Octavia Spencer: ‘My first kiss was magical’

The actor, 45, reflects on why women of colour are underpaid in Hollywood, being crotchety in public and why she was able to savour finding fame later in life

Octavia Spencer

‘I don’t feel entitled to anything. Hard work is the common denominator’: Octavia Spencer.
Photograph: Randee St Nicholas

My face is still the same, my heart perhaps has changed. It’s more grown up than when I started acting and it doesn’t allow for being put in a box. With time comes experience and you learn that if you don’t break out of those boxes yourself, no one else will allow you to.

I don’t feel entitled to anything. Hard work is the common denominator in every bit of success I’ve had. Growing up, my family wasn’t wealthy, but we had each other and a mother who worked hard to give us the things we needed.

Women of colour have been underpaid in Hollywood for far too long. We are having all of these conversations and marches about equality, but if you’re truly egalitarian, you have to look at everyone. I shared my story about Jessica Chastain [who tied her pay to Spencer’s in an upcoming film] because I felt: “Look. I have all of these things – like awards or whatever – that people deem important, yet you people don’t want to pay me equally.” Jessica’s a friend, but she’d have done it for someone she doesn’t know.

I’m looking forward to the mid-term elections. I want to make it as difficult as possible for that person [Donald Trump] to create policy, so I don’t have to listen to it every day. My job is to be informed and I inform myself, but there’s only so much you can take.

My first kiss was magical. I was seven and at school and there was a boy who I thought was cute. One day the teacher left me in charge and everybody had to have their heads down to be quiet. I just went over and kissed him. He thought it was gross. I thought it was great.

I’m the same person in public and in private. If I’m not feeling well and feeling quite crotchety, I’m going to be that way wherever I am.

Making The Help and getting my first Oscar nomination was wonderful. It felt special to all of us women who worked on it. I was a bit of a film buff and to have Mary Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek and Cicely Tyson in a movie with me was very special.

Finding fame in my 40s allowed me an adult perspective on my career. I truly understood that you have to enjoy it – and appreciate it.

I’m at my happiest when I’m out in nature. When the sun is shining and birds are nearby and I’m sleeping and can appreciate the things around me.

I march to my own drum. I imagine most people like the tune that everyone else is hearing, but for me it’s easier to tune out and change the radio station if I don’t like what’s playing. I guess that’s boring to some and outlandish to others.

From the first time I saw a television I knew I wouldn’t spend the rest of my life in Montgomery, Alabama. I was five or six and wanted to act as soon as I realised people were paid to live fantasy lives.

The Shape of Water is released in the UK on 14 February

A black superhero who’s no second prize – Black Panther is a Marvel | Eliza Anyangwe

About a minute into the official Black Panther trailer, I realise I’ve been holding my breath. Hunched over, nose close to the screen, it’s as if I’m subconsciously trying to fold my body into Marvel’s cinematic universe. If this is a baptism, I want full immersion.

And if its record-breaking advance ticket sales are anything to go by, it seems I’m not the only one breathlessly awaiting the feature-length adventures of Wakanda’s king, T’Challa.

Part of the excitement is because cinemagoers finally have a black superhero who doesn’t feel like a consolation prize. Director Ryan Coogler’s all-black cast far surpasses previous paltry offerings to the black and brown people whose dollars and pounds turn films into blockbusters, yet who rarely see themselves represented with any depth or diversity on the big screen.

Not since the Blade trilogy, starring Wesley Snipes, has a hero of colour held the limelight. We have to go back to 1998, when the first part was released to critical acclaim and commercial success. Let’s not dwell on the other two.

But the fervour over this film is about so much more than mere representation: Black Panther is both a celebration of blackness and perfectly timed political commentary. “The movie plays to a romanticised version of Africa,” says David Roberts of Entertainlynx. “Magical kingdoms, ruled by emperors and untouched by the white man.”

In a year that marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, 60 years since the Notting Hill race riots and 90 years since women aged over 21 got the vote in the UK, here is a movie set in an east African country, albeit a fictitious one, which is the most technologically advanced in the world.

Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordan in the film Black Panther.

Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordan in the film Black Panther. Photograph: Allstar/Marvel Studios/Disney

Wakanda has never been colonised. As well as being a superhero, Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman, is a religious figurehead and a political leader whose strength comes from his intellect, the superior technology in his suit, a herb that only he can eat without being poisoned, and the knowledge of his ancestors. It’s Afrofuturistic gold.

His 16-year-old sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), is the smartest person in the world, and he is guarded by an elite female force who, according to writer Ta-Nehisi Coates’s reboot of the story, are more equal than subservient: not just black and proud, but also feminist.

But the comic’s history hasn’t always been so political. In fact, having created the character in July 1966, just months before the revolutionary organisation of the same name was founded, Marvel’s Stan Lee and Jack Kirby went to some lengths to distance their superhero from the politics of the day. In 1972, the character explained in a Fantastic Four comic why he was now called Black Leopard, saying his old name “has ... political connotations. I neither condemn nor condone those who have taken up the name, but T’Challa is a law unto himself.”

In the 70s, as new black heroes emerged from Blaxploitation films to grapple with the racial, social, economic and political issues of the day, Marvel’s writers once more attempted to make Black Panther more openly political. In one storyline, the Wakandan took on the Ku Klux Klan, but this braver political writing was apparently met with resistance or indifference.

No such indifference today. The Black Panther preview on YouTube has been watched more than 34m times in the countdown to the February release. The film’s stars are some of the most recognisable black actors, a combination of Africans from the continent and the diaspora: Angela Bassett plays T’Challa’s stepmother, Ramonda; Lupita Nyong’o is Nakia, a member of the Dora Milaje; Michael B Jordan is our villain, Erik Killmonger – tellingly, a Wakandan who grew up in exile; and, having already mesmerised audiences in 2017’s big black film Get Out, British-Ugandan actor Daniel Kaluuya joins the cast as W’Kabi, T’Challa’s best friend. (I’d like to imagine that the pictures of Kaluuya wearing traditional dress at Monday’s premiere broke the internet in Uganda.)

Kaluuya saw the event as an occasion to celebrate his heritage, and so too will I when I head to my local cinema. I’ve pulled the gele out of the closet. A Maasai necklace sits next to it. My scarab beetle bracelet and Xhosa blanket complete the pile. Each item might be from a different part of Africa, but accuracy isn’t the point here: Black Panther belongs to us all.

Eliza Anyangwe is a freelance writer and commissioning editor

Sofia Coppola on the film that launched her – The Start podcast

Subscribe and review on Apple Podcasts or Acast, and join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

At the 1999 Cannes film festival, attendees watched the work of a little-known 28 year old. That film was The Virgin Suicides, written, directed, and produced by Sofia Coppola. The novel by Jeffrey Eugenides about a doomed family of teenage sisters had resonated so much with the young Sofia she felt compelled to step behind the camera and make her own mark on movies.

In this first episode of The Start, Sofia Coppola reveals how personal tragedy – and her own not-too-distant adolescence – fed into the process of telling a story about youth and loss; and, 20 years on, explains the emotional significance the film holds for her today.

Hitchcock, Hepburn and Dirty Harry: vintage movie posters – in pictures

Original movie posters remain one of the most vibrant sectors of the cultural antiques trade. Produced for classic films including Psycho, Roman Holiday and The Italian Job, these original Hollywood posters from online marketplace AbeBooks are all priced in excess of £1,000 due to their age, scarcity, condition, and cultural and artistic significance

Gary Oldman: will Churchill prove to be his finest hour? | The Observer profile

The 1980s was a dazzling era for young, explosive British actors and two of the brightest fireworks in the box were Gary Oldman and Daniel Day-Lewis. They followed parallel trajectories: a 1960s childhood in south-east London, acclaimed stage work in the 1970s and on in the next decade to screen performances that gave homegrown cinema its equivalents to Method heavyweights such as Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, as well as successors to angry young men such as Albert Finney and Malcolm McDowell. (McDowell’s confrontational performance in The Raging Moon inspired Oldman to become an actor.)

They will compete next month in a Brit-off at the Golden Globes for the best actor prize, with the rivalry likely to continue at the Oscars in March. Day-Lewis, 60, has been nominated for his absorbing portrayal of a controlling, fastidious dressmaker in Paul Thomas Anderson’s brilliant Phantom Thread, in which he stars with Lesley Manville, Oldman’s first of five wives to date. (They were married from 1987 to 1990.)

Meanwhile, Oldman, who is 59, is the favourite to win for his grand, but cartoonish Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, where he fumes and puffs through a faceful of prosthetic padding, while the director, Joe Wright, over-eggs the pudding with pointlessly fussy effects and angles. Oldman recently declared himself “amazed, flattered and very proud” to be up for a Golden Globe, a departure from his view five years ago, when he observed that the voting was “bent”. (He had failed then to bag a nomination for his fine, studied turn as the ageing spook George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.)

It will be a pity if his Churchill comes to be seen as his late-career pinnacle when he has done so much else that is so much better. But time is marching on and Day-Lewis, who is retiring after Phantom Thread, already has three best actor Oscars; Darkest Hour is Oldman’s best chance of decorating his mantelpiece. He has been disarmingly honest about his career and its shortcomings: he once described his great 1980s performances as giving him “a push up to the middle, where I’ve been ever since”. With this in mind, those rooting for Oldman seem to be asking: if not now, then when?

While Day-Lewis has picked his parts carefully over the last few decades, Oldman has often vacuumed up whatever was available, happy to pay the bills instead of guarding the reputation. It wasn’t always so. In 1984, the director Stephen Frears offered Oldman the part of an ex-National Front bully boy who falls in love with a Pakistani entrepreneur in My Beautiful Laundrette.

“Well, to be really honest with you, it’s not how people talk, is it, in London?” Oldman said after reading Hanif Kureishi’s script.

“So, not interested, really?” Frears asked.

“No, not really.”

The role went to Day-Lewis and put a rocket under his career; soon, he had won his first best actor Oscar, for My Left Foot. Not that Oldman was on his uppers. After arresting work as an aimless skinhead in Mike Leigh’s Meantime, he delivered two of the most humane, indelible performances of that decade, both as doomed real-life figures: Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious in Alex Cox’s Sid and Nancy, one of the most searching films in all of British cinema, and the impish playwright Joe Orton in Prick Up Your Ears (directed by Frears and written by Alan Bennett).

With those pictures following one another straight out of the gate, audiences could marvel at his versatility as well as his talent. The pogoing, bull-in-a-china-shop Sid Vicious swagger, right next to Orton’s prowling, feline grace. How could it be the same man?

Chloe Webb and Gary Oldman in Sid and Nancy.

Chloe Webb and Gary Oldman in Sid and Nancy. Photograph: Snap Stills/REX/Shutterstock

He filled out that decade with more eccentricity and fearlessness: Nicolas Roeg and Dennis Potter’s Track 29, a kind of Oedipal Looney Tune, and Alan Clarke’s The Firm, in which he was chilling as an estate agent with a nasty moustache and a nastier sideline in hooliganism.

The plum roles were his for the taking. He played Dracula for Coppola, Lee Harvey Oswald for Oliver Stone, Beethoven in Immortal Beloved. It can sometimes seem as if Gandhi and Virginia Woolf were the only major roles to have eluded him.

During this golden period, which saw him convert the integrity and intensity of his British work into cold, hard dollars (and prompted a move to the US, where he has lived since), other forces intervened. He began to live hard and drink harder; he went in and out of rehab as though his braces were caught on the door. He was drawn to the edge of the cliff on screen as well as off, with demented showboating to rival Pacino at his hammiest in Léon and Air Force One.

But these undistinguished movies served a purpose: they helped fund his searing directorial debut, Nil By Mouth. Based on his upbringing in New Cross, it picked over the lives of one family (a violent man, his black-and-blue partner, her smack-addicted brother) on an oppressive council estate, though Oldman corrected, belatedly, the misapprehension that the main character was based on his father: “[He] was never violent. He just used to come home and go to bed.” It remains his only film as a director: alert, tender, beautiful and horrifying, with not a single false note or superficial choice.

‘I went to drama school, did plays, lived in the States for a long time. But when I sat down to write it in New York, it all just came out. It’s that old thing: no matter where you go, you pack yourself in your suitcase with all your issues, all your baggage.” If one were forced to name Oldman’s greatest contribution to cinema, it would not be perverse to pick this film, in which he is vividly present without once showing his face.

If most of his fiercest screen acting work predates Nil By Mouth, that can be perhaps attributed to the personal and professional uncertainty that set in in the early part of this century. When his third marriage, to photographer Donya Fiorentino, ended in 2001, leaving him with custody of his two youngest sons, he reassessed his life. “I woke up one day and was 43 years old and I was a single dad and had these two kids. It wasn’t exactly what I’d planned, but there it was, in front of me… So I just made a decision to be at home more. It was an opportunity to do it in the way I’d always imagined doing it, albeit doing it on my own.”

Shortly before, he had also faced a difficult period in Hollywood, when perceptions surrounding his rightwing views, which arose in interviews when he played a Republican senator in The Contender, were rumoured to have cost him work in that liberal industry.

Since then, he has concentrated on doing only movies that would pay handsomely and take him away from home as little as possible, which is how he came to feature in two of the biggest blockbuster franchises in cinema history: Harry Potter (where he was Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, from the third instalment onwards) and the Dark Knight trilogy (in which he played Police Commissioner James Gordon). In 2012, he was crowned the highest-grossing screen actor in history, an accolade that must have been some consolation after toiling thanklessly on films such as the computer-animated A Christmas Carol and the forgotten cartoon, Planet 51.

“Really good leading roles are few and far between,” he reasoned. “Alan Bennett isn’t writing Prick Up Your Ears every year, so there’s a quality of writing that doesn’t exist any more. I think the times are changing and you just have to cope and change with the times.”

After all he has been through and the groundbreaking work that went unrewarded at the start of his career, it would be churlish to begrudge him the opportunity represented by Darkest Hour – no matter that his Churchill is the most naked appeal for attention at the Oscars since the ceremony was invaded by a streaker.

Darkest Hour is released on 12 January


Born Gary Leonard Oldman, London, on 21 March 1958 to Leonard, a welder, who left when his son was seven, and Kathleen, who raised Oldman and his sister, Maureen, (who starred in Nil By Mouth and EastEnders under her screen name Laila Morse).

Best of times An extraordinary early run of daring, intelligent performances in great films, among them Sid and Nancy and Prick Up Your Ears, guaranteed Oldman’s reputation remained intact when these peaks were followed inevitably by troughs. Nil By Mouth, his one film as director, proved he was just as compelling behind the camera.

Worst of times Alcoholism in the early 1990s. He appeared to defend Mel Gibson’s antisemitism in a 2014 interview (“Gibson is in a town that’s run by Jews”) and was forced to apologise.

What he says “I think what it comes down to is that acting is an antidote to self-hatred.”

What they say “Whatever he’s done in his life, he’s brought to good service. At times, it might have been perceived as being bad for him, but it’s always benefited him and his personality and his acting. The bad times make him better.” Director Tony Scott.

The A-Z of 2018: from A-listers on the small screen to Zayn Malik’s solo career

A-listers on TV

George Clooney as ER heartthrob Doug Ross.

Doctor whew ... George Clooney as ER heartthrob Doug Ross. Photograph: NBCU/Rex

It was around the start of the decade that TV began luring Hollywood A-Listers, but the multi-Emmy garnering Big Little Lies represents the dawn of a new era. For the first time, TV is where stars deliver their star-worthy performances, while movie roles mostly involve unflattering superhero spandex or kung fu fights with CGI aliens.

Short hillbilly Reese Witherspoon meets tall, wisecracking New Yorker Jennifer Aniston for height-based lols.

An imagined
Anispoon collaboration:
Big Lil Friends. Short hillbilly Reese Witherspoon meets tall, wisecracking New Yorker Jennifer Aniston for height-based lols.

If you’re Catherine Zeta Jones, say, it makes perfect sense to follow up a glamorous supporting role in Ryan Murphy’s Feud series with the starring role in TV movie Cocaine Godmother. Or maybe you’re the formerly rubber-faced funnyman Jim Carrey, hoping to emphasise your spiritual side? What better way than by re-teaming with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry for a new Showtime series, Kidding? Details of its release are yet to be confirmed, but George Clooney has signed up for a serialised adaptation of Catch-22, nearly two decades after leaving medical drama ER. Even Jennifer Aniston, once queen of the TV stars who’d made it, is returning to her roots for the first time since Friends, by joining forces with Reese Witherspoon for a new Apple TV drama. The screen may be small, but the opportunities are big. EEJ


Alfie Spice, AKA the patron saint of Brexit

When two become one ... Alfie Spice, AKA the patron saint of Brexit. Illustration: Bill McConkey

“We’ve got Brexit, so let’s exit,” declared John Lydon earlier this year, as part of a novel campaign to smear his own reputation using the medium of rhyme. But if the thought of the punk firebrand getting on board with Nigel Farage’s vision of Britain was depressing enough, there were more strident Brexiteers than Lydon lurking among pop culture’s old guard. Ringo Starr, who lives in the US, didn’t bother sending a postal vote but if he had: “I would have voted to get out … but don’t tell Bob Geldof!” Michael Caine explained his own leave vote by saying he’d “rather be a poor master than a rich servant. It wasn’t about the racism, immigrants or anything, it was about freedom.”

Elsewhere, Roger Daltrey was positive that “when the dust settles I think that it’ll be seen that it’s the right thing for this country to have done.” But if recent years have taught us anything, it’s that next year will be the same, only much worse. And so 2018 could well be when we get our very own Moe-Tucker-joining-the-Tea-Party moment. So who will provide the shock? Could Laura Marling promote her next album by rabidly extolling the flavoursome joys of chlorinated chicken in every interview? Will Idris Elba take to deliberately smashing an energy-saving kettle against a wall in every scene he’s in? Will the next Ukip leader be a straight-up choice between a presenter for CBeebies and Claire Foy? Or maybe it will just be more old white guys with precious little skin in the game crawling out of the woodwork for another long slow grumble stretched tediously over 12 arduous months? Thinking about it, it’ll probably be more of that. TJ

Cardi B effect

Money moves: Cardi B changed the game.

Money moves ... Cardi B changed the game. Photograph: Michael Hurcomb/REX/Shutterstock

Until this year, Cardi B’s story had a typical rags-to-social-media-influencer feel. She dropped out of college and started stripping while posting inspirational Instagrams about sex, money and empowerment. Her online profile grew until she had half a million followers and could make money just from being an “influencer”. Soon enough reality TV came calling and she booked a place on season six of Love and Hip-Hop New York on VH1. Normally that’s where the story would have ended: a quick cash injection, a few club appearances, and then back to obscurity.

But Cardi B refused to let it be that way. Reality TV has always been able to launch its most eccentric stars into semi-real celebrities. But whether it’s Rylan, Jedward, Amy Childs or Spencer Matthews, their fame has always been tainted by their reality past. That initial deal with the devil means they’re always available for a Littlewoods Christmas advert or an Ant and Dec charity telethon; every booker’s back-up, never quite tasting the actual enigma of true fame. Even a global star like Kim Kardashian is still ostensibly lame.

Left to right: Yaeji, IAMDDB, Flohio.

Three more female MCs to keep an eye on
… Yaeji, IAMDDB, Flohio. Composite: Guardian Design Team

Cardi B is different. She’s been on the cover of tastemaking music magazine the Fader and won the BET hip-hop award for best newcomer. Rarer still, she has coupled that credibility with unparalleled success: the first female rapper in 19 years to reach No 1 on the Billboard chart with her smash Bodak Yellow, which stayed at the top for three weeks after dethroning Taylor Swift’s Look What You Made Me Do. The impact of her rise may well change the way we think about new talent. Not only has she shown a cynical industry that female MCs can be just as successful as men, potentially opening doors for British artists such as Stefflon Don, she could finally erase the critical stigma around reality TV.

While traditional labels become less able to support new artists, reality TV could become a more legitimate place to scout new talent. It could be starting already: the Hills producer is launching a new scripted-reality show Studio City, about the Nashville music scene. SW

Doctor Who

Doctor Who (background left), Doctor Foster (background right) and the cast of Doctors (foreground).

Doctors and the medics ... Doctor Who (background left), Doctor Foster (background right) and the cast of Doctors (foreground). Composite: Guardian Design Team

Which Doctor are you … Doctor Who, Doctor Foster or Doctors?

1) What was your life like a decade ago?
a) Pretty much the same as it is now.
b) I was 23 years younger than I currently am.
c) Much happier, but with well-telegraphed allusions to my current discontent.

2) You witness a minor traffic accident. Do you…
a) Immediately hurry over and offer medical assistance.
b) Explain what has happened very quickly, over a score loud enough to render you inaudible.
c) Have angry loud sex with your ex-husband.

3) An old lady comes to visit you. Is it because…
a) She recently had a nasty fall off a stepladder.
b) She’s from the planet Tujorb 249, and she needs help to ward off a Dalek invasion.
c) Your teenage son sexually assaulted her.

4) At the end of a hard day, you like nothing more than…
a) A glass of wine and a good gossip.
b) Infuriating the internet by regenerating into a woman.
c) Breaking the fourth wall to deliver a hugely unsatisfactory concluding monologue.

5) Who is your very, very, very, very best friend?
a) My colleague.
b) A 54th-century cybernetic alien from the planet Mendorax Dellora.
c) I think you’re wildly overstating my likability here.

6) What do people usually do after seeing you?
a) Switch over and catch the end of Dickinson’s Real Deal.
b) Compose an angry tweet about Steven Moffat’s depiction of women.
c) Literally just cry for an hour. SH

ANSWERS - Mostly As: You’re a doctor from Doctors! Mostly Bs: You’re The Doctor! Mostly Cs: You’re Doctor Foster!

Early, John

John Early with his sitcom partner Kate Berlant.

Heaven’s great ... John Early with his sitcom partner Kate Berlant. Photograph: NBCU

Having spent years crafting his wince-inducingly well-observed YouTube sketches with his comedy partner Kate Berlant, the actor, standup comic, hip-hop dancer and peerless impressionist of Britney Spears finally has his own show. Hulu has ordered a pilot by the duo called This Is Heaven, directed by New Girl’s Lorene Scafaria and described as “a take on a classic half-hour comedy about two best friends Roger and Eva”. If you can’t wait until that emerges then catch him on kooky crime thriller Search Party, as flamboyant megalomaniac Elliott Goss, Netflix’s Wet Hot American Summer as bratty, deluded thespian Logan, or miniseries 555, Kate and John’s neon-lit comedy dreamscape on Vimeo. HG

First Man

Gosling takes off

Hello spaceboy ... Gosling takes off. Illustration: Bill McConkey

Given the trajectory of Damian Chazelle’s directorial career so far – Whiplash then La La Land – it’s no surprise he is shooting for the moon next. With Hollywood’s hunger for content, it is surprising the story of Neil Armstrong and the moon landings hasn’t been told before (apart from Kubrick faking them in the first place, that is). Considering Armstrong’s notorious publicity shyness and refusal to cash in on his achievement, James Hansen’s authorised Armstrong biography – also titled First Man – became the best indication of what the man was actually like. Clint Eastwood bought the rights to it in 2003 but couldn’t get it off the ground. (Armstrong, who died in 2012, apparently didn’t like the violence in Eastwood’s movies.) Now it has passed on to Chazelle, whose choice of lead actor for the role will surprise no one: Ryan Gosling. Judging by the first on-set image – of Gosling in a plaid shirt lassoing a rocking horse – it’s not just going to be another Gravity-like space procedural. Other stars on board include Claire Foy as Armstrong’s wife and Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin. SR

Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Raw talent: Gugu Mbatha-Raw with Mackenzie Davis in the Black Mirror episode San Junipero.

Raw talent ... Gugu Mbatha-Raw with Mackenzie Davis in the Black Mirror episode San Junipero. Photograph: Laurie Sparham/Netflix

Oxford-born actor Gugu Mbatha-Raw has been floating elegantly through the backwaters of culture for some time now. She played companion Martha Jones’s little sister Tish in David Tennant-era Doctor Who, a mixed-race 18th-century aristocrat in Amma Asante’s ground-breaking 2013 film Belle, and it was her vivacious energy that helped propel the Black Mirror episode San Junipero to its Emmy awards glory. Now it’s time the world went gaga for Gugu.

In February, she’ll star in God Particle, the highly anticipated, mystery-shrouded third feature film to be set in JJ Abrams’s Cloverfield universe. Later in the year, she’ll share a screen with Game of Thrones hottie Michiel Huisman in romantic drama Irreplaceable You. Then, perhaps most intriguingly, she is signed up for the lead role in the Gina Prince-Bythewood-directed adaptation of An Untamed State, the debut novel from lauded feminist academic Roxane Gay. Commercially adept, critically approved and culturally relevant: our Gugu’s got all the bases covered. EEJ


By Psychic Stu, AKA Stuart Heritage

Psychic Stu looks into the future

Crystal balls ... Psychic Stu looks into the future. Photograph: Guardian Design Team

A natural leader like you should be an influencer. You should be telling me what to enjoy next year. What’s that? I should look out for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again? Hey, you’re just Meryl Streep with a fake moustache. Get out of here!

Your work ethic is exceptional, and you will enjoy all culture in 2018. Except for Eggplant Emoji, because that’s a film about a boy who cuts his penis off, and you’re only human.

As the most socially minded sign of the zodiac, it doesn’t matter what music you like, you’re just going to spend your entire time at quiet, intimate gigs using your iPhone, aren’t you? I bet you’ll even keep the keytones on when you message, won’t you? Idiot.

You enjoy security and adventure in equal measure, which is why you’ll be first in the queue to watch Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, because what an almighty bummer that looks like.

The undisputed king of the zodiac, you will only accept the very best. This is why – as with all other years – your 2018 will be marked by bitter disappointment. You were looking forward to that Arctic Monkeys album, weren’t you? Sorry, pal.

Oh Virgo, nobody cares about you. Literally nobody. Go and watch Girlboss repeats on Netflix. Seriously, that’s all you deserve.

The easiest to please sign of the Zodiac, you will literally lap up any old crap. Unfortunately, Hollywood knows this, which is why the makers of Gnomeo & Juliet came up with Sherlock Gnomes specifically for you. Enjoy it, numbnuts.

Your born intensity will only become stronger in 2018, thanks to horror films such as Cadaver, Truth or Dare and The Nun. It’s important to mention, however, that intensity can sometimes mean you walk out of films that look and sound exceptionally stupid.

Nothing can dim your sunny outlook on life; not climate change, Brexit or the spectre of nuclear death. However, there’s another season of Arrested Development coming out in 2018, so kiss goodbye to your run of optimism.

As an inherently ambitious person, your biggest goal for 2018 will be to complete and enjoy both the Maze Runner and 50 Shades of Grey trilogies. The enjoyment half is automatically doomed to failure, but God loves a trier.

Aquarians don’t care what people think about them. This is why, if you’re an Aquarian, you’re most excited about that terrible-looking James Corden Peter Rabbit film. You are the worst.

As the most sensitive sign of the zodiac, you’re going to get steamrollered by 2018. Just bludgeoned to pulp. Don’t bother getting excited about anything, because you’re going to be too busy cowering under a duvet to see it, anyway.

I don’t wanna talk about it

No comment: Frank Ocean.

No comment ... Frank Ocean. Composite: Guardian Design Team

It has been an odd time for pop star interviews. Rather than face a grilling from an actual human, Frank Ocean (pictured, above) opted this year to pen an “essay” for style mag i-D. Taylor Swift contributed what could generously be described as a “poem” to Vogue in return for not having to answer any hard questions (sample: “The only thing cut and dry/ In this hedge-maze life/ Is the fact that their words will cut but your tears will dry”). Beyoncé went one better and did nothing. All managed to spin this not as a sign that they were shitting their pants at one of their dumb answers going viral, but a signifier that they have reached a higher plane of fame and are above such behaviour. Social media has made it easier for artists to get their ideas across directly to their fans. But the press are to blame for indulging this nonsense, too. It makes you really look forward to 2018 and a world where pop stars are no longer answerable to anyone but their own egos. Still, we might at least get an exclusive sudoku from Jessie J. TJ

Justin Timberlake

Going for golf: Justin Timberlake.

Going for golf ... Justin Timberlake. Illustration: Bill McConkey

To some, Justin Timberlake is one of the last remaining pop megastars: he can sing, dance and wear a hat without looking like a wally. To others, he’s breezed through a career based on appropriating black culture, got away with throwing Janet Jackson under a bus (not literally) at the Super Bowl in 2004, and yes he can wear a hat but that’s because he’s got shit hair. To be fair, a mix of all the above is true, but only a fool could deny the imperial phase in the mid to late 00s that saw him knock out Cry Me a River, Rock Your Body and SexyBack like he was solely responsible for all the high points at any given wedding disco. After some ill-advised film work, an obsession with golf and a brief dalliance with interior design, Timberlake then tried to undo some of that goodwill in 2013 with the apparently never-ending The 20/20 Experience. In fact, the only thing more boring than The 20/20 Experience (Mirrors aside) was The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2, which followed six months later.

While 2016’s single Can’t Stop the Feeling was an Oscar-nominated success, it was essentially an even more grating Happy. So what can we expect from Timberlake in 2018? Film-wise, word is that he’s “embarrassingly out of his depth” in Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel, but seems to be on surer ground vis-a-vis his pop career. He’s doing the Super Bowl half-time show again in February (featuring, you would hope, a cameo from Jackson), so it would make sense for a new single at the very least to appear around that time. There are vague rumours that the album is called Man of the Woods, and we know – because he’s Instagrammed some intense pictures of him looking at some buttons – that he’s been working with past collaborators Pharrell, Timbaland and Max Martin; so all the clues are pointing towards a Timberlake-heavy 12 months, whether you like it or not. MC

Kenya Barris

Hail the king: Eddie Murphy in Coming to America.

Hail the king ... Eddie Murphy in Coming to America. Photograph: Paramount/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

Kenya Barris, the mastermind behind Blackish and Girls Trip, is writing the script for a Coming to America follow up. Yes, we’re talking about a sequel here. The very word may fill you with dread, and rightly so. Zoolander 2 was a lacklustre imitation of its predecessor, while the less said about Alien: Covenant, the better. But, enough with the negativity: there’s a real chance the next Coming to America instalment might not belong in the bin. The beloved 1988 comedy about an African prince (Eddie Murphy) who moves to America to circumvent an arranged marriage and find love by going undercover as a poor New Yorker, was an instant classic in a golden period of African American cinema. Three decades later, the next film seems to be in good hands. Original cast member Eddie Murphy is attached (although not necessarily starring), with Jonathan Levine directing. With Barris’s game changing comedy having captured the screen zeitgeist this year, if anyone can handle the sequel to a cult 80s classic it might just be him. SM

Luca Guadagnino

Suzy Bannion as Jessica Harper

If it ain’t broke ... Suzy Bannion as Jessica Harper in Suspiria. Photograph: Rex/Moviestore Collection

If you want to do a good remake, the golden rule is: pick a movie that wasn’t so great first time around. Clearly Luca Guadagnino didn’t get that memo, but what is he doing remaking Suspiria at all? Dario Argento’s original 1977 movie is the definitive giallo, an operatic, colour-saturated fairytale of gore and witchcraft set in a secluded academy for vulnerable ballerinas. Guadagnino, on the other hand, just directed the gorgeous gay romance Call Me By Your Name, although his previous film, A Bigger Splash, did have a few notes of horror (and not just Ralph Fiennes’s dancing). Guadagnino insists he is not simply remaking Suspiria, and would never want to “erase” the original. His is a more personal take, he says, “inspired by the same story, but it goes in different directions”. He’s lined up an enticing cast, including Dakota Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Mia Goth and Tilda Swinton. And Thom Yorke will hande the score, itself a daunting challenge: the original by Italian prog rockers Goblin is a classic in its own right. SR

Minogue, Kylie

Cowboy style: Kylie’s Parton gift to us.

Cowboy style ... Kylie’s Parton gift to us. Illustration: Bill McConkey

As 2017 hangs up its hotpants, we’re further from Spinning Around than that song was from I Should Be So Lucky, so it is safe to say Kylie’s turn-of-the-millennium comeback has been something of a success. Kylie will be aiming for her 16th Top 10 album in 2018, with songs that showcase a new focus on lyrical storytelling via themes of “freedom, self-discovery, life and love”. “The album,” Kylie tells the Guide in a short but perfectly formed email that represents the absolute textual embodiment of that’ll-do-nicely, “is a collision of some elements of country and dance, made at the altar of Dolly Parton standing on a dancefloor.”

It will be Kylie’s first album for new label BMG, where she has been reunited with the A&R bigwig who oversaw her 21st-century relaunch, with collaborators including DJ Fresh and long-term associates Biff Stannard and Karen Poole. Recorded throughout 2017, it shifted gear following a trip to Nashville, where the album “found its heart”. “There’s a little bit of heartbreak, I would say,” Kylie noted in October. “But we bounce back. Most of it is super-positive and inspiring, as a note to self as much as anything else. I’m feeling great right now.” PR

Yee-haw! Other dance-country hybrids:

Rednex Cotton Eye Joe
Shania Twain Man, I Feel Like a Woman
Avicii Wake Me Up
Steps 5, 6, 7, 8
Madonna Don’t Tell Me

Nico, 1988

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38RBdHtWkWo?wmode=opaque&feature=oembed&w=460&h=259]
Watch the trailer.

The title already makes it clear, this is not the Nico of Andy Warhol’s Factory, the Velvet Underground, Jim Morrison and all that. But this should still be one of the most intriguing biopics in the 2018 pile, partly thanks to its focus on the last years of Nico’s dramatic life, and partly thanks to the casting of magnificent Danish actor Trine Dyrholm. She doesn’t play “Nico”, she plays Christa (her real name): the rude, ravaged, resigned, black-haired fortysomething junkie who’s bored with being asked about the good old days and only puts on her stage persona when the occasion demands.

“I wasn’t happy when I was beautiful,” she says at one point. She’s not that happy now, either, trudging aimlessly through her European tour with a substandard band. Sadly, there are no original Nico tunes here, though Dyrholm nails the German singer’s doleful, only-just-in-tune intonation, and Italian director Susanna Nicchiarelli uses Jonas Mekas’s original Factory movies for flashbacks. A late attempt to detox and reconnect with her teenage son offers the prospect of a vaguely happy coda, although – spoiler alert – 1988 was the year Nico died. SR


Oscars 2018: will the new year bring even more diversity?

Oscars 2018 ... will the new year bring even more diversity? Illustration: Bill McConkey

Hollywood has been in a staring competition with its navel for so long now, you would imagine there was nothing left to re-examine after #OscarSoWhite and the post-Weinstein reckoning. But still there are blind spots. Openly LGBTQ performers are still experiencing discrimination off-screen and seeing their parts taken by straight actors on-screen, and it’s long been the rule that gay-themed movies will only win awards if they dilute the “gayness” down to trace levels, hence Crash beating Brokeback Mountain a few years back.

Last year’s Moonlight was celebrated as a triumph for the #OscarSoWhite campaign, but it was also the first gay-themed film to win best picture. Did it break down any barriers for gay movies? With a straight director and cast, perhaps it never could, but this is a good year to find out. Although, again, many of the prime awards contenders are actually straight: the leads in Call Me By Your Name, and Emma Stone as Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes. On the other hand, Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman’s Daniela Varga could become the first trans person to receive a nomination. SR

Poppins, Mary

The perfect nanny: Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns.

The perfect nanny ... Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns.

Photograph: Disney

If you have been waiting for a Mary Poppins film sequel, then you’ve been waiting a long time – 53 years, to be exact. The early signs suggest it’s been worth it. Although it will be Christmas 2018 before we can be sure that Mary Poppins Returns truly is as supercalifragilisticexpialidocious as it would appear.

Short of conjuring up Julie Andrews in her prime, Emily Blunt seems the perfect choice for the lead. She comes across as exactly the sort of woman who’d keep all manner of useful things in her handbag and cheerily admonish small children. Screenwriter David Magee has also wisely opted to move the story on from Edwardian London to the mid-1930s, where the Banks children, Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael (Ben Whishaw) are now all grown up, but still in need of some guidance from their old nanny. Word also has it that 92-year-old Dick Van Dyke has been coaxed out of retirement for a cameo. Will he be reprising that iconically awful cockney accent? We can only hope. EEJ

Dick Van Dyke-itis - other dodgy accents:

Anne Hathaway in One Day
Joss Stone singing Sensimilla
Tom Hardy in everything


The man who would be Queen: Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.

The man who would be Queen ... Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. Photograph: Nick Delaney/20th Century Fox

What a story Freddie Mercury’s life would make, with all the highs, lows, hits, outfits and intersex dwarves with platters of cocaine strapped to their heads. But 2018’s forthcoming biopic seems to have been cursed. Sacha Baron Cohen appeared to be the perfect choice for the lead, but by 2013 he wanted to break free. Reportedly, he felt the film should focus on the nitty-gritty of Mercury’s sexual exploits while the surviving band members preferred to focus on Queen “going from strength to strength” after Mercury’s death. Baron Cohen’s replacement, Rami “Mr Robot” Malek, very much looks the part, though whether this will be Mercury’s real life or just fantasy remains to be seen. In early December, the curse struck again: director Bryan Singer, lately in the frame owing to allegations of sexual misconduct, was fired in the wake of reports of “tensions on the set”. British director Dexter Fletcher has been drafted in, with two weeks’ shooting to go. Will it be a case of The Show Must Go On, or Another One Bites the Dust? SR

Rina Sawayama

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKLxvdFtlZE?wmode=opaque&feature=oembed&w=460&h=259]
Listen to a track.

Japan-born, London-based independent superstar-in-waiting Rina Sawayama’s brand of springy, in-your-face pop music – showcased on her recent mini-album, Rina – is inspired by the classics. We’re talking Oops!... I Did It Again-era Britney on Take Me As I Am; early 90s Teddy Riley on Ordinary Superstar, and the digitised drama of a lost Kevin “She’kspere” Briggs-produced Destiny’s Child classic on Cyber Stockholm Syndrome. It’s the latter that really solidifies Cambridge graduate, part-time model and full-time video game obsessive Sawayama’s MO of marrying millennial-focused lyrics – in that song’s case a generation’s mobile phone-related anxiety – to hugely melodic (she’s mad for seminal hitmaker Max Martin), emotionally engaging pop with a capital P. MC



They’re back! The cast of Roseanne. Photograph: Adam Rose/Getty Images

A mere 21 years after its “final” season, Roseanne Barr’s game-changing sitcom has some work to do as it returns. The 1997 swansong’s infuriating twist ending – the whole show had been a novel written by Barr’s screen alter ego, Roseanne Conner – left fans aghast at a narrative in disarray. The casting for 2018 implies we will need to pretend season nine never happened: John Goodman is in it, so husband Dan is presumably not in fact dead, while news that Darlene and David’s children will appear indicates that the reshuffling of the show’s relationships – that finale suddenly gave Roseanne’s daughters each other’s partners – will be reversed.

The necessary contractual wrangling has been done to keep Johnny Galecki, now a superstar on a rival network in The Big Bang Theory, as David – and both Lecy Goranson and Sarah Chalke, who used to chaotically share the role of Becky, are present. Chalke, however, will play a new character. Still with us? Logistics aside, Roseanne’s political relevance is why we’ll scrutinise the eight new episodes. The show was valuable for its depiction of a blue-collar couple for whom economic strife compounded the hardships of marriage and parenting: just the sort of people whose disenfranchisement helped Trump to power, and who still demand more attention from US storytellers.

The rub is that Barr has spoken out in support of Trump, with her recent tweets sliding into a Breitbart/InfoWars sinkhole. She says the new show won’t be about the Potus, but political neutrality looks beyond her, and a pro-Trump sitcom would be no laughing matter. Britain’s big comedy comeback also nods towards political meltdown: Alan Partridge returns to the BBC, reputedly as “the voice of Brexit”. Having presciently given us the perfect Brexit metaphor 15 years ago, when Alan tried to present an awards ceremony despite having speared his foot on a spike, Steve Coogan should be able to place his creation back into the national conversation with ease. JS

Roseanne’s best zingers

“You guys think we don’t understand your corny sex jokes.”
Roseanne: “You are our corny sex jokes.”

“Our school is having a food drive for poor people.”
Roseanne: “Get them to drive some of that food over here.”

“Darlene called me a ‘prevert’.”
Roseanne: “No you’re not a ‘prevert’ honey. You’re a pervert.”

Tina: The Musical

Do you wanna see me do the shimmy again? Tina opens in March

Do you wanna see me do the shimmy again? Tina opens in March. Illustration: Bill McConkey

Until recently, the idea of 2018 being the year of Tina Turner looked about as likely as an X Factor contestant managing not to sing Proud Mary in the auditions round. The 78-year-old pop superstar has been, ahem, a private dancer since she retired with one last round of 50th-anniversary arena shows in 2009 and has lived quietly in Switzerland since the early 90s. But theatre great Phyllida Lloyd, who, with Mamma Mia!, gave Abba a permanent home in the West End and got Meryl Streep into denim dungarees, is about to bring the story of Turner’s extraordinary life – already told on screen in the harrowing biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It in 1993 – to the stage with the much-hyped “bio-musical” Tina. “This took me out of retirement,” Turner told the crowd at its launch, where she duetted with Broadway actor Adrienne Warren, who will play her in the show. It comes to London’s Aldwych Theatre, WC2, in March; expect a roaring trade in blond rock mullet wigs outside. RN


Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey) in A Wrinkle in Time.

Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey).

Bad news. Psychic Craig Hamilton-Parker – the guy who predicted Brexit and President Trump – has seen the future and to be honest, it’s not looking great. “2018 will be a year of political turmoil and environmental crisis caused by dramatic and unprecedented weather,” he wrote in a blog post. What next year lacks in global tranquility, it makes up for in cultural majesty, however.

There’s Disney’s luminous adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, the story of a girl’s fantastic quest across the universe to save her father, which features celebrity comfort blanket Oprah. Or Pixar’s musical adventure Coco, set in the Land of the Dead but warm as the cosier corners of Hell, while queen of celestial escapism Björk takes her album Utopia on tour, one date of which is at Cornwall’s appropriately leafy Eden Project. “It’s really important now to be intentional,” she told the Observer earlier this year. “If you feel this world is not heading the right way, you have to be DIY and make a little fortress, over here to the left.” Let’s hope whoever’s last into the giant greenhouse locks the door and swallows the key. HG

Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham

Girl power ... Victoria Beckham. Composite: Guardian Design Team

Not a year goes by without rumours emerging of a Spice Girls reunion celebrating some sort of anniversary. Last year, frustrated with Victoria and Mel C dragging their heels over a potentially lucrative trip down Girl Power lane (not a real place, sadly), Geri Horner, née Halliwell, announced “supergroup” GEM, as in Geri, Emma Bunton and Mel B, via a video seemingly knocked up in five minutes on iMovie (they’ve since disbanded). Perhaps Easy V, AKA Victoria Beckham, saw it because following more rumours of a proper reunion this year – apparently now including Mel “Melanie” C – she’s basically put a stop to the whole thing.

“It is not happening,” the hugely successful fashion designer told former Big Brother contestant Alison Hammond on This Morning. “At some point, you’ve gotta know when it’s time to say: ‘That was great.’ Girl power will always be out there and is something that we all still believe. What I do now is still all about girl power, but it’s empowering women through power. I don’t think I’ll be slipping into a PVC catsuit any time soon.” So there you have it. Sort of. “I still love the girls,” Geri said in a separate interview, “and there are other bits and bobs in the pipeline.” Fingers crossed, it’s not a GEM-related party hat. MC


Fan of Lynda La Plante: Viola Davis.

Fan of Lynda La Plante ... Viola Davis. Photograph: Rich Fury/Getty

It’ll be coming up to five years since 12 Years a Slave – what has taken director Steve McQueen so long? You can understand a decompression period, but his prolonged absence has become a matter of concern. But, after a few false starts (a scrapped HBO project here, a proposed BBC series there), McQueen is finally (hopefully) back in November, with a thriller based on Lynda La Plante’s 1980s TV series Widows. In the original, three women take matters into their own hands after their criminal husbands are killed in a failed bank heist. But of course, it gets messy. Working with writer Gillian “Gone Girl” Flynn, McQueen transposes the action from London to Chicago “in a time of turmoil”, presumably the present day. The cast includes Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Elizabeth Debicki and Carrie Coon. Plus a few token males such as Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell and Daniel Kaluuya. Given McQueen’s political convictions, Widows is unlikely to be a straightforward thriller, but while his earlier films were more critical than commercial successes, this one could be a real banker. SR


The truth is still out there ... David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in The X Files.

The truth is still out there ... David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in The X Files. Photograph: Fox

Gillian Anderson has hinted that this year’s run of The X-Files will be her last. That might be wise, following the travails of seasons eight and nine, which soldiered on with Anderson’s acting soulmate David Duchovny mostly absent, and 2016’s season 10, a box-ticking clutch of uneven episodes that fumbled their big comeback after 14 years away. As the alien-arrival cliffhanger from last time is resolved, and Mulder and Scully battle to save humanity from a nasty virus, all the pieces are on the board: crucial old characters and recently added ones are present. So are the writers from the glory years, all of whom are men, which has led to showrunner Chris Carter getting flak for his creative team’s gender bias. You’d think a show so strongly associated with the 90s would avoid giving us more reasons to think of it as dated. Still, nothing in the past two decades has replaced The X-Files’ shamelessly outre sci-fi hooey; if it finds a reason to exist in 2018, its audience is still out there. JS

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIIxlgcuQRU?wmode=opaque&feature=oembed&w=460&h=259]
Listen to Maps.

One of the best books of 2017 was Lizzy Goodman’s Meet Me in the Bathroom, which told the story of the early 00s indie rock explosion that centred around New York City. While much of the book focuses on the Strokes, Interpol and LCD Soundsystem, it found a true hero in Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who seemed to embody all of the highs, lows and madness of the time. Of course, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs never really went away, steadily releasing albums for the last 14 years, but in many ways it felt like the right time for a triumphant victory lap and a reminder of what they had set in motion (not least providing Beyoncé with a sample for Lemonade’s Hold Up). So they reissued their debut album Fever to Tell, celebrated that with a handful of live shows (their first in four years), and released a documentary of their 2003 tour called There Is No Modern Romance. Blunt fringes at the ready: more live dates are promised next year. RN


Monkeyin’ about ... Zayn Malik in the video for Still Got Time.

Monkeyin’ about ... Zayn Malik in the video for Still Got Time. Photograph: PR

Officially, 2017 should have been Zayn’s year. Having got his difficult post-One Direction debut out of the way – 2016’s sex-obsessed Mind of Mine, a US and UK chart-topper – and fully established himself as a sleepy-eyed style magazine cover mainstay, there were early murmurings he was already working on its sequel. Instead he followed up I Don’t Wanna Live Forever, his duet with Taylor Swift, with March’s Still Got Time, a PartyNextDoor collaboration that was relegated to a “buzz track” after it peaked at No 24. September saw him work with Sia on the billowy Dusk Till Dawn, which spent 11 weeks in the UK Top 10 but, once again, didn’t usher in an album. There is one, though: that same month he told Fader it was “pretty much there”, while in November, Billboard managed to hear bits of songs produced by the likes of Timbaland and Malay, suggesting it would be out “in the first quarter of 2018”. The Fader interview also promised live solo shows, an aspect of the pop star contract Zayn is yet to fulfil due to anxiety issues and the more prosaic “not having enough songs”. Let’s state it now, so it’s written: 2018 will be Zayn’s year. MC

More predictions

Florence Welch, Anthea and Lowri Turner, Jake Gyllenhaal

Left: You’ve got the lovage ... Florence Welch.
Middle: Teamwork ... Anthea and Lowri Turner.
Right: I love blinking, I do ... Jake Gyllenhaal. Composite: Guardian Design Team

Having predicted what 2018 will bring, here are three things that definitely will happen in 2019 ...

  • Florence Welch releases an Elizabethan-themed cookbook, co-authored with Orlando Weeks.
  • Anthea Turner and Lowri Turner join forces for a 10-part investigation into alcopops called Turners & Hooch.
  • Jake Gyllenhaal finally wins an Oscar for his lead in the White Guy Blinking Meme film.

Florence Pugh: ‘Me, the next Kate Winslet? That’s ridiculous’

Florence Pugh is listing her pinch-me highlights of 2017. Where to start? There was the taxi ride in Los Angeles, when she picked up an email saying that Richard Eyre wanted her for Cordelia in his BBC Two film, opposite Anthony Hopkins’ King Lear. (“My Uber driver was giving me funny looks because I was squealing.”) Or the time Dwayne Johnson showed her how to throw a punch on the set of Fighting with My Family, Stephen Merchant’s upcoming comedy-drama about the Norfolk-raised WWE fighter Paige. Oh, and that breakfast with director Park Chan-wook, who subsequently cast her in the lead of a six-part BBC miniseries of John Le Carré’s The Little Drummer Girl that is being made by the team behind The Night Manager.

“I’ve had a few whoppers of experiences recently,” Pugh says, breaking into a throaty laugh down the phone.

If you haven’t guessed already, Pugh is going to be everywhere in 2018. The past 12 months have whooshed by as she has hopped from job to job, any one of which could make her a household name. The actor made an almighty splash in the multi-award-winning costume drama Lady Macbeth in April. Filmed two years ago, when she was 19, Pugh played Katherine, a teenage girl married off to a snivelling bully twice her age in the north of England, some time in the mid-1800s (humiliatingly sold off in a two-for-one deal, packaged with a plot of land). Rather than suffering in silence like a good little Victorian wife, Katherine kicked back. And then some. The shock value of a corset-wearing antiheroine in a period drama with a feminist streak had the critics slavering – and everyone else rushing out to Farrow & Ball with a screengrab to copy Lady Macbeth’s stormy pastel-painted interiors.

During a Q&A earlier this year, someone in the audience shouted out: “She’s a monster!” But Pugh is team Katherine all the way: “I’m completely in love with her. Everybody looks at me funnily when I say that and thinks I’m going to kill them. But I won’t. I’m not like that. I don’t agree with what Katherine did, but I don’t agree with the situation she was forced to be in. I will be her defender to the end.”

She banters away like this. You suspect that a few more years of being interviewed will knock the unstuffiness out of her, to be replaced with the usual actorly poise and polish.

Pugh grew up in Oxford in a loud, creative family, one of three children. Her dad owns a handful of restaurants in the city (“I can’t remember a Friday when I was younger when I wasn’t eating a pizza, flirting with the barman”), her mum was a dancer and her older brother, Toby Sebastian, is also an actor and has appeared in Game of Thrones.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDhZI4WiQ78?wmode=opaque&feature=oembed&w=460&h=259]

She got her break in Carol Morley’s British indie mystery The Falling, after picking up a leaflet advertising auditions while studying for her A-levels. Did she have her head screwed on after that first flush of success? “Well, I tried not to party too much,” she says. “I tried not to come off my track. I think it’s all working out.”

Pugh is Flossie to her mates, most of whom are still at university. While they are beginning to think about their careers, she finds herself being garlanded with praise and awards. She was up against Isabelle Huppert at the European film awards for best actress earlier this month, for Lady Macbeth, and won a British independent film award. She knows the film has changed her life. Not for her a decade of temping in offices and acting in pub theatres to a crowd of six. She started 2017 a virtual unknown. Now, at the end of a long year, she finds herself being labelled “the next Kate Winslet”. How does she feel about that?

“The Kate Winslet thing has been a shocker,” she exclaims, with a massive huff of disbelief. “I was like: that is the most ridiculous claim. Amazing, obviously. She’s been my idol since I re-enacted Titanic and fell in love with Leo. And it’s a privilege to be called the next anything. But I suppose to be the next you is all you can do. If I can make my mark just a little bit, then great.”