Tag Archives: England

Love, loss and royalty star in TV drama ‘The Crown’

 

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth is known for her dedication to a demanding job. Claire Foy, who plays Elizabeth as a young ruler in Netflix’s The Crown, can claim the same.

Foy accepted the central role in Netflix’s 10-part series when she was pregnant, knowing that filming would begin just a few months after her daughter’s arrival.

“I’d never had a baby before, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” the actress said by phone from London. “But I’m so glad I made that decision.”

The Crown reportedly is Netflix’s costliest series to date, pegged at $100 million. The money is on the screen in lavish scenes such as Elizabeth’s coronation and location shooting in Scotland and South Africa.

A second season is already in production.

The Crown opens in the bleakness of post-World War II Britain, with a respite provided by Elizabeth’s marriage to Philip Mountbatten (played with sexy swagger by Matt Smith of Doctor Who).

The scene in which they exchange vows is a charmer, with a nervous-looking Elizabeth coaxed along by teasing smiles from Philip. There’s no film of the ceremony, Foy said, but a preserved radio broadcast inspired the scene’s direction.

“She did sound fragile and very, very little and sort of, not unsure, but she definitely didn’t belt out her vows,” Foy said. Given Elizabeth’s youth, her longtime love for Philip and “the idea of forever and everybody you know is watching you,” it was natural for her to be overwhelmed, she added.

The bride’s expectation of playing helpmate to her new husband and his naval career is ended by the death of her father, King George VI, at 56. Elizabeth was 25 when the royal responsibility she believed to be decades away passed to her.

The drama follows her early years as a monarch in a changing world, along with those in her orbit including her free-spirited sister, Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby), and political leaders Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) and Anthony Eden (Jeremy Northam).

Writer and executive producer Peter Morgan didn’t come to the topic cold: He wrote the 2006 film The Queen, which dramatized the battering that Elizabeth and the royal family’s image took after Princess Diana’s death. It earned an Oscar for star Helen Mirren and a nomination for Morgan. Last year, Mirren received a Tony Award for her portrayal of Elizabeth in Morgan’s play The Audience.

For The Crown, Morgan’s prose rests on the findings of researchers who spent more than two years reading archives, biographies and cabinet meeting minutes, as well as Morgan’s own conversations with people “connected to the Royal Household,” as Netflix coyly put it.

At a news conference, he acknowledged the careful dance between members of the royal family and the production.

“I think that they’re very, very aware of it,” he said, and “countless approaches” were made “through untraceable back channels.”

“And in a way that protects both sides: I want my independence and I’m sure they want their independence,” he said. He believes the family understands the project was done with “some degree of respect,” Morgan said.

“These are people who are used to slander, cartoons, satire. These are not people who are used to being taken seriously. And whilst that might be a terrifying prospect, I think it is also the only worthwhile way of looking at our recent history,” Morgan said.

For Foy, portraying someone with such a crafted public image was a challenge. But ultimately, she said, the goal was the same as with any part: striving for authenticity and humanity in depicting Elizabeth’s loss of a parent, a universal experience, as she takes on “the biggest job that anyone can do.”

“That’s all you hope for when you do a drama,” Foy said. “If you’re portraying anything that anybody has been through, you don’t want people to watch it and not recognize it or feel betrayed by the portrayal of it. That’s true if you’re a queen or not.”

Animal rights advocates oppose expansion of badger cull

Animal rights advocates are condemning plans for a badger cull in England, which has added five kill zones, according to media reports today.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare, in a press statement, said it strongly opposes plans for the cull to be extended across new zones of South Devon, North Devon, North Cornwall, South Herefordshire and West Dorset. This is in addition to existing cull zones in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset.

IFAW, in the statement, said it always has opposed the badger cull for being cruel and without scientific justification.

Leading scientists and wildlife experts also have stated opposition to the badger cull because it will not significantly reduce incidents of bovine TB.

Pilot culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset were ruled ineffective and inhumane by an Independent Expert Panel.

Jordi Casamitjana at the IFAW said, “At IFAW, along with the rest of the animal protection movement, we remain resolute in our strong opposition to this cruel, irrational and unnecessary cull.

“In preparation for this year’s continued slaughter, those of us who want to see our British wildlife protected have been ensuring we will have more volunteers than ever joining the peaceful Wounded Badger Patrols in the cull areas so they can help any injured badgers in need, as well as bearing witness to what is happening in the countryside.”

The IFAW said the solution to bovine TB is not to kill badgers but to adopt a joined-up approach to tackle the problem. This includes better control of cattle movement, an improved testing regime and increased biosecurity on farms.

Farmers in Devon have seen a reduction in the incidence of bovine TB at the same rates as their neighbors in Somerset, but without the shooting of a single badger.

“There is no reliable evidence that the inhumane and ineffective badger cull has had a significant effect on reducing bovine TB in the pilot areas,” Casamitjana said. “Vaccinating badgers can also form part of the solution, but as this is a cattle problem ultimately the answer is better cattle testing and better control of cattle movement.”

Casamitjana continued, “Countless badgers have been killed unnecessarily and the Government should be listening to the scientific evidence rather than pressing ahead with plans to kill more British badgers.”

Foraging for food on holiday in England

“This,” said our guide James Feaver, “is our main course.” We were standing in front of a dung heap in a high meadow in the English countryside.

Pushing up out of the ooze was a low-growing weed. He bent down, plucked a sprig and held it up.

“Fat hen. Humans have eaten it for thousands of years. We’re going to need a lot of it.”

After a glance among us, my family and I set about picking with an approximation of gusto. When you are foraging for your food you can’t be too squeamish about little things like cow dung beneath your fingers.

I have long been fascinated with the idea of living off the land, finding sustenance among the wild plants that teem in hedges and fields. So a week’s holiday in Dorset, in southwest England — a county bursting with picture-book countryside — gave me the chance to see how abundant nature’s larder really is.

Foraging is increasingly popular in the U.K. and there are many teachers to choose from. On a recommendation, I contacted Hedgerow Harvest and booked a half-day course for me, my partner Fon and our 7-year-old son, Jimmy.

On a classic English summer’s day — meaning we experienced all weather conditions in one afternoon — we met up with James Feaver, who gave up office work for professional foraging eight years ago. He now runs courses in south and southwest England, but mostly in Dorset, his adopted home.

We met him in the village of Toller Porcorum, donned rubber boots and light waterproof jackets, and set off in search of wild provender.

We spent the next few hours walking through lanes hedged in with soaring banks, down tracks drenched in birdsong, beside clear streams and across uncut meadows in search of ingredients for a three-course meal.

If like me you can’t tell wild sorrel from a blade of grass, this quickly becomes daunting. But Feaver has gimlet eyes and an encyclopedic knowledge of the edible.

High in a hedgerow, a spray of tiny white flowers stood proud of the foliage. He hooked it with his hazel stick, pulled it down to picking height, and inhaled.

“The smell of summer,” he said.

For centuries, country-folk have used the fragrant elderflower to add a zesty flavor to food and drink. Now it would bring its zing to our dessert. We plucked head after head. I lifted up Jimmy so he could join the harvest.

In quick order we found red currants, wild mint and tiny, sweet, wild strawberries. The wicker basket James provided — a nice touch — began to fill.

So far so idyllic, but this arcadia comes with thorns.

Of the many rules of foraging the most important is this: Don’t eat anything unless you are 100 percent certain you know what it is. Some edible plants look uncannily like ones that are deadly. For example, cow parsley goes well in salads but is easily mistaken for something you wouldn’t want near your dinner plate: hemlock.

Other rules include don’t uproot anything (it’s illegal), only take sustainably and don’t pick from ground-hugging plants near footpaths “where dogs can wee on them.” That was Jimmy’s favorite rule.

Time was getting on. From Toller Porcorum we drove down steep, narrow lanes to a nearby beach. Here you can see the stunning coastline sweep in an arc from Portland in Dorset right into neighboring east Devon. A trove of fossils has earned it the name Jurassic Coast and UNESCO World Heritage status.

But we weren’t there for beauty or geology. We were there for sea beet leaves, a close relative of garden spinach that grows in low belts along the pebbly foreshore. More free food, right at our feet.

But don’t go thinking you can kiss goodbye to supermarkets just because your eyes have been opened. That’s not the idea of the course.

“Foraging isn’t really about survival,” Feaver had said at the start. “It’s about taking the best of the wild and adding it to conventional ingredients to make great-tasting food.”

Great tasting? We’d be the judges of that.

Back at our holiday cottage, Feaver supervised the preparation of the feast. For starters, sea beet soup. For main course, fat hen pesto bake, with more fat hen as a side dish, washed down with sparkling elderflower wine. To finish, elderflower and gooseberry fool, garnished with wild strawberries.

It was a revelation, especially the sea beet soup which was one of the most delicious soups I have ever had: rich, velvety and homey, like swallowing a big bowl of contentment.

It had been a long day. We’d started at 1:30 p.m. and the last spoon didn’t scrape its empty bowl till 9 p.m.

As he packed away his stick, basket and scissors, Feaver said that after doing the course, “people look at the countryside with different eyes.”

Yes, I thought. With eyes like dinner plates.

 

If You Go…

HEDGEROW HARVEST: http://www.hedgerow-harvest.com .

Our course with James Feaver cost 150 pounds (about $198) for two adults and a child. Price varies by number of people and itinerary.

ASSOCIATION OF FORAGERS: List by region, http://www.foragers-association.org.uk

 

Timelooper app takes you back in history

Imagine watching frantic shopkeepers busily extinguish the Great Fire of London, or sheltering from Nazi bombing raids during the Blitz.

Now, with a new virtual reality app, you can travel back in time to be immersed in these events.

The Timelooper app allows users to experience key moments in London history with just a smartphone and a cardboard headset.

For example, when Timelooper cofounder Andrew Feinberg visits the Tower of London, a historic castle on the banks of London’s Thames River, he doesn’t queue up with hordes of tourists to catch a glimpse of the royal family’s crown jewels. Instead, he uses Timelooper’s time travel tourism app to experience the tower over 750 years ago, in 1255.

Instead of seeing a busy London tourist site, Feinberg sees a medieval marketplace, a formidable fortress, even an elephant being led down a path.

“We actually overlay the current infrastructure with what the infrastructure of the tower and the surrounding environment was like in 13th century London,” explained Feinberg. “So for example, now you see a Starbucks and now you see the tower as it looks today with the moat drained. When we take you back in time, you actually see the historically accurate representation of the tower in its heyday.”

Not far away at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Timelooper users travel back to the Great Fire of London 350 years ago, in 1666. The fire burned for four days, destroying over 13,000 houses.

The smartphone’s built-in motion detection allows time travelers wearing a cardboard headset to move their gaze around the virtual world, seemingly exploring London centuries ago. The videos are location-based, meaning visitors must visit the sites to unlock the historical experiences.

Feinberg and his cofounder, Yigit Yigiter, were frustrated with current tourism technology, which they say hasn’t evolved much since the introduction of audio guides. In 2014, Yigiter’s wife brought home a Google cardboard VR headset, and he began thinking about an immersive virtual reality tourism experience. By September 2015, he’d quit his job in private equity and moved to the British capital to begin work on the first incarnation of the app. The first version was launched in July 2015 and featured three sites.

While Timelooper uses VR to offer a unique historical perspective, the technology has been exploding in many directions throughout the tourism industry. Carnival Cruise Line uses it to market cruises, the Dollywood theme park in Tennessee uses it to show off a new rollercoaster, and the Seattle Space Needle uses it to help visitors appreciate the view from its sky-high observatory. The Dali Museum in Florida created a virtual reality experience that lets visitors walk through a landscape painting by the Surrealist master Salvador Dali. And a company called YouVisit has created over 300 VR experiences for destinations from Vatican City to Mexico.

Timelooper is a member of the Travel Tech Lab, an incubator space for travel technology start-ups, partly created by London & Partners, the city’s official promotional company. Following the launch last year, Feinberg and Yigiter were contacted by destinations from China to Spain.

“Nothing replaces the experience of being on site, but you don’t always know what the stories are about those sights,” Yigiter said.

Timelooper’s travel app is also used by those working in London’s booming tourism industry. Blue Badge tourist guide Ruth Polling pulls her cardboard headset out as she escorts visitors to Trafalgar Square and lets them see what happened on Sept. 23, 1940, when a bomb dropped by Nazi Germany exploded near Nelson’s Column, a famous landmark and iconic part of the victory celebrations held five years later to mark the end of the war in Europe.

“My job is a storyteller,” Polling said. “I’m here to conjure up what things are like and this just gives me something else I can use, particularly with small children, getting them really engaged.”

London landmarks are also finding Timelooper’s VR experience useful in giving a new-age twist to a decades-old attraction. The Thames River’s 120-year-old Tower Bridge is set to launch its own Timelooper experience in April, taking visitors back to 1666, before the bridge was even built. Instead, headset wearers view the raging Great Fire of London from a boat’s crow’s nest as it sails down the river.

“When you’re here at the bridge, you are told a story of how things were but you can’t physically see that,” says Chris Earlie, the head of Tower Bridge. The app also helps immerse international visitors into the story without “translating endless amount of text.”

Timelooper plans to launch in New York City this April, allowing tourists to witness the famous kiss that was photographed in Times Square in August 1945 on VJ Day, the day World War II officially ended with the surrender of Japan, and to see the iconic picture of workers eating lunch atop a skyscraper during construction of the Rockefeller Center in 1932.

Timelooper on the Web …

http://www.timelooper.com

Not so secret service: LGBT group names British spy agency top employer

A UK equality organization has named Britain’s domestic spy agency its employer of the year.

Stonewall gave MI5 top marks this week among 400 employers.

The results are based in part on a confidential survey of 60,000 staff members, who are asked about workplace culture, diversity and inclusion.

The annual survey underscores the strides made by the spy agency, which failed in the past to welcome gay candidates. Critics had argued that disclosing sexual orientation would leave spies more vulnerable to blackmail.

But after the 2005 London transit attacks that killed 52 commuters, Britain’s spy agencies — both MI5 and MI6 — have led aggressive recruiting drives for candidates from diverse ethnic and sexual backgrounds.

‘45 Years’ a devastating time bomb

How many great movies could be written across the enigmatic, profound face of Charlotte Rampling? Hundreds? Thousands? At any rate, Andrew Haigh’s “45 Years” is one of them.

In it, Rampling stars as half of a childless couple — Kate and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) Mercer — preparing to celebrate their 45th anniversary. In minutes, we can already feel jealousy welling in us from snapshots of their peaceful, harmonious lives in rural England: dog walks, drinking tea and taking leisurely trips into town.

That such appearances of elderly tranquility are not what they seem is one of the notions upended by “45 Years.” A letter arrives for Geoff with startling news that the frozen body of the woman he dated before meeting Kate has been found in a Swiss glacier where she died in an accident while traveling with Geoff more than 50 years ago. “Like something in the freezer,” mumbles an astonished Geoff.

“She’d look like what she did in 1962,” he says. “And I look like this.”

The news unsettles Geoff, transporting him back to his mid-20s self, unmooring an iceberg of the past. Confessions follow, revealing a deeper history than Kate was before aware. She watches with increasing alarm as her husband begins smoking again and rummaging around the attic late at night for pictures of his old flame. Their previously rock-solid relationship is suddenly beset with fissures and tremors erupted by a history that isn’t so ancient, after all.

Haigh, who is 42, has made the HBO series “Looking” and the excellent independent film “Weekend.” That movie dealt with two gay men whose one-night stand is extended across a weekend, during which a remarkable intimacy accumulates as they examine their night together and contemplate their connection.

For Haigh, relationships are forged in a moment, crystalized in the circumstances of their beginnings. Kate and Geoff may be in their 70s, but their marriage is still built upon — and haunted by — whatever brought them together in their 20s. Old age has done far less to change them than most would think.

The devastating power of “45 Years,” which Haigh adapted from David Constantine’s short story “In Another Country,” lies in the director’s sensitive understanding of relationships: of the conversations that take place over pillows and the quiet contemplation of fates abandoned in marriage.

But it’s Haigh’s tremendous lead actors that make the movie. They’re a convincing couple: Courtenay is absent-minded and untidy; Rampling is cool and controlled. As Kate sees a new rival to her husband rise from the dead, the anxieties and confusions flicker across Rampling’s face. Turmoil stirs beneath her chilly stillness.

If going to see “45 Years” (and you should), choose your date wisely. After the film’s haunting final shot, you’re likely to be exiting the theater wondering just how well you really know the companion next to you. 

 

‘Coercive’ behavior made illegal in England, Wales

Physical violence will no longer be needed to prosecute someone for abusing their partners or family members in England and Wales.

A new law makes it a crime to use repeated threats, humiliation and intimidation to control people.

It will mean that “coercive or controlling” behavior can be seen as domestic abuse and can be prosecuted as a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

Authorities say stopping someone from socializing, controlling their social media access or using apps to put them under surveillance will in some cases be covered by the new legislation. Making threats to publish personal information can also be viewed as a crime.

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders says this type of behavior “can limit victims’ basic human rights” by reducing their freedom of movement and their independence.

“This behavior can be incredibly harmful in an abusive relationship where one person holds more power than the other, even if on the face of it this behavior might seem playful, innocuous or loving,” she said. “Victims can be frightened of the repercussions of not abiding by someone else’s rules. Often they fear that violence will be used against them, or suffer from extreme psychological and emotional abuse.”

Many victims say the trauma from psychological abuse is worse than the trauma of physical abuse, Saunders said.

The new legislation was created after a majority of people consulted by the government said that existing laws on abuse did not offer sufficient protection. It is supposed to apply only in cases where the offending behavior is repeated or chronic.

Britain’s last coal pit closes

Coal once fueled the British Empire, employed armies of men and shook the power of governments.

Earlier this month, workers at Britain’s last operating deep coal mine finished their final shift, emerging — soot-blackened and live on television news channels — to cheers, applause and tears.

Some of the men carried lumps of coal as mementoes from the Kellingley Colliery, 200 miles north of London. The last haul of coal from the pit is destined for a mining museum as a once-mighty industry fades into history.

“There’s a few lads shedding tears, just getting all emotional,” said miner Neil Townend, 51.

Defiant to the end, the Kellingley miners sang a hit by Tom Jones — the son of a Welsh coal miner — as they headed underground for the last time.

“This is what makes us very special, the mining community,” said Nigel Kemp, who worked at the mine for more than 30 years. “The men have gone down today singing ‘My, my, my, Delilah.’ Every single man on the cage, you could hear them 400 feet down singing.”

At its peak in the 1920s, Britain’s mining industry employed more than 1 million people, as coal powered trains, fueled factories and heated homes. After World War II, the country still had 750,000 underground miners at almost 1,000 coal pits, but the industry’s days were already numbered.

With gas and nuclear power on the rise, hundreds of coal mines had closed by 1984, when a showdown between the British government and the miners cemented the industry’s central — and contested — place in Britain’s national mythology.

Thousands of miners went on strike hoping to scuttle then-Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s plan to shut down 20 pits and lose 20,000 jobs in an effort to destroy the powerful mining unions, which for years had used their economic clout to extract concessions from British governments.

The bitter, yearlong struggle brought violent picket-line clashes and ended in victory for the government. Since then, changing economic demands and cheap imported coal have all but wiped out Britain’s mining industry.

Britain still gets a fifth of its electricity from coal, although that is giving way to cleaner alternatives. Almost half the country’s power now comes from nuclear or renewable sources like wind and solar, and Britain has agreed to sharply cut its greenhouse gas emissions under an international deal to limit climate change signed in Paris last week.

And it’s not just Britain _ the world as a whole agreed to move away from using fossil fuels, including coal, that are blamed for global warming.

With coal prices lower than they have been for years, it’s cheaper to import coal from countries including Russia, Colombia and the United States than to dig it out of British soil. Critics say some of those countries have lower wages and worse safety records than Britain.

Britain still has several open-cast mines as well as a handful of idle pits that could be reopened if needed, but Kellingley was the last deep mine producing coal on a large scale. Its closure marks the end of an industry that was dirty and dangerous but brought pride and purpose to close-knit communities.

“Everything spread from the pit,” said Andy Smith, acting director of the National Coal Mining Museum, which plans to put the last ton of coal from Kellingley on display.

“Community spirit came from working in the pit. If you didn’t work in the pit, you were involved in making mine machinery, or supplying the mine canteen with bread or pork pies. (There were) sports and social clubs,” he said. “Every pit that has shut over the last 50 years, the community has suffered.”

Ireland’s gay bull saved from slaughterhouse

He faced execution for failure to perform. But Benjy, the gay bull of Ireland, has been saved following a worldwide appeal backed by “The Simpsons” co-creator Sam Simon.

Ireland’s Animal Rights Action Network said Tuesday that Simon is paying for Benjy’s transportation to an animal sanctuary in England. Simon, who is battling colon cancer, has been giving away much of the fortune from his television career and is a leading donor to animal welfare causes.

Benjy, a Charlerois bull, failed this year to impregnate any heifers at a County Mayo farm in western Ireland. Veterinarians determined he was fertile, but was more attracted to the bull that replaced him.

After the farmer announced he planned to send Benjy to an abattoir, activists last week launched a social media campaign seeking 5,000 pounds ($7,825) to send the bull to the Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk, England, which is home for about 2,000 unwanted farm animals and horses. About 300 donors contributed 4,000 British pounds ($6,200) to an ongoing fundraising drive organized by the British online magazine TheGayUK.

Simon, who funds a Malibu dog shelter and many other animal rights projects, said he heard about Benjy’s case through friends at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals pressure group. He said he was happy to donate the full original cash target to buy Benjy and ship him to England.

“All animals have a dire destiny in the meat trade, but to kill this bull because he’s gay would’ve been a double tragedy,” Simon said in a statement. “It thrills me to help PETA and ARAN make Benjy’s fate a sanctuary rather than a sandwich.”

ARAN campaigns director John Carmody said Simon and other donors were buying the bull “a one-way ticket to freedom.”

Andre Benjamin finds a new rhythm in Hendrix biopic

Andre Benjamin was uniquely qualified to play Jimi Hendrix in the film “Jimi: All Is By My Side,” and not just because his colorfully cosmic style has long owed something to the ‘60s icon.

The film, written and directed by “12 Years a Slave” screenwriter John Ridley, is a portrait of Hendrix in 1966 — a then somewhat aimless 24-year-old playing backup guitar — finding himself as a frontman and being elevated by the blues-rock scene of Swinging London. As the often reticent half of hip-hop duo Outkast, Benjamin, too, knows something about the psychology of a performer discovering his onstage swagger.

“I had to grow into being an entertainer and Jimi had to grow into being an entertainer, too,” Benjamin said in a recent interview. “I can say from being an entertainer and a star, my very first shows were horrible. The shyness. You’re put on stage in front of all of these people, and you’re kind of in your head a lot. It takes the confidence of knowing, ‘Hey, people dig this.’”

“All Is By My Side,” which opens in theaters Friday, eschews the usual cradle-to-the-grave biopic trajectory, focusing instead on Hendrix’s discovery by Linda Keith (Imogen Poots), his formation of The Experience and his breakthrough in a town dominated by the Beatles and Eric Clapton. Made without the cooperation or approval of the Hendrix estate, the independently produced “All Is By My Side” doesn’t include any of Hendrix’s familiar hits.

“I don’t really see the point of just showing people what they already know. I never felt that that was going to impede our ability to tell the story,” says Ridley, who won an Oscar for “12 Years a Slave.” “We’ve all seen films before that have had access to artifacts or intellectual property, and they put their best foot forward, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the story’s going to be there.”

The film is Benjamin’s first since the 2008 Will Ferrell comedy “Semi-Pro.” He turned down Ridley several times before agreeing to tackle the role, for which he studied with a vocal coach and strove to learn to play guitar left-handed. As a naturally right-handed player, he compares the task to walking backward.

For Benjamin, who dabbled in movies in the ‘00s most notably with the Prohibition musical “Idlewild,” it’s easily his most ambitious acting work. “All Is By My Side” is opening during a kind of crossroads for Benjamin, who has been touring with his Outkast partner, Big Boi, for the first time in years, celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album.

It’s been nearly a decade since Benjamin put out an album, solo or with Outkast. He’s limited himself largely to appearances on the records of others (Frank Ocean, Lil Wayne). Now 39, he’s said he’ll give up rap when he turns 40.

“I can’t say I was gearing up to make this huge acting jump, but if that’s the way my life goes, I’m wit it,” says Benjamin. “In music, I still write almost every day. I don’t know how I feel about it at this age. I always write. But I don’t know if I believe in it enough to want to present it. You have to believe in it to work.

“I really don’t know what’s going on,” he adds. “I’m kind of in a limbo place.”

Ridley flew to Atlanta to meet with Benjamin, who had been sought for other Hendrix films.

“Being around him for about five or 10 minutes you realize that he really is the right person to try to attempt something like this,” says Ridley, who’s currently prepping a series for ABC, “American Crime.” “He’s very intellectually curious. He’s very much a true artist. He’s very much a music historian.”

In order to capture Hendrix’s far-out, mellow voice, Ridley had Benjamin stay in character during production: “John basically ordered the set not to talk to me unless I was in Hendrix’s voice so I could always be in it,” says Benjamin. 

The film also shows Hendrix’s less savory side, including a scene in which he strikes girlfriend Kathy Etchingham with a phone _ an incident Etchingham has resolutely denied ever happened. Ridley stands by the depiction as accurate to other viewpoints. Either way, it’s the kind of scene that surely wouldn’t have made it into an authorized biopic. (Another, estate-endorsed project is in development, with Anthony Mackie to star as Hendrix.)

“The minute that you cede editorial control to any one person or any one entity, it goes from being an attempt at an honest story to propaganda,” says Ridley. “Anybody’s life story deserves a little better than that.”