar. Zardoz was a complete failure at the box office. But that film has grown in reputation year after year. And it was recently restored. It has more and more followers ever year. I get so much correspondence (laughs) from these addicts. Often when you look at a film you thought was brilliant at the time, you see it ten years later and think, ‘What did I really see in that film?’ And vice versa: films that escaped you at the time often turn out to have a longer life.

Looking back at your career, are you satisfied with what you achieved?

My only professional regret is that I didn’t make more films. You know, making a film takes so long. You write the script, then maybe it doesn’t work and you write another one, and then you try to find the money and you cast it and then you design it and then you shoot it and then you edit and then you promote it. It takes about three years. Whereas in the old days, it was more of a factory job: directors like John Ford would make two a year – because they weren’t involved in editing the film. In a way, I much prefer being involved in the whole process. But it does take so much time. I’ve made – what? – 16 films or something, whereas I probably could’ve made twice that much.

Crime of Passion is published by Liberties Press, priced €13.99.


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Though unknown in his homeland, Irish writer Ian Gibson is celebrated in his adopted Spain, particularly for his books about the poet Lorca – widely known for being Leonard Cohen’s chief literary inspiration – and Salvador Dali. In a fascinating interview, Gibson discusses falling foul of the Franco regime, Dali’s wild hedonistic excesses, his role in getting corporal punishment banned in the UK, his interest in sadomasochism, Irish attitudes to sex – and why he both loves and despairs of Spain.

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Rowing His Own Way: The Full Hot Press Interview With Gavan Hennigan

Having rowed solo across the Atlantic in under 50 days, Gavan Hennigan is one of Ireland’s most remarkable athletes. But that’s just the start of his extraordinary life story – which encompasses a strained relationship with his troubled father, addiction and recovery, working at one of the world’s most dangerous jobs, traversing the globe in numerous adventure challenges, and coming to terms with his sexuality.

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Up Close and Personal - Our Final Interview With Martin McGuinness

In 2011, Jason O’Toole carried out an interview with Martin McGuinness that was never published. Here, we draw on that interview, as well others conducted for Hot Press, to paint a fascinating picture of the late leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, in all of his complications.

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From Addict to Adventurer: Gavan Hennigan talks drug-dealing, sexuality and rowing the Atlantic in exclusive Hot Press interview

Featured in the new issue of Hot Press, Gavan gives a revelatory new interview with Senior Editor Jason O'Toole.

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Bloody Sunday, reconciliation, the IRA & heaven/hell were all up for discussion when Hot Press met Martin McGuinness in 2007

Our man Jason O'Toole had to hum 'Whiter Shade Of Pale' before he was let into the Deputy First Minister's office!

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Bloody Sunday, reconciliation, the IRA & heaven/hell were all up for discussion when Hot Press met Martin McGuinness in 2007

Our man Jason O'Toole had to hum 'Whiter Shade Of Pale' before he was let into the Deputy First Minister's office!

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Bloody Sunday, reconciliation, the IRA & heaven/hell were all up for discussion when Hot Press met Martin McGuinness in 2007

Our man Jason O'Toole had to hum 'Whiter Shade Of Pale' before he was let into the Deputy First Minister's office!

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Hot Press Legends Series: Jason O'Toole Goes One-On-One with Tommy Tiernan

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Long Live The Revolution: Hot Press Sits Down With Cuban Ambassador Hermes Herrera Hernandez

Fidel Castro has passed away, and relations between Cuba and the United States have thawed somewhat. But it would be wrong to expect things in Havana to change overnight – not least because the spirit of the revolution remains strong and resolute. That is the clear message from the Cuban ambassador to Ireland, Hermes Herrera Hernández – a man who knew both Fidel himself and Che Guevara, and who insists that “many people in the world, if they knew exactly what is happening, would like to have the same level of human rights that we do in Cuba.”

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About The Boy: The John Boyne Interview

John Boyne had already penned a clutch of novels when he wrote his first book for young adults. Published in 2006, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas went on to become a literary phenomenon, selling seven million copies. But behind that remarkable success lies a very different kind of life story. Now, with the publication of his latest novel, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, the best-selling writer feels that he can talk honestly and openly about his past: about growing up in Ireland, his sexuality, the break-down of his civil partnership, depression, drinking and a lot more besides.

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The Hot Press Interview with Stephen Donnelly

With no background in politics, and a paltry five weeks to canvass, he was first elected to the Dáil in 2011 as an Independent. Since then, he co-founded and then left the Social Democratic Party. Throughout all of this, he has retained a boyish enthusiasm and a sense of humour – which is unusual in Irish politics. So what lies behind the cheerful demeanour and liberal attitudes of the TD for Wicklow? Well, he’s a long-time fan of Hot Press for a start…

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The Hot Press Interview with Gino Kenny

Dexys Midnight Runners’ hit single may not have been written about him, but there’s lots of reasons right now to chant the name of the People Before Profit TD, Gino Kenny. Chief among them is the fact that he has got a Bill legalising cannabis for medicinal purposes through its first stage in the Dáil – an extraordinary achievement for a man who only became a TD in February 2016.

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U2 Party Weekend With Cover Band Planned To Celebrate Croke Park Gig

U2 fans will get the chance to party away in the company of a great tribute band at a special two night event being organised at The Church Bar venue in Dublin on the weekend of the historic Croke Park gig to celebrate the seminal classic album 'The Joshua Tree' in July, it has just been announced.

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LEONARD COHEN TRIBUTE: IRA prisoners adopted 'Bird On A Wire' as their freedom anthem

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly tell us what Leonard meant to him during his Long Kesh incarceration...

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THE 12 INTERVIEWS OF XMAS: Christy Dignam on Aslan, Assisted Suicide and Depression

Christy Dignam bravely opened up in an extensive interview with Jason O'Toole back in October.

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THE 12 INTERVIEWS OF XMAS: Danny Healy-Rae on Church and State

Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae sat down with Jason O'Toole back in September for an extraordinary interview on his religious and political views.

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THE 12 INTERVIEWS OF XMAS: Roz Purcell on Trump, Food and Repealing the 8th

Just ahead of the US Presidential elections, Jason O'Toole caught up with the former Miss Universe Ireland, who went to the States to take part in the Trump-led international beauty competition, to talk about modelling, politics and cuisine.

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Communication Breakdown: Catholic Church Denies Amnesty International Banned From Schools Over Views On Abortion Laws!

Amnesty International is not banned from any primary schools in the Waterford district – despite a letter being circulated that appears to claim otherwise, the Catholic Church diocese of Waterford and Lismore has insisted today.

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Kourtney Kardashian Gives Irish Company Massive Profile Boost

An Irish company’s cheerful little product is receiving some major international exposure thanks to Kourney Kardashian.

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Hilarious TV Interview Voted Most Memorable Irish Sporting Moment of 2016

The O’Donovan brothers’ humorous comments about their brilliant silver medal achievement at the Rio Games has been voted as the most memorable Irish sporting moment of 2016.

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Donald Trump's War of Words With Magazine

President-elect Donald Trump took to twitter yesterday to attack Vanity Fair’s editor after the magazine gave one of his restaurants a negative review in their latest edition to just hit the newsstands.

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Paul McCartney Album To Be Reissued

Paul McCartney’s critically acclaimed 1989 album ‘Flowers in the Dirt’ is to be reissued next March, it has been confirmed.

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Watch Bruce Springsteen Get Into The Festive Spirit

A video has just been uploaded onto YouTube of The Boss getting a packed Carnegie Hall into the festive mood with some Christmas tunes at Sting’s biennial Rainforest Fund benefit gig.

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Watch Lady Gaga’s New Music Video

Lady Gaga’s fans will no doubt have a million reasons to be excited to learn that the latest music video from her new album ‘Joanne’ has just been uploaded on YouTube.

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Key Music Industry Players Pen Open Letter to Donald Trump

Some of the most influential figures in the music industry are urging President-elect Donald Trump to radically shake-up laws concerning intellectual property rights.

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Obama Promises Not To “Vanish” During Donald Trump’s Presidency

Outgoing US President Barack Obama has said that he will not be afraid to air his views when Donald Trump is in the White House.

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Virgin Media launches Netflix on Horizon TV

Virgin Media’s Irish customers can now watch all their favourite Netflix shows seamlessly on their TV using their Netflix subscription on Virgin Media’s Horizon TV service.

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National Web Archive Preserves 10 Irish Websites

Ten websites that are believed to best record “Irish life in 2016 and remember the events of 1916” as chosen in a public vote have been revealed by the National Library of Ireland.

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Watch Arcade Fire Perform ‘Reflektor’ From New Concert & Documentary DVD

Arcade Fire’s powerful live performance of ‘Reflecktor’ in London back in 2014 has just been uploaded on the Internet as a preview of the band’s new two-disc DVD/Blu Ray concert and documentary, which will be released on 27 January.

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Robbie Williams Gives 1D Star Some Sound Advice

Ex-Take That star Robbie Williams has reached out to One Direction singer Zayn Malik, urging him to be strong in the aftermath of his debilitating anxiety that forced him to cancel some upcoming shows.

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Netflix releases The OA

The original Netflix series The OA, which is from visionaries Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij (Sound of My Voice, The East), will air on the online streaming service from 16 December.

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Elton John Launches Contest For Would-Be Filmmakers

Elton John has teamed up with YouTube to give you the opportunity to create a brand new pop video for one of his seminal classic tracks.

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Bob Dylan On His Shock Nobel Award: “Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, ‘Are my songs literature?’”

Music icon Bob Dylan said it was a great honour to receive “such a prestigious prize” – but confessed that he always thought he’d just about the same chance of going to the moon as he did of being the first singer-songwriter to be deemed a worthy enough winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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Simon Cowell Applauds Louis Tomlinson’s "Bravery"

He’s best known for tearing musicians apart with his outspoken criticism on The X-Factor, but Simon Cowell had nothing but praise for Louis Tomlinson after the 1D superstar found the inner strength to go on with the show and perform his new single just days after his mother lost her battle with leukaemia.

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Comedian Tina Fey On Why Donald Trump Is No Laughing Matter

Tina Fey has opened up about how she believes that Donald Trump’s negative presidential campaign and his shock victory has alarmingly fueled an increased level of misogyny in the US.

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The Jesus and Mary Chain Confirm New Album's Release Date

It’s 18 years since we last hard new material by the Scottish band, but The Jesus and Mary Chain has just confirmed that they will be releasing a new studio album early next year.

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New Education Resources To Support Next Generation Of Irish Entrepreneurs

Fourteen “enterprising teens”, ranging in age from 12 to 17, had an audience with the Minister for Employment and Small Business, Pat Breen when he visited their school in Wicklow yesterday to launch a new teacher resources package to help support the next generation of entrepreneurs.

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Michelle Obama Breaks Her Silence Over Shock Trump Victory

As most of the world stayed up late watching the dramatic US presidential election count unfold, the First Lady Michelle Obama has now revealed that she was tucked up in her White House bed fast asleep!

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Stephen King Hails Bob Dylan As Worthy Winner Of Nobel Prize

Best-selling author Stephen King has dismissed any criticism of Bob Dylan becoming the first singer-songwriter to win the Nobel Prize for Literature as nothing more than “just plain old sour grapes”.

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Fiona Apple Attacks Donald Trump In Christmas Song

Fiona Apple has put an anti-Donald Trump spin on a cover version of a classic Christmas song!

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Ryan Adams Opens Up About Emotional Pain Behind New Album

Ryan Adams has opened up about having to force himself to "keep my chin up" while recording his new album because his marriage was coming to an end at the same time.

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Lady Gaga Opens Up About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder From Rape Ordeal

Lady Gaga has courageously spoken on US national television about how she has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since enduring the horrible ordeal of being raped as a teenager.

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The Three Patrick’s Charity Festive Concert!

Composer Patrick Cassidy and actor Patrick Bergin are teaming up to perform a concert at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin in aid of The Friends of St. Luke’s Cancer Care on 14 December from 8pm – 9:30pm.

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Irish Soprano Celine Byrne To End Year On High Note

Internationally acclaimed soprano Celine Byrne – who was recently asked to perform for Pope Francis – will end the year on a high note with a Christmas Gala at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin on 18 December.

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Kells Announces New Chapter For Literary Festival

The annual summer literature festival in Kells, County Meath will rebranded as the ‘Hinterland Festival’ in 2017, it has just been announced.

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Watch New Teaser Trailer Of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Sequel

It’s not set for a US cinema release until next May, but a brand new teaser trailer for Marvel’s eagerly awaited Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 has just been put up on YouTube.

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Trump Compared As “Closest Thing” To Hitler By TCD Professor

“Do not deceive yourselves: Trump is no ordinary conservative Republican. He is the closest thing to Hitler Americans have ever seen.” That’s the stark warning from an Associate Professor of US History at Trinity College Dublin.

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Madonna “Ashamed To Be American” Following Trump’s Shock Election

Madonna has spoken about her anger and dismay over President-elect Donald Trump’s shock defeat of Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House.

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‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ Comes To Netflix

It’s hard to believe that it’s exactly 20 years since Will Smith’s hit TV show came to an end, but Netflix is now bringing all six seasons of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ to the streaming service on New Year’s Eve for its Irish members.

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Fawlty Towers Star Andrew Sachs Dies

Actor Andrew Sachs has died at the age of 86 following a four year battle with dementia, it was confirmed late last night.

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Drake Crowned Spotify’s Most Streamed Artist of 2016

Drake was the most popular musician played on Spotify for the second year running in 2016 with an astronomical 4.7 billion streams on the music service.

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Coldplay Ban Selfie Sticks At Gigs

It looks like selfie sticks – along with more than a dozen other “undesirable items” – could be banned when Chris Martin and Co takes to the stage in Croke Park next summer, as part of their world tour.

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Jennifer Aniston Reveals Why Friends Reunion Would Never Work

FANS of the popular US sitcom Friends will certainly be disheartened to hear that Jennifer Aniston feels a reunion movie or TV show will never happen.

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Bernie Sanders Feels He Could've Defeated Trump in Presidential Election

Bernie Sanders has confessed that he's left wondering "what if" if it was him instead of Hillary Clinton who ran against Donald Trump.

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Neil Diamond Announces World Tour To Mark 50th Anniversary

It’s hard to believe that Neil Diamond is celebrating his 50th anniversary since he became a household name with his first major hit single with ‘Solidarity Man’ all the way back in 1966.

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Government Won’t Oppose Medicinal Cannabis Bill

It appears that the door is now finally being opened to making cannabis legal for medicinal purposes in Ireland.

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Star Wars Live Stream Event on Twitter

Star Wars fanatics are in for a treat.Twitter has teamed up with Disney and People magazine to live steam an exclusive special ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' event with a behind-the-scenes sneak peek from the hugely anticipated new movie on Friday.

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Bowie, R.E.M, and Nirvana Tracks Listed Amongst 25 Great Recordings

Nirvana, R.E.M., Elvis, Rod Stewart, along with David Bowie and Prince - who both sadly passed away this year - are among 25 artists going to have one their songs inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, it has been announced.

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The Contraceptive Train On Track For Abbey Theatre!

The critically acclaimed musical ‘The Train’, which is inspired by a remarkable true story involving a former Hot Press writer and has a score composed by Bill Whelan of Riverdance fame, is to be staged at The Abbey next spring.

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Michelle Obama “Will Never Run For Office”

The rumour mill has gone into overdrive with recent speculation that the First Lady Michelle Obama was planning to run for the presidency in the future. But outgoing US President Barack Obama has now debunked the notion of his wife making history by becoming the first woman elected to the White House

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Robbie Williams Opens Up About Needing Meds To Battle Inner Demons

Ex-Take That star Robbie Williams has bravely admitted that he started taking anti-depressants this year after a “weird summer”.

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Paul Simon’s Ex-Wife Carrie Fisher Still Loves His Music!

Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher has revealed that she still loves her ex-husband’s music – even if she feels he has personally insulted her in some of his lyrics.

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Trump’s Wife Threatens To Sue YouTube

The US's First Lady-elect is threatening YouTube with a major lawsuit over a video on its site that claims her son Barron is autistic.

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Lady Gaga Opens Up In Revealing TV Interview

Lady Gaga wore her heart on her sleeve on Sunday in an interview on US TV in which she touched on the subject of love following her break-up with actor Taylor Kinney after being together for five years.

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Dublin Vigil To Honour Revolutionary Leader Fidel Castro

There will be a vigil to mark the death of Fidel Castro in Dublin this evening (Monday, 28, November) at 6.30pm at The Spire on O'Connell Street, according to a tweet put out yesterday by Sinn Féin's newspaper, An Phoblacht.

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RTÉ Announces Partnership with RTÉ Choice Music Prize

RTÉ has announced a new partnership with the RTÉ Choice Music Prize for next year's event, which will see both RTÉ2 and RTÉ 2FM play a lead role in supporting what has become one of the highlights of the Irish musical calendar as part of a new agreement.

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Jeremy Clarkson’s New Motor Show Gives Hothouse Flowers Unexpected Hit

Hothouse Flowers are riding high in the iTunes charts with one of their old hit singles – and it’s all thanks to Jeremy Clarkson and Co’s new Amazon online streaming show, ‘The Grand Tour.’

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It Would Be “Ridiculous” If 1D Didn’t Reform, Says Niall Horan

Irish superstar Niall Horan might be focusing on his solo career right now, but he’s confident One Direction will reform in the future. “We’ll be back,” the Mullingar native vowed yesterday, which the band’s fans will surely be thrilled to hear.

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Cuban Revolutionary Leader Fidel Castro Dies At Age 90

President Michael D. Higgins leads the Irish tributes this morning to the breaking news of the death of former Cuban leader, Fidel Castro.

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It's Gilmore Girls Day On Netflix

Gilmore Girls makes its much-anticipated return today on Netflix with four memorable chapters from the lives of Lorelai, Emily, Rory... and many more stalwarts from the fictional small town of Stars Hollow.

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DJ Nikki Hayes Opens Up About Giving Up Booze

Popular radio DJ Nikki Hayes has bravely revealed that she gave up alcohol last year because of its negative side effects of being mixed with medication to deal with a mental health condition.

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Watch Aretha Franklin’s Soulful Version Of US National Anthem

To help celebrate Thanksgiving, Aretha Franklin was invited to sing the American national anthem before yesterday’s big football game between Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings at the Ford Field stadium.

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Justin Bieber Looks Set To Face Legal Action Over “Aggressive Punch”

It’ll probably come as no surprise to hear that the teenager filmed being hit by the Canadian popstar prior to one of his gigs on Tuesday is now planning to take legal action.

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Elton John Rejects Offer To Play at Trump’s Inauguration

Media reports that Elton John is set to perform at President-elect Donald Trump’s Inauguration ceremony are “not true,” according to a spokesperson for the British star.

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Putin’s Top Spin Doctor Makes Horrible Racial Slurs About Obama

Vladimir Putin’s top media advisor in the Kremlin has used disgusting racial slurs to attack US President Barack Obama on the state-owned national television.

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Jean-Michel Jarre Makes Surprise Release Of New Music Video

The French composer’s new single Oxygène Pt. 17 has just been stuck up on YouTube without any fanfare, shortly ahead of his much anticipated new album on 2 December.

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Justin Bieber Punches Fan in Face

Justin Bieber lashed out at a fan shortly before going on stage for his “Purpose World Tour” concert in Barcelona last night.

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Donald Trump’s Own Grandfather Faced Deportation!

The USA might have had a very different President-elect right now – if it wasn’t for the fact that Donald Trump's grandfather was booted out of Germany, according to a legal decree that was recently discovered.

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Jason Donovan Reveals Liberal Attitude Towards His Kids Taking Drugs

Ex-Neighbours star Jason Donovan says he would prefer if his teenage children wanted to experiment with drugs that they would do so in the more safe environment of the family home in front of him – describing it as a form of “reverse psychology”.

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Phil Collins Plans Comeback Gigs in 2017

Phil Collins revealed back in 2015 that he was “no longer retired”... and now true to his word he plans "some comeback shows" next year.

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Kanye West Is Hospitalised After "Psychotic Breakdown"

Kanye West was forcibly taken to hospital for his own safety after suffering a "psychotic breakdown", according to US media reports.

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Steve Jones Reveals He Was Sexually Abused In New Memoir

Former Sex Pistol Steve Jones has opened up for the first time about being sexually abused by his stepfather in his autobiography.

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Marilyn Monroe Memorabilia Auction Sets New World Record

A three-day auction of Marilyn Monroe’s personal and career items has just fetched a staggering $11million dollars, which is being described as a “another word record” for the LA-based Julien’s Auctions who organised the event.

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Sting Offered Megabucks For Reunion Gig With The Police

The Police have been offered a whopping $9million US dollars to reform for a one-off festival in California next year, according to reports.

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New Book Reveals Heartbreaking Details Of Freddie Mercury’s Battle With HIV

It’s hard to believe that it’ll be 25 years since Queen’s charismatic frontman was cruelly cut down in his prime this coming Thursday (24 November).

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Grateful Dead to Celebrate 50th Anniversary In Style

As part of the celebrations for the upcoming 50th anniversary of their debut album, the Grateful Dead have announced plans for a comprehensive reissue of their entire discography.

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US President Obama Sheds New Light On White House Chat With Donald Trump

Outgoing US President Barack Obama has for the first time revealed that he strongly warned President-elect Donald Trump that he should tone down some of his radical political stances during their chat at The White House last week.

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Jeremy Clarkson Is Back Behind The Wheel

The much-anticipated new show by ex-Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson is now uploaded for streaming. The first episode of the new show called 'The Grand Tour' – featuring hosts Clarkson, Hammond and May – premieres exclusively on fee-paying Amazon Prime Video today (Friday 18 November).

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Clinton Finally Reveals Heartache Over Losing To Trump

Defeated US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gave her first public speech in which she not only opened up about her pain at her shock defeat, but she also made a rallying cry for young people not to get disillusioned with politics.

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Lemony Snicket Fans Will Be Excited By Sneak Peak OF New TV Series

Fans of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events look set to be in for a real treat if the exciting new trailer just put up on YouTube for an upcoming series created by the book's author himself is anything to go by.

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I’m Your Fan:Jeff Buckley’s Irish Friends Pay Moving Tribute On Day Tragic Singer Would’ve Turned 50

It’s hard to believe how time flies. Jeff Buckley – who will probably be most fondly remembered for his haunting cover version of the late Leonard Cohen’s elegiac song ‘hallelujah’, which was released posthumously to much acclaim – would’ve been celebrating his 50th birthday today on 17 November … if only he hadn’t been taken away so tragically young at just 30-years-old.

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John Lennon's Bitter Letter To Paul McCartney Over Beatles’ Split To Be Auctioned Off

To paraphrase one of The Beatles’ most popular tunes ‘Don’t Let Me Down’, John Lennon definitely felt he had been let him down by his ex-band members - as demonstrated in an angry letter addressed to Sir Paul McCartney and his then wife Linda about the iconic band's split in 1970, which has resurfaced and will be auctioned off.

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