It's the spy who came in from the Bolshoi! Jennifer Lawrence to play ballerina turned Russian agent in new film Red Sparrow
Jennifer Lawrence was right on pointe for her new film, playing a ballerina who becomes a skilled Russian espionage agent.
The Academy Award-winning actress stars in Red Sparrow as Dominika Egorova, an operative for the KGB's foreign intelligence service who's lethal in unarmed combat.
She also has synaesthesia: a quality that enables her to see emotions — light and dark — as colours.
Francis Lawrence (no relation), who directed the 27-year-old in Red Sparrow and three of her Hunger Games films (Catching Fire and Mockingjay parts 1 and 2) told me that while Jennifer is not blessed (or cursed) with the condition 'she's very instinctive'.
Jennifer Lawrence?stars in Red Sparrow as Dominika Egorova, an operative for the KGB's foreign intelligence service who's lethal in unarmed combat
In the film, Lawrence's character (centre left)?also has synaesthesia: a quality that enables her to see emotions — light and dark — as colours
'I met her when she was about 20. She didn't study for years and years at drama school. What's fascinating about her is that she's very intuitive and a very quick read of people. It's uncanny, the way she can channel that reading into her work.
'She doesn't like to rehearse and needs very little preparation,' the film-maker explained when we talked at Air Studios in Hampstead, London, where he was overseeing the final session with film composer James Newton Howard.
Howard was scoring a sequence using strings, to create a jangling, almost Hitchcockian sound.
I found it pretty heart- stopping reading former CIA officer Jason Matthews's debut novel four years ago, let alone watching the dramatic moments being realised on a large screen.
The book's crawling with high-level moles. After Dominika is invalided out of the Bolshoi, her uncle, who's in charge of a Russian spy division, trains her up and sends her to what's known as Sparrow School: a kind of Courtesan College where women and men are taught espionage seduction.
Dominika's superiors want her to entrap a CIA officer called Nate Nash (played by Joel Edgerton in the film) and find out who his mole is in the Kremlin?
Francis Lawrence, who directed Lawrence in Red Sparrow and three of her Hunger Games films said that while Jennifer is 'very instinctive'
The scorching cast for Red Sparrow also includes Charlotte Rampling as the mistress of Sparrow School; Joely Richardson as Dominika's mother; and Jeremy Irons, Ciaran Hinds, Douglas Hodge and Matthias Schoenaerts as Kremlin spooks
Dominika's superiors want her to entrap a CIA officer called Nate Nash (played by Joel Edgerton in the film) and find out who his mole is in the Kremlin.
Soon moles, and other creatures, are coming out to play on the streets of Moscow, Helsinki and Washington DC. Director Lawrence read the story and immediately saw it was one for his Hunger Games star.
He knew from working with her that Jennifer would nail the action and dramatic scenes. But she also mastered the dancing.
'She did three months of intensive ballet training,' he said. And while a ballet double was used for difficult dance scenes, Jennifer 'did her fair share, which is remarkable'.
The scorching cast for Red Sparrow also includes Charlotte Rampling as the mistress of Sparrow School; Joely Richardson as Dominika's mother; and Jeremy Irons, Ciaran Hinds, Douglas Hodge and Matthias Schoenaerts as Kremlin spooks.
The film will open here on March 2.
Coughing Major who just didn't play the game
James Graham, who has supplied West End houses with two plays this season — Ink and Labour Of Love — will be back with a third, an exploration of TV game shows, in the New Year.
Quiz, on now at the Minerva at the Chichester Festival Theatre, will move up from West Sussex to London for a limited season, from March 31, at the Noel Coward Theatre — where Labour Of Love is running until later this month.
Ink, a transfer from the Almeida, is on at the neighbouring Duke of York's.
Quiz, on now at the Minerva at the Chichester Festival Theatre, will move up from West Sussex to London for a limited season, from March 31, at the Noel Coward Theatre. It stars Gavin Spokes (left) and Keir Charles (right)
Quiz, directed by Chichester artistic director Daniel Evans, fictionalises the story of Charles Ingram, the 'coughing major' who took part in Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and was accused of cheating when he won ￡1 million.
It uses full audience participation (a quiz, plus multiple choice answers) and Graham's clever ploy is to allow us to judge whether Ingram's guilty, or not.
For a moment, I wasn't sure I could be bothered (travelling on Southern Rail will do that to you). But I was soon throwing myself into it and paying attention to the 'evidence'.
Graham told me he's going to use the opportunity of the transfer to tweak the format and do some 'slight' restructuring.
Quiz, directed by Chichester artistic director Daniel Evans, fictionalises the story of Charles Ingram (left)
Ingram (pictured) was known as the 'coughing major' who took part in Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and was accused of cheating when he won ￡1 million
The production also gives a potted history of the TV quiz show, with references to Take Your Pick, Opportunity Knocks, Blind Date etc.
He and I both wondered at the demise of the format. Graham surmised: 'The mass-reach TV quiz show doesn't exist now, because people don't gather around the TV together at night.'
Which I believe is the correct answer.
Graham hopes a future play will examine how our intelligence and security services are run.
Paula Hawkins's best-selling thriller The Girl On The Train has been adapted for the stage
Girl On The West Yorkshire Train...
Paula Hawkins's best-selling thriller The Girl On The Train has been adapted for the stage.?
The good news is that it's not relocating to America, like the less than marvellous film version that starred Emily Blunt.?
'That wasn't to our taste,' said playwright Rachel Wagstaff, who's adapting the book with Duncan Abel, with Ms Hawkins' blessing. 'It's about a woman in Britain today, living a life that so many of us lead,' she added.
The novel was seen from the point of view of three women: one of whom (Rachel) thinks she has witnessed a murder. The police don't believe her, because she's perceived to be a bit of a lush.
Ms Wagstaff told me she and Abel are telling the story through the eyes of Rachel and will begin their version after Megan (another of the three main characters) has disappeared.
The play will have its world premiere at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, with previews starting on May 12. I asked if it would be set in Leeds and Ms Wagstaff observed that the story takes place in a fictional commuter town 'so it could be anywhere in Britain'.
The lead parts have not yet been cast.
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