BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Pink and Robbie Williams reveal all in up-close films by The Greatest Showman director
Rock stars Pink and Robbie Williams are more than ready for their close-ups.
Pink (real name Alecia Moore), has already been captured in a raw, revealing documentary called P!nk: All I Know So Far, by The Greatest Showman filmmaker Michael Gracey, who joined the arena leg of her world tour leading up to her sold-out stadium dates at Wembley in June 2019. The result streams on Amazon Prime from next Friday.
And Williams, this column can reveal, will be playing himself in a biopic of his life, by the same director. Gracey has been doing pre-production work on Better Man, a feature film, based on hours of conversation he had with the former Take That star.
The singer gave Gracey permission to record the 'brutally honest' sessions, though initially, the 'uncensored' chats were 'never intended to see the light of day'.
Gracey said the 47-year-old singer 'has been to some dark places in his life... but it's good to know that you can make it through the other side'.
The Better Man film will show Robbie's 'depths of despair — and heights of joy'. Gracey revealed that the picture will use the singer's catalogue of music, 'but we're re-contextualising the songs'. Which means Robbie will re-record old tracks — and possibly write a new number — for the project.
In essence, Better Man is 'about a guy who's looking in a mirror', Gracey said. The role of Robbie Williams 'will be played and driven by Robbie Williams', he said, cryptically. When I pressed for more detail, he said the work would be 'surreal' and 'a bit like a fever dream'.
Williams will travel from his home in Los Angeles to rehearse in Australia, with principal cinematography set to begin in the first three months of 2022.
I asked Gracey about rumours that film buyers were shown a teaser trailer that depicted the singer as a computer-generated monkey.
He shrugged and said the film would be about 'how the rock star sees himself', adding that a combination of methods would be used to help 'Robbie achieve his performance'.
The Australian-born director and animator was speaking from Wellington, New Zealand... which might provide a clue about Better Man.
Wellington is the home of Peter Jackson's innovative Weta studios, where he made the Lord Of The Rings movies and King Kong. Film creatives make pilgrimages there to experiment with new ways to conjure up movie magic.
So, the picture may well combine CGI with live action.
There's no fakery, however, in All I Know So Far. Pink's a live-action whirlwind, as the film charts unfiltered moments of her life on the road with husband Carey Hart and their young children Willow and Jameson.
There is footage of her working out with her dancers and musicians; plus stunning aerial cinematography of her soaring high above the Wembley crowd on a zip wire, giving an amazing display of aerobatics.
Gracey and fellow cameraman David Spearing had unfettered access to the star. 'We were with her night and day; and stayed until she fell asleep and we'd tiptoe out the door,' Gracey said.
He was impressed by how 'she juggles being a rock star and a mum'. 'Not everyone can relate to being a rock star. But everyone who's a parent can relate to trying to find that balance.'
I liked the scene where she praised her own mother for taking her to Broadway shows.
'Part of what we do is because my mom saved up to take me to Phantom Of The Opera,' she declares.
There are other theatre connections, too. The anthemic title track, All I Know So Far, is a collaboration with Dear Evan Hansen song writers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
Pink had already worked with the pair, when she recorded their song A Million Dreams for the album The Greatest Showman: Reimagined.
She's certainly a great show-woman.
Nikesh is happy to be a heartthrob
Nikesh Patel enjoyed playing a global movie star in the new must-watch BBC3 comedy Starstruck. Especially when his character, Tom Kapoor, got to behave badly.
There's a touch of 'wish fulfilment', Patel confessed, in a scene where Kapoor storms out of an interview at a Press junket. Throwing a strop 'in the safety of a scripted comedy' was fun.
Starstruck was written by Rose Matafeo and Alice Snedden — and Matafeo herself plays Jessie, a cinema manager who wakes up from a New Year's Eve hangover to find she's hooked up with a huge movie star (Patel).
The show is incredibly watchable; not least because the chemistry between Patel and Matafeo is electric — so much so that there's talk of a second series.
The first was filmed in East London last autumn and winter, observing strict lockdown protocols.
The 35-year-old actor, who studied at Warwick and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, raised temperatures on C4's Indian Summers a few years back, playing civil servant Aafrin Dalal (and getting several torso moments) in a cast that included Dame Julie Walters and Henry Lloyd-Hughes.
They filmed in Malaysia and still keep in touch via WhatsApp — though Dame Julie prefers email.
Patel plays Kash, another thespian, in the ten-part TV series Four Weddings And A Funeral.
Based on the film, but with characters created by Mindy Kaling, it's on Starz but I hope it will be available soon on a UK channel.
'That was my first foray into the rom-com genre,' he said; adding he's not worried about being 'typecast as a heartthrob'.
Clive comes alive in Egypt
Clive Rowe arrived for the second day of rehearsals for Sister Act — which was to have starred Whoopi Goldberg — only to be told to go home.
It was the start of the first lockdown.
'But theatre is resilient,' Rowe said. 'No matter what happens, the art of storytelling will continue.'
The Olivier award-winning actor worked on shows at Chichester and the Old Vic last year; and also managed some telly work on Midsomer Murders.
But he'll be back on the boards — playing Jethro, leader of the Midianites — in the Prince Of Egypt musical at the Dominion from July 1.
'If the knees permit, I will be dancing and bopping,' he told me, with a chuckle, from his flat in a leafy South London suburb.
'Once you get this body-mass moving, it's pretty much impossible to stop it.'
He will stay through October 16. 'There's a little bit of trepidation, but I can't wait.' And then it's off to the Hackney Empire, for the return of his annual Christmas panto — this year Jack And The Beanstalk.
The spectacular Broadway musical Moulin Rouge! will high kick its way into a transformed Piccadilly Theatre from November 12.
'This is the Moulin Rouge of your mind,' director Alex Timbers told me of the luscious production, based on Baz Luhrmann's 2001 film, starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.
Producer Carmen Pavlovic has set priority tickets to go on sale on Monday, 10am, with general sale from May 24.
Details at moulinrougemusical.co.uk