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Last Updated: Friday, 3 June, 2005, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Faces of the week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are RICHARD CURTIS (main picture), with ASHLEY COLE, MARK FELT, LYUDMILA PUTIN and STEVEN SPIELBERG.

RICHARD CURTIS

Richard Curtis, the man behind Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually, has put aside his Christmas card-world to tackle the grim reality of poverty in the developing world.

A co-founder of Comic Relief, Richard Curtis is utilising his celebrity status in the Make Poverty History campaign, which is seeking to raise public awareness of the issue as leaders of the G8 most powerful nations prepare to meet at Gleneagles in Scotland early next month.

Just a few days before they get down to business, Curtis's own take on a G8 summit in Iceland, a new television film, will be broadcast on BBC One. The Girl in the Caf is described by Curtis as "a kind of fusion between Comic Relief and romantic comedy".

It features an idealistic young woman who interrupts the British prime minister's address by clicking her fingers every three seconds to illustrate the rate at which African children are dying.

The snapping fingers, dreamed up by Curtis, will be the mainstay of an advertising campaign, featuring a host of celebrities, to highlight the plight of Africa.

Portrait of Emma Freud
Curtis's wife, Emma Freud
Britain's best-known screenwriter says the G8 summit represents "a unique opportunity".

"If 50,000 people died in Munich in a day, then in Paris, then in Rome and then in New York, the G8 leaders and heads of state would find the money to rectify the situation between walking from the front door to reception," he says.

Richard Curtis is, apparently, as likeable and affable as the star of his most successful films, Hugh Grant, who is generally seen as his alter ego. Grant latched on to that when he read the script for Four Weddings and thought: "I've never met anyone like this.

"Then I went to the first rehearsal and saw Richard and thought: 'I see, it's you.' Really I just aped him."

Graduating from Oxford with a First in English language and literature, Curtis originally wanted to be an actor.

Director actually

"But I turned out to be very bland, so I would always get cast as a character from Twelfth Night called Fabian, who hides behind the hedge and doesn't have any funny lines. So I decided I would have to write my own lines."

His sternest critic is his wife, the radio and television journalist Emma Freud. Curtis told Sue Lawley on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs "she's a very ruthless, almost unpleasant script editor. The thing I dreaded was the bloody letters CDB, which stand for Could Do Better".

It wasn't until Love Actually that he tried his hand at directing, a desire that had grown through many hours in the editing room.

"I'd have a particular delivery for a line in mind and I couldn't understand why the director wouldn't get it for me. So I'd bully them until we got it and then we'd look at the rushes and I couldn't tell which version was mine after all."

Actor Bill Nighy with a bevvy of lovelies in Love Actually
Actor, Bill Nighy in a scene from Love Actually
Curtis always works with people he likes. There's Working Title producers Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan; Dawn French, the Vicar of Dibley and Comic Relief compatriot; and Rowan Atkinson, whose collaborations with Curtis include television and cinema's Mr Bean and TV's Blackadder, which is to enjoy a fifth series next year.

But Curtis's claim that he aims to achieve realism by writing about people and places he knows, like his home territory of Notting Hill, has met some derision.

An anonymous profile in the Sunday Telegraph sneered that "Curtisland has no muggings, drug addicts, handguns, roadworks or Tube delays. Everyone travels by black taxi and boasts a delightfully acerbic gaggle of loyal university chums."

But perhaps Richard Curtis's greatest crime, as far as his critics are concerned, is his films' exploitation of sentiment. Like snow on Christmas Eve, they guarantee a happy ending.

By now the audience knows what it will get and few are disappointed. During the next few weeks, Curtis will be attempting to transform sentiment into practical action to help the millions of poor far removed from the comfortable world he inhabits.


ASHLEY COLE

Arsenal's Ashley Cole may not be financially distressed by his 100,000 Premiership fine for his involvement in the Chelsea "tapping-up" saga, but is lodging an appeal against the punishment. His lawyer says football authorities should consider the issue of restraint of trade and whether players should be subject to "a master and servant" relationship of a century ago. Despite a welter of speculation about Cole's future, Arsenal say they want him to stay.

MARK FELT

A 30-year guessing game ended when the identity was revealed of Deep Throat, whose leaks to two Washington Post reporters about the Watergate scandal led to the resignation of President Nixon. Now 91 and living in retirement in California, Mark Felt, a former deputy head of the FBI, said it was he who met journalist Bob Woodward in an underground car park to provide clues. It was only three years ago that he told his own family of his secret.

LYUDMILA PUTIN

Russian president Vladimir Putin is not a New Man, at least as far as his wife, Lyudmila, is concerned. In an interview published in Russian newspapers, she made it clear that he wielded authority at home and complained that he forgets that "one needs not only to work, but also to live". Russians need not worry about her exercising any undue influence on matters of state, either. Mrs Putin says Vladimir never asks his family's advice.

STEVEN SPIELBERG

Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese were pipped by Steven Spielberg in a readers' poll of the movie magazine Empire, to determine the greatest director of all time. Empire's associate editor, Ian Freer, said 58-year-old Spielberg was "a cultural phenomenon" whose adventures, including ET and Indiana Jones, and historical dramas, such as Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, had "defined the movie-going life of an entire generation."

Compiled by BBC News Profiles Unit's Chris Jones




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