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Virtual Glastonbury, a new album, and a slot at England’s first full festival in nearly two years – it’s been a busy few weeks for Wolf Alice.

Before heading to Suffolk to play Latitude Festival in front of 40,000 fans, the band of the moment spoke to Sky News and reflected on the recent months and the impact of the pandemic on their lives.

“It’s been very difficult not playing for the last 18 months – it’s such a huge part of our job and a huge part of our income stream and business. It’s how we survive,” guitarist Joff Oddie said.

Wolf Alice won the Mercury Prize in 2018. Pic: Reuters
Image:
Wolf Alice won the Mercury Prize in 2018. Pic: Reuters

“And it’s what we’ve done for the last eight years of our adult life, so it’s a huge, huge deficit of all kinds of things.”

Bassist Theo Ellis said that despite playing Glastonbury’s virtual Live At Worthy Farm, it was gigs that the group missed.

“We grew up playing gigs, we love playing gigs, it’s what we are 75% in this for, because we do so much of it, or we used to. So, yeah, it’s been weird and we’re looking forward to doing a proper one. And I’m also very scared.”

Talking about hitting the stage at Latitude this weekend, Ellis added: “We’re looking forward to going to a festival first and foremost, and being with people, because it’s going to be momentous, just because it’s happening.

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“And I think we’ve got bits and moments in the set that we’ve kind of had a lot of time to spend playing, that we really hope will kind of connect with people the way that we’ve crafted it a little bit to – and then backstage bars, or the one backstage bar there is.”

Their latest release, Blue Weekend, hit streaming services and record shops last month, and reached number one in the album charts.

Drummer Joel Amey says the response to the album has blown them away, adding: “I feel very, very grateful to have that kind of reaction to something that you put so much of yourself into.”

On the timing of the album and being able to perform it live, singer Ellie Rowsell said it was “taking… quite a long time” for them to record.

“I think I felt really grateful for all the bands and other artists that put out music, regardless of not being able to do any shows just because it was something to look forward to and it was really important and I felt grateful for them.

“So I didn’t want to delay things, but we were kind of lucky because it was taking us quite long anyway. Our timeline kind of worked out.”

Although the band did not know when they spoke to Sky News, earlier in the week, the album was nominated for the highly-coveted Mercury Prize – their third nomination in as many albums.

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Ellis says their win in 2018 seems to bypass them, adding that they were “surprised” it happened.

“I think fame would really overwhelm the four of us. We’re not ready for that.”

But it cannot be denied that they have star quality, spending the summer of that year touring with the likes of Foo Fighters, Queens Of The Stone Age and even supporting Liam Gallagher at his massive Finsbury Park gig.

However, touring the world now has become increasingly difficult – with Brexit adding red-tape and financial hurdles to artists’ headaches.

The new rules are largely untested, with no artists touring since the signing of a Brexit deal late last year, but Rowsell says it will be “devastating” for smaller acts.

“We’ve been lucky, we’ve toured Europe a little bit, in the times when it was a little bit more straightforward, still hard, but now it seems like almost unattainable in some ways,” she said.

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Festivals are back: ‘It’s a bit surreal’

Ellis added: “It’s the experience that goes with it, the festivals, those kind of things are a massive kind of financial injection for a lot of bands to help them survive the rest of the year.

“It’s been a system where people have been getting paid for festivals and then using that money to fund what they do for six months, seven months, eight months after that. I think if we hadn’t had the freedom to do that the way we did do, it would have affected us.

“It’s never beneficial to not get to go somewhere and play a gig in my opinion, if you’re a band or an artist or whatever.”

Going forward, the band want to “go and play one hundred million gigs”, because it’s what they love doing.

Ellis concluded: “If it happens without things going back and getting worse, it would be amazing to go out and do what we used to do, because it feels like it’s been a long time now.”

Wolf Alice’s third album Blue Weekend is available to buy or stream now.

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Diana’s marriage to Charles was ‘essentially arranged’, says Jemima Khan as she opens up about debut film

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Diana's marriage to Charles was 'essentially arranged', says Jemima Khan as she opens up about debut film

Filmmaker Jemima Khan has told Sky News she would have “benefitted” from being “introduced to suitable candidates” for marriage – and that Princess Diana’s marriage to Charles was “essentially arranged”.

Khan’s new film What’s Love Got To Do With It is her version of “rom-com Pakistan” – inspired by events in her own life, during her 10 years living in Lahore married to ex-husband and former prime minister Imran Khan.

The film centres around the protagonist Zoe – a filmmaker played by actress Lily James – as she navigates the modern dating world, parallel to her neighbour and childhood friend Kazim (Shazad Latif) as he pursues an arranged marriage with a bride from Pakistan.

Khan’s story explores “the pros and cons of both styles” – dating, and “whether it’s too much choice with apps”, or, conversely, “too little choice with arranged marriage”.

The film stars Lily James and Shazad Latif Pic: YouTube
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Khan’s new film stars Lily James and Shazad Latif Pic: YouTube

One motivation for the film was Khan’s friend Princess Diana.

The socialite – daughter of billionaire Sir James Goldsmith and sister of Conservative MP and government minister Zac Goldsmith – maintained a close friendship with Princess Diana, who visited her twice while she was living in Pakistan.

It was this relationship, Khan told Sky News, that showed her just how universal this style of marriage was cross-culturally.

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Princess Diana going to dinner with Jemima Khan during a solo visit to Pakistan in 1996 Pic: AP
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Princess Diana going to dinner with Jemima Khan during a solo visit to Pakistan in 1996 Pic: AP

“Their (King Charles and Princess Diana) marriage was essentially arranged”, Khan said.

“It used to happen here, even with our Royal Family.

“I know it can often seem like a really alien concept but most marriages even in the world today are arranged if you look at the global population.

“It wasn’t so long ago that it was kind of the norm even in the UK.”

Khan’s film attempts to dispel the myths surrounding arranged marriages, which she says are often categorised into a “love marriage good” versus “arranged marriage bad” binary.

The newly married Prince and Princess of Wales (formerly Lady Diana Spencer) kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after their wedding ceremony at St. Paul's cathedral.
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The newly married Prince and Princess of Wales kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after their wedding ceremony in 1981

“There’s a real issue where arranged marriage keeps getting conflated with forced marriage,” Khan said.

Before moving to Pakistan, she thought they were “quite a standard, fairly negative idea about arranged marriage, and how it fits into the modern world”.

However, upon relocating aged 21, she saw arranged marriages “up close” and changed her mind.

Khan says she saw “very successful and happy arranged marriages” – but, to her surprise, the same narrative was not reflected in popular culture.

Her debut feature film, therefore, is a “celebration of Pakistan… outside of dark politics. The joyful, colourful, hospitable, fun place that I know is part of Pakistani life”, she said.

Imran and Jemima Khan on their wedding day in Richmond, southwest London, on June 1995 Pic: AP
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Imran and Jemima Khan on their wedding day in Richmond, southwest London, on June 1995. Pic: AP

Khan told Sky News that producing the film – which has been over a decade in the making – has forced her to reflect on her own life experiences and choices.

“As I get older, I think, if I had parents who could have agreed – and were functional and good at these things – I definitely could have benefitted from being introduced to suitable candidates.”

The 49-year-old added that this would be in the “new incarnation” of arranged marriage – which she, and by extension through the character Kazim, explore as “assisted marriage”.

This, Khan explains, “is basically an introduction of someone suitable and the couple then decide”.

Filmmaker Jemima Khan pictured with her ex-husband, Imran Khan Pic: AP
Image:
Filmmaker Jemima Khan pictured with her ex-husband, Imran Khan Pic: AP

The film, both implicitly and explicitly, challenges the very “real issue” of Islamophobia in film and TV.

Khan told Sky News that television where “Muslims are the good guys” is rare to come by.

“It’s always the Pakistani who’s the terrorist or the suicide bomber, or the fanatic.

“There’s that particular line (in the film)… “We’ve got to leave the airport… we have to leave early because I need to leave time to be randomly selected.

Emma Thompson plays Cath, Zoe's mum Pic: YouTube
Image:
Emma Thompson plays Cath, Zoe’s mum. Pic: YouTube

“I’m aware from experience of travelling with my kids, particularly to America where we have to leave extra time in between any flight connections because they have Pakistani names that are not Anglicised – Sulaiman and Kasim Khan – they do get taken off and questioned in a way that I don’t.

“It’s hard to make a film where Muslims are the good guys in America… where they’re much more familiar with Muslims playing the baddies. Islamophobia I think is a real issue. I think it’s every bit as big an issue as racism.”

‘What’s Love…’, is Khan’s personal homage to a culture – and its people – she says helped raise her.

What’s Love Got To Do With It will be released in UK cinemas on Friday 24 February.

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Backstage With… Bryan Cranston on his latest series and forgiveness: ‘We’ve lost empathy’

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Backstage With... Bryan Cranston on his latest series and forgiveness: 'We've lost empathy'

Bryan Cranston has told Sky News’ Backstage podcast that he feels America has “lost empathy”.

The Breaking Bad star was speaking ahead of the release of the second series of his show, Your Honor, in which he plays Michael Desiato, a judge whose moral convictions are tested when his son kills another teenager in a hit-and-run.

Originally planned as a limited series, Cranston says he decided to sign on for a second and final season as the idea of exploring potential redemption and forgiveness for his character was too tempting to turn down, given the current climate in his home country.

Bryan Cranston stars in Your Honor. Pic: Paramount
Image:
Pic: Paramount

“I felt that especially America – I can’t speak for any other culture or society – we’ve lost a level of empathy within our country,” he said. “We’ve become a coarser, harder, more judgemental, more divisive country; less congenial, less forgiving.

“I think that was in the back of my brain, thinking, wouldn’t it be interesting to have an entire second season that encompasses forgiveness, sadness, despair, suicidal thoughts, redemption; not only asking for forgiveness, but granting forgiveness.

“Where does all that play in a modern society? Because I believe that it is a sign of human strength, not weakness – to ask for forgiveness, to admit fault and take responsibility and accountability for your mistakes and your sins.

“And if you are granted forgiveness, that is also an act of high character, and I know there have been country leaders who might have thought elsewise, but I believe it is something that is a very profound experience.”

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It’s easy to draw comparisons between Cranston’s character in Your Honor and the one he’s best known for – Breaking Bad’s Walter White.

Both start their shows as regular people with lives bound by the same morals that most of us live by; both see those morals decline until their lives are turned on their heads.

Jessie and Walter cooked up drugs in their university lab in Breaking Bad. Pic. Sony
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Cranston as Walter White and Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad. Pic. Sony

Cranston says this kind of character arc is something he looks for in a role.

“Any well-drawn character has to learn from that experience. So whether the character starts on a high and ends at a low, or starts on a low and ends on a high – or starts on a low, hits the high, goes back to a low or whatever the diagram becomes for that character’s journey – as long as they have movement, it is important.

“Stagnation is the enemy, apathy is the enemy, I’m not interested in characters that are not invested in something – a goal, have something that they’re hoping to achieve or become, or overcome perhaps; fears and the like. So it is movement that I look for when I take on characters.”

Your Honor explores the idea that any of us is capable of anything, when tested with the right circumstances. Cranston says the reality is that all of us blur the lines when it comes to what we think is right.

“Parents lie to their kids because you have to sometimes just to keep them in line, or don’t want to tell them the truth about this situation right now,” he said.

“That line moves and it’s always interesting, and I think what audiences look for in characterisation is that they resonate with what they’re seeing, what they’re witnessing.”

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For Cranston, the work comes in making a character relatable.

“That’s my goal… if I feel that something is socially important, or that I personally went through something, or feel it’s an honest depiction of someone going through something, that’s when I think that audiences will invest in those characters; not just watch passively, but actually be actively involved in the outcome of a character’s life, and that’s when you know you’ve got them.

“That’s really an actor’s responsibility, is to take an audience by the hand and promise them a journey and you take them on a ride and it’s emotional and physical and it can wear them out and they’ll laugh and they’ll cry.

“And then you deposit them back in their seat and say: ‘Thank you for joining us, we hope that you feel it was a worthwhile journey’. And that’s it.”

Your Honor series 2 is streaming on Paramount+ – hear our review in the latest episode of Backstage, the film and TV podcast from Sky News

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Julian Sands: ‘Intermittent’ aerial searches to continue after bad weather hampered earlier efforts

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Julian Sands: 'Intermittent' aerial searches to continue after bad weather hampered earlier efforts

Aerial patrols are still being carried out “intermittently” in the search for missing British actor Julian Sands who went missing three weeks ago in California.

Normally, similar searches would be downgraded after 10 days, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said.

However, because bad weather has so far hampered efforts, it has been decided to extend the search period.

“Our Aviation Division continues to patrol that area, intermittently, in search of Mr Sands,” a spokesman said.

“Typically, we search for 10 days before downgrading to a passive search. In this case, with the weather precluding a continuous search, we extended those plans.

“While weather and mountain conditions continue to be an issue, we will resume ground searches once weather conditions permit and as the snow melts.”

Sands, 65, was reported missing on 13 January after he failed to return from a hike in the Mount Baldy region of the San Gabriel mountains.

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Numerous searches for the actor have since been undertaken on foot and by air by both local and state-level agencies.

Authorities have previously used a Recco device, which is able to detect electronics and credit cards, in the hope of establishing a more exact area in which to focus search efforts.

Last weekend, Sand’s hiking partner and friend Kevin Ryan said it was obvious “something has gone wrong” but that the actor’s advanced experience and skill would “hopefully” see his safe return.

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