The Oscar-winning heroes of “Spotlight”

The Times, October 1 2016 The Boston Globe's painstaking investigation into paedophile priests led to arrests, lawsuits and an Oscar-tipped film. But their fight for justice isn't over yet. In January 2002, a newspaper in Boston broke a story that was to shake the Roman Catholic Church to its very foundations. It concerned the sexual abuse of children by more than 70 priests, and the systematic attempts by Cardinal Bernard Law, the Archbishop of Boston, to cover up their crimes. For years, the Read more [...]

Liza Minnelli

Of course I know her name isn't pronounced 'Lisa'. Everyone does. She even had a television show in the 1970s called Liza with a Z. But the moment I learnt that she gets stroppy when people anglicise (or anglicize) her name, that was it: the word-gremlin began its evil work in my brain. I'm not sure what the technical name for this condition is, but it's that thing that makes you mention the War to Germans, or that happens when you ask a man with enormous, sticking-out ears to pass the salt and Read more [...]

Woody Allen

To meet Woody Allen in London is to meet a man violently out of context. Imagine stubbing your toe on the Statue of Liberty while out walking the dog on Tooting Common and you grasp the scale of the incongruity. He belongs in New York, he's synonymous with the place; as he says at the beginning of Manhattan (1979), it's his town. I once saw him there, wearing a baseball cap and a lumberjack shirt, marching towards me across a bridge in Central Park. It was six in the morning - I couldn't sleep Read more [...]

William Hurt

Mathematicians say that if you halve each pace in crossing a room you will never reach the opposite wall. I'm beginning to think this true of crossing the Charles Bridge in Prague with William Hurt walking beside me. He has a slow, flat-footed gait and, every few yards, he lurches to a halt, turns to me, head cocked, and asks if I agree with him. I mentally pinch the bridge of my nose, try to ignore the headache I feel coming on, and wonder, in an abstract way, whether I shouldn't just make a run Read more [...]

Steven Spielberg

The surprise is that, in certain countries, Steven Spielberg gets mobbed whenever he's spotted stepping out of a car or emerging from a hotel. Hair ruffled matily, congratulatory pats on back, autograph books thrust under nose. Not in Britain, obviously.  Because we're a dignified and reserved people. But in certain countries. Mobbed. Now, as Spielberg is the most successful film-maker in history - name credit on eight of the 15 biggest blockbusters - mobbing might be precisely what you would Read more [...]

Leslie Phillips

There's something poetic about the sight of an old man chasing moths around a room cluttered with antique bronzes, glassware and sepia-coloured photographs. The man is Leslie Phillips, the room is on the ground floor of his Victorian house in Maida Vale, north London, the moths are... well, they're just moths. Phillips claps his freckled hands together and opens them slowly to inspect. 'Missed,' he says gloomily. 'This one's a sod. I do hate moths.' Even so, I can't help feeling that the moths Read more [...]

Glenda Jackson

The transport minister opens the door, plucks the cigarette from her lips and says: 'Be with you in a sec. I'm just on the phone to Cherie.' As she hastens back to her desk she steps out of her shoes and hops on one stockinged foot while massaging the toes of the other. 'You were saying?' she croaks, cradling the phone between chin and shoulder. Her office is still cluttered with unpacked crates bulging with personal effects. These include what looks like the long black Cleopatra wig she wore on Read more [...]