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Madonna Eurovision performance in doubt

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Madonna’s publicists announced her appearance last month

Madonna’s performance at the Eurovision Song Contest has been thrown into doubt by organisers, who say she has yet to sign a contract for the show.

Speaking on Monday, Eurovision’s executive supervisor Jon Ola Sand said: “The European Broadcasting Union has never confirmed Madonna as an act.”

He continued: “If we do not have a signed contract she cannot perform on our stage.”

The contest takes place in Tel Aviv in Israel on 18 May.

Madonna’s appearance was announced by her US and UK publicists in April.

They said the star was due to play two songs during the interval – one from her new album Madame X and another from her back catalogue, rumoured to be 1989’s Like A Prayer.

Eurovision organisers downplayed the story at the time, saying “no final decisions” had been made – although this appeared to be a formality.

But Sand, who has produced the contest since 2010, said on Monday that negotiations were still underway.

“We are in a situation now that is a bit strange,” he said.

“We have an artist who would like to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest, and who we would love to welcome on that stage. But for that we need to have the framework secured.

“We are negotiating now, in the final stage of that – but if there is no signed contract this week, she will not be on the stage.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, Madonna will arrive in Tel Aviv to start rehearsals on Wednesday.

It is not clear how Eurovision would fill the half-time show were her appearance to be cancelled.

Calls for boycott

This year’s contest is being held in Israel after the country’s entry – Netta’s song Toy – won the 2018 edition.

But there have been calls for performers and broadcasters to boycott the competition over Israel’s human rights record.

In January, British figures including Dame Vivienne Westwood, Peter Gabriel, Roger Waters, Mike Leigh, Maxine Peake and the band Wolf Alice signed a letter calling on the BBC to cancel coverage of the 2019 song contest.

The signatories criticised Israel over its occupation of Palestinian territories. “Eurovision may be light entertainment, but it is not exempt from human rights considerations – and we cannot ignore Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian human rights,” they wrote.

Others denounced the proposed boycott, saying that Eurovision’s “spirit of togetherness” was “under attack”.

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Netta will perform at the first semi-final on Tuesday

Public figures including Stephen Fry, Sharon Osbourne, Marina Abramovic and pop mogul Scooter Braun signed a counter-statement, claiming “the cultural boycott movement [was] an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition”.

Commenting on the row, Madonna said she was a supporter of all human rights.

“I’ll never stop playing music to suit someone’s political agenda, nor will I stop speaking out against violations of human rights wherever in the world they may be,” she said in a statement to Reuters.

“My heart breaks every time I hear about the innocent lives that are lost in this region and the violence that is so often perpetuated to suit the political goals of people who benefit from this ancient conflict.

“I hope and pray that we will soon break free from this terrible cycle of destruction and create a new path towards peace.”

Netta is due to perform during the first Eurovision semi-final, which takes place later on Tuesday.

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Hitchhiker’s actor Stephen Moore dies aged 81

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Stephen Moore in the Student Prince

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Stephen Moore was described as the “most sweet, charming and affable of men”

Stephen Moore – known as the voice of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’s Marvin the Paranoid Android – has died aged 81.

He also played Adrian Mole’s father on TV, and the dad to Harry Enfield’s grumpy teenager Kevin.

Hitchhiker’s producer and director Dirk Maggs said Moore was the “most sweet, charming and affable of men”.

He paid tribute to “an amazing, varied career”, adding that he was best known for the role of Marvin.

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Moore was the voice of Marvin for five series of Hitchhiker’s on radio, and the 1980s TV adaptation

The first series of Hitchhiker’s appeared on Radio 4 in 1978, and after being adapted for TV in the 1980s, it returned to the airwaves in 2003.

In it Marvin is a failed prototype robot with “genuine people personalities”, which has led him to struggle with severe depression.

Maggs said: “That was the thing that won the hearts of people, Marvin is the most miserable character but people seem to love him.

“It was Stephen’s voice that made that happen.”

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The prolific actor also played teenage diarist Adrian Mole’s father George on TV

Alongside the paranoid android, Moore had a successful career on stage, TV and in film.

He was Major Robert Steele in Richard Attenborough’s A Bridge Too Far.

He played teenage diarist Adrian Mole’s father George on TV, and the dad of Melody and Harmony Parker on children’s show The Queen’s Nose.

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He also played the dad of grumpy teenager Kevin in Harry Enfield sketches

Maggs said: “I’ll always remember the story of him getting locked in a mic cupboard in the Paris studio at the BBC, and they forgot he was in there and went out to lunch.

“He was an infinitely professional actor, would put up with any discomfort and waited to play his part.

“And then outside the working situation he was the most sweet, charming and affable of men.”

Actor Ben Barnes – who worked with Moore in a West End production of The History Boys – wrote on Twitter that “he was a sensitive, brilliant actor and a funny, lovely man”.



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Robert Forster: Jackie Brown star dies aged 78

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Actor Robert Forster, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, has died in Los Angeles aged 78.

The actor, born in Rochester, New York state, died on Friday of brain cancer.

It happened on the same day that El Camino, a film in which he had a role and which is based on the TV series Breaking Bad was broadcast on Netflix.

Forster also appeared in the Breaking Bad TV series as well as David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks.

He was best known for his roles in the latter part of his career following his appearance in Jackie Brown.

  • Quentin Tarantino’s ‘brilliant’ Hollywood return

Starring alongside Samuel L Jackson, Pam Grier and Robert De Niro, his performance was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar.

The award eventually went to Robin Williams for his role in Good Will Hunting.

Forster is survived by his partner Denise Grayson. children Bobby, Elizabeth, Kate and Maeghen and four grandchildren.

Jackie Brown co-stars Samuel L Jackson and Pam Grier were among those to pay tribute.





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Angelina Jolie: Strong women are ‘shaped by men around them’

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Angelina Jolie, pictured at the London premiere of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil on Wednesday

Angelina Jolie has championed the role men can play in shaping the personalities of young girls.

The actress, who stars in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, also said female characters in films should not have to be portrayed as physically tough in order to be considered strong.

“I think that, so often, when a story’s told which says ‘this is a strong woman’, she has to beat the man, or she has to be like the man, or she has to somehow not need the man,” Jolie told journalists at the film’s launch.

Referring to her own character in the film and Princess Aurora, played by Elle Fanning, Jolie said: “We both very much need and love and learn from the men.

“And so I think that’s also an important message for young girls, to find their own power, but to respect and learn from the men around them.”

She added: “We have strong women, but the character that is wrong in the film and has to be taken out is also a woman. We show very diverse types of women, between our characters, but also we have extraordinary men in the film, and I really want to press that point.”

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, the sequel to 2014’s Maleficent, is released in the UK later this month and also stars Ed Skrein, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michelle Pfeiffer.

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Disney

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Elle Fanning and Michelle Pfeiffer also star in the film, which is the sequel to 2014’s Maleficent

Fanning, who reprises her role of Princess Aurora in the film, echoed Jolie’s comments and said her character’s strength is not necessarily physical, unlike many princesses in children’s films.

“Aurora’s strength is her kindness, and she stays very true to herself, which is something I wanted to keep in the film. She is soft and feminine and wants to be a wife and have babies, and that’s a beautiful, strong thing that isn’t portrayed a lot on screen.

“A lot of the princesses are like ‘we’re gonna make her a strong princess! And make her tough, so we’re gonna make her fight!’ And it’s like, is that what being a strong woman means? Like, we just have to have a sword and have armour on and go fight? Aurora can do that in a different way, in a pink dress, and it’s beautiful that she keeps her softness and vulnerabilities.”

‘How to use that power’

Many of the female leads in action or children’s films focus on the character’s physical strength. Wonder Woman, for example, or Merida in the Disney’s 2012 film Brave. Indeed, one of Jolie’s previous roles was playing action hero Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.

Explaining the premise of the Maleficent sequel, Fanning said: “Five years have passed in her life, and she’s now Queen of the Moors, and she has this new responsibility, and she’s trying to figure out who she is as a ruler and how to use that power.”

The movie’s plot sees Jolie’s Maleficent conflicted over her maternal feelings towards Aurora, and facing competition from the neighbouring Queen Ingrith (played by Michelle Pfeiffer).

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Queen Ingrith causes a rift between Maleficent and Aurora, when her son Prince Phillip proposes to the princess. Ingrith intends to use the marriage to divide humans and fairies, and it falls to Maleficent to stop the impending war.

Official reviews are still under embargo, but critics who attended early screenings of the film have been allowed to share their first impressions on Twitter.

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is like Pirates of the Caribbean; there’s lots of convolution and contrivance, but has star power,” said Courtney Howard, who reviews films for Variety and Awards Circuit. “Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer and Elle Fanning are a holy trinity with bumpy arcs.”

Scott Menzel, the editor of We Live Entertainment, described it as “a visually spectacular sequel that proves once again that Angelina Jolie was born to play the title character. [It’s] a modern day fairytale where badass women take centre stage. The battle sequences are epic and the costumes are stunning.”

“Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer having a sass-off in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is every bit as good as you’d hope,” said Digital Spy. “The movie needs more of it, but it’s still a visually bold, fun and superior sequel.”

The film received its London premiere on Wednesday.

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Elle Fanning and Angelina Jolie both say physical strength are not what should make female characters strong

Fanning said: “I definitely felt a real responsibility to do the second film, the first film was the first film I’d ever done of that scale, and so many young kids saw the film, and especially young girls would come up to me, and they’d look at me as the character.

“So hearing that we’d be doing the sequel, I felt a responsibility to those girls for sure, and just to get to show Aurora as a young woman growing up. Obviously in the first film, I was 14 when I did that, and Aurora still has the qualities that she does of kindness, innocence and sweetness that she embodies, but it was so fun to come back.

“The three of us [Fanning, Jolie and Pfeiffer], we were there in the beginning, our relationships have changed and grown, I’m 21 now, so I wasn’t the kid on set anymore. I really felt accepted on set in a way. Especially with Michelle and Angelina, I felt like they included me as if I was one of their peers.”

Jolie says the films have come to reflect the life cycle of a woman – something that wasn’t necessarily the intention when the first movie was conceived.

“One of the interesting things is, without realising, we’ve hit the chapters of the growth of a woman,” she said. “Her birth, her christening, to being a little girl, a teenage girl, to now being a wife. And so in a way the chapters are following a few things, but one of them is how a woman grows and evolves.”

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