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Emilia Clarke and Emma Thompson on Last Christmas and reading reviews

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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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Sausage roll enthusiast LadBaby takes aim at second Christmas number one

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The star recorded his new single with his wife, Roxanne, at Abbey Road studios

YouTube star LadBaby, who scored last year’s Christmas number one with an ode to sausage rolls, is mounting a second assault on the charts.

The “dad blogger” has rewritten Joan Jett’s I Love Rock & Roll for this year’s attempt; once again extolling the virtues of pork-stuffed pastry.

I Love Sausage Rolls was recorded at Abbey Road, but LadBaby maintains he’s “no more professional” than before.

“Brace yourself, my singing voice is back,” he told the BBC.

The single won’t be released until Friday, 13 December – but it’s crammed full of meaty puns, leading to the inevitable chorus: “I love sausage rolls / So put another one in the oven, baby“.

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Ladbaby, whose real name is Mark Hoyle, said the parody was written in “about five hours” after he and his wife Roxanne chose it from a playlist of the UK’s favourite karaoke songs.

“We basically went down the Top 50 karaoke songs in the UK – because we wanted a song, like last year, where everyone knows the words and you can sing along to it and the kids can join in and have fun.”

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Proceeds from the single will support food banks, which see a surge in demand over Christmas

Last year, the YouTube star captured the public’s imagination with the comedy hit We Built This City On Sausage Rolls. The song went straight to number one, beating the likes of Ava Max and Ariana Grande, as well as seasonal favourites by Mariah Carey and The Pogues.

All of the proceeds went to The Trussell Trust, a foodbank charity, funding about 70,000 emergency food packages over the festive period.

Hoyle said he had intended to end the story there, until he saw the charity’s work first-hand.

“We basically spent a few days meeting the volunteers and understanding how the food banks work,” he said, “and while we were there, the doorbell rang once every two or three minutes with more people coming in.

“Once we saw how far the money goes, we thought, ‘Do you know what? If we can get anywhere near raising that sort of money again, then why not?'”

According to The Trussell Trust’s own research, more than 823,000 parcels were provided by food banks in the UK between April and September this year – an increase of 23% increase from the same period as last year.

“They said the Christmas period is the worst – that’s when they have the most people in,” Hoyle added. “So for us, it was a no-brainer to try to help those guys again.”

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LadBaby

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The single’s artwork parodies The Beatles’ classic Abbey Road album sleeve, starring Mark, Roxanne and their two sons

If I Love Sausage Rolls gets to number one, LadBaby will be only the third act in UK chart history to have consecutive Christmas chart-toppers.

“There’s a chance we can be in there with the Beatles and the Spice Girls,” says Hoyle. “There’s never been a novelty act with back-to-back Christmas number ones, so we could make some history.”

However, the record faces stiff competition this year, with the likes of Lewis Capaldi and Taylor Swift taking a swing at the festive chart.

Australian artist Tones & I could also cling on to the top spot – she’s currently enjoying a 10th week at number one with the quirky pop single Dance Monkey; while fans of Wham! are trying to propel Last Christmas to number one (for the first time) in honour of the song’s 35th anniversary.

LadBaby isn’t even the only charity single in the running: Broadchurch actor Shaun Dooley has teamed up with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band to cover Taylor Swift’s Never Grow Up in aid of Children In Need; while six-year-old Lyra Cole has recorded a version of When A Child is Born for Brain Tumour Research, which helped her through emergency surgery as a baby.

“It feels like there’s more competition this year,” agrees Hoyle, “so the chances of doing it again seem very slim.”

But if they reach their goal, he promises to go one better next year.

“We were joking the other day, ‘How do you get bigger than Abbey Road?'” he says. “And I think we’d have to fly to LA and do an album with Dr Dre.”

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Jacqueline Jossa wins I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

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Former EastEnders star Jacqueline Jossa has won I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! after spending three weeks in the Australian jungle.

The actress was named queen of the jungle, following in the footsteps of previous winners like Harry Redknapp, Stacey Solomon and Kerry Katona.

Co-presenters Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly revealed the winner at the end of the final of the ITV reality show.

Actor Andy Whyment was the runner-up, with radio DJ Roman Kemp in third.

Jossa played Lauren Branning in BBC soap EastEnders between 2010 and 2018.

After she was named queen of the jungle, she said: “I have no words.”

This year’s series – the 19th – was the first not to have live insects eaten as part of the show’s “bushtucker trials”.

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Coronation Street actor Andy Whyment took part in a “bushtucker bonanza” before he came second

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Radio host Roman Kemp came third

Any insects consumed on the show were already dead – though live creepy-crawlies were still dumped on its celebrity contestants.

But the show was not without controversy, with former sports stars James Haskell and Ian Wright being accused of bullying their fellow campmates.

Viewers also contacted media watchdog Ofcom to complain that some of the show’s challenges were too hard and thus unfair.

There was contention before the series even aired, with former Commons Speaker John Bercow demanding a newspaper apologise for claiming he had asked for £1m to appear.

DJ Tony Blackburn was the first celebrity to be crowned King of the Jungle when the show first aired in 2002.

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Juice Wrld: US rapper dies aged 21 ‘after seizure at airport’

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Juice Wrld, real name Jarad Anthony Higgins, was considered to be a rising star of rap musicImage copyright
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Juice Wrld, real name Jarad Anthony Higgins, was considered to be a rising star of rap music

Juice Wrld, a US rapper who shot to fame on music streaming platforms, has died at the age of 21.

Celebrity news website TMZ said he died after suffering a seizure at Chicago’s Midway airport on Sunday morning.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said the cause was unknown.

Juice Wrld, real name Jarad Anthony Higgins, was best-known for his viral 2018 hit Lucid Dreams. Mental health, mortality and drug use were common themes in his music.

Chicago police told the BBC a 21-year-old man suffered a medical emergency at around 02:00 local time (08:00 GMT) and was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

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Anthony Guglielmi, a police spokesman, told the Chicago Sun Times there were “no signs of foul play” and it was unclear whether drugs played a role in his death.

Who was Juice Wrld?

Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1998, Juice Wrld started rapping in high school, using online music streaming platform SoundCloud to upload and promote his music.

He went on to release his debut full-length EP, 999, on the platform in 2017, garnering him attention from fellow Chicago-based artists such as G Herbo and Lil Bibby.

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Juice Wrld shot to fame in 2018, when hit single Lucid Dreams reached number two in the charts

The rapper rose to fame in 2018, when hit singles All Girls Are the Same and Lucid Dreams, which peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, drew the attention of music fans and record labels.

More plaudits followed the release first studio album, Goodbye & Good Riddance, in 2018, cementing his himself as one of the rising stars of US rap.

In early 2018, he was signed by Interscope Records, landing a record deal reported to be worth more than $3m (£2.2m). He topped the Billboard chart this year with his second album Death Race for Love.

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Juice Wrld celebrated his 21st birthday last week

In one of his songs, Juice Wrld rapped about the short lives of artists, saying “all the legends seem to die out”.

The song, titled Legends, was dedicated to two late rappers, 20-year-old XXXTentacion and 21-year-old Lil Peep, who died in 2018 and 2017, respectively.

In the song Juice Wrld rapped: “What’s the 27 Club? We ain’t making it past 21. I been going through paranoia.”

Juice Wrld had celebrated his 21st birthday last week. In a tweet, he said it was “one of his best” birthdays yet.

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Media captionGrime artist Ransom FA spoke to the BBC about the challenges of breaking into the music industry

His music has been described as emo rap, a genre that draws influences from hip hop and alternative rock.

In a four-star review of his second album, music publication NME said the rapper “makes songs that stick, his vocal dissonance capturing what it feels like to be young and in pain, and feeling a sense of indifference towards authority figures”.

In a 2018 interview with the New York Times, Juice Wrld opened up about his use of cannabis and Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication.

“I smoke weed, and every now and then I slip up and do something that’s poor judgment,” he told the paper.

Who has paid tribute?

In a tweet, British singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding, who collaborated with Juice Wrld on her 2019 single Hate Me, described the rapper as “such a sweet soul” who had “so much further to go”.

Chicago-based artist Chance the Rapper paid a heartfelt tribute on Instagram, writing: “Millions of people, not just in Chicago but around the world are hurting because of this and don’t know what to make of it.”

“Wow, I cannot believe this. Rip my brother juice world,” tweeted fellow rapper Lil Yachty.

US rapper Lil Nas X, also writing on Twitter, said it is “so sad how often this is happening lately to young talented rising artists”.

Hip hop artist HaHa Davis wrote on Twitter: “Heartbroken @JuiceWorlddd I love you bro.”





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