Daniel Day-lewis branded “pathetic”

ACTOR Daniel Day-lewis has re-opened an extraordinary family feud with a vicious attack on one of his own uncles.

Describing retired Conservative Party councillor Jonathan Balcon as a “bully”, “a fraud“ and a hypocrite, the In The Name of the Father star also told an interviewer he’d even like to BEAT him up over comments the 72-year-old made about his private life nearly ten years ago.

The comments – that reclusive Day-Lewis’ grandfather would not have approved of aspects of his private life – were made in a 1997 letter to organisers behind a plaque which was unveiled in Balcon’s father’s honour.

They asked what Balcon – whose sister Jill married Day-Lewis’ father – what British film industry pioneer Sir Michael Balcon would think of his grandson being asked to unveil the plaque.

Balcon duly replied that while he’d be proud of his acting achievements, he wouldn’t have approved of a “bounder” whose morals were “up the spout”.

And in interviews later, he added that he thought Day-Lewis was an unsuitable choice to unveil the plaque. Needless to say, the actor was conspicuous by his absence on the day, with organisers blaming his acting commitments.

It was some years after the actor split from French actress Isabelle Adjani – reportedly in a long distance phone call – while she was seven months pregnant with his child. She would later brand him an inveterate womaniser.

And Day-Lewis – who now lives in Ireland – walked out of his relationship with 26-year-old fitness instructor Deya Pichardo to date his now wife Rebecca Miller.

The first Pichardo knew she wasn’t going out with Day-Lewis and that he had got married to someone else was when she heard about it from a friend, who’d read about it in a newspaper.

Other than writing Balcon a furious letter of protest about the comment, Balcon and Day-Lewis have not spoken or seen each other since.

Last night ex-British Army officer Balcon said he thought Day-Lewis’ outburst was not only pathetic but also “highly libellous”.

He told Ireland on Sunday: “Nearly ten years ago, I was asked what my deceased father Sir Michael would have thought about Daniel being chosen – as he was – to unveil a plaque in his honour.

“I simply said that while my father would have been pleased at Daniel’s progress, certain aspects of his private life would have raised an eyebrow or two.

“I was alluding to the fact that my father, who could be a bit of a mid-Victorian prude, would not have approved of Daniel fathering a child out of wedlock.”

Day-Lewis was quoted yesterday (Saturday) in The Independent as saying: “An uncle of mine felt the need to give an interview a few years ago. He took a moral stance on my actions.

“This was laughable. He is probably one of the most amoral people I have ever encountered. That man has always been a joke in our family.”

He also described him as a “coward, a bully, a hypocrite and a fraud”. And he added: “If he had been younger, I’d have taken him to the market place and smacked him.”

Balcon, whose eldest daughter is a close friend of Day-Lewis’ sister, said: “The man really is pathetic and I’m surprised a newspaper bothered to repeat his remarks.

“I was asked a question a few years back – and it was not an interview – and I just gave an honest answer in the form of a letter. By the reaction it got at the time and ever since, it would seem that the truth always hurts hardest.

“My father wouldn’t have approved of the way Daniel had lived his life and I said as much.

“To harbour this grudge for such a long time is just quite ridiculous and if I could afford to sue him over the word ‘fraud‘ – or be bothered – I would.

“But then to be honest with you, I’m a bit bored with the whole thing. It‘s very sad and again, pathetic.”

And he added: “The only thing Daniel has said to me since the whole episode was in the form of an angry letter, much of which sounds like what he told this interviewer. The contents of the letter will feature in a book I’m writing at the moment.”

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Louis Walsh’s million-plus factor.

LOUIS Walsh has signed an amazing €1.5 million-deal to get him back on X-Factor.

The contract ends months of speculation about whether or not he would return and follows protracted behind-the-scenes negotiations between the pop mogul and show boss and fellow judge, Simon Cowell.

In January, Ireland on Sunday revealed a deal was on the table but it’s only now finally been signed – adding yet another bulging pay packet to the 52-year-old’s multi-million Euro fortune.

Although bed-ridden with flu, he said last night: “I have signed for £1 million to do X-Factor and I’m very, very happy with the deal.

“It’s a great show, I love doing it and I’m delighted to be back on board. I’m also looking forward to championing yet more great – and hopefully Irish – talent.”

And he brushed off rumours his co-judge Sharon Osbourne has signed for more cash than him, which was reputedly one of the main stumbling blocks behind his reluctance to return to the show.

He said: “I don’t know if Sharon is getting paid more than me. To be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me if she is but I really couldn’t care less.

“”Even if I eventually find out she is getting more money, I won’t be kicking up a fuss. I am more than looked after in the deal I’ve signed.

“I don’t want to go into the reasons why it has taken so long to sign a deal but it has nothing to do with the size of other people’s pay packets.”

A show insider added: “X-Factor really wouldn’t be the same without Louis. He is brilliant on the show and a real hit with viewers.

“It’s very hard to imagine who could replace him and everyone is relieved the deal has finally been signed and we can all now concentrate on the show.”

The deal means that Walsh will now take his place alongside Osbourne and Cowell on the judging panel for the next run of the show – which starts on May 29.

He quit last year’s show – the second so far – in reaction to a string of on and off-air verbal attacks against him by both Osbourne and Cowell.

There were also reports of behind-the-scenes rows about anything from suggestions that Osbourne was being paid double what Walsh was earning for being on the show to the size of his dressing room – reportedly the smallest of the three allocated to the judges.

Walsh was also publicly criticised for his support for the Conway Sisters after our sister title Ireland on Sunday revealed Walsh had not only known the band “socially” for years but also had them perform support at Westlife concerts.

Walsh was eventually persuaded to return by X-Factor bosses and he saw the show out to the end and in time to see his act – Shayne Ward – win.

Ward – who Walsh says will be “bigger than Robbie Williams” – went on to top the UK charts with his debut single, That’s My Goal.

The fastest-selling downloaded single in the UK ever, it has already sold more than 120,000 copies. It’s a feat Walsh will be hoping Ward can better with his latest single, No Promises.

ENDS

Flora’s basic instinct

A LEAD role in Basic Instinct 2 may well be the biggest platform yet for the prodigious talents of one of Ireland’s most successful acting exports. But gorgeous Flora Montgomery very nearly didn’t live to audition for the part, let alone get it.

Even as her agent was in tentative discussions with the sequel’s director, the 32-year- old actress was lying in the A&E ward of Bratislava General Hospital, in Slovakia, with a bloodied, cracked skull.

flora.jpg

A stunt she performed while filming After – an action-packed thriller set in post Cold War Europe – didn’t go quite as expected and she was lucky not to have ended up severely braindamaged at the very least.

In the stunt, Flora had to hurl herself across the path of a speeding train and duck down a manhole as its thick iron cover closed over her head. It landed on her head instead, knocking her out. The shocked cast and crew ran to her aid.

Flora, who starred in the Roddy Doyle-scripted 2003 film When Brendan Met Trudy, brushed this off as ‘just one of those things’, but admits that it shook her up.

‘I felt this almighty whack and then everything just went dark,’ she says. ‘I fell down unconscious into the tunnel I’d jumped into, but I’ve no idea how long I was out for. The next thing I knew, I was in the back of an ambulance being rushed to hospital.

‘The left side of my head was all numb and I had this terrific headache.’ A few hours and a few X-rays later, Ireland’s own Lara Croft insisted on being let out of hospital, despite suffering a cracked skull.

Flora says: ‘The director sat us all down before filming started and asked if we’d do our own stunts. He warned us it would be tough and he was right. But I jumped at the opportunity because it was something I’d never done before and, despite what happened, I’d do them again.’

Doctors ordered her to rest but, when filming ended two days later, she caught a plane back to London. On her way through customs, she got a voicemail from her agent asking if she’d like to audition for Basic Instinct 2, the sequel to the 1992 blockbuster.

‘I’d hardly stepped off the plane and there was a job offer waiting for me,’ she says.

‘There was no time to faff around with settling my bags at home or getting some sleep. I jumped straight on the Heathrow Express and caught a taxi from Paddington into a casting studio in central London.’

Less than 10 minutes later, she had bagged the second female lead opposite Sharon Stone, playing the girlfriend of Stone’s co-star, David Morrissey.

No sooner had director Michael Caton- Jones given her his thumbs up than she was off to Pinewood Studios for three months of intense filming – including one of the film’s two sex scenes. ‘It’s funny, in a way, but it sometimes seems as if all some people want to know about is the sex – as if it’s ever been a major part of the acting I’ve done,’ she says. ‘OK, so I’ve done a few nude scenes, but they were only in one or two films.

‘And, while I’m certainly not ashamed or embarrassed, I just think I’ve moved on, been there, done that and am a lot more reluctant about doing nude scenes now.

‘I only agreed to do one for this movie because I trusted the director and he talked me through the process. In Basic, the one scene I shot wasn’t in any way gratuitous.

‘It was sensually shot.

‘It was a funny scene to shoot, in some respects, because little things kept on happening to accidentally break the ice and have us all in stitches, like when bits of the ceiling fell onto us.’ Flora says her days of casting her clothes off are numbered, however.

Three years ago, she had a no-nudity clause written into all her contracts.

Her upbringing was virtually tailor-made for a life in acting. The youngest of four children, she was born and grew up in 18th century Rosemount House, the stately home of her military family, at Greyabbey on the Ards Peninsula in Co. Down.

Rosemount House is on the eastern shores of Strangford Lough set in landscaped parkland. ‘When we were young, we had fantastic adventures, often in a little boat, and as the youngest I was always the one thrown overboard or abandoned on an island,’ Flora has said.

‘We’d explore unused rooms in the house and find dusty boxes with mad things like army uniforms and Victorian dresses. It was fantastic for the imagination – we only got TV at home in 2001. My mum used to dress up in cocktail dresses and play jazz piano.’

Flora was educated at the prestigious Rockport School in Craigavad, Holywood and won lead roles in school plays before going on to study drama at Dublin’s Gaiety School of Acting for two years, during which she paid her rent from the wages she earned as a barmaid in Rathmines.

In 1998, she amazed the theatre world by winning Irish Theatre’s best actress award for her role in Strindberg’s Miss Julie at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. She stripped down to the bare essentials for the play, drawing the ire of Free Presbyterian protesters.

The phrase on the lips of many that night was ‘Flora who?’, but with a move to London that year, she began to earn more recognition with a string of TV roles. But it was her role in 2003’s Roddy Doyle- scripted When Brendan Met Trudy that has brought her critical acclaim, an IFTA best actress award and several award nominations.

Her accomplishments on stage are almost as prolific, including Anton Chekhov’s The Bear with Stephen Brennan and Neil La Bute’s The Shape of Things in With Basic Instinct 2 under her belt and talk of a few major castings round the corner, she might be forgiven for wanting to head over to America to lobby for bigger roles. But she’s having none of it.

‘I am reluctant to go over to LA to be in the end of a long queue for roles when I can have a good life between Ireland and England,’ she says.

‘Rachel Weisz hasn’t had to do that and, at the end of the day, Hollywood will come looking if they need an English or an Irish actress.’ Flora is about to start a twomonth run of The Taming Of The Shrew in Bristol’s Old Vic. She’s also just finished a series of plays she was commissioned to write for BBC Radio 4 and some voiceover work for UK-based Channel Five, and she’s waiting to hear back about a five-month stint of filming in Canada.

When it comes to relaxing, this pocket whirlwind thinks nothing of ‘unwinding’ on three-hour cycle trips at weekends or a week ‘canyon-climbing’ in America.

It’s difficult to imagine how she has time for romance.

She is, after all, also planning a climbing expedition to Karakoram, one of the most daunting parts of the Himalayas, with her 39-year- old brother, Hugo, and says she has much more to achieve before thinking about settling down and having children.

‘Yes, there is a man,’ she says shyly, sinking into the leather sofa at private London club Soho House. ‘We’ve been going out for about eight months now, but that’s about all I’m saying.’ It’s hard not to imagine her life without some element of adventure. ‘I have naturally just got masses of energy and, to me, a dead day is an empty day,’ she says.

Legendary casting director John Hubbard of London-based husband and wife partnership Hubbard Casting said: ‘It’s definitely breakthrough time for Flora. She’s great value, very intelligent, very attractive and utterly dependable.

‘She has a unique energy and you can tell she’s driven by a sort of life force, and in a nice way. You know when Flora comes into a room.’ 2002.

“Nobody likes US” – says American director.

VETERAN US director Robert Altman has joined Syriana director Stephen Gaghan by wading in with his own Bush-bashing tuppence worth.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning(Feb 24) and just two days after Gaghan said US President George Bush had ordered the assasination of “lots and lots of people”, Altman said of Americans that “the whole world does not like us”.

He added: “I was always considered very welcome at different places in the world then suddenly it became this ‘American thing’, and it still is, right now, today.

“This will endure certainly until (after) this current mess that Mr Bush has gotten us into . . . it’s painful.”

Altman – whose directorial hits include M*A*S*H, Short Cuts and Gosford Park – is currently in London to direct the London premier of Arthur Miller’s Resurrection Blues. The play is Canadian ex-Scream star Neve Campbell’s theatrical debut.

In the BBC morning interview, Altman – just turned 81 – revealed he received hand-delivered threats over previous “anti-patriotic” comments despite remaining one of the film industry’s most respected directors.

Altman – who has been named alongside George Clooney, Cameron Diaz and Sharon Stone in a long list of Hollywood “traitors” – said: “I was in England doing Gosford Park when 9/11 happened.

“I got back for the Oscars or one of those things and I was asked how do I feel coming back and seeing the American flag, and I said it makes me sick.

“And boy, that hit the papers, saying I was a traitor. People left hand-delivered notes at my door, threatening, and saying I was un-American and that I was a traitor and blah, blah, blah.”

Altman – who is up for an Honorary Oscar for his massive body of film work – added: “I thought Oh, boy, if we’ve come to this point, this is really where I don’t want to be. The politics are really wrong (in America).”

ENDS.

US President George Bush “orders hits”, says Syriana director.

Warner Brothers oster for the film

GEORGE Clooney may have refused to openly attack US President George Bush while promoting controversial thriller Syriana but his director shares none of his reserve.

Stephen Gaghan has accused Bush of “definitely” ordering the assassination of “lots of people”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 arts programme Front Row on Wednesday night (Feb 22), he also said he didn’t believe the president even bothers to read some of the orders he signs to have them killed off.

Gaghan was asked by presenter Mark Lawson if he thought assassination orders are actually given by either the CIA or the president of the United States in real life – bearing in mind the plot that features in Syriana.

Gaghan replied: “I know it goes on. It does go on and it IS the president. All lethal authority, all lethal findings in the US come from the White House.

“It ultimately has to be the president signing the paper. I don’t think our president reads, so I don’t know if he knows what he signs but he has definitely ordered the deaths of lots and lots of people.”

When asked by Lawson “where and by who?”, he replied: “That’s the thing we don’t know. It’s all top secret.”

And Gaghan, whose screen play for the film Traffic earned him an Academy Award, added: “It’s easy to order a hit, it’s very difficult to know you are going after the right person. Once you have this killing aparatus in place, you can manipulate it and use if for your own purposes.”

Gaghan’s comments are the strongest yet around the release of Syriana, which has so far earned Clooney – who plays soon-to-retire Middle East CIA oficer Bob Barnes – a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.

Official Warner Brother film still

Based on former Middle East-based CIA agent Robert Baer’s “See no evil” and also starring Matt Damon and William Hurt, the political thriller focusses on the oil industry and a bungled assassination plot.

It also features what some people see as a “sympathetic” portrayal of two suicide bombers and gets its name from the term Syriana – used by Washington “think tanks” to describe a hypothetical reshaping of the Middle East.

As well as riding on a crest of a wave of discussion about US foreign policy, it has also inspired the current campaign to reduce US dependence on oil, Oil Change.

Daniel O’Donnell wife Majella records LP

DANIEL O’Donnell is to have a new rival in the charts – his own wife.

Majella McLennan, who married the housewives’ favourite in 2002, is to release her own album of country classics.

But unlike the prolific touring her husband undergoes to promote his own million-selling albums – the 45-year-old has no intention of setting foot inside a tour bus. The album is due out at some stage in the summer and will be released here, the UK and in the US.O’Donnell’s manager Sean Reilly told The Irish Daily Mail: “I never knew she could sing until recently.

“I’m not too sure who persuaded her to record an album.

“But one thing that’s for certain is that she got a terrific voice and we are very confident her album is going to do very well.”

Recorded a month ago at a studio in Athlone over just “a few days”, it has been produced by O’Donnell’s lead guitarist, Kevin Sheerin.

At least two of the tracks are duets with O’Donnell , who has sold more than six million easy-listening albums.

One of the tracks on the as-yet untitled album is “Crazy”.

Reilly added: “Majella will be promoting the album in around April and May but is insisting she will not be touring.

“She just doesn’t want to do it and as far as I know, it is unlikely she will even appear on stage with him when he goes on tour.

“But you never know. That’s not down to me.”

Ms McLennan was unavailable for interview last night as she is in the middle of a two-week break with husband Daniel in Tenerife.

It’s the holiday island where he met the divorced mother-of-two in 2000 – the same year they got engaged.

Ms McLennan had her marriage annulled and the couple married two years later in the same small parish church of St Mary’s in Donegal’s Kincasslagh village where he had been baptized.

Thousands of fans lined the roads around the church, even serenading the couple with a rendition of It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.

The launch of Ms McLennan’s music career couldn’t be more different to the route O’Donnell – who was awarded an honoury MBE in 2002 for his services to music – began his.

Renowned for the annual tea parties he hosts at his home for thousands of fans, he started by touring the Irish clubs in the UK week after week.

Although it’s an aspect of a recording career his new rival is insisting she has no intention of emulating, it has certainly paid off for O’Donnell.

The 45-year-old – who recorded his first hit song My Donegal Shore with £600 of his own money in Big Tom’s studios in Castleblaney in County Monaghan in 1983 – regularly sells out concert halls all over the world.

Indeed, it’s little wonder his wife is balking at the prospect of touring her new album.

On March 16, he kicks of a gruelling 92-date world tour to promote his own album From Daniel, with Love – taking in the US, Australia, the UK and Ireland.

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Ryanair Caught Napping

Ryanair Caught Napping. Ch 4, 8pm, 13.2.06, Copyright Channel 4

THIS is the picture that gives the title to an expose of cut-price airline Ryanair.

The woman slumped across two seats was one of a number of exhausted members of cabin crew filmed fast asleep instead of working during flights. Amazingly, this woman would have been one of the cabin crew charged with helping passengers in the event of an inflight emergency.

A string of safety and other issues are highlighted in tonight’s Channel 4 Dispatches programme, Ryanair Caught Napping.

A pilot too terrified to tell bosses he’s tired for fear of being sacked or demoted is quoted as is a member of staff filmed splashing aftershave on vomit left in a row of seats rather than either clearing it up or closing the row of seats.

Ryanair Caught Napping also contains claims that one flight flew with a faulty Global Positioning System while another took off despite having a faulty emergency exit. The 8pm programme is the culmination of five months investigation by two undercover journalists posing as cabin crew.

They claim they found a staff culture in Ryanair that had a “somewhat dismissive” attitude towards customers which seemed to be based on the premise that if a customer pays next to nothing for a ticket they should expect nothing.”

For example, when asked by one of the reporters whether life-jackets get checked, a member of the crew on one flight flatly replies “no”. And they can be heard adding: “If you pay one pence for your ticket . . . don’t expect to see a life jacket underneath your sea.”

All the claims made by Dispatches are hotly refuted by airline boss Michael O’Leary.

Ryanair Caught Napping. Ch 4, 8pm, 13.2.06

Ireland on Sunday reported yesterday how O’Leary answered each claim by the programme makers on the airline’s website.

He said: “We have received a series of untrue and unsubstantiated claims which (Channel 4) have failed to support with any evidence.

“Ryanair has nothing to hide and has comprehensively dealt with all of the written allegations put to the airline by the Channel 4 Dispatches programme.”

As well as accusing the programme makers of using of underhand and reckless tactics, he slammed various claims made in the programme as “complete fabrication and nonsense” and accused the TV channel of “attempting to hide the truth.”

A Channel 4 spokeswoman told the Irish Daily Mail last night: “We stand by our programme 100 per cent. The video footage that is used speaks for itself, regardless of what Mr O’Leary says about us.

Ryanair Caught Napping. Ch 4, 8pm, 13.2.06, Copyright Ranald Mackechnie

“The undercover footage reveals what takes place behind the scenes: security lapses, dirty aircrafts, pilots complaining about the hours they have to fly and exhausted cabin crew.

“We would be more than happy to hand over the file we have on Ryanair to any aviation authority that wishes to investigate this matter further.”

The programme also shows a sequence in which passport checks are discussed. Amazingly, despite heightened concerns all over the world about terrorism, a senior member of staff told one of the reporters that a passport check effectively amounted to just making sure the passenger had one.

They are filmed telling the reporter: “We are full all day. So when I let you know, you go and you board.

“And you board straight away, there’s not waiting, you board, you’ve got 25 minutes to do it. You’re checking have they got the right flight number on the boarding card.

“The gate staff will tell you to check the passports…..but you just make sure they’ve got a passport. It shouldn’t take you all day to do, just rip the boarding cards and you let them through.”

The programme comes amid a string of criticism about working practices at Ryanair. As well as attacks by unions for making trainee staff pay for their uniforms and in-flight meals, the airline’s handling of safety issues has been called into question.

Two incidents last year involving Ryanair pilots are believed to have been among the reasons which prompted the head of the Irish Airline Pilots Association(IALPA) to question the adequacy of Ireland’s air safety procedures.

Earlier this year, Capt Evan Cullen said: “There is no doubt that the safety margins in Irish aviation have been eroded. “The important question is whether we have in place the regulatory oversight system to alert us when the safety margin has been eroded to an unsafe extent.”

He was speaking after Italian authorities attacked Ryanair for delaying an investigation into a series of irregular approaches into Rome last September by the crew of a Ryanair Boeing 737-800.

As a consequence, the investigation was delayed by four months – and O’Leary had to admit his company had “screwed up” over its handling of the affair.

The company’s own report pointed to the crew’s “almost complete loss of situational awareness, both lateral and vertical” and blamed this on a failure by its own pilots to follow standard operating procedures.

In July last year, another Ryanair crew were rapped for carrying out an “an irrational and inexplicable” steep landing approach to Stockholm’s Skavsta airport.

The pilot of the plane – which touched down at 330km/h in an incorrect “configuration” – was found to be suffering from stress, as was one of the pilots involved in the September 2005 incident at Rome.

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