Tim Pigott-Smith RIP


One of the best mini-series villains of all time was Major Ronald Merrick, played with sneering desperation by Tim Pigott-Smith in the 1984 hit, The Jewel in the Crown.


His major, furiously driven by the knowledge that he would never measure up in the super-stratified society of the English upper-crusties in India during World War II, still had that one indelible moment of pure, aching vulnerability when Daphne Manners gently turned down his proposal of marriage. He was doomed, and he knew it. (Especially when compared to the suave heartthrob, Charles Dance.)


Pigott-Smith was an incredibly versatile actor, and starred in 2015 as King Charles III on Broadway in the eponymous play that brought him even more acclaim in this country. He still had the aura of youthfulness, as Glenn O’Brien did (my obit yesterday), so it was a shock to see that he died suddenly at the age of 70.


There is something about that age, I guess. (Alan Rickman nearly made it. I still miss him terribly.)



I have been a bad blogger this year – too much work and other stuff getting in the way – but I am going to try to do better. In the meantime, I am still reeling from the unexpected loss of my friend, the brilliant and incomparable Alan Rickman.


My son and I saw him in London at summer’s end and he was in fine form. When he said, “Your mother is one of my oldest friends” to my son, it meant the world to us.


Much has been written about Alan elsewhere, and all I want to say here is that he will be truly, madly, deeply missed – not just by me and all who loved him personally, but by the millions of fans who learned what great acting is by hearing that magical voice and seeing him on stage or in the movies. It is a heartbreaking, shattering loss.



One of my favorite actresses has died at the age of 82. The Guardian’s Michael Coveney summed it up best in his (non-sexist) obit: Geraldine McEwan “could purr like a kitten, snap like a viper and, like Shakespeare’s Bottom, roar you as gently as any sucking dove. She was a brilliant, distinctive and decisive performer whose career incorporated high comedy on the West End stage, Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon, Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre, and a cult television following in EF Benson’s Mapp and Lucia (1985-86).”


If you haven’t seen (or read) Mapp and Lucia, oh how you are in for a treat!


Geraldine was as wonderful on the small screen as she was in movies or on stage. Recent fans know her as Miss Marple, but one of my favorite performances was in Robin Hood—the version starring Kevin Costner. Geraldine played the Witch and my friend Alan Rickman the evil Sheriff, and not surprisingly the two of them were so rivetingly brilliant in their scenes together than many of them were cut down so as not to upstage poor little Robin of Hood. Of course. That’s Hollywood, right?


And I remember seeing her in a fantastic staging of Ionesco’s The Chairs at The Royal Court.


She was a marvel.


One of the happiest nights I ever spent was in Los Angeles, when my friend Alan Rickman was filming Die Hard, and a bunch of us went to the house he was renting above Sunset and watched Robin Williams do a live, televised stand-up show (I think it was Live at the Met). We were literally crying with laughter, in puddles on the floor.

How could any one man be so funny, so clever, so on-target, and so endearing? I interviewed him several times and he always gave great copy to journalists. But then I made the mistake of accidentally sitting next to him one night at a dive-y comedy club, also in L.A., and his then-wife glared at me with shocking malevolence. Maybe he was out of his tree that night. Who knows. But I still remember that evening.

Like so many other comedians, Robin battled demons. There was the highly public battle with cocaine and drink. There were divorces. There was a recent stay in rehab and other rumors of late.

Not many know, too, that he was utterly devastated when his close friend and former roommate Christopher Reeve died in 2004, and then Christopher’s wife, Dana, died a scant two years later from lung cancer when she was only 44.

But to have killed himself at 63 is just….beyond.

For a man who spoke so quickly, his mind moving at warp speed, his every other word a laugh, his genius for improv jaw-dropping, I am stunned into speechlessness.

He made so many people laugh and cry over the years, from Mork & Mindy to Mrs. Doubtfire to the Genie in Aladdin to Good Morning, Vietnam to his Oscar-winning performance in Good Will Hunting.

And he’s tragic proof that even when you have astonishing talent and world-wide acclaim and wonderful children and a loving spouse, depression is a very real illness.

And a very real killer.

Carpe diem.



I was very sad to see that Richard Griffiths has died after complications from heart surgery. He was only 65.

I met Richard on the set of Harry Potter, which my wonderful friend Alan Rickman had invited us to—making my son the happiest boy in the world—and then saw him again when he was in NYC, starring on Broadway in his Tony-Award-winning performance of The History Boys. A group of us had a late dinner, and sat around and laughed and drank. He was just incredibly nice, the polar opposite of Vernon Dursley.

Richard had a long career as a character actor, particularly in one of my favorite movies, Withnail and I.

The tributes are heartfelt and loving, as he was.