Dinner with Margaret Thatcher: the story of a secret supper

In 1982, London's leading literary lights gathered for a secret dinner party. The guest of honour? Margaret Thatcher. Nigel Farndale interviews the survivors The Observer, Saturday 7 December 2013 On a clear autumn night in 1982, a government Daimler pulled out of Downing Street and began its glide across London to a house in Ladbroke Grove. In the passenger seat was a personal protection officer. He had been to the house earlier that day to check the security arrangements for the evening and had Read more [...]

Terry Wogan

Shy and lazy, that’s Terry Wogan, according to Terry Wogan. They’re not words you would readily associate with a 67-year-old who rises at 5.30 every morning so that he can ‘talk rubbish for two hours’ — as he puts it — for the benefit of nine million adoring radio listeners, who include ironically-minded students, large swathes of Middle England, and HM the Queen. Yet, as he elaborates, I realise he is, for once, being serious, if a little disingenuous. It is mid morning, he has just Read more [...]

Stephen King

Seven years after a van ran into him, leaving him with a dislocated hip and 25 broken bones, Stephen King still aches. His gait is stiff and awkward. His lank frame is still a little hunched. But it seems to suit his manner: a curious combination of languor and frustration. He will be 60 next year and this looming milestone has got him worrying about his legacy, his place in the canon of literature. In some ways this might seem perverse. He is, arguably, the most popular novelist in the world Read more [...]

Rupert Everett

To understand the man, Freud believed, you must look to the child - and as a child Rupert Everett was asked to leave his prep school for ‘being difficult’. The reason given for his expulsion from drama school several years later was ‘insubordination’. It would not surprise Freud, then, to learn that interviews with the adult Everett tend to end in tears - the interviewer’s. And yet I’ve been told by an old friend of the actor that he is ‘funny, sharp and easy-going’. So, I ask Read more [...]

Rory Stewart

It’s not the crisply-tailored suit and tie that makes Rory Stewart OBE stand out in a London hotel lobby. It is not even his dark, slightly dishevelled hair — hair that allows him to pass for a native while travelling across dangerous terrain in the Middle East. It is the small, incongruous rucksack slung over his shoulder. It is not an affectation. The man is one part diplomat, two parts explorer — and he is about to fly back out to Afghanistan where he is running a project to preserve the Read more [...]

Ron Howard

I wouldn’t say that meeting Ron Howard was an anti-climax, exactly. I did not, after all, expect the 52-year-old, Oscar-winning director and movie mogul to be like his friend Russell Crowe, an exciting mixture of bluntness and volatility. Nor did I imagine him to be like Don Simpson, the flamboyant Hollywood producer who could put away more proscribed chemicals than a laboratory full of beagles. But there was a big build up to my meeting with him and, with it, a certain anticipation; a tightening Read more [...]

Richard E Grant

In a small, private cinema in Soho, Richard E Grant is introducing Wah-Wah, the autobiographical film he has written, directed and, to all intents, produced (though that’s a long story). ‘The audiences we have tested it on so far have both laughed and cried,’ he says, baring his teeth in a smile that looks more like a grimace. ‘So no pressure.’ This might be a tougher audience than most: a dozen gnarled distributors who watch films every day. But the screening begins and they duly oblige Read more [...]