Cate Blanchett’s production company Dirty Films scores a first-look TV deal with FX Networks

Cate Blanchett’s production company Dirty Films scores a first-look TV deal with FX Networks following the runaway success of her series Mrs. America

Cate Blanchett‘s production company Dirty Films has scored a first-look TV deal with FX Productions.

The exciting new deal is set to cover all scripted and unscripted programming for FX with further possibility to branch out to its umbrella company’s Walt Disney Television divisions.

The deal is a significant step for the Oscar-winner who founded the independent film and television company with Australian playwright Andrew Upton and American film producer, Coco Francini, earlier this year. 

Major news! Cate Blanchett’s production company Dirty Films has scored a first-look TV deal with FX Productions [The actress pictured at the Golden Globe Awards in January] 

Cate recently starred in, and executive produced the historical drama miniseries Mrs. America, which aired on FX networks.

The success of which had Gina Balian, the president of programming for FX Entertainment, singing the star’s praises.

‘Cate Blanchett is a legendary talent, and it was little surprise that her first role as an Executive Producer and star in an American television program – ‘Mrs. America’ – was such an overwhelming success,’ she gushed.

Speaking further about the exciting new deal, Gina said: ‘Cate, Andrew and Coco are equally talented at crafting and producing incredible stories, and we welcome this opportunity to support their future television projects under this overall agreement.’

Soon to come: The new deal will cover all scripted and unscripted programming for FX with further possibility to branch out to its umbrella company's Walt Disney Television divisions

Soon to come: The new deal will cover all scripted and unscripted programming for FX with further possibility to branch out to its umbrella company’s Walt Disney Television divisions

Talented: Cate recently starred in, and executive produced the historical drama miniseries Mrs. America, which aired on FX networks [Pictured on the show]

Talented: Cate recently starred in, and executive produced the historical drama miniseries Mrs. America, which aired on FX networks [Pictured on the show]

Dirty Film productions have also been home to a further slew of recent success stories such as the Australian miniseries Stateless, starring Jai Courtney and Yvonne Strahovski.

They also produced the horror flick, The Turning, starring Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard, last year.

In a statement issued by the company, they detailed their pure delight in furthering their relationship with FX networks.

'She is a legendary talent': The success of which had Gina Balian, the president of programming for FX Entertainment, singing the star's praises

‘She is a legendary talent’: The success of which had Gina Balian, the president of programming for FX Entertainment, singing the star’s praises

‘We are excited to continue working with John (Landgraf), Eric (Schrier), Gina and the entire brilliant team at FX.

‘Through our collaboration on Mrs. America, we’ve experienced firsthand their enthusiasm for robust conversations, and their unwavering support for bold and ambitious entertainment.’

Hollywood megastar Cate has been the recipient of two Oscars – first for her role in 2004’s Blue Jasmine and then The Aviator in 2005.

No stopping her! The deal is a significant step for the Oscar-winner who founded the independent film and television company with Australian playwright Andrew Upton and American film producer, Coco Francini, earlier this year

No stopping her! The deal is a significant step for the Oscar-winner who founded the independent film and television company with Australian playwright Andrew Upton and American film producer, Coco Francini, earlier this year

Brooklyn Beckham, 21, and Nicola Peltz, 25, ‘plan to tie the knot with TWO weddings next year’

Brooklyn Beckham and his new fiancée Nicola Peltz are reportedly set to tie the knot in two separate weddings next year.

The photographer, 21, and actress, 25, announced that they were engaged on Saturday following reports he had popped the question.

And now alleged details have emerged of the couple’s upcoming nuptials, which are said to be costing £4 million.

Wedding bells! Brooklyn Beckham and his new fiancée Nicola Peltz are reportedly set to tie the knot in two separate weddings next year

Nicola’s billionaire father, Nelson Peltz, 78, is reportedly paying for the wedding with Brooklyn’s parents Victoria and David Beckham also wanting to ‘contribute’.

The nuptials are said to be taking place in both the UK and Florida with the couple allegedly expected to sign pre-nups at the behest of Nicola’s father, who is said to be worth £1.34 billion.

While Brooklyn’s little sister, Harper, nine, will reportedly be ‘chief bridesmaid’ and his brothers Romeo, 17, and Cruz, 15, acting as his ‘ushers’.   

A source told The Sun: ‘Everyone is delighted for them. Brooklyn has always looked up to his parents and grandparents, who have been married for a combined 70 years, and that’s what he wants.

Wow: The photographer, 21, and actress, 25, announced that they were engaged on Saturday following reports he had popped the question

Wow: The photographer, 21, and actress, 25, announced that they were engaged on Saturday following reports he had popped the question

Exciting: And now alleged details have emerged of the couple's upcoming nuptials, which are said to be costing £4 million

Exciting: And now alleged details have emerged of the couple’s upcoming nuptials, which are said to be costing £4 million 

‘David and Victoria are thrilled. They feel he has finally met a girl who is not after him for fame or money. In fact, her family wealth dwarfs the Beckhams.’ 

They added: ‘It’s too early to set a date, but they’re aiming for the end of next summer or early autumn.’  

MailOnline has contacted both Nicola and Brooklyn’s representatives.  

While Victoria, who has a net worth of £335 million alongside husband David, is said to be designing one of the wedding dresses that Nicola will wear at one of their wedding ceremonies.

The happy couple are also reportedly keen to move to the US permanently, and are said to be house-hunting in LA where Brooklyn has allegedly been offered a number of internships. 

Brooklyn took to Instagram on Saturday to announce he was engaged following reports he had popped the question to his ‘soulmate’ Nicola, 25. 

He is said to have proposed on the weekend of David and Victoria’s 21st wedding anniversary, and gave her a £250,000 ring he had designed. 

The son of David and Victoria Beckham vowed to be the best ‘husband and daddy’ as he shared the gushing tribute to his bride-to-be.

Helping: Nicola's billionaire father, Nelson Peltz, 78, is reportedly paying for the wedding with Brooklyn's parents Victoria and David Beckham also wanting to 'contribute'

Helping: Nicola’s billionaire father, Nelson Peltz, 78, is reportedly paying for the wedding with Brooklyn’s parents Victoria and David Beckham also wanting to ‘contribute’

Sharing a stunning snap of the couple, he wrote ‘Two weeks ago I asked my soulmate to marry me and she said yes xx I am the luckiest man in the world. I promise to be the best husband and the best daddy one day. I love you baby xx’ 

In the snap Brooklyn held his hand to the actress’ waist, while she held her ring-clad hand to his face in an intimate snap, taken by his little sister Harper, nine.

Nicola looked stunning in a flowing yellow dress with frill detailing, while Brooklyn looked handsome in a two-piece navy suit for the engagement snap.  

Brooklyn and Nicola shared identical images on their Instagram pages, as the Bates Motel star admitted she was feeling like the ‘luckiest girl in the world’.

Elated: Brooklyn and Nicola shared identical images on their Instagram pages, as the Bates Motel star admitted she was feeling like the 'luckiest girl in the world' to be engaged to him

Elated: Brooklyn and Nicola shared identical images on their Instagram pages, as the Bates Motel star admitted she was feeling like the ‘luckiest girl in the world’ to be engaged to him

She wrote: ‘You’ve made me the luckiest girl in the world. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life by your side. your love is the most precious gift. I love you so so much baby and thank you harper for this pic.’

Underneath her post, Brooklyn replied: ‘ My girl forever xxx I love you more than anything.’

It appears the image was taken recently following the couple’s return to the Cotswolds, after isolating together in New York.

Happy: Just moments after the online announcement, fashion mogul Victoria took to her own Instagram account to offer the couple her congratulations

Happy: Just moments after the online announcement, fashion mogul Victoria took to her own Instagram account to offer the couple her congratulations

Victoria wrote: 'The MOST exciting news!! We could not be happier that Brooklyn and Nicola are getting married! Wishing you so much love and a lifetime of happiness. We all love you both so much x'

Victoria wrote: ‘The MOST exciting news!! We could not be happier that Brooklyn and Nicola are getting married! Wishing you so much love and a lifetime of happiness. We all love you both so much x’

The news broke online on Friday evening that Brooklyn had asked Nicola to be his wife and he has confirmed the speculation just hours later.

Just moments after the online announcement, fashion mogul Victoria took to her own Instagram account to offer the couple her congratulations.

Dazzling! Nicola flashed a glimpse of her dazzling diamond ring in the photograph, which is said to have cost Brooklyn £250,000

Dazzling! Nicola flashed a glimpse of her dazzling diamond ring in the photograph, which is said to have cost Brooklyn £250,000

She wrote: ‘The MOST exciting news!! We could not be happier that Brooklyn and Nicola are getting married! Wishing you so much love and a lifetime of happiness. We all love you both so much x’

An insider told the Mirror on Friday that his parents David, 45, and Victoria, 46, have given their blessing for the marriage to take place.

A source told the publication: ‘Brooklyn has been telling his friends in LA that he and Nicola are engaged. It’s common knowledge among their group of friends. They are smitten.’ 

‘David and Victoria have very much given this relationship their blessing.

‘It’s a very exciting time for the whole family and after a few previous rocky relationships, they think Brooklyn has landed on his feet.’ 

Brooklyn’s brothers Romeo, 17, and Cruz, 15, also sweetly offered their well-wishes on social media as they reported their sibling’s original post on their Stories. 

Brotherly love! Brooklyn's brothers Romeo, 17, and Cruz, 15, also sweetly offered their well-wishes on social media as they reported their sibling's original post on their Stories

Brotherly love! Brooklyn's brothers Romeo, 17, and Cruz, 15, also sweetly offered their well-wishes on social media as they reported their sibling's original post on their Stories

Brotherly love! Brooklyn’s brothers Romeo, 17, and Cruz, 15, also sweetly offered their well-wishes on social media as they reported their sibling’s original post on their Stories

No problem! An insider told the Mirror that his parents David and Victoria have given their blessing for the marriage to take place

No problem! An insider told the Mirror that his parents David and Victoria have given their blessing for the marriage to take place

The pair have been dating for around nine months and Brooklyn has previously dated actress Chloe Grace Moretz and model Hana Cross, both aged 23. 

The couple often make proclamations of their love on social media and have shared several romantic snaps during their time in lockdown.

The pair have been isolating together in New York with actress Nicola having moved in with the celebrity offspring in March following just five months of dating.

Love: Brooklyn has apparently been telling his pals that he popped the question to his other half for a while

Love: Brooklyn has apparently been telling his pals that he popped the question to his other half for a while

Loved-up! The couple often make proclamations of their love on social media and have shared several romantic snaps during their time in lockdown

Loved-up! The couple often make proclamations of their love on social media and have shared several romantic snaps during their time in lockdown

The move also reportedly has the backing of Brooklyn’s famous parents David and Victoria, who seem to think they’re the perfect match.

The source said: ‘[Brooklyn] and Nicola are closer than ever and they are both excited to take their relationship to the next level by sharing the same home.’

‘Nicola has been a big hit with the entire Beckham family – both David and Victoria have made it clear to Brooklyn how much they like her. So they completely support him in this move – though they will miss him a lot.’  

Isolation buddies: The pair have been isolating together in New York with actress Nicola having moved in with the celebrity offspring in March following just five months of dating

Isolation buddies: The pair have been isolating together in New York with actress Nicola having moved in with the celebrity offspring in March following just five months of dating

Brooklyn set up home in the States after ending his internship with iconic photographer Rankin.

The couple have since jetted to the UK to spend time with Brooklyn’s family at their country pad in the Cotswolds and have shared snaps of their reunion. 

Brooklyn was linked to a string of women before meeting Nicola, following his split from model Hana, including Canadian actress Natalie Ganzhorn, 21, and brunette actress Phoebe Torrance, 25.

His high-profile ex-girlfriends include actress Chloe, 23, and French model-singer Sonia Ben Ammar, 21.

Nicola was previously dating the youngest of the Hadid siblings, model Anwar Hadid. It’s believed they dated for just over a year before they split up in May 2018. 

Together again! The couple have since jetted to the UK to spend time with Brooklyn's family at their country pad in the Cotswolds and have shared snaps of their reunion

Together again! The couple have since jetted to the UK to spend time with Brooklyn’s family at their country pad in the Cotswolds and have shared snaps of their reunion

A source told the publication: 'Brooklyn has been telling his friends in LA that he and Nicola are engaged. It's common knowledge among their group of friends. They are smitten'

A source told the publication: ‘Brooklyn has been telling his friends in LA that he and Nicola are engaged. It’s common knowledge among their group of friends. They are smitten’

However the model now appears to be completely loved-up with Nicola and last month the couple wore his mother Victoria’s charity T-shirt to mark Pride Month.

Twinning in their tops, the pair appeared besotted with each other as they enjoyed a smooch in a field.

Brooklyn’s mother, Spice Girl turned fashion designer Victoria, has written about how much much she is missing Brooklyn during lockdown in the UK.

Earlier this year, Nicola declared that she and Brooklyn will be together ‘forever’ as she stressed the strength of their relationship alongside a steamy photograph shared to Instagram. 

Pride! However the model now appears to be completely loved-up with Nicola and last month the couple wore his mother Victoria's charity T-shirt to mark Pride Month

Pride! However the model now appears to be completely loved-up with Nicola and last month the couple wore his mother Victoria’s charity T-shirt to mark Pride Month

Cosy: Nicola declared that she and Brooklyn will be together 'forever' as she stressed the strength of their relationship alongside a steamy photograph shared to Instagram

Cosy: Nicola declared that she and Brooklyn will be together ‘forever’ as she stressed the strength of their relationship alongside a steamy photograph shared to Instagram

Brooklyn Beckham’s failed romances

August 2014 – March 2018 (on and off) – Chloë Grace Moritz 

In August 2014, Brooklyn and actress Chloë Grace Moritz, 23, attended the Teen Choice Awards together and subsequently dated on and off for almost 4 years.

After enjoying a romantic summer together in May 2016 , then split in September 2016. Despite later rekindling their romance, they finally called it quits in March 2018.

During breaks in their relationship, Brooklyn was linked to a bevvy of other famous beauties.

Longterm ex: Brooklyn and actress Chloë Grace Moritz, 23, dated on and off for almost 4 years between August 2014 and March 2018 (Pictured November 2017)

Longterm ex: Brooklyn and actress Chloë Grace Moritz, 23, dated on and off for almost 4 years between August 2014 and March 2018 (Pictured November 2017)

September 2015 – Sonia Ben Ammar

After meeting French-Tunisian model and singer Sonia Ben Ammar, 21, over spring break in the Maldives in 2015, Brooklyn embarked on a relationship with her which lasted for a few months. They briefly re-sparked the romance in 2016 before it fizzled out for good.

Former flame: Brooklyn embarked on a short-lived relationship with French-Tunisian model and singer Sonia Ben Ammar, 21, in 2015 (Pictured March 2017)

Former flame: Brooklyn embarked on a short-lived relationship with French-Tunisian model and singer Sonia Ben Ammar, 21, in 2015 (Pictured March 2017)

October 2016 – Sofia Richie

Brooklyn’s relationship with model Sofia Richie, 21, (daughter of Lionel Richie and sister to actress Nicole Richie) was never officially confirmed, but the pair were frequently spotted together from late 2016 to early 2017.

Brooklyn's relationship with Sofia Richie, 21, was never officially confirmed, but they were spotted together from late 2016 to early 2017 (Pictured January 2017)

Brooklyn’s relationship with Sofia Richie, 21, was never officially confirmed, but they were spotted together from late 2016 to early 2017 (Pictured January 2017)

May 2017 – Rita Ora

It was reported that Brooklyn had a secret flirtation with pop star Rita Ora, 29, in 2017. The pair went for a dinner date and were later spotted holding hands at The Electric in West London. They are said to have shared some steamy smooches before Brooklyn’s parents banned him from seeing her again and sent him back to New York. 

Flirtation: It was reported that Brooklyn had a secret flirtation and some steamy smooches with pop star Rita Ora, 29, in 2017 (Picture from social media)

Flirtation: It was reported that Brooklyn had a secret flirtation and some steamy smooches with pop star Rita Ora, 29, in 2017 (Picture from social media)

July 2017 – Lottie Moss

It was claimed that Brooklyn and Lottie Moss, 22 – half-sister of supermodel Kate Moss – had a ‘secret fling’ before he started dating his now ex-girlfriend Hana Cross. 

Model mania: It was claimed that Brooklyn and Lottie Moss, 22, had a 'secret fling' in July 2017 (Picture from social media)

Model mania: It was claimed that Brooklyn and Lottie Moss, 22, had a ‘secret fling’ in July 2017 (Picture from social media)

April 2018 – Lexi Wood

Brooklyn was pictured kissing Canadian Vogue and Playboy model Lexi Wood, 22, as they sat in a West Hollywood tattoo parlour.

Stunner: In April 2018, Brooklyn was pictured kissing Canadian Playboy model Lexi Wood, 22, as they sat in a West Hollywood tattoo parlour (Picture August 2019)

Stunner: In April 2018, Brooklyn was pictured kissing Canadian Playboy model Lexi Wood, 22, as they sat in a West Hollywood tattoo parlour (Picture August 2019)

May 2018 – July 2018 – Lexy Panterra

Beckham was linked to Lexy Panterra, 29, during the summer of 2018 before he started dating Hana Cross.

The social media star grew to fame for her online LexTwerkOut twerking workout videos.

LexTwerkOut: Beckham was linked to Lexy Panterra, 29, during the summer of 2018 before he started dating Hana Cross (Pictured in April 2017)

LexTwerkOut: Beckham was linked to Lexy Panterra, 29, during the summer of 2018 before he started dating Hana Cross (Pictured in April 2017)

July 2018 – Abi Manzoni

Following his split from Lexy, Brooklyn was romantically linked to Abi Manzoni, a singer/model who runs a legally licensed cannabis company.

Linked: Following his split from Lexy, Brooklyn was romantically linked to Abi Manzoni, a singer/model who runs a legally licensed cannabis company (Pictured July 2018)

Linked: Following his split from Lexy, Brooklyn was romantically linked to Abi Manzoni, a singer/model who runs a legally licensed cannabis company (Pictured July 2018)

August 2018 – Alex Lee Aillon

Brooklyn was also reported to have enjoyed a brief romance with Alex Lee Aillon, 21 – a model represented by Milk and Select Model Management.

Alex Lee is now in a relationship with Hollywood actor Pierce Brosnan’s youngest son Paris, 19. 

Beauty: In August 2018 Brooklyn was also reported to have enjoyed a brief romance with model Alex Lee Aillon, 21 (Pictured September 2019)

Beauty: In August 2018 Brooklyn was also reported to have enjoyed a brief romance with model Alex Lee Aillon, 21 (Pictured September 2019)

December 2018 – July 2019 (on and off) – Hana Cross  

In December 2018 Brooklyn began dating Hana Cross, 23, a successful model signed by three different agencies; Select Model Management, The Lions and Premium Models.

Brooklyn and Hana were reportedly physically separated by security guards during a public row which took place at Hotel Martinez during the Cannes Film Festival in May 2019.

After splitting and reuniting numerous times during their tumultuous 7 months relationship, they finally parted ways for good in July 2019.

On and off: Brooklyn began dating Hana Cross, 23, in December 2018, but after a tumultuous 7 months, they parted ways for good in July 2019 (Pictured May 2019)

On and off: Brooklyn began dating Hana Cross, 23, in December 2018, but after a tumultuous 7 months, they parted ways for good in July 2019 (Pictured May 2019)

October 2019 – Phoebe Torrance & Natalie Ganzhorn

After splitting from Hana, and before beginning his relationship with Nicola Peltz, Brooklyn reportedly enjoyed dalliances with a couple of actresses.

He was pictured at London’s Wellington club with actress Phoebe Torrance, 25, who is the daughter of former professional golfer Sam Torrance. Phoebe has starred as Amber Ross in horror Mandy the Doll and in boxing drama Six Rounds. The starlet also featured in an episode of Friday Night Dinner as Mandy The Waitress.

Around the same time, Brooklyn was also linked to Canadian actress Natalie Ganzhorn, 21. The social media star and Toronto-born model who now lives in LA is best known for her part in popular Canadian musical comedy series Make It Pop, playing the role of Heather until the TV show ended in 2016.  

Dalliance: Phoebe was pictured at London's Wellington club with actress Phoebe Torrance, 25, daughter of professional golfer Sam Torrance (Picture from social media)

Dalliance: Phoebe was pictured at London’s Wellington club with actress Phoebe Torrance, 25, daughter of professional golfer Sam Torrance (Picture from social media)

Canadian cutie: In October 2019 Brooklyn was also linked to Canadian actress Natalie Ganzhorn, 21 (Pictured November 2019)

Canadian cutie: In October 2019 Brooklyn was also linked to Canadian actress Natalie Ganzhorn, 21 (Pictured November 2019)

Donald Trump is pictured openly wearing a mask for the first time as he visits Walter Reed hospital

Trump wears a mask in public for the first time on visit to Walter Reed Medical Center to visit wounded veterans after ‘pressure from aides amid surging COVID-19 cases nationwide’

  • The president visited Walter Reed military hospital on Saturday afternoon
  • Trump was photographed wearing a face mask in a rare gesture
  • Aides ‘pleaded’ with the president to be photographed in a mask, CNN reported 
  • He has usually declined to do so, but on May 21 he wore a face mask in Michigan 

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Donald Trump has donned a face mask to visit recuperating military personnel at the Walter Reed military hospital, in a rare nod to the coronavirus pandemic.

Health experts agree that face masks are useful at stopping the spread of COVID-19. 

The president has repeatedly shrugged off suggestions of wearing a mask, saying that it causes people to touch their face too much and so is not helpful.

Trump told Fox News on Thursday that he would wear a face mask during the trip. 

Donald Trump on Saturday wore a face mask to visit the Walter Reed hospital

Marine One left the South Lawn of the White House at 5:14pm, en route to the Walter Reed hospital in Bethesda, Maryland

Marine One left the South Lawn of the White House at 5:14pm, en route to the Walter Reed hospital in Bethesda, Maryland

The president was seen arriving at the medical facility at 5:24pm. President Trump was not wearing a mask on arrival

The president was seen arriving at the medical facility at 5:24pm. President Trump was not wearing a mask on arrival

‘I’m going to Walter Reed to see some of our great soldiers who have been injured,’ he told Sean Hannity. 

‘Badly injured. And also see some of our Covid workers, people who have such a great job. 

‘And I expect to be wearing a mask when I go into Walter Reed. You’re in a hospital so I think it’s a very appropriate thing.’ 

The Walter Reed website includes guidance that states visitors ‘are expected to wear a cloth face covering over their nose and mouth upon entering and while moving about the facility… when not able to maintain 6 feet of social distancing.’ 

The president wrapped his visit inside the hospital at about 6:10pm, and Marine Force One flew him back to the White House at 6:25pm. 

Trump’s decision to model a mask in public view and tout it during a Fox News interview Thursday night came after a quiet lobbying campaign by some White House aides and political advisers, aides familiar with the discussions told CNN.

Some of his aides were reportedly concerned by the sight of so many maskless Trump supporters at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month and worried by the surge of coronavirus cases in the South.

All of those present with the president were photographed wearing face masks

All of those present with the president were photographed wearing face masks

Pictured before leaving the White House on Saturday, the president was not wearing a mask

Pictured before leaving the White House on Saturday, the president was not wearing a mask

One presidential adviser described the effort as more than a week of ‘lots of negotiation’ and repeated ‘pleading’ by aides who urged the president to set an example for his supporters by wearing a mask on the visit.

Until this week, Trump had resisted that coaxing, in part because he is tested daily and views it as an unnecessary step and also because he has not wanted to give into media criticism and pressure.

‘I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,’ Trump said during a May visit to a Ford plant in Michigan, where he refused to wear a mask in view of the press in defiance of Ford rules.

He did don the mask when he thought people were not looking. 

Trump was caught on camera, away from the press, wearing a mask on May 21 in Michigan

Trump was caught on camera, away from the press, wearing a mask on May 21 in Michigan

He showed off the mask to press during the Michigan trip, but did not want photos wearing it

He showed off the mask to press during the Michigan trip, but did not want photos wearing it

Trump’s visit to Walter Reed Saturday will come just hours before he rallies his supporters in New Hampshire – a rally scheduled for Friday evening, but postponed due to poor weather.

Advisers hope his decision to wear a mask will encourage rally attendees to do the same.

The Trump campaign is now ‘strongly encouraging’ attendees to wear masks – a notable difference from Trump’s political events over the past several weeks, where mask-wearing was scarce and few steps were taken to encourage it.  

He has refused requests to make masks mandatory at his events.  

‘It’s fine to wear a mask if it makes you feel comfortable,’ he said.

A Trump political adviser told CNN the president is not in favor of forcing people to wear them.

‘That is the president. He does not want to say it,’ the adviser said.

From Julie’s Library to Doing It Right & Scarlett Moffatt Wants To Believe: This week’s top podcasts

From Julie Andrews’ new podcast, Julie’s Library to This American Life, Doing It Right & Scarlett Moffatt Wants To Believe, this week’s top podcasts

Julie’s Library

I could listen to Julie Andrews read the side of a packet of Pringles. In her new podcast, she settles down with her daughter Emma to read their favourite children’s books. 

In Julie Andrews’ new podcast, she settles down with her daughter Emma to read their favourite children’s books; it’s made intelligently enough to be endurable for grown-ups too

The podcast is very much for kids but it’s made intelligently enough to be endurable for grown-ups too. The stories are laced with sound effects that elevate proceedings to something quite immersive.

 

This American Life

This is the grandfather of podcasts – its team made the hit show Serial, and the verbal tics of its host, Ira Glass, have become embedded in podcasts across the globe. I’ve recently tuned back in and am pleased to report the show is still top-notch. Episodes are arranged around quirky stories of American life. Start with ‘The Reprieve’, which plunges listeners into an intensive care unit in Michigan.

 

Scarlett Moffatt Wants To Believe

Gogglebox star Scarlett Moffatt is a sucker for conspiracy theories. In her joyful new BBC podcast, she attempts to persuade her sceptical ‘boyf’ and ‘bestie’, Scott, that the bizarre things she believes are rooted in fact. 

Scarlett Moffatt is a sucker for conspiracy theories. In her joyful new podcast, she attempts to persuade her sceptical boyf, Scott, that the bizarre things she believes are rooted in fact

Scarlett Moffatt is a sucker for conspiracy theories. In her joyful new podcast, she attempts to persuade her sceptical boyf, Scott, that the bizarre things she believes are rooted in fact

Boyfriend-girlfriend podcasts mostly set my teeth on edge, but this one is charming. A good starting point is the show about the Loch Ness monster.

 

Doing It Right

Journalist Pandora Sykes is one half of the couple behind hit podcast The High Low. Now she has a new series by herself about the ‘trivialities, myths and anxieties’ of modern life. Episodes are weekly, 40 minutes long, and dig into questions Sykes has been asking herself after years of writing about women, capitalism and popular culture. The first episode is with comedian Joe Lycett.

Director OLIVER STONE: ‘I actually saw the man I killed which was rare in Vietnam… I feel no guilt

In the summer of 1968, as a 21-year-old soldier in Vietnam, I became an acknowledged killer. 

We had run into a mean little ambush which had cost us a lieutenant and a sergeant, as well as our scout dog, a German shepherd I’d taken a liking to.

It was one of those strange firefights that grew from a few random shots into a disorganised raging storm of bullets. 

And now it was becoming even more than that – a mean little ambush set up between our two platoons that could result in a dangerous crossfire.

I was under no obligation to do anything but keep my head down and let it work itself out. Yet I strongly felt I had to do something, or this would really turn ugly.

Oliver Stone (pictured) was a solider in Vietnam, having arrived in September 1967. He would go on to document his story in the Oscar-winning film ‘Platoon’

In an extract of the soldier-turned-director's new memoirs, Stone reveals how he went from Vietnam to film-making and how his experience on the front line changed him

In an extract of the soldier-turned-director’s new memoirs, Stone reveals how he went from Vietnam to film-making and how his experience on the front line changed him 

Maybe I was just cold and angry about the dog’s death, or the futility of it all. Or maybe I just had a headache and the sun was burning too hot in my eyes. Who the f*** knows these things? All I knew was that this was my moment to act.

Exposing myself to the enemy, I moved up quickly on a one-man spider hole between our two platoons – from which I sensed someone had just fired. On instinct, from 15 yards out, I pulled the pin on my grenade and hurled it.

It was a crazy risk. If I’d overthrown the grenade it probably would’ve wounded or killed some of our own men crouched beyond the hole. 

But it was a perfect pitch, and the grenade sailed into the tiny hole like a long throw from an outfielder into a catcher’s mitt, followed quickly by the concussed thump of the explosion. Wow. I’d done it!

Warily I moved in closer, thinking he might still be alive, but when I looked down into the hole the young man was mauled, torn and very dead. It felt good. I actually saw the man I killed, which was rare in this jungle warfare.

The dozen men who saw the action seemed astonished by my move. Somehow word got around, and I was quite surprised a week later to be told that I was going to get a Bronze Star, awarded for valour in combat. For what? Doing what I was supposed to do.

My description might seem callous, but it isn’t – that moment will stay with me for the rest of my life. I see the moment again and again in my consciousness.

I feel no guilt. He’s dead. I’m alive. That’s the way it works. We all trade places, if not in this life then in another time and place.

I’d volunteered for the US Infantry in April of ’67 after quitting Yale University for a second time a few months earlier. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. But I knew what I didn’t want – and that was to be like my stockbroker father Lou Stone, dearly though I loved him.

To my parents’ puzzlement, I insisted on enrolling as a private, rejecting Officer Training School. I wanted to be like everybody else: an anonymous infantryman, cannon fodder, down there in the muck with the masses.

It’d be a long journey before I’d return. And none of us, when we went, reckoned with the after-effects of Vietnam.

Nineteen sixty-eight was a year most of my generation remember. For us, it started with a real bang on January 1. We’d been out patrolling the Cambodian border, chasing ‘Apaches’ without much luck. We rarely saw more than two of them at the same time.

But we knew they were there because we found stores of weapons, rice, maps, paperwork – but never ‘them’.

As night fell, our two-battalion perimeter came under massive attack from a North Vietnamese regiment coming across the Cambodian border. The battle would last till nearly dawn. The sound of small-arms fire, heavy artillery and bombs hardly let up all night, bigger than any fireworks I’d ever seen. Stunningly beautiful, in its way.

And now there was an enormous roar, like I suppose the end of the world sounds.

Like a shark cutting through water, an F-4 Phantom jet fighter was coming in very low over our perimeter out of the night sky. So low, that doomsday sound. They were going to drop their payload on us and we were all going to die. 

Stone (pictured right on patrol in Vietnam with a M60 machine gun in 1980) volunteered for the US Infantry in April 1967 after quitting Yale University

Stone (pictured right on patrol in Vietnam with a M60 machine gun in 1980) volunteered for the US Infantry in April 1967 after quitting Yale University

I jumped into the closest foxhole and buried myself as deep as I could in the earth, which trembled and shook as a 500 lb bomb dropped somewhere close.

There was nothing for me to do except stay alive. Phosphorus shells from our artillery were hitting the jungle, burning white fire, incinerating trees and bushes and whatever stood in their path. The smell was chemical and horrific. Suddenly, at about 4am, the noise subsided.

The next hour hung there in the torpor, the sweat of the jungle. Soldiers, dazed, appeared here and there. There had been a battle. ‘They’d’ been here, that’s for sure, but I hadn’t seen a single one of them.

Full daylight revealed charred bodies, dusty napalm and grey trees. Men who died grimacing, in frozen positions, some of them still standing or kneeling in rigor mortis, white chemical death on their faces. 

Dead, so dead. Some covered in white ash, some burned black. Their expressions, if they could be seen, were overtaken with anguish and horror.

In the next hours I grasped the extent of what had happened. Most of the dead were fully uniformed, well-armed North Vietnamese regulars. 

Those who were relatively intact we brought in on stretchers, walking out to find them, or pieces of them. A bulldozer had been airlifted in to dig burial pits. I helped throw the bloating bodies into the giant pits late into that day.

There were maybe 400 of their dead. We’d lost some 25 men, with more than 150 wounded, yet I hadn’t fired a single shot or even seen one enemy soldier. It was bizarre.

We worked in rotating shifts, two men, three men, swinging the corpses like a haul of fish from the sea. Later we poured fuel on them, and then the bulldozers rolled mounds of dirt over them, so they’d be for ever extinct.

I was too young to understand. No person should ever have to witness so much death.

Almost a year later, in November 1968, I left Vietnam. By this time I’d served in three different combat units. I’d been wounded and evacuated twice – the first when a piece of shrapnel (or possibly a bullet) went clean through my neck in a night ambush; the second after a daylight enemy ambush, where shrapnel from a charge planted in a tree penetrated my legs and buttocks.

They finally released me at Fort Lewis, Washington.

Still in my khaki uniform, I took the Greyhound bus south and walked aimlessly around San Francisco, as if looking at everything for the first time. Suddenly I missed my companions in the army. I don’t think any of us ever reckoned with coming home.

I took LSD in Santa Cruz, bussed down to Los Angeles and, after several dreamy, stoned days, crossed into the Mexican border town of Tijuana, terrified already of the country I’d just returned to.

I hadn’t even called my father or mother, anyone. I was happy to disappear. All I wanted to do was party, drink and find myself a Mexican woman, like any sailor or soldier boy.

With a 2oz bag of strong Vietnamese marijuana I was carrying I was feeling no pain, on top of the world – no officers or sergeants to tell me what to do. I was free – and stupid.

One night, after midnight, I grew depressed and bored with the seedy Tijuana scene and, gathering my few belongings, wandered back across the border into the US. What was I thinking? Did I have a screw loose? I did. I was 23.

At the near-empty border crossing, an old, nervous customs agent asked me to step into the station. It must’ve been easy. I looked the part. Within an hour I was handcuffed to a chair, being interrogated by FBI agents.

Clearly I should have left the damn Vietnamese weed in some footlocker in the US. But, then again, I didn’t know if I was going further south or coming back.

Within a day or two I was processed into the downtown San Diego County Jail with a capacity of about 2,000 beds, but which was now occupied by between 4,000 and 5,000 mostly tough black and Hispanic kids. Many of them were still waiting for trial after six months. No money, no bail, nothing.

A few days later I was chained to eight or nine other young guys and marched in our prison uniforms through San Diego’s streets, eyes down to avoid the stares.

Ashamed, I was led into a courtroom where I was indicted on federal smuggling charges, facing five to 20 years. 

It was a lot like my first days in Vietnam. No one told you anything. The guards were icy. I hadn’t even gotten to make my one permitted call. 

I wrote a note to my captors pleading: ‘Vietnam vet. Just back. I’ve been gone 15 months. My family doesn’t know I’m back. Please let me make my first call.’

Finally, it happened. There was one number I knew by heart – my father’s, in New York. Thank God he answered, because if he hadn’t it might’ve been days till they got me to a phone again.

‘Go ahead,’ the operator said.

‘Dad?’

‘Kiddo, for Chrissake, where’ve you been? Two weeks ago – they told me you got out in Fort Lewis?’

Hearing his voice, I felt a surge of emotion. There was no way to apologise for not calling. I just said: ‘Dad, listen – I’m in trouble.’

Years later I’d try to capture this moment in the scene in Midnight Express, with Billy Hayes’s father in Long Island gushing over his son in prison in Turkey, assuring him that everything would be all right now he was involved, that a lawyer would take charge.

A long week after the call to my father, the charges against me were mysteriously processed and ‘dismissed in the interests of justice’. I had been extremely lucky, but my experiences had left a deep mark.

When I got to New York that December, I was coiled and tight, a jungle creature, living 24/7 on the edge of my nerves, even when I slept.

I didn’t know any combat vets in New York, and found myself out of my depth in a sea of civilians rushing around, making a huge deal of money, success, jobs – which to me was petty daily stuff compared with surviving. I was confused, in no shape to go anywhere.

With my combat bonuses I had significant savings, and I didn’t spend much of them on renting a series of cheap apartments downtown. One was on East 9th Street, in those days a junkie ghetto. I painted the walls a deep red and, for good measure, the ceiling.

Red for blood, red for creativity. Maybe the war had made me that way.

I bought some screenplay books, out of curiosity. I had an urge, a nervous reflex, to write. It was, frankly, the only way I could express myself. I’d already tried to write a novel before I’d gone to Vietnam. But screenplay-writing was something new, sexier.

So I channelled the feelings inside me as a screenplay. It was about Vietnam, and it fitted right in with the mood of my weird apartment.

It was hard to write in that dump. Fleet-footed robbers, mostly desperate junkies, more than once emptied out the place. Then a young mugger tried to rob me in the doorway of our building. 

It was so cold that sometimes, when I left the window open, six inches of snow would accumulate next to my kitchen table. But still I kept writing.

Over the next few years, my life would take off in all sorts of directions as I tried to make it as a writer. I’d attend film school, write ten screenplays which would go precisely nowhere, and marry and divorce my first wife.

But the idea of a Vietnam movie never went away. Eight years after I’d first attempted to deal with my feelings on paper, I tried again.

Looking for a thread, I started to peck away at a story based on my memories of January 1, 1968. Writing quickly in longhand, building a muscle of memory mixed with some imagination. I called it simply ‘The Platoon’.

This was not just going to be about me. This was going to be about all of us who went on that journey without an ending: lost men whose future in contemporary America was bleak. And I’d be the observer. My alter ego would be Chris Taylor, later authentically played by Charlie Sheen.

As I wrote, I especially remembered two soldiers who stood out: both were sergeants. Sergeant ‘Barnes’, as I renamed him in the film, had the pride of Achilles, an avatar of war, quiet and dangerous, darkly handsome, prominently scarred, afraid of nothing.

Stone's novel  'Chasing the Light', which depicts his life from the Vietnam war zone to the Oscar stage, comes out next week

Stone’s novel  ‘Chasing the Light’, which depicts his life from the Vietnam war zone to the Oscar stage, comes out next week

If Sergeant Barnes, played by Tom Berenger, was Achilles, Sergeant Elias, played by Willem Dafoe, was Hector: noble but doomed.

You’re not supposed to use the word ‘beautiful’ for a man, but Elias was: a beautiful Apache mixed with some Spanish. Rumour had it that he’d ‘done time’ back in the world and probably made a deal with a judge to join up.

Whereas Barnes was hard and real, Elias was dreamy, a movie star. He was fun to be around, and everyone liked him.

I heard that Elias had been killed in action a month after I’d moved on from his platoon. The news came casually, like a baseball score on an overheard radio. A grenade had accidentally gone off. 

It was one of ours, not even an ambush or a firefight. A man as good as Elias wasted by someone’s mistake. My God. In time, the Elias story was layered into my nest of memories, and I’d use his real name to honour him.

I found myself thinking, as I grappled with my screenplay, what if Barnes and Elias were in the same platoon? They’d be the undisputed alpha leaders. I had my story.

A part of me had gone numb in Vietnam: died, murdered. My story would be about the lies and war crimes which had been committed not just by one platoon, but by many, if not most, combat units there.

In the film, I had my character Chris Taylor do a horrible but honourable thing. He’d witnessed Barnes killing Elias, and it would sear his heart. At the climax, during the all-night battle, which I’d experienced that January 1, 1968, he’d avenge the betrayed ghost of Elias and slaughter Barnes.

In movies, the hero is never supposed to stoop to the level of the villain. And yet in the screenplay I left myself both choices.

And when it came time to shoot the film and edit it a decade later, I did what the brutality in me demanded. I killed Barnes. I killed the bastard because I wanted to.

Why? Because the war had poisoned me. Because a piece of Barnes was in me.

I believe my decision shocked quite a few audiences when the film was finally seen in 1986. Some letters were written calling for my prosecution as a war criminal.

The truth, though not admitted by the majority of those who’d served there, was Vietnam had debased us all. Whether we killed or not, we were part of a machine that had been so morally dead as to bomb, napalm, poison this country head to toe, when we knew this was not a real war to defend our homeland.

Though there have been many great things that have been accomplished in my country, there is a darkness that still lurks.

I finished the first draft of The Platoon in a few weeks. I knew it was some of the best stuff I’d done, but I was enough of a realist to know it would be a tough sell.

There had been no movie made from the point of view of the ‘grunt’, or infantryman, and it was still a highly unpopular war, a ‘bummer’ to the American imagination.

No one, I was made to believe, wanted to know about it.

I wasn’t optimistic.

Stone directed and wrote the screenplay for 1986 film 'Platoon' which would go on to win several prestigious awards

Stone directed and wrote the screenplay for 1986 film ‘Platoon’ which would go on to win several prestigious awards 

We were up and running. Nearly ten years after I’d written it and after numerous rejections, Platoon – now minus ‘The’ – was being shot in the Philippines, with me as its director.

I was by now an established writer and director, with credits and awards to my name for my movies Midnight Express, Scarface and Salvador. But I was apprehensive. Could I really do this after so long – remember the innumerable details and actually pull this off?

In February 1986, I flew to Manila. Relieved to be working at something physical again, I plunged into the jungle, deep into the impossible-to-shoot ravines and up jungle-covered mountains, searching for remote spots that would look exotic but which would require arduous, back-breaking labour to haul our cameras and lights from the base camps that film units prefer.

My fears for the film mushroomed. What possible women’s audience would there be? My sense of violence was too realistic and harsh for most Americans. Maybe I was just too different, screwed up by Vietnam.

Without telling the crew, I went to the actors’ training camp and slept on the jungle floor, away from it all, as I had all those years ago as a soldier – just me and the stars.

But Vietnam was always there, burning in my brain.

I closely watched Charlie Sheen’s progress. Like a genuine new combat soldier, he couldn’t do much right and was carrying too much equipment with that same lost look I probably once had. 

But as we shot, week by week, he was adjusting, uncomplaining, light and graceful on his feet, like a goat pulling long distances.

But he was also growing harder, meaner. It made me think, is that the way I changed over there? Did I become more callous, angrier, darker? What would I not do?

I’d find out if I had any sense of goodness, decency, right and wrong – or if I had rotted in the heat and pain. In the person of Charlie, Vietnam was becoming a mirror of my own soul.

When we finally wrapped, I didn’t want to party with the cast and crew – they were having too good a time without the director being there. So I went home with a driver as the first pink light of the Asian dawn came up over the peasants in the rice paddies with their water buffaloes. A timeless moment in any century.

It was just another late spring day in the ‘world’, as we called it in Vietnam, and nobody on their way to work here cared that we had just finished making a low-budget film in the jungle. Why should they?

Yet as I pressed my face against the window of the silently moving car, in my soul there was a moment there and I knew that it would last with me for ever – because it was the sweetest moment I’d had since the day I left Vietnam.

Oscar night was Monday, March 30, 1987. I took a tranquilliser to help me navigate the tortuous three-and-a-half-hour journey that was about to begin.

Platoon was nominated for eight awards, among them my screenplay. I was also up separately in the same Original Screenplay category with Richard Boyle for Salvador – that rare occurrence of competing against yourself.

Stone (pictured right alongside Arnold Kopelman and Elizabeth Taylor) won the Oscar for Best Director for his work in Platoon

Stone (pictured right alongside Arnold Kopelman and Elizabeth Taylor) won the Oscar for Best Director for his work in Platoon

Each time the TV camera cut to me for my reaction, as if I was bound to win, it felt like a new form of public torture. When Elizabeth Taylor stepped on to the stage to award Best Director, the audience hushed with excitement. 

She was the best, and you knew it when you saw her. My dream girl of the 1950s and 1960s, still so glamorous, the heart of the movies. ‘And the winner is… Oliver Stone!’

The camera found me. Is this a dream? ‘Kiss Liz twice,’ my mom was saying to me across my wife.

Then I was gliding across the stage, making sure to kiss Liz Taylor on both cheeks, as my French mother had instructed.

And then Dustin Hoffman came out. ‘And the best picture of the year is…’ (opens envelope) ‘Platoon!’ The ugly duckling had just been transformed into a swan.

Platoon, at the start, had been a thousand-to-one low-budget shot. All those turndowns, all those years of indifference – the men of Vietnam spread all over the United States tonight, watching – it was all spinning through my mind.

I’d been chasing the light a long time now. I’d felt its power. I was now 40 years old. I had no idea then of the storm that was coming, but I did know instinctively that I’d reached a moment in time whose glory would last me for ever. 

Abridged extract from Chasing The Light, by Oliver Stone, which is published by Monoray (octopus books.co.uk) on July 21, priced £25.