Monday, June 11, 2012

LIZ SMITH: Peggy Siegal Rules New York ...

Peggy Siegal Rules New York, but she's a Big Deal in Cannes and London, Too.
Ralph Fiennes Stars in (and Directs and Produces) "The Invisible Woman." But women are not "invisible" to him. In fact, they are quite helpful ... Gary Pudney organizes Monaco festivities for Disney's Anne Sweeney. And Gary — who knows where every body is buried — might soon "tell all."
by Liz Smith
Monday, June 11, 2012

"IT TURNS out that, at social gatherings, as a source of entertainment, conviviality, and good fun, I rank somewhere between a sprig of parsley and a single ice skate," said Dorothy Parker.
I ALWAYS love going anyplace where the P.R. dynamo Peggy Siegal is doing her thing. Saw her last week at the Museum of Art and Design, in the lovely Robert Restaurant at 2 Columbus Circle. (With its magnificent view, it is placed in the previous Huntington Hartford Museum building.)

Peggy was all in grey, looking very smart and bragging on how cheaply she'd bought her amazing fashions. But Peggy said that attending the Cannes Film Festival, which she writes about for Avenue magazine, was harder to work on than ever. Why? Because the Festival goes on for days, generating so much news that Peggy can't cope as her own reporter. "Covering the Academy Awards is easy in comparison," says she.

Peggy did tell me that the day she passed through London, she went to Pinewood Studios, and saw an entire musical production number for the coming film Les Miz with Hugh Jackman doing his stuff. Peggy said the set was so accurate that they had authentic horse dung on the floor. Ok, Peggy, I won't go on; I don't want to rain on your parade when you "finally" write your special coverage for Avenue.
Peggy Siegal, in the center of it all.
ONE other thing happening in London is an unusual movie produced and directed by Ralph Fiennes. He is also the star. It's called The Invisible Woman.
Mr. Fiennes plays Charles Dickens, a man whose writings were so popular they were serialized in newspapers and gobbled up by people almost every day. His admirers did not have to wait for each finished Dickens book between hard covers. But Fiennes plays a Dickens most people are unaware of. This movie deals with the fact that in late middle-age, Dickens left his wife for an 18-year-old, who became his mistress. She will be played by Felicity Jones. Dickens lived with this young woman for the last 15 years of his life and never bothered to divorce his spouse, who had borne him ten children!
Ralph Fiennes as Charles Dickens.
Dickens left his considerable fortune to the mistress, Nelly Ternan. The movie is told from her point of view. Kristin Scott Thomas also stars as Nelly's mother. And Michelle Fairley, now a big name via HBO's Game of Thrones, is also in the cast.
It is difficult to direct oneself, Mr. Fiennes has discovered. So, during filming, Fiennes gathers a "tribe of women," around the monitor — producer Gabrielle Tana, the dialect coach, the actresses, and the screenwriter, Abi Morgan, who helped Fiennes develop the story, from Claire Tomalin's book. They all look at what's been done, offer opinions and suggestions. Fiennes listens closely to his ladies. He calls them "my harem."

I don't think Fiennes and his cohorts have yet made a deal for production-distribution. They are toiling on a literary work of art. (Hey, Harvey Weinstein, you might want to latch onto this project.)
Producer/directer Ralph Fiennes.
I HAD lunch with the irrepressible Hollywood insider, Gary Pudney, a friend of long-standing who everybody used to refer to as "G.P.V.P." because whoever he was working with — Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor, ABC-TV, he often referred to himself as "Gary Pudney, vice president." (Gary could have told Joe Biden to "Move over!")

Gary Pudney and Joanna Carson.
Gary was en route to the Mediterranean where the Monaco TV Festival is taking place. Disney and ABC's West Coast Broadcast Group are sending their important woman at the helm, Anne Sweeney, to the little country that movie star Grace Kelly made famous. They are giving Anne "the Golden Nymph Award."

Pudney will be working with Princess Stephanie and with Prince Albert and his beautiful new bride, the Olympic swimmer, Charlene Wittstock. Prince Albert and Princess Charlene were the first "royals" to ever attend the Academy Awards, last year as Pudney's guests.

Whatever happens, the Disney company will score big because the company, under Ms. Sweeney and Bob Iger has decided not to sell junk food advertising to the world's children. Forget the Mayor of New York and sugary drinks, this is an innovative move for kids the world over.

And what's more, Gary Pudney dropped by Vanity Fair before he left because the magazine just might decide that he has stories to tell. His resume alone would make a book.

Contact Liz Smith here.

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