Ron Howard on ‘Pavarotti’ — the first major documentary to screen in Saudi Arabia

A still from 'Pavarotti.' (Supplied)
Updated 04 July 2019

Ron Howard on ‘Pavarotti’ — the first major documentary to screen in Saudi Arabia

  • 'Pavarotti' opens in GCC cinemas on July 4
  • Howard and his team conducted more than 50 interviews with his family, friends, lovers and collaborators

DUBAI: Luciano Pavarotti was more than the world’s most famous opera singer — he was a global pop-culture icon. While most people would be hard pressed to name an opera singer performing in 2019, Pavarotti brought opera to the world like no one else in the 20th century.

The Italian tenor sold over 100 million records, and performed with stars including Queen, Elton John and the Spice Girls, often for the benefit of refugees and the Red Cross. His group the Three Tenors sang at the 1990 FIFA World Cup, and he opened the 2006 Winter Olympics in what would become his final performance. Now, 12 years after his death, Pavarotti is still breaking new ground — “Pavarotti,” a documentary about his life directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ron Howard, is set to be the first major documentary released in theaters across Saudi Arabia when it opens on July 4.

Howard told Arab News that the key to the documentary is the extent to which Pavarotti’s life was reflected in the music he performed.

“I saw a cut where (Pavarotti sings from the opera) ‘Pagliacci’ — the sad clown who has to perform — linked with Luciano’s explanation of the character and the way it related to his life. That performance intercut with that time in his life was powerful. I recognized at that moment that if we chose performances that aligned age-wise with particular periods in his life, in a way we could make an opera about Pavarotti. That was really a creative lightbulb,” says Howard.

Pavarotti’s public and private lives had many highs and lows, from the joy of his friendship with Princess Diana of Wales to the pain of his romantic life becoming tabloid fodder. To capture that scope, Howard and his team conducted more than 50 interviews with his family, friends, lovers and collaborators. What surprised Howard was how universally the man was loved by everyone who knew him, despite his failures.

“Even with the family — though it was painful and emotional to go through some of the disappointment and heartbreak of their relationships — it kept coming back to how much joy and love there was and how much respect they had for him and his spirit,” says Howard. “Whether the people we interviewed had personal or professional relationships with him, the scales tilted tremendously to the positive in terms of their sense of what he meant to others and to them.”


Johnny Depp denies ‘wife-beater’ claim in London libel trial

Updated 07 July 2020

Johnny Depp denies ‘wife-beater’ claim in London libel trial

  • The high-profile case has laid bare Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s turbulent relationship, which ended in divorce in 2017
  • The couple first met on the set of the 2011 film ‘The Rum Diary’ and married in 2015

LONDON: Hollywood actor Johnny Depp strenuously denied being violent to his ex-wife Amber Heard, as he launched a libel claim in a London court on Tuesday against a British tabloid newspaper that called him a “wife-beater.”
The “Pirates of the Caribbean” star, 57, is suing the publishers of The Sun and the author of the article for the claims, which were made in April 2018.
Depp, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and facemask, was met by a throng of cameras as he arrived at court while Heard, a 34-year-old actress, used a separate entrance.
The high-profile case has laid bare the couple’s turbulent relationship, which ended in divorce in 2017, just two years after they married.
But Depp said in a witness statement submitted to the court: “For the avoidance of any doubt, I have never abused Ms Heard, or, indeed any other woman, in my life.”
He said it was a “strong and central part” of his moral code that he would never hit a woman, having witnessed domestic violence growing up and vowed never to do so.
“I find it simply inconceivable and it would never happen,” he added.
“She (Heard) is a calculating, diagnosed borderline personality; she is sociopathic; she is a narcissist; and she is completely emotionally dishonest,” he went on.
“I am now convinced that she came into my life to take from me anything worth taking, and then destroy what remained of it.
The couple first met on the set of the 2011 film “The Rum Diary” and married in 2015.
News Group Newspapers (NGN) is contesting the case, and is relying for its defense on 14 separate claims of domestic violence said to have occurred between early 2013 and May 2016.
It argues Depp was “controlling and verbally and physically abusive toward Ms Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs” — and has evidence to prove it.
But Depp said it was the other way round, accusing Heard of violence against him during their “unhappy” time together.
In one alleged incident, he said she repeatedly punched him in the face, and in another severed his finger with a flying vodka bottle and stubbed out a cigarette on his cheek.
Heard has claimed she was physically assaulted over three days in Australia in early 2015 but Depp called the allegations “sick... and completely untrue.”
He rejected claims of being overbearing and instead said Heard had an “obsessive need” to control him, encouraging him to drink and take drugs, despite his well-known addiction issues.
Depp’s lawyers, in a written outline of his case to the court, also argued that although the couple’s relationship was at times “physical,” it was at Heard’s instigation.
Lawyer David Sherborne said his client on occasions had to defend himself from Heard’s violence, calling her allegations “complete lies.”
“He is not a wife-beater and never has been,” he said.
Heard was a “complex individual,” whose behavior was “extremely unpredictable,” with violent rages and prone to extreme mood swings, he added.
She sought attention, was provocative, had affairs, and was on a “wide range” of prescribed medication and other drugs.
Depp loved her but found her behavior “often bewildering” and “very difficult” to understand or deal with, he added.
Depp was the first witness called in the case and under cross-examination admitted using drugs and alcohol from a young age to “numb the pain” of a difficult childhood.
But he rejected suggestions from NGN lawyer Sasha Wass he had a “nasty side,” that saw him turn into a “monster” who would lose control, smash up hotel rooms and assault photographers.
“It wasn’t Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde,” he insisted.
The Sun story — “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beast film?” — came after he had already publicly denied domestic violence.
Depp said he had suffered “significant reputational damage” as a result, both in terms of his career and personally.
The High Court trial is due to last three weeks.