ALISON BOSHOFF: Dominic West was wracked with nerves as he played country chum Prince Charles… and even told producers they had cast the wrong man for the role
When he was cast as Prince Charles in The Crown, the naysayers had a field day. Actor Dominic West was too muscular, had too much hair and was far too — well — sexy to play the heir to the throne.
And West now admits that he shared some of those reservations right up to and including the point where he was in costume as Prince Charles and about to step in front of the cameras.
The 52-year-old, who filmed series five of the Netflix hit between August 2021 and February this year, said: ‘It’s quite disconcerting as I didn’t look anything like him when I looked in the mirror. I kept telling the producers that they had cast the wrong person. But they explained that this was not a show of imitations. But that was difficult as this is a real person who is hugely famous and recognisable.’
When he was cast as Prince Charles in The Crown, the naysayers had a field day. Actor Dominic West was too muscular, had too much hair and was far too — well — sexy to play the heir to the throne
On top of that, he is replacing actor Josh O’Connor, whose performance as the younger Prince Charles won him an Emmy and a Golden Globe last year.
Sources say that the pressure weighed heavily on the actor — who, nevertheless, delivers a performance which I’m told is ‘sensitive’ and ‘thoughtful’.
To make matters even more awkward he knows Prince Charles, although this may prove the secret weapon which allowed West to nail the performance.
He and the heir to the throne are almost neighbours in Wiltshire — West’s country house with Irish aristocrat wife Catherine FitzGerald is just 14 miles away from Prince Charles’s home, Highgrove. West says: ‘Yes. I’ve met him a couple of times.’
Was he starstruck?
‘Oh, a little bit. But no, not really. I mean, I’m a huge fan of his, but I was far more drawn to meeting [actress] Maggie Smith,’ [after joining the cast of the new Downton Abbey film.]
Sources say that the pressure weighed heavily on the actor — who, nevertheless, delivers a performance which I’m told is ‘sensitive’ and ‘thoughtful’
A long-standing friendship exists between West’s wife, a landscape designer and gardener, and Prince Charles, who is famously green-fingered.
FitzGerald, who was raised in Glin Castle, County Limerick, was chosen to redesign the 100-acre gardens of Hillsborough Castle, the Queen’s official residence in Northern Ireland. She was personally thanked by Prince Charles when the estate reopened in 2019.
They also worked together on a project in Transylvania and have shared links to a cultural charity in the region.
But now, who knows whether The Crown will put paid to an association between the Wests and the Waleses?
Their son Senan portrays Prince William in the show, so the Wests are very firmly on Team Crown.
A long-standing friendship exists between West’s wife, a landscape designer and gardener, and Prince Charles, who is famously green-fingered
Catherine and Dominic staged a famously awkward kiss for the paparazzi after he was caught cosying up to actress Lily James in Rome, where they were filming The Pursuit Of Love, in October 2020. The couple also issued a statement which ran: ‘Our marriage is strong and we are very much together.’
Friends of West said that the ‘scandal’ was almost enough to make him walk away from the role in The Crown, which was in the offing at the time.
‘He didn’t want people to perceive him as a love-cheat, playing someone who wasn’t faithful to his wife,’ I’m told.
The Crown hits Netflix in November and will cover the Queen’s annus horribilis, 1992, including the fire at Windsor Castle. Series six will take in the death of Princess Diana (played by statuesque Elizabeth Debicki).
P.S. Prince Charles isn’t the only one to benefit from rather generous casting in The Crown: PM John Major is being played by Jonny Lee Miller of Trainspotting fame.
And we thought that nothing would top the unlikely casting of Bodyguard hunk Richard Madden as Elton John’s boyfriend and manager John Reid in Rocketman!
Jolly japes as new faces join Downton
The Downton set is famous for practical jokes. There is wig-stealing, playing dead off-camera to try to put pals off their stride and a long tradition of the parlour game Wink Murder when filming around the dinner table at Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey). Dame Maggie Smith is the queen of Wink Murder.
However, it seems nobody warned British actress Laura Haddock about the prank culture when she joined the cast of the film Downton Abbey: A New Era (which is out today) as actress Myrna Dalgliesh. ‘Hugh Bonneville [who plays Lord Grantham] said to me: ‘This is one of the most relaxed sets. It’s great here. Julian Fellowes [who wrote Downton] is really easy going, and if you ever want to ad lib a little bit or warm the script up, you can. He’s encouraging of that.’
‘And so, in the next take, I just added little bits and bobs. And Hugh was an absolute joker because that is NOT how this set works. You do not ad lib. And then I was on tenterhooks.
‘He was so naughty!’
Congratulations to rising young star Jules Robertson, who was awarded Best Actor at the Rome Outcast Independent Film Festival last week for his role in a short film, Love. Jules, the son of novelist Kathy Lette and barrister and broadcaster Geoffrey Robertson, QC, stars as an autistic boy who longs for love, and beat non-neuro-diverse actors (Jules has Asperger’s) to win the prize. Lette says: ‘I am sewing sequins onto my tiara as we speak!’
Kylie’s spinning around with joy
Kylie and GQ magazine executive Paul Solomons, 47, have been apart almost continuously for six months since she made the surprise decision to relocate to Australia last year
People said it was over, but Kylie Minogue will be reunited with her British boyfriend imminently as the couple, who met in 2018, strive to keep their romance going long-distance.
Kylie and GQ magazine executive Paul Solomons, 47, have been apart almost continuously for six months since she made the surprise decision to relocate to Australia last year.
That led to speculation the romance had run its course — but I’m told that they are ‘very much still an item’ and are looking forward to being reunited in London to celebrate her 54th birthday next month.
The singer had lived in the UK for 30 years but, after spending time with her family in Australia due to Covid, she decided that she wanted to be closer to them permanently, particularly as her parents are getting on.
Kylie — who has this week been posting iconic throwback pictures of herself in a silver bra and skirt on the record-breaking Fever tour of 2002 — is now living in Melbourne, close to her mum and dad, sister Dannii and brother Brendan.
Somewhat surprisingly, Solomons did not relocate to Australia to be with her. I hear that she has twice made the 10,500-mile trip to see him without him repaying the favour — once combining a trip to the UK with a visit to Milan Fashion Week.
A friend said: ‘They were last together in March when she spent some time in London and they will be together again there soon. She’s excited to see him. It’s true that they haven’t seen as much of each other as they would have liked but this has been logistical.’
In an interview with an Australian newspaper in February, she said of the long-distance romance: ‘I’m quite used to it. What is difficult is explaining it, and I’m hovering around that right now because I don’t have a traditional set-up when it comes to my relationship; I don’t have the white-picket-fence life. We are in a very good space and we cherish that right now.’
She added that she thinks the ‘other life’ of being married or in a conventional family unit may never happen. ‘As I get older and into being myself, I don’t know if that other life is for me,’ she said.
‘We use the term ‘fluid and pivoting’, and I think it’s important to be fluid in life, too. You don’t need to be put in a box.’
British-born actress Jameela Jamil — who has announced she is leaving Twitter after Elon Musk’s takeover — is hoping to make a cool $1 million after putting her home in the Hollywood Hills up for sale less than two years after buying it.
Jamil, who lives there with musician James Blake, bought the place for $3.9 million.
She made her fortune in acting after being cast in the hit comedy series The Good Place.
She plays a villain in a forthcoming Marvel TV show, She-Hulk.
The only way is Essex with a Gothic twist for Hiddleston!
The Gothic blockbuster adaptation of The Essex Serpent — starring Tom Hiddleston and Claire Danes — is a suspenseful and, at times, gruesome treat.
Hiddleston brings A-list star power to the six-part adaptation of the book by Sarah Perry, which comes out on Apple TV+ on May 13.
It’s the story of an Essex fishing village engulfed by a superstitious belief that the Devil, in the form of a serpent, has taken and killed a local teenage girl and is stalking the community.
Hiddleston is the married vicar Will Ransome who tries to lead everyone back to reason and to a trust in God.
The Gothic blockbuster adaptation of The Essex Serpent — starring Tom Hiddleston and Claire Danes — is a suspenseful and, at times, gruesome treat
The production faced numerous problems, not least Covid. The leading lady was to have been Keira Knightley but she dropped out in October 2020 — six weeks before cameras were due to roll — saying that she couldn’t get the right childcare for the four-and-a-half-month shoot because of the pandemic.
Homeland’s Danes stepped in and they filmed from February to June 2021.
Then there was another problem. British director Clio Barnard says: ‘One struggle was balancing the Gothic with the love story, but that was maybe not as big a struggle as trying to find eels,’ which feature heavily in the script.
‘The problem was Brexit halted the import of live eels, so a combination of Brexit and Covid meant it was impossible to actually source any during the production. We finally got hold of some from Holland in November last year. The cast had to come back to do additional shots with them to finish the filming. It was all very stressful.’
The show was launched with a party in London attended by Hiddleston and his fiancée Zawe Ashton, and Danes and her husband Hugh Dancy, who is in the new Downton movie.
Hiddleston told me: ‘The serpent is symbolic of feelings beneath the surface which we don’t understand and there are depths in Will that he hasn’t fathomed yet.’
He is now filming a political thriller for Netflix and will also star as polar explorer Henry Worsley in The White Darkness, again for Apple TV+.
Fans turn out in force for Jodie’s stage debut
There was an outbreak of Jodiefever in the West End this week with Killing Eve star Jodie Comer, 29, making her London stage debut playing a barrister who is the victim of a sexual assault in the one-hander Prima Facie
There was an outbreak of Jodiefever in the West End this week with Killing Eve star Jodie Comer, 29, making her London stage debut playing a barrister who is the victim of a sexual assault in the one-hander Prima Facie.
Adoring crowds are thronging the Harold Pinter theatre, and at Press night on Wednesday no one was cheering more loudly than her mentor, actor Stephen Graham, 48, who turned up with his family and led a standing ovation when the curtain fell.
The two have been close since they met when she was a teenager on the TV show Good Cop, and he suggested that his agent should take her on. They also worked together in the Bafta-nominated Channel 4 drama Help.
Comer warmly recalls his ‘pure kindness’, and Graham says: ‘She’s like a little sister to me. I’ve watched her career and feel extremely proud of her.’
Friends tell me that Comer, who is formidable in Prima Facie, felt scarred after being turned down for various theatrical roles in the past due to her lack of formal training. This time, she has been so ‘determined to prove everyone wrong’ that she is putting her social life on hold during the play’s run, which ends in mid-June.
‘She’s locked away like a hermit. Not going to Bafta. Not seeing a soul as it’s such a monumental role,’ I’m told. She’s also been swigging vinegar and turmeric drinks to keep her voice healthy.
The TV series which made her a star, Killing Eve, has just come to an end after four series, with many fans saying they felt let down by the denouement (which I will not spoil here). But I do hear there was a certain lack of personal chemistry between her and co-star Sandra Oh.
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