Shaun Ryder is talking TV. As one of Gogglebox’s resident celebrity armchair critics, alongside partner in crime Bez, he’s happy commentating on the small screen.
The X Factor (RIP) had its place for family viewing, he reckons – it’s good if you “sound like Frank Sinatra and can do a dance”, although he knows Happy Mondays “wouldn’t have made it through auditions” – but he has no patience for Love Island: “I can’t watch a load of adults with minds of babies.”
Ryder also keeps up with the news, especially in the 18 months since COVID-19 first hit. “The problem is, though, I don’t retain stuff, like that’s just on and done, so I’ve got to be constantly told what’s going on. Otherwise, it’s just gone.”
At 58, Ryder now, finally, has discovered the reason for his short attention span, previously blamed on his well-documented years of excess as the Madchester era’s most recognisable party animal. He was diagnosed with ADHD earlier this year, which was “like a light bulb going on” in his brain.
“It explains everything,” he says in that unmistakable Mancunian accent. “I went and got tested because out of my four daughters I had two that had [been] diagnosed with ADHD. My youngest girl was finding difficulty with the education side of things and everything. And then I went and got tested and it’s all come from me.
“But as soon as I got the result… one, it told me why my life’s been so chaotic, you know, why I didn’t learn the alphabet till I was 28 years old. Why I find things like just paying bills difficult and lots of other stuff… why as a young man, a young kid, you know, when I took drugs, I felt normal. I didn’t feel like my underpants was on back to front, you know? I felt like I was in my own skin.”
ADHD is not the only diagnosis Ryder has received recently, having caught COVID-19 in the early stages of the pandemic in 2020. He thinks he is suffering from long COVID, although it is getting better. “I’d be guaranteed once or twice a week I’d go completely under and have to go to bed, but over the months and months now that’s got less and less,” he says. “I’ve not had another episode for quite a few months now but I do still get one every now and then I’ll just end up floored.”
He pauses before adding: “I could breathe, though. Main thing with me is I’ve got a fixation about breathing, so as long as I could breathe, it was all right… yeah, it’s not a good idea not to breathe, is it?”
Ryder has also had to deal with his hair falling out, the result of a change in his treatment for an underactive thyroid a few years ago. Now, it looks like it’s starting to grow back. “No, that’s a tattoo!” he says. “That’s called skin pigmentation, that, so are my eyebrows, same thing.”
The doctor told him the reason for losing his hair was stress, he says. “But to me, I’ve been the least stressful in the whole of my life.”
He certainly seems content, and has long extolled the virtues of clean living after his years of taking heroin and other drugs. He is still working with the Happy Mondays and his second band, Black Grape, and is also just about to release a solo album, Visits From Future Technology, which comes almost 20 years after his first, Amateur Night In The Big Top, which was released in 2003.
The songs on this album were actually written years ago, before he reinvented himself in the I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! Jungle in 2010, and then put on the shelf while he continued to build on the nation’s newfound appreciation. During lockdown they were discovered “down the back of a sofa” and he decided to do something with them. Did he have to rewrite much to bring them up to date?
Not really, he says. “I mean, I’m always writing about the same old crap. I write about the same stuff I did back in ’88, which is like anything, madness, what I see on television, or conversations with people, or escapades that Bez gets up to and, you know, all the same stuff that I’ve wrote about for years, really. Nothing really changes in my mind. I’ve got about a million things going on at once, they all get to come out in songs.”
Fittingly, the first single is called Mumbo Jumbo. There’s also a track called Popstars Daughters, which is a tongue in cheek warning, he says. “A long time ago when I was a good looking young pop star – I could have been called a pop star, I don’t suppose now – but I’ve got four daughters, and I’ve also dated a couple of pop stars’ daughters, so… the song really I wrote for my girls is a bit of a tongue in cheek sort of thing.”
“I know people have had a really bad time and people [have been] locked up on the 24th floor of the tower blocks and that, but I had an all right, er, lock up… what was it called again, when we all stopped doing it? Lockdown, yeah! I had a pretty all right lockdown. I haven’t spent that amount of time at home in the last 25 years. I got to spend a lot of time with the wife and the kids and the family.”
But now Ryder, and his family – “they’ve had enough of me now” – are ready for live gigs once again. He has a tour with Black Grape coming up and later plans to tour the solo record; the singer is double jabbed and ready to go, he says.
How does he feel about the idea of vaccine passports potentially being needed for nightclubs and gigs? “Whatever [the government] is gonna do they’ve got to do it quick and it needs doing now, whatever they’re going to do,” he says. “There’s no reason why it’s… if we’re all supposed to be vaccined up and everything then they should be opening up, stop messing about, open everything up.”
He thinks the government’s handling of the pandemic has been “a bit of hit and miss” but “I suppose whatever government would be in power, they wouldn’t have got it right, straight away”.
On the Matt Hancock affair scandal, he laughs. “Well, what’s new there? It’s always been one law for one lot of people and another law for another lot of people. I wouldn’t expect anything else.”
Ryder has performed two shows already since restrictions lifted, one with Happy Mondays and one with Black Grape, which were great, he says. Some people chose to wear masks, others didn’t. No one was “mithered about anybody else”. He has plans in place for touring and making music over the next few years at least. “I don’t have hobbies,” he says. “I get asked what my hobbies are and my hobby is making music and playing music and being involved.”
The only thing that will stop Ryder, he says, is “doing a Tommy Cooper or whatever”. (Cooper died on stage live on television in 1984). “Look at all the ones that I grew up with, like the Stones and Tom Jones and all those guys, and The Who and Roger Daltrey. I mean, Roger Daltrey is fit as a butcher’s dog. You seen him? If you enjoy what you do you don’t stop, you just do it.”
So that’s the plan for Shaun Ryder, along with Gogglebox and his other ventures, which continue to see him living his best life, reinvented as a national treasure. How does he feel about the term?
“Well, you know…” For just a brief moment he seems lost for words. “It’s better than n**head, isn’t it? So, you know… I can live with it.”
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”.
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.
“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.
“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.
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”.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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
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.
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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