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Emilia Clarke and Emma Thompson on Last Christmas and reading reviews

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Emilia ClarkeImage copyright
Universal

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Clarke with a less controversial coffee cup than the one she appeared with in Game of Thrones

One thing we definitely aren’t going to do in this article is give away any spoilers about Last Christmas. Apart from anything else, we’re quite scared of Dame Emma Thompson.

“The correct spoiler etiquette is: don’t spoil it!” the actress and writer tells BBC News after a week of critics’ reviews that have revealed the ending.

“It’s easy isn’t it? It’s like ‘don’t punch strangers’. Just don’t spoil it. Easy. Easy rule. Not complex.”

Luckily, Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, who plays the lead character Kate in the movie, has plenty of experience in keeping plot lines secret.

“I’ve never done a job that didn’t involve a spoiler,” she points out. “Literally, there is no job I’ve done. And some of them are bigger than others. But with this particular twist, there are ways about talking about our characters and the premise without going anywhere near it.”

One thing that definitely isn’t a secret is that the movie is based on the music of George Michael. His (and Wham’s) best-known songs make up the soundtrack, and in a few cases are sung by the characters.

Arguably, the most recent Christmas-themed movie to have become an annual audience favourite is 2003’s Love Actually – which also starred Dame Emma. But she says trying to make the next great festive film “wasn’t her prime motivation” for co-writing Last Christmas.

“Love Actually, of course, was made by one of my best mates,” she says, referring to writer-director Richard Curtis. “And I’m so happy that people are still fond of it. So we certainly weren’t thinking we were in competition with anything. I just wanted to try to make a good film, which has Christmas in it. And a bit of love, a bit of drama, and just everything we could throw at it.”

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George Michael died on Christmas Day 2016 at his home in Oxfordshire

Some reviews so far have been positive. The Mirror gave it five stars, while The Wrap said it “provides enough of a warm, fuzzy glow to light up a bleak midwinter”.

It’s fair to say, however, that many critics have been less enthusiastic.

“Last Christmas is the worst festive film I have ever seen,” wrote Dan Wootton in The Sun. “It’s a woke, remoaning, overly politically correct mess of a movie that manages to suck every inch of fun, joy and togetherness out of the season where we should be jolly.”

‘We couldn’t avoid Brexit’

His comments refer to the film’s Brexit references, along with fact the central family are immigrants. Dame Emma’s character (Kate’s mother) comments that the EU referendum result makes her feel unwelcome, while one scene on a London bus shows someone telling off passengers who aren’t speaking English.

But Dame Emma argues: “I think [the political references] are very lightly brushed in. Because our main character is the daughter of immigrants, it would be very difficult to tell this story without mentioning, at least, the fear that people have who are immigrants with Brexit.

“Because it’s set in a very particular time as well, it’s set in 2016, we couldn’t avoid it. Having it not there would’ve been slightly psychotic. And I think what’s more important about what’s under the fun of the movie is a message about kindness.”

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Universal

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As well as co-writing the film, Dame Emma Thompson plays Kate’s mother

Clarke has her own policy when it comes to reading reviews. “I don’t look at them at all. It’s partly drama school training, and then you do a bit of theatre, and it’s just not helpful,” she says.

“The way I see it, right, is that I stopped Googling myself within a year of Game of Thrones happening. Because I was like, ‘I don’t need to know what people think about the size of my bottom, thank you so much.’

“And then when you stop Googling yourself, you then stop reading reviews. If someone says something really good, if you get a 15 million-star review, someone will tell you, and if you get a ‘one-star coal in the rectum’, someone’s going to tell you!” She laughs while glaring at her co-star Henry Golding.

(She’s referring to the rather graphic way Rolling Stone described the experience of watching the film, which Clarke says Golding drew to her attention “right before we stepped on live TV!”)

George Michael’s ‘poetry’

Last Christmas is the latest in a string of movies that have been based on the back catalogues of a particular musical act. Queen, Bruce Springsteen and Elton John have all had the Hollywood treatment recently. “Maybe Mamma Mia put that idea on the map,” Dame Emma says.

Golding, who is best known for starring in Crazy Rich Asians, says the benefit of such films is that they “spark joy, memory, nostalgia”.

“Especially with Freddie Mercury and Elton John,” he continues. “It’s music we all grew up with, and to see what was actually happening, a glimpse of their biography, it kind of invigorates us, and makes us fall in love with that artist over and over again.

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Universal

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Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding stars in Last Christmas alongside Clarke

“And hopefully that’s what happens with George, and a broader market gets to listen to George for the first time, which I think is going to happen.”

Dame Emma met Michael before his death in 2016. The singer gave the movie is blessing, and his family and management have been involved in the production since, even gifting a previously unheard recording to the soundtrack.

“The songs just kind of slid in naturally,” Dame Emma says. “I didn’t realise how his poetry describes so much of the acts of self-care and kindness that this film really speaks about.”

The fact that Dame Emma, along with husband Greg Wise, co-wrote the film’s screenplay meant she could personally monitor how the movie was taking shape.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who both wrote and starred in Fleabag, was known for rewriting scenes while shooting. Was that a luxury Dame Emma enjoyed as well?

“Deffo. Absolutely,” she says. “You go, ‘Oh I don’t think that’s quite right’. Or, ‘That could be funnier’. And then we make stuff up as we go. We riff a bit. So yes, it’s useful to be on set, because if someone says, ‘Oh that doesn’t really work’, you can think about something else.”

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HBO

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A disposable coffee cup appeared on the table next to Clarke in Game of Thrones

This is our first interview with Dame Emma since she personally phoned the manager of Mayfair restaurant Brown’s to ask them to reinstate a waiter who was sacked for asking for a selfie with her. Has she heard whether he eventually got his job back?

“Oh yes, of course he did!” she replies. “Taking a selfie is not a sacking offence. I mean, well done Brown’s for bringing it up. But the selfie thing is something we all need to talk about and think about a little bit, face-to-face.”

Coffee cup culprit

We also have one final question for Clarke before we go, regarding the Game of Thrones coffee cup saga, which has been rumbling on for several months.

After the continuity error in the eighth season, Clarke revealed her co-star Conleth Hill had privately confessed he was the one responsible for leaving it in shot.

The day before our interview, however, he jokingly told Sunday Brunch that his guilt could not be proved.

“THAT LITTLE CHEEKY… NO!” Clarke explodes while we’re only a few words into the question. “STOP! I’m not having it!”

He has, we try to continue through the laughter, playfully threatened legal action against Clarke for dobbing him in. Has she heard from his lawyer?

“No I haven’t heard from his lawyer, he’s going to hear from mine in a minute though!” she laughs.

And with that, we wrap up, wishing Clarke and Golding well with that evening’s premiere.

“Thank you,” Clarke smiles, before adding: “Let us know if Rolling Stone are going to be there…”

Last Christmas is released on Friday.

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Queen reprise 22-minute Live Aid set at Fire Fight Australia concert

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Brian May of Queen performs during the Fire Fight Australia bushfire relief concert in Sydney, Australia, 16 February 2020Image copyright
EPA

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Brian May of Queen performs to thousands at the Fire Fight Australia concert in Sydney

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US singer Adam Lambert has joined Queen to reprise the band’s legendary 1985 Live Aid set for 75,000 people at a huge benefit concert in Sydney.

The 22-minute set was part of a 10-hour fundraising event organised to raise A$10m (£5.15m; $6.71m) for communities devastated by bushfires.

“As Aussies we bear together… because it turns out the people at the top don’t,” the host Celeste Barber said.

Recent fires have killed at least 33 people, destroying thousands of homes.

In New South Wales, the worst-hit state, heavy rains have brought blazes under control. But in the last few months more than 11 million hectares of land – an area comparable to the size of England – has been affected across all of Australia’s states and territories.

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Olivia Newton-John, 71, performed with Australian singer Mitch TamboImage copyright
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Olivia Newton-John, 71, performed with Australian singer Mitch Tambo

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On Sunday, Olivia Newton-John and Alice Cooper joined local stars 5 Seconds of Summer, Tina Arena and Delta Goodrem for the Fire Fight Australia gig.

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Queen and Adam Lambert perform at the Fire Fight Australia, a concert for National Bushfire Relief in Sydney, 16 February 2020Image copyright
Getty Images

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Adam Lambert took the place of the late Freddie Mercury for the 22-minute set

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Joining Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor on stage, Lambert filled in for the late Freddie Mercury as the band performed hits such as Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions.

  • How much rain did it take to put out the NSW fires?
  • ‘Urgent help’ needed for 113 species after fires

Lambert, a former American Idol contestant who has previously toured with Queen, said it was a “real honour” to perform the band’s full Live Aid set for the victims of Australia’s bushfires.

The set at the 1985 fundraising concert at London’s Wembley Stadium for famine relief is seen as one of the greatest performances by any rock band. It was recreated for the 2018 film Bohemian Rhapsody.

Australian singer Guy Sebastian performs during the Fire Fight Australia bushfire relief concertImage copyright
EPA

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Australian singer Guy Sebastian was one of dozens of performers supporting the fundraiser

Australia has always had a fire season, with naturally occurring blazes sparked during the dry summer, but this year’s has been unprecedented in the scale and intensity of the fires.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has come in for harsh criticism for its response to the disaster.

Australian singer Delta Goodrem performsImage copyright
EPA

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Australian singer Delta Goodrem took to the stage with the Australian National Flag

Host Celeste BarberImage copyright
EPA

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Actor Celeste Barber kicked off a Facebook fundraising campaign in January that has netted more than A$50m

Profits from the event will be passed on to rural fire services, communities affected by bushfires and animal welfare groups.

  • A visual guide to Australia’s bushfire crisis
  • Bushfires bring ‘apocalypse’ to Kangaroo Island

People attend the Fire Fight Australia bushfire relief concertImage copyright
EPA

Among those attending was Dalene George, a teacher from Bateman’s Bay, who told Reuters news agency: “[I want to be] part of the people who helped to try and bring things back together and bring smiles. Yeah be part of that healing stuff that happens with community.”

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Media captionClimbing trees to save Kangaroo Island’s koalas

Another concert-goer, bank worker Karen Adams, said: “We’re in Sydney so we couldn’t even get down there to help, which was heartbreaking. And I work in a bank and so many families have lost everything so we’re here to support them all.”

Crowds at the concertImage copyright
AFP

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Caroline Flack: Love Island episode taken off air after ex-host’s death

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Flack with Jack Fincham and Dani Dyer on Love IslandImage copyright
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Flack with 2018 Love Island winners Jack Fincham and Dani Dyer

ITV have pulled Saturday’s edition of Love Island following the death of the show’s former host Caroline Flack.

An episode of unseen bits from the week in the villa was due to have been aired at 21:00 GMT.

Flack’s death shocked fans on Saturday. It came two months after she was replaced as host of the show after being charged with assault.

An ITV statement said: “Everybody at Love Island and ITV is shocked and saddened by this desperately sad news.”

It continued: “Caroline was a much loved member of the Love Island team and our sincere thoughts and condolences are with her family and friends.”

ITV2’s programme announcer said: “In light of today’s sad news we’re replacing tonight’s episode of Love Island: Unseen Bits with a double bill of You’ve Been Framed.”

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Media captionCaroline Flack won a British Academy Television Award for Love Island in 2018

Love Island’s first winter series, which is being filmed in South Africa, is due to end on Sunday, 23 February.

  • TV presenter Caroline Flack dies at 40
  • Looking back at Caroline Flack’s career

Meanwhile, Channel 4 said its series The Surjury, which was to have been hosted by Flack, will not air.

A Channel 4 spokeswoman said: “We are shocked and saddened to hear the tragic news about Caroline Flack. Our deepest sympathies go out to Caroline’s family and friends.

“Under the circumstances, we have decided not to broadcast The Surjury.”

When the show was announced in October, the channel said it would feature a 12-strong jury of the public who would decide if people got the cosmetic surgery they dreamed of.

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Caroline Flack’s career highlights in pictures

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Strictly Come Dancing

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Flack dazzled on the dance floor with Pasha Kovalev when they won Strictly Come Dancing in 2014

TV presenter Caroline Flack, who has died at the age of 40, starred on some of Britain’s biggest television shows.

Here is a selection of photos that capture her career highlights.

TMi

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She got an early break alongside Sam and Mark on BBC children’s show TMi, which launched in 2006

On TMi in 2007

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Flack stayed on the Saturday morning favourite for three series before moving on

Wheels

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She teamed up with professional wheelchair dancer James O’Shea for Dancing on Wheels in 2010, with the pair going on to win the BBC Three contest

With Joe Swash on Let's Dance for... Comic Relief 2011

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She took part in Let’s Dance for… Comic Relief with Joe Swash in 2011. The pair also presented I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here Now!

Caroline Flack and Olly Murs filming The Xtra FactorImage copyright
ITV/Shutterstock

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With singer Olly Murs, Flack hosted The X Factor spin-off show The Xtra Factor from 2011 before the pair were promoted to present the main series in 2015

Love IslandImage copyright
ITV/Shutterstock

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When Love Island began in its current format in 2015, Flack was there to match up the scantily-clad singletons

Fashion For ReliefImage copyright
PA Media

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She walked the catwalk during the Fashion for Relief charity fashion show, which was hosted by Naomi Campbell for the Ebola crisis in Africa in 2017

Caroline Flack at the Bafta Awards 2018Image copyright
Getty Images

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Flack got her hands on a Bafta Award in 2018 when Love Island was named best reality show

Caroline Flack at the Brit Awards 2018Image copyright
Getty Images

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She was a fixture on other red carpets, such as at the Brit Awards in 2018

Love IslandImage copyright
ITV/Shutterstock

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She helped Love Island become one of the most popular British TV shows of the decade

TRICImage copyright
PA Media

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It won a string of prizes, such as the TRIC Award for best reality programme, which she collected with contestant Amber Davies in 2018

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