Such sad news … my wonderful friend Bella Emberg has passed away. We’ve been chums since appearing together in a Summer show with Russ Abbot at the Princess Theatre, Torquay in 1981. A genuinely nice woman and despite her fierce on-stage characterisations, a truly gentle soul.
The then-teenager’s first song, Sun, was playlisted on Norway’s national radio station and, after a brief break to finish school, her next set of demos sparked a record label bidding war.
Island Records got the gig after pursuing the singer around Bergen; and launched Sigrid’s international career with last year’s exuberant and kooky and charismatic Don’t Kill My Vibe EP.
The title track is her calling card. Inspired by a disastrous recording session in London where older, male producers patronised and demoralised her, it’s a defiantly upbeat anthem to her own strength.
It’s given her the opportunity to play around the world; bowling over audiences with her charismatically uninhibited performances (she is, to put it mildly, from the Lorde school of dancing).
Immediately after being told she’d won the Sound of 2018, Sigrid sat down with BBC News to discuss circuses, socks and the elusive quest for a perfect pop song.
Congratulations on winning the Sound of 2018! How does it feel?
I’m really honoured. I just want to swear a lot, but I know I can’t do that on the BBC so I’m trying to hold it in!
Previous winners include Adele, Sam Smith and Ellie Goulding. What does it mean to be in their company?
Adele’s one of my favourite artists! It’s huge and I don’t think I’m going to understand how big it is until I walk out of this room.
Is it true that the first time you sang in public was at a sort of home-made circus?
Haha! Yes! That was at my grandparents’ cabin, which is situated in a bay 20 minutes from our house in Alesund. The children arranged a circus and we took money for people to come, which we spent on an inflatable dragon we could play on in the sea.
That took quite a while, I think. I was a very shy kid. Very shy. But I started doing theatre when I was six years old and that really changed something. My more playful side came out of me.
Then, when I was in junior high I started doing covers – Ellie Goulding, Adele, Coldplay, Keane – and I would change the rhythm or the melody to make it my own. That’s when I discovered I like to make stuff, not just copy it.
Then your first original song got picked up by the Norwegian equivalent of BBC Introducing.
That was a big moment for me. It was the first time someone told me I made cool stuff outside of my school.
But the thing was, I was very torn about what I wanted to do. I had a record contract, but I took a small break from releasing music because I wanted to finish school. At that point, I wanted to become a lawyer. I wanted to become a politics teacher. I had a lot of ideas about what I wanted to do!
Didn’t you end up studying politics?
For two months! It was a three-year degree, but I only had the introduction. I’m very glad I quit.
But I want to study some day. Maybe after my third album I’ll just go to Uni. That would be really cool.
Can you tell me about the recording session that inspired Don’t Kill My Vibe? What did they do to you?
Just some mean comments. I’m not sure if I want to go that deep into it.
Anyway, the song isn’t about me being a diva going, “Oh, you don’t respect me.” It’s just like, “Just be polite and nice. That’s all I’m asking for.”
You write principally on the piano. Why that instrument in particular?
You can get so many moods out of it. The whole spectrum of emotions.
[Getting up to play] This is my favourite chord – an F Major 7. It’s so bittersweet.
The piano really comes to the fore on Dynamite – which I’ve heard people compare to Adele’s Someone Like You. What was going through your mind when you recorded that?
I was trying to be as sad as possible. Like, on the brink of crying. We did it in one take.
A lot of your other songs take negative emotions and turn them into something empowering.
That’s intentional, definitely.
Did you set that goal when you went into the studio?
Not necessarily when I go into the studio. Maybe an hour into the session we settle our goal for the day.
But I always have a bigger vision, yes. And my vision is to make interesting pop music that has a nerve to it, that is catchy, that has a sense of humour.
Is there something about Scandinavian pop that makes it stand out to British ears?
Definitely my accent! My accent is weird. When I listen to some of the words I’m pronouncing in Don’t Kill My Vibe, I think I could have been better! Even today, I feel like my English is terrible. I haven’t been speaking English over Christmas.
But I think the Scandi “thing” is very intricate melodies. English is our second language, and that creates a barrier where you have to concentrate on the melody. Because of that, I guess there’s a history of making good vocal hooks – and that makes good pop music.
There’s a great moment on your latest single, Strangers, where you suddenly go “whoop!” in the middle of the chorus. How did that come about?
I don’t know! I just think it’s a funny sound.
I like to be dramatic in my music because that’s when it gets to your heart. You want to have that nerve to it. But I also love to mix in humorous stuff like the “whoop” because it loosens it up and makes it interesting.
Are you always looking for that magic ingredient?
Oh yes! In every song. That’s my favourite quest. I love getting into a single line and spending an hour on it. It’s fascinating. It’s like a treasure hunt.
What’s been the highlight of being a pop star so far?
The coolest thing we’ve had on our rider has been woollen socks. That happened once in Norway and I’ve never been as happy!
There’s a merchandising opportunity for you: Sigrid socks!
We actually have socks! For the EP, the creative team at Island came up with the idea of having a Don’t Kill My Vibe t-shirt, and then a Plot Twist scarf, Fake Friends socks and a Dynamite polo sweater. And they’re all real garments.
How will you keep that going? Will single number 40 be the Sigrid meat dress?
Ha! That would be really cool.
Finally, how close are you to finishing your album?
The thing is, I want to be a bit secretive about it, if that’s alright? It’s important to me that when I release it, I’m going to release it because it’s finished. Not because it’s expected to be out. But I’m aiming for 2018. It’s very exciting!
Home and Away actress Jessica Falkholt has had her life support switched off two weeks after being in a car crash, a hospital in Australia has confirmed.
The crash, which happened in New South Wales on 26 December, killed her parents, sister and the other driver.
The actress, 29, who played Hope Morrison in the soap, remained in a critical condition on Friday.
The decision to end her life support came after a funeral service for her family on Wednesday.
“On behalf of the family of Jessica Falkholt, St George Hospital has been asked to advise the media and the community that Jessica’s life support has been switched off,” a hospital statement said.
At the time of the accident, Network Seven, Home and Away’s broadcaster, released a statement saying: “Although her time on set was brief, once a part of the Home and Away family, always part of the family.”
Falkholt’s character first appeared when Hope and Raffy Morrison arrived in the fictional seaside town of Summer Bay.
Hope briefly worked at the garage, but ran away after stealing money from there and from Salt restaurant.
It emerged that her young sister Raffy – actually her cousin – was a sibling of the Morgan brothers in the soap, so Raffy stayed in the Bay with them when Hope was jailed for her crimes.
Falkholt’s stint on the long-running series only lasted for 16 episodes and ended in November 2016. She then filmed a role in the US film Harmony, which is set for release this year.
Jessica’s parents Lars and Vivian were killed instantly in the crash and her sister Annabelle died in hospital three days later.
Vivian Falkholt’s brother Paul Ponticello spoke at their funeral, saying he thought he and his sister “would grow old together”.
Australian police are still investigating the crash, which also killed 50-year-old Craig Whittall, who was driving the other car involved.
And the actress said she had heard that Oprah “is really considering” running.
She “certainly set the bar pretty high for anybody else who decides to run” for president in 2020, Streep added.
“No-one can speak in less lofty terms and adhere to principle and passion in a political campaign, because we’ve seen that it’s possible,” she said.
Streep was in the audience when Winfrey gave her address at Sunday’s award ceremony, which was dominated by the fallout from Hollywood’s sex abuse scandals. She received a rapturous reception for telling the audience “a new day is on the horizon”.
She was speaking alongside her co-star Tom Hanks and director Steven Spielberg, who both expressed similar sentiments about Oprah’s appeal.
“Oprah’s had 35 years experience of building bridges and creating conversations between disparate people who don’t agree… on her syndicated television show,” Spielberg said. “For me, those are credentials for qualification.”
Hanks said: “I believe Oprah wakes up in the morning and both personally and professionally wonders what she can do specifically in order to make the world a better place.”
Oprah Winfrey’s Globes speech in full
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Apparently referring to President Trump, Hanks continued: “We have proven, I think, just within the last few years, that if you want to be president of the United States, guess what, there’s a way that that can happen.”
Oprah hasn’t spoken about the speculation, but the possibility that she might consider running has prompted a response from the White House’s current occupant.
“I like Oprah but I don’t think she’s going to run,” President Trump said earlier this week, adding that it would be “a lot of fun” to go up against her.
Speaking at a press conference a day after The Post’s European premiere, Streep also spoke about the Time’s Up campaign, which was endorsed by many attendees at the Golden Globes.
Described as a “unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere”, the project aims to raise money to combat sexual harassment in the film industry and other workplaces.
“Somebody said it’s like an airplane being put together while we’re going down the runway to take off,” Streep said of the campaign. “It’s a moving thing and that’s good, because it needs to fly.
“It’s a growing thing and the most heartening thing is that it doesn’t feel like a one-off. It hasn’t gone away and I don’t think it will. I don’t think we will go backwards.”
Released in the UK on Friday 19 January, The Post tells the real-life story of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and proprietor Kay Graham, who published the classified Pentagon Papers in 1971.
The Post was also snubbed by Bafta earlier this week – something that Streep feigned mock outrage about during Thursday’s press conference in central London.
“Sadly we haven’t been invited to the Baftas so I can’t talk to that,” she replied when asked whether attendees at next month’s event should emulate those at the Golden Globes and wear black in solidarity with victims of sexual abuse.
‘A great Rubicon’
Hanks, who plays Bradlee, said Sunday’s ceremony was evidence that “a great Rubicon” had been crossed in terms of gender equality.
“What is going to come about, I think, is that more women are going to be awarded their positions based on their merits and the quality of their work,” the Forrest Gump star said on Thursday.
Hanks also suggested that the film industry should emulate television, where the proportion of female directors, female writers and female-led projects is considerably higher.
“Television kicks [the] movies’ ass when it comes to diversity in the workplace,” he said. “Women are much better represented in that medium than they are in motion pictures.”
The camera panned to del Toro as she said it, but, he explains now, he hadn’t initially heard what she said.
“From where we were sitting, sometimes what is said on the stage in the microphone is very hard to hear,” he says.
“It’s one thing on TV, and one thing around [the auditorium]. I heard the category, and I was reacting to that, and it was only a few beats later that you heard what she said.
“So all the reactions in the room were delayed by a couple of beats. On camera they happen faster because the microphones were much clearer to the TV than in the room.”
Twitter erupted with praise for Portman’s efforts to draw attention to the gender imbalance in film directing.
And del Toro says he “absolutely” agrees more women behind the camera should be recognised at awards ceremonies.
“Particularly in this year, with the movies that Greta Gerwig [director of Lady Bird] or Patty Jenkins [Wonder Woman] have made, it’s very important I think to recognise it.
“There is a reason to do it, there is material to do it. The important thing is to recognise this season there are films that are very worthy, made by very good female storytellers.”
Del Toro is riding on the crest of a wave at the moment. Shortly after the Globes ceremony, he heard The Shape Of Water had also picked up the most nominations (12) at this year’s Bafta film awards.
“It felt fantastic… you feel elated to be in the conversation,” he says of the Bafta recognition.
“After 25 years, you know it doesn’t happen every time, so you learn to be grateful and humble, but also encouraged, and I think the Baftas have a stature and have a way to reach an audience and lift a movie above the end-of-year din or the beginning of awards season.
“That is significant for a film-maker, this [awards] season is about reaching the Olympics, and being in the Olympics is very good, you feel each round is important, not about you, but about the movie reaching an audience and being rewarded for taking a risk or being bold or inventive and unique.”
The Shape Of Water stars British actress Sally Hawkins as a janitor who forms a relationship with an amphibious creature being held in captivity.
During his Globes speech, del Toro credited the film, along with two of his others – 2006′s Pan’s Labyrinth and 2001′s Devil’s Backbone – with “saving his life”.
“This movie’s ultimately a biography, and out of this really dark turmoil, you find a little bit of light. And that has happened to be several times in 25 years of storytelling,” he tells the BBC.
“It happened certainly on The Devil’s Backbone. I was at the end of my rope after having done only two movies, one of them – Mimic – was with Miramax Dimension, that was such a bad experience, such a harrowing experience, and then there was the kidnapping of my father shortly thereafter. After that, Devil’s Backbone picked me up and healed me.
“And in a different set of circumstances, that happened with Pan’s Labyrinth. These movies come out of that very dark night of the soul.”
The Shape Of Water is released in the UK on 14 February 2018.
The Shape of Water leads this year’s Bafta film award nominations, with 12 nods in total.
The fantasy romance stars British actress Sally Hawkins as a janitor who forms a relationship with an amphibious creature being held in captivity.
Darkest Hour and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri both received nine nominations.
Gary Oldman, Jamie Bell and Daniel Kaluuya are among the British nominees – all recognised for best actor.
Hawkins and Irish actress Saoirse Ronan are among those nominated for best leading actress.
They face competition from Frances McDormand for Three Billboards, and Margot Robbie, who is nominated for her portrayal of controversial Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya.
Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk and Three Billboards are nominated alongside The Shape of Water for best film.
Three Billboards and Darkest Hour are also up for outstanding British film, along with Paddington 2, Lady Macbeth, God’s Own Country and The Death of Stalin.
Paddington 2 has three nominations in total – including adapted screenplay and a best supporting actor nod for Hugh Grant.
His competition includes Christopher Plummer, who replaced Kevin Spacey at the last minute in All The Money In The World.
Bafta Film Awards 2018: The nominees
Joanna Lumley to replace Stephen Fry as host
Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya gets Bafta Rising Star nod
That category also includes Willem Dafoe for The Florida Project, and Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson, who are both nominated for Three Billboards.
The nominees for supporting actress include Allison Janney for her portrayal of Tonya Harding’s mother in I, Tonya.
The actress, best known for her role in The West Wing, won best supporting actress at Sunday night’s Golden Globes.
She faces Kristin Scott Thomas (Darkest Hour), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird), Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread) and Octavia Spencer (The Shape Of Water).
The most notable omissions include The Post, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, which didn’t receive any nominations.
The Disaster Artist didn’t pick up any nominations, despite James Franco’s win for best actor in a comedy or musical at Sunday’s Golden Globes for his role in the film.
Dame Judi Dench also missed out for her role in Victoria and Abdul despite her Globes nod.
The Leisure Seeker, which scored a nomination for Dame Helen Mirren at the Globes, wasn’t eligible for this year’s Baftas.
The nominations for Three Billboards follow its success at the Globes, where it picked up four prizes including best drama film.
Sally Hawkins is among Britain’s leading contenders for the Oscars, and she told the BBC she was “incredibly humbled” by her Bafta nomination for best actress.
“It feels like a gift from my homeland and I am very touched by it,” she said. “I believe this is an important film and it is a deep, deep part of my heart. So to be honoured and recognised in such a way… is a gift.”
Kristin Scott Thomas said receiving the fifth Bafta nomination of her career – for playing Sir Winston Churchill’s wife Clementine in Darkest Hour – was “completely thrilling”.
She told BBC News: “It’s particularly thrilling because of the film itself, which I’m so proud to be in, and the fact that it’s putting Clemmie in the spotlight a little bit, which is great, because I think she deserves a lot more attention.”
She said she wasn’t yet sure whether guests at the ceremony on 18 February would wear black as a mark of solidarity with victims of sexual assault and harassment, as they did at Sunday’s Golden Globes.
“I think that is a decision we will make as a group of women,” she said. “Somebody will come up with an idea and I’m ready to support any decision that is made about making statements.”
She added that the film industry was at a “turning point” and she would “absolutely participate” in any idea to bring attention to such issues.
Gary Oldman, who plays Churchill, told the BBC: “This is my third Bafta nomination as an actor; the recognition means so much.
“Especially more so not merely for the distinguished company I now find myself in with my fellow nominees, but most especially for the privilege of playing Winston Churchill, which it truly was.”
Greta Gerwig, whose script for Lady Bird is nominated for best original screenplay, said: “I’ve always wanted to be a writer and director, and I could not be more happy that I’ve been able to do it and that it has been received with such love.”
She added: “I am thrilled for Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf – they are both such extraordinary actresses, and they are deserving of every accolade.”
This year’s Bafta ceremony will take place at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Joanna Lumley will host, replacing Stephen Fry after he announced he’d be stepping down.
The new Culture Secretary Matthew Hancock, told MPs: “the BBC must not only uphold – but be a beacon for – the British values of fairness that this nation holds dear. That includes fair pay and equal pay for equal jobs. “
The BBC’s head of news, Fran Unsworth, said the issue of pay was a “priority” for the corporation.
It is understood that Winifred Robinson was taken off air for Tuesday’s edition of the consumer affairs show only – and will resume presenting the programme according to the Radio 4 schedule.
Robinson is among many BBC workers who have tweeted their support for Gracie.
In another tweet, she described the situation involving Gracie as “a mess”.
In an open letter issued on Sunday, Gracie – who has been at the BBC for more than 30 years – accused the corporation of having a “secretive and illegal pay culture”.
She said she would return to her former post in the TV newsroom in London “where I expect to be paid equally”.
Ms Gracie told Radio 4′s Woman’s Hour the BBC had offered to raise her annual salary to £180,000, but she did not see that as a solution and there would still have been “a big gap between myself and my male peers”.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission said it would consider whether further action is required based on the corporation’s response.
In a statement, the new BBC’s head of news, Fran Unsworth, said: “BBC pay equality is vital. This issue has been the subject of a lot of debate, both on the BBC and elsewhere, over the past 24 hours.”
Unsworth added: “Everyone at the BBC has wanted to do this as quickly as possible, but equally, we need to get it right.”
She said she anticipated the BBC audit into presenter pay, which the corporation is working on with accounting firm PWC, would be published by the end of this month.
“The report will help inform a new pay policy at the BBC,” she said.
‘Right to speak out’
During Tuesday’s Commons debate, Stella Creasy, the MP for Walthamstow in east London, asked: “[The Secretary] has the power to give a direction to the BBC about equality of opportunity, so will he use that to ensure every member of staff – male or female – at the BBC is able to express their freedom of expression at work and protect their right to speak out as the best way to get transparency?”
Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, added: “Evan Davis took to presenting Newsnight to talk about this last night, after going on Twitter and giving his very clear opinion… about this issue.
“Why has he not been silenced when women who have spoken up as part of the campaign group have been taken off air?”
Davis discussed the issue with employment lawyer Jennifer Miller and former director of news at BBC World, Sian Kevill, on Monday night.
He had posted a series of tweets giving his views about equal pay at the BBC on the same day.
A BBC spokesperson said: “It is down to individual editors and the individual circumstances [on whether individuals are asked to stand aside due to impartiality issues].
The BBC guidelines on impartiality state that: “When dealing with controversial subjects concerning the BBC, our reporting must remain duly impartial, as well as accurate and fair.
“We need to ensure the BBC’s impartiality is not brought into question and presenters or reporters are not exposed to potential conflicts of interest.
“There should also be clear editorial separation between those reporting the story and those responsible for presenting the BBC’s case.”