Kathy Griffin meets Jeremy Irons

Kathy Griffin, star of “My Life on the D-List”, met Jeremy Irons on Wednesday 15 June 2011, at The Wolseley at 160 Piccadilly in London.

The Wolseley is a café-restaurant in the grand European tradition located in St James’ on London’s most famous of boulevards, Piccadilly. 160 Piccadilly is a Grade II Listed Building.

Via @kathygriffin on Twitter –

Kathy Griffin
@kathygriffin  Kathy Griffin
Holy shit. Just ran in to Jeremy fucking Irons. I’m in London now bitches!!!
Kathy Griffin
@kathygriffin  Kathy Griffin

Seriously starstruck! What’s ur favorite Jeremy Irons movie???

Check out Kathy’s website at –  http://www.kathygriffin.net/

The enduring charm of the Borgias

The enduring charm of the Borgias


One of history’s most notorious families is returning to TV – this time with a class cast. Sarah Hughes has a preview…

Monday 21, March 2011

When in Rome: Jeremy Irons stars in the costume drama 'The Borgias' When in Rome: Jeremy Irons stars in the costume drama ‘The Borgias’.

As The Tudors rollicks towards its final episodes, complete with extra wheezing from Jonathan Rhys Myers as the declining Henry VIII, fans of ludicrous yet oddly addictive historical dramas are feeling a slow-burning sense of loss. How will we spend our Saturday nights now that Rhys Meyers, his incredible cheekbones and his distinctly odd way of Declaiming. Each. Sentence. As. Though. He. Was. Learning. To. Read. For. The. First. Time. are no longer with us?

Luckily there is hope on the horizon, for Showtime, the channel that originally commissioned The Tudors, is clearly aware that some of us can never have too much frippery, flouncing and fornication on our television shows, provided that is that they come accompanied with suitably ripe dialogue and the weight of history on their side.

So it is that the US cable channel has headed to 15th-century Rome for its latest drama, a new take on one of history’s most notorious families, the ambitious, murderous Borgias. On paper this is a brilliant idea with the potential for much mayhem, blood, guts, poisoning and heaving of breasts – and Showtime’s extended trailer for the new show, which begins in the US on 3 April before coming to Sky Atlantic in July, certainly plays up to the family’s reputation with rousing music, close-ups of a sorrowful yet sinister Jeremy Irons, the suggestion of dark deeds afoot, and the snappy tagline: “The Original Crime Family”.

So far, so satisfying. However, any new version of the Borgias raises an old spectre: will it be as bad as the infamous 1981 BBC adaptation, which was reckoned to have killed costume drama at the BBC for the best part of a decade?

That 10-part series was infamous for the graphic (for its time) nudity and violence and for a particularly memorable scene where half-naked actors crawled across the floor picking up chestnuts with their mouths. By the time the Vatican issued an edict condemning the BBC’s The Borgias the only question asked by anyone with any taste was what on earth took them so long?

Thankfully, the new Borgias looks like it will actually be rather good. Jeremy Irons, who plays the power-crazed Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia later to become one of history’s most infamous Popes, has a whale of time. His Rodrigo, all hissing sibilants and subtle suggestions, wields his power quietly yet absolutely, more Godfather Part II-era Michael Corleone than Tony Soprano.

While Irons dominates, the rest of the cast, which includes Derek Jacobi and Colm Feore as Rodrigo’s rivals, Joanne Whalley as his principal mistress, Vanozza dei Cattanei, and a couple of brooding bruisers (François Arnaud and David Oakes) as his murderous sons Cesare and Juan Borgia, are no slouches and manage to sell some fairly baroque moments involving the campaign for the new Pope, which could easily teeter into Monty Python-esque parody.

That they don’t is also thanks to the involvement of the idiosyncratic Irish director Neil Jordan, who is the series’ co-creator and will direct the first two episodes. The Borgias is something of a pet project for Jordan who has been trying to make a film about the family, described as “The Godfather set in the Vatican” since 2000.

That said The Borgias is also the work of Michael Hirst, the man behind The Tudors and the scriptwriter for Elizabeth and Elizabeth: the Golden Age. Hirst, a man who never met a period of history he couldn’t joyfully sex up, is the sort of wilfully over-the-top writer whom you either love or despise.

Should historical drama be accurate? The only sane answer is yes but Hirst has so much fun proving the opposite that it’s hard not to get swept along. His involvement suggests that this Borgias might be more Rome than I, Claudius, more Tudors than Elizabeth R but it’s also the case that even if the series does turn out to be tosh, it will be lavishly shot, lovely to look at and completely addictive tosh.

Sex, violence and the Church: On set with The Borgias

Sex, violence and the Church: On set with The Borgias.

ETYEK, Hungary — Pope Alexander VI, the most notorious man to head the Vatican due to his enthusiasm for sex orgies, bribery, murder and military conquest, has just placed a magnificent jewelled crown on the head of French King Charles VIII and declared him king of Naples.

Alexander’s powerful, haunting voice, backed, as he says, by “the authority of the almighty God,” echoes through the jam-packed St. Peter’s Basilica. He declares that Charles will “reign forever with Jesus Christ.”

“Cut!” shouts the floor director, a signal to the young Hungarian boys lip-synching a Latin hymn that they can stop popping open their mouths every few seconds like blowfish.

Oscar-winning British actor Jeremy Irons is playing the scheming, manipulative, and sexually incontinent pope — who reigned from 1492 to 1503 and was the inspiration for Mario Puzo’s The Godfather — in this new $45-million Canadian-Irish-Hungarian production called The Borgias.

The nine-part series, potentially controversial, given the Vatican’s ongoing woes over the sex-abuse scandal, will premiere on April 3 on Bravo! and on Showtime in the U.S.

Irons’ performance in the scene as Alexander — formerly known as Rodrigo Borgia, before he bribed his way into the Catholic Church’s top job — appears flawless. But Irons is a noted perfectionist.

He bolts to the nearby curtained-off monitors and leans over the shoulder of Jeremy Podeswa, the Canadian director of the final three episodes of the series.

Podeswa, in a casual shirt and blue jeans, and Irons, wearing heavy, flowing red vestments and a towering papal cap, watch replays on a monitor and ponder possible changes, while $50-a-day Hungarian extras — outfitted as cardinals, French and Vatican generals, Swiss Guards, soldiers, local nobles, friars, nuns and commoners — relax, head out for a smoke, or reach for their mobile phones.

As Irons leaves, he passes Zoltan Rihmer, a young Hungarian academic hired to be the production’s “papal and Latin adviser.”

Irons wants to make sure he hasn’t committed any liturgical gaffes at the altar.

“Happy?” Irons deadpans.

“Absolutely,” replies a beaming Rihmer. “It’s fabulous.”

The producers are hoping audiences and critics will be just as glowing about The Borgias, a creation of Irish writer-director Neil Jordan, who won an Oscar for the screenplay for the 1992 film The Crying Game.

Showtime picked up The Borgias to fill the gap left by The Tudors, an Irish-Canadian co-production loosely based on the reign of England’s Henry VIII in the early 1500s. The Tudors ran for four seasons on Showtime before its finale last spring, and built steadily larger audiences.

Jordan, who recruited a third Oscar winner (Gabriella Pescucci, the costume designer, who won an Oscar for Age of Innocence) to the production, will bring a big-screen feel to viewers’ living rooms, according to the production team.

“Neil thinks cinematically,” Podeswa told Postmedia News during a brief break in shooting at a massive studio on the outskirts of Budapest.

“This is the first television show Neil’s done, and it will have a more cinematic esthetic — a broad canvas,” he said, paraphrasing Jordan’s directive: “‘You don’t have to think small screen, you don’t have to always be close, you can do things in a less obvious way.'”

While the script takes some liberties with history, those decisions were driven primarily by the need to build a flowing narrative, rather than to dramatize.

The history of the Borgia family, in fact, needs no embellishment.

“(Alexander’s) morals were widely held to be deeply corrupt,” wrote the late British historian Christopher Hibbert in his 2009 book, The House of Borgia.

The book recounts one incident when 50 prostitutes were brought to a party at his Vatican apartment to dance naked before him, his adult children, and other guests. The evening culminated with prizes for those who had the most sex with the prostitutes.

Perhaps more notorious was Alexander’s son Cesare, a cardinal and one of the inspirations for Italian bureaucrat-philosopher Machiavelli’s The Prince.

Cesare used violence, war and deception to keep his father in power. He was also a hot-tempered sadist who would assemble prisoners outside his Vatican balcony to shoot for fun, according to Hibbert.

One man arrested for insulting Cesare had his hand cut off and his tongue ripped out and attached to the finger of the severed hand.

“The whole grisly ensemble was hung out of the prison window for all to see,” he wrote.

Francois Arnaud, the handsome young Montrealer playing Cesare in The Borgias, is one of the actors brought in to give the series some sex appeal. So while he’s at times ruthless and manipulative, his character is intended to be rather more sympathetic than the psychopath from history.

The Cesare character in The Borgias “does horrible things, but he always finds a way to justify them, at least to himself,” Arnaud said in his cluttered private studio room, adorned with half-eaten food and dumbbells on the floor.

“I kill people to protect my family, to protect my sister, to remain in a position of power. It’s kill or be killed. I don’t take pleasure in killing people.”

In some areas, Jordan only hints at some of the more outrageous claims about the Borgia family, including unsubstantiated rumours that the pope and Cesare both had incestuous liaisons with Lucrezia.

“They (Cesare and Lucrezia) are very close and very tactile with each other, and a lot of people will watch that and think, ‘Oh, what a lovely brother and sister, look how close they are,'” said Holliday Grainger, the pretty blond British actress who plays Lucrezia.

“But there are a few scenes where you can very easily read in something more, if you want to.”

Producer James Flynn said the TV series will bear a closer resemblance to The Sopranos than The Tudors.

“This is the original crime family,” Flynn said in his office at a massive studio on the outskirts of Budapest.

The TV series juxtaposes the violence, sexual escapades and scheming with intense family love and devotion between Alexander and his children.

“This is clearly The Godfather, in the sense that it’s all about family,” said Canadian actor Colm Feore, who plays Alexander’s archrival, Cardinal Giuliano Della Rovere.

“But it’s also about the Renaissance, explosions of greed, power, art, desires, and how they all fit within the context of the Catholic Church.”

The producers say there is no deliberate attempt to exploit the Catholic Church’s ongoing child sex scandal, noting that Jordan first conceived the idea more than a decade ago.

But they acknowledge that the heightened public of, and interest in, the Vatican could draw more viewers curious about the pre-Reformation Vatican.

What viewers will quickly discover is that the Vatican of today, which represents the world’s smallest state, is vastly different from the institution that ruled over Italy’s papal states and headed a powerful army.

“In those days, the pope was not only the supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church; he was a secular ruler, as well,” said the academic adviser, Zoltan Rihmer.

“This led him into Italian and world politics of the day, and that was a very turbulent period. He had to fight his way through the nobility of Rome and of these papal states.”

The series premiere begins with Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, working with his 18-year-old Cesare to bribe and scheme their way to victory in the papal conclave. A Spaniard viewed with suspicion by Rome’s elite, Borgia is able to afford the hefty bribes, due to the considerable wealth he accumulated as a senior Vatican administrator.

But it’s clear, after his victory, that the new pope’s rivals, including Della Rovere, will not take defeat easily. Cesare, in a Machiavellian twist, uses an assassination attempt against his father to the family’s advantage.

The series naturally focuses on Alexander’s ruthlessness and his personal and moral flaws, though historians say the more sensational accounts of the Borgia dynasty are one-sided.

“It could be noted that there were positive sides to Alexander’s rule,” noted University of Glasgow historian Christopher Black.

“Besides administrative and financial reforms, he made moves to reform the monastic orders, and was a respected patron of artists and humanist scholars, who respected him.”

Feore said the complexity of Alexander’s character, and the context in which he ruled, can’t be ignored. The pope was in many ways like a warlord, but his goal was to sustain the Catholic Church — and what he hoped would be a family dynasty — in a hostile environment.

“In this world, you have to promise things you’re not going to deliver on, you have to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, you have to understand that people are corruptible, venal, horrible, maniacal, and self-centred. If you can recognize that and use it to your advantage, then you might be doing God’s work,” Feore told Postmedia News.

“Now, if that circular kind of thinking works for you, boy, have we got a show for you.”

The Borgias’ two-hour premiere airs Sunday, April 3 on Bravo! at 10 ET/ 7 PT.


© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

The Borgias – Casting Announcements

Additional casting information for The Borgias:

Click on cast photo to enlarge:

Also see The Borgias Cast page at The Borgias Wiki for more photos and details.

SHOWTIME has cast English actress Joanne Whalley as the female lead in its Renaissance crime drama The Borgias.

Whalley will play Vanossa, mother of the Borgia children who were fathered by Rodrigo Borgia (Jeremy Irons) before he became one of history’s most infamous popes. Vanossa once was a courtesan with a disreputable past.

Whalley has played several roles on the small screen, including the title character in the 1994 TV miniseries “Scarlett” and the 2000 TV movie “Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.”

British actress Holliday Grainger has leapfrogged over star names to take the part of Lucrezia Borgia.

The 21-year-old Mancunian will play opposite Jeremy Irons and Derek Jacobi in the ten-part series The Borgias, which starts shooting in Budapest in July.

Some episodes will be directed by Neil Jordan, who also wrote the screenplay. Years ago, he wanted to make a big-screen version.

Executives for the U.S. cable channel Showtime met with other actresses in Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris and Rome and screen-tested scores of young women – some of them big-name stars – before they decided Holliday was their ‘chosen one’.

Lucrezia is a star-making part. She was supposedly the most vilified woman in history. One Italian historian called her ‘the greatest whore there ever was’ and a femme fatale of the highest order. Others assert she was unfairly pilloried, perhaps for the sins of her father and brothers.

Jeremy Irons will play Lucrezia’s father Rodrigo Borgia (who later became Pope Alexander VI).

Francois Arnaud has been cast as Lucrezia’s brother Cesare Borgia, while Colm Feore will be Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, who later became Pope Julius II.

Actor Sir Derek Jacobi will play Cardinal Orsini in the first two episodes. Jacobi’s previous film credits include Henry V, Gladiator, Gosford Park and The Golden Compass.

Francis Ford Coppola modeled the storyline of Godfather III on the Borgias, and found their ruthlessness and Machiavellian scheming translated perfectly to his 20th-century tale about the Mafia.

Ruta Gedmintas (“The Tudors”) has been cast as Ursula in the Showtime series “The Borgias,” opposite Jeremy Irons. The APA- and United Agents-repped actress will play a young abused wife who falls in love with the Irons character’s son.

Luke Pasqualino, best known as Freddie from Series 3 & 4 of Skins, has also joined The Borgias cast.

Dutch star Lotte Verbeek has been cast in The Borgias.Verbeek will play Giulia Farnese, the young mistress of Rodrigo Borgia (Irons). Farnese was famed for her beauty and several 15th century masters are thought to have used her for inspiration, including Raphael in his portrait “Young Woman With Unicorn.”  Verbeek is currently on set of The Borgias in Budapest. The 28-year-old actress won the best actress prize at Locarno last year for starring turn opposite Stephen Rea in Urszula Antoniak’s “Nothing Personal” and was one of the talents picked as a European Shooting Star at the Berlin Film Festival in February. But Verbeek’s London agent Jeremy Conway told THR he pitched Verbeek on the basis of her striking resemblance to portraits of the real-life Farnese.

EMMANUELLE CHRIQUI TO GUEST STAR IN NEW EPIC DRAMA SERIES, PREMIERING IN SPRING 2011 ON SHOWTIME® LOS ANGELES, CA – (September 22, 2010) – Emmanuelle Chriqui (Entourage) will guest star on the new SHOWTIME drama series THE BORGIAS in three episodes as “Sancia,” the beautiful and seductive Neapolitan princess who marries the Pope’s youngest son Joffre (Aidan Alexander), even though she has her eye on another Borgia brother.  The series is headlined by Academy Award® winner Jeremy Irons and is currently shooting in Budapest for a Spring 2011 premiere.

AIDAN ALEXANDER is from Bournemouth, England and has previously appeared in a Nestle Wholegrain Cereal commercial; the short film The Time Traveller, directed by Tom Cliffe; the short film The Run, directed by Tristan Casey and has appeared in the musical Footprints of Africa at the Lighthouse Theatre in Poole, England. He is represented by Abacus Agency and the Elliott Brown Agency.

THE BORGIAS is a complex, unvarnished portrait of one of history’s most intriguing and infamous dynastic families.  The series begins as the family’s patriarch Rodrigo (Irons), becomes Pope Alexander, propelling him, his three Machiavellian sons Cesare (Francois Arnaud), Juan (David Oakes), Joffre (Aidan Alexander) and his scandalously beautiful daughter, Lucrezia (Holliday Grainger) to become the most powerful and influential family of the Italian Renaissance. Joanne Whalley also stars as Vanossa, the mother of Rodrigo’s children.