Hollywood or revolution?

29 January 2015Last updated at 11:42

Publicity shot for InterstellarFana Mokoena missed out on a role in the hit Interstellar

Can you save the world, and still keep your day job? I remember Bob Geldof grumbling about that conundrum to me a decade ago in a dusty corner of Ethiopia.

Now South African actor Fana Mokoena is facing a similar dilemma.

If you’ve watched World War Z, you may remember him as the deputy UN secretary-general, plotting ways to eliminate zombies and save Brad Pitt.

He was also in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Safe House and Hotel Rwanda.

But now he’s had to put his Hollywood dreams on hold – and has just missed out on what might have been the biggest role of his career.

“I was supposed to be in Interstellar, with Christopher Nolan. I was going to play the scientist. I forget his name. We were in talks about me taking the role, and then this came up,” said Mr Mokoena with a faraway look in his eyes.

The “this” he is referring to is a new job as an MP for South Africa’s newest, brashest political party – the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

Actress Jessica Chastain and actor Matthew McConaughey, co-stars of the nominated film "Interstellar", pose at the AFI Awards 2014 honoring excellence in film and television in Beverly Hills, California on January 9, 2015Interstellar stars Jessica Chastain and actor Matthew McConaughey were at an awards ceremony in Beverly Hills earlier this month

“It’s a huge sacrifice,” Mr Mokoena said of the experience of watching the plum Interstellar role of the worm-hole astronaut Romilly – trapped in a spaceship for 23 years waiting for Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway to get back from a nearby plant – slip through his fingers and go instead to British actor David Gyasi.

“I spoke to my agent and I said: ‘Listen there’s going to be a problem.’ But [the EFF] is kind of important for me – it’s history,” he said resolutely.

We met in an office block near the centre of Johannesburg, where the EFF has just taken up residency, and where Mr Mokoena was filling in as acting spokesman for the party, and media handler for the its famously outspoken “Commander-in-Chief” Julius Malema.

Regular income

Mr Mokoena told me it had been a “wrench” to leave the governing African National Congress to join the breakaway party, but: “I’d been very critical of the trends in the ANC – the corruption and that kind of nonsense. So I decided I couldn’t be part of it.”

Compensation has come in the form of a generous MP’s salary, which Mr Mokoena said was less than he made as an actor.

Actor Fana Mokoena attends the 'World War Z' New York Premiere at Duffy Square in Times Square on June 17, 2013 in New York City.Fana Mokoena was on the red carpet in New York in 2013

“But it’s all right. It’s cool. The banks take you seriously because you’re earning more regularly.”

And there’s the satisfaction of being part of a cause he believes in – as the EFF prepares to expand its controversial “land occupation” programme across the country.

“Land occupation is protest action – not land grabs. Not like Zimbabwe,” said Mr Mokoena, with vigor.

“Land is a huge issue, not just in South Africa. Africans just don’t own land and this is a huge problem. The African is still not in control of the means of production – mines and so forth – 60 or 70 years down the line. The geography of the economy hasn’t changed. We need land.

“The funny thing is, that in South Africa white people are beginning to understand the message – that we need to share. Everybody needs to share. The fact that 70% of the land is sitting in the hands of 20% of the population, is not viable, not even economically,” he continued.

Different kind of performance

“The support we seem to be getting from people is huge. Membership is growing. When we audited last year we had close to 500,000… We’re also solidifying [party] structures,” Mr Mokoena said.

Members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are sworn in to the South African Parliament on 21 May 2014, in Cape TownHe and his EFF colleagues often wear red overalls in parliament

In the meantime, he is trying to keep his acting skills honed with one or two small roles a year. He is off to Canada soon for two weeks with a theatre production.

As for performing in parliament – “I’ve made speeches but [acting experience] doesn’t help at all. In fact it probably kills it. It’s a different world.”

Meanwhile, senior ANC officials have branded the EFF as a threat to democracy, and – in what Mr Mokoena suspects is a related development – the often-ANC-aligned national broadcaster, SABC, has stopped offering him acting jobs.

“I don’t get any work from the SABC any more,” he said, claiming an “insider” had told him he was being blacklisted because of his EFF connections.

But Fana Mokoena is still optimistic that Hollywood will come calling in the future.

“You know, I’m hoping there’ll be more coming. I don’t think I’ve died in the [film] industry. I’ll go back, and rehash, and rebuild,” he said.

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VIDEO: Chilcot ‘did not really explain’ delay


Sir John Chilcot has yet to explain the reasons for the delay to his inquiry, a former Home Office Minister has said.

Lib Dem Norman Baker said people were entitled to know why the report into the Iraq War had faced “inexplicable” delays, and these were not explained in the report author’s letter to the prime minister last week.

Speaking to Jo Coburn on the Daily Politics, the MP claimed the “normal processes of government, in my view, were subverted” back in 2002 and 2003.

Later on Thursday, MPs will debate the inquiry, which began its work in 2009, but the final report will not be published before May’s election.

Mr Baker said MPs would want to know how many letters Sir John had sent to those who gave evidence to the inquiry, and how many have yet to respond.

One reason given for the delay has been over witnesses who are set to be criticised in the report being contacted to give them a right to respond ahead of publication.

More: Follow @daily_politics on Twitter and like us on Facebook and watch a recent Politics Europe clip and watch full Politics Europe programmes on iPlayer

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Taylor Swift Trademarks ‘This Sick Beat’ Lyric


She has sold millions of albums and her latest songs are being sung by fans around the world, but now Taylor Swift has taken action to ban the unauthorised use of her lyrics.

The Shake It Off singer has trademarked phrases such as “This sick beat” and “Cause we never go out of style” to make sure they do not appear on merchandise.

It has been a busy week for the star after her Twitter and Instagram accounts were hacked on Tuesday.

According to the legal database Justia, the filing prevents the use of phrases from her album 1989 on everything from umbrellas to removable tattoos.

Other lyrics listed include “Party like it’s 1989” and “Nice to meet you. Where you been?”


Swift is not the first star to take legal action to protect her image, name and work.

Beyonce threatened to sue the website Etsy after it started selling products with the word ‘Feyonce’ written on them. 

The ‘B’ was replaced with an ‘F’ to make a play on the word ‘fiance’ with the ‘O’ in the shape of an engagement ring.

Last week, Rihanna won a court case against high street store Topshop after it used an unauthorised photo of her on one of its T-shirts.

Rihanna Topshop T-shirt

As artists struggle to make as much money from making music as they used to, they are becoming increasingly aware of the value of their name and taking greater action to protect their image rights.

Last year, Swift pulled all of her music off Spotify as fans increasingly move towards streaming services instead of music downloads.

The 25-year-old said: “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for.”

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Kasabian: Brits snub was a conspiracy

Sergio Pizzorno from Kasabian

Sergio Pizzorno says Kasabian have been the victims of a “conspiracy” after not receiving a Brit nomination.

The Leicester rockers are opening the Baftas at the Royal Opera House next month instead of playing at the Brits at London’s O2.

The 34-year-old guitarist said: “It’s a conspiracy. They’re trying to shut rock’n’roll out.

“What sort of message does that send to working class rock’n’roll bands which the industry is in dire need of?”

The band, who won the award for best British group in 2010, didn’t get any Brit nominations when they were announced earlier this month.

That’s despite them being nominated in eight categories for the NME Awards after the release of their fifth studio album 48:13, which topped the Official Albums Chart, and a headline slot at Glastonbury.

Tom Meighan from Kasabian

Pizzorno called the Brits “awful from start to finish” in 2013 while Kasabian singer Tom Meighan described that year’s ceremony as “terrible”.

Talking to the Independent, the guitarist said they had their best year ever in 2014.

“Kasabian couldn’t have done any more last year.

“It’s way more exciting to be playing the Baftas than the Brits.

“It’s a huge honour to open the Baftas because we’re all such great film fans.

“It’ll be a strange old show playing in front of a load of penguins, but it’s going to be great.

Sergio Pizzorno from Kasabian

“We’re going to start the night off with a huge explosion. We’re going to play everything twice as loud.

“Half the people there won’t have a clue what is going on.”

Alt-J, Clean Bandit, Coldplay, One Direction and Royal Blood are up for best group at this year’s Brits while the album of the year prize will be fought out between Alt-J, Ed Sheeran, George Ezra, Royal Blood and Sam Smith.

The live act category was dropped after 2013’s ceremony.

We’ve asked the organisers of the Brits for a response to Sergio Pizzorno’s comments.

Follow @BBCNewsbeat on Twitter, BBCNewsbeat on Instagram and Radio1Newsbeat on YouTube

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VIDEO: Police killed Sydney siege victim


An inquest has heard that police were responsible for the death of Katrina Dawson, who was shot during the siege in Sydney.

She was hit by police gunfire which had ricocheted off a hard surface, fired as officers stormed the cafe.

Man Haron Monis took 18 people hostages at the Lindt cafe in Sydney, one of whom he killed.

Jon Donnison reports from Sydney.

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Thorn Birds author McCullough dies

29 January 2015Last updated at 09:57

Colleen McCullough Colleen McCullough wrote 25 novels during her career

Australian author Colleen McCullough, whose best-selling novel The Thorn Birds became a hit TV series, has died at the age of 77.

The best-selling writer died in hospital on Norfolk Island on Thursday afternoon, publisher HarperCollins Australia confirmed.

McCullough had suffered poor health in recent years, losing her sight and suffering crippling arthritis.

However, she continued her writing through dictation.

Shona Martyn, of Harper Collins Australia, paid tribute to McCullough, citing her as “one of the first Australian writers to succeed on the world stage”.

“Ever quick-witted and direct, we looked forward to her visits from Norfolk Island and the arrival of each new manuscript, delivered in hard copy, in custom-made maroon manuscript boxes inscribed with her name,” said Martyn.

“The world is a less colourful place without Col.”

Australian broadcaster Richard Glover tweeted: “RIP Colleen McCullough. I can’t think of anyone who took such a miserable childhood and turned [it] into a life of such luminous achievement.”

Author Tara Moss tweeted: “So sad to hear of the passing of Colleen McCullough. She was fierce, funny and so supportive of other writers. Irreplaceable. RIP Colleen.”

McCullough wrote 25 novels throughout her career.

Colleen McCullough Colleen McCullough continued to write using dictation despite poor health

She penned her first book, Tim, while living in America. It was later made into a 1979 film starring Mel Gibson.

Her second novel, 1977’s The Thorn Birds, became an international bestseller.

A story of forbidden love between a young woman and a priest in the Australian outback, the paperback rights sold for a then-record $1.9 million (£1.25m).

It was turned into a popular television mini-series in 1983, starring Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward.

Her last book, Bittersweet, was published in 2013.

McCullough was born in Wellington, New South Wales and spent most of her early life in Sydney.

Before turning to writing, she studied medicine both in Australia and overseas, establishing the neurophysiology department at the Royal North Shore hospital in Sydney.

She went on to spend 10 years as a researcher at Yale medical school in the US.

The author leaves behind husband Ric Robinson.

“Colleen McCullough’s contribution to Australian writing – and to readers around the world – has been immense,” said Martyn.

“We will miss her dearly.”

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Thorn Birds Author Colleen McCullough Dies


Australian author Colleen McCullough has died after a long illness, aged 77.

The writer was best known for her novel The Thorn Birds, a romantic Australian saga, which has sold 30 million copies worldwide since it was published in 1977.

It was also made into a television series.

HarperCollins Australia publishing director Shona Martyn said McCullough died on Thursday in a hospital on Norfolk Island, the remote isle where she had lived for 40 years.

McCullough had previously lost her eyesight but continued producing books by using dictation. She was also restricted to a wheelchair.

Before becoming an author, McCullough studied neuroscience and spent 10 years as a researcher at Yale Medical School in the United States.

She established the neurophysiology department at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital.

During her career she wrote 25 novels and her final work Bittersweet, about four sisters in 1920s and 1930s Australia, was completed in 2013.

McCullough had even been dictating a sequel, set in World War Two, but had only completed a third of it when she died.

She is survived by her husband, Ric Robinson, who she married in 1983.

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Lindsay Lohan Community Service Questioned


A US prosecutor has been given more time to investigate whether Lindsay Lohan failed to complete her community service after being charged with reckless driving.

Terry White has disputed the actress’ claim that she completed her sentence while living in London when she was starring in Speed The Plow in the West End.

The 28-year-old Mean Girls star was ordered to complete 30 days of community service in addition to rehabilitation and therapy as part of a 2013 plea deal after she crashed her Porsche into a rubbish truck near Los Angeles en route to the set of TV movie Liz & Dick and later lied to police.

The former child star, known more for her legal troubles than big-screen roles, has been living in London where her lawyer Shawn Holley said she finished her community service.

Mr White alleges Lohan, who was not at the hearing, received credit for a “meet-and-greet” with fans as well as letting two young people shadow her while at work, according to City News Service.

A judge has told the prosecutor he can present his findings on 18 February.

Lohan has been arrested in the past for drunk-driving and theft before the 2012 car crash. She has been on probation since 2007 and gone to rehab six times.

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Nice Guy Firth On His Most Violent Film Role


By Joe Michalczuk, Entertainment Reporter

Colin Firth has defended the violence in his new film Kingsman: The Secret Service.

Speaking to Sky News, the Oscar-winning actor agreed that it was the most violent film he has ever made.

But he added that it did not deter him from taking the part, saying: “The film is so hyper violent, so comic book, so pantomime and so satirical that I’ve yet to meet anybody who is upset by it.”

The Matthew Vaughn-directed film has raised eyebrows in some circles for being awarded a 15 certificate in the UK.

A scene in which Firth’s character Harry Hart takes out an entire congregation during a church massacre has caused particular controversy.

Firth admits that “there will always be arguments about this sort of thing” but added: “… unless you want to take all physical conflict out of all storytelling and be left with very little Shakespeare and no custard pie fights and no Punch and Judy, then you know, it’s all about tone and this is not gory – it’s sending it up, it’s being mischievous with it.”

Firth went on to insist that the film’s scenes are tame in comparison with some of those shown on television.

He said: “It’s very bloodless, it’s not even as bloody as what you’d see on television, whether it’s aliens or zombies chewing people up – it’s not as gory as that. It’s lightening a dark thing – in some ways it’s in the spirit of send-up.”

Kingsman: The Secret Service, which also stars Sir Michael Caine and Samuel L Jackson, is in cinemas now.

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VIDEO: Star Wars Boba Fett sells for £18,000


Star Wars fan Craig Stevens has sold his Star Wars collection at auction. The star attraction was a rare Boba Fett figure in its original packaging, which cost £1.50 in 1977 and reached a staggering £18,000 at auction. The Boba Fett figure, made by Palitoy, is thought to be one of only four or five to exist in such pristine condition.

Stevens said “I have a big box of figures worth nearly as much as a house…it’s time to sell now.”

The movie memorabilia industry is worth millions of pounds and condition is key. Toy expert Peter Jenkinson said “packaging is everything, it shows that toys were untouched, unused and not played with.”

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