Matt Smith talks Daemon Targaryen and Doctor Who roles at Middle East Film and Comic Con 

Matt Smith talks Daemon Targaryen and Doctor Who roles at Middle East Film and Comic Con 
British actor Matt Smith attended a panel at the Middle East Film and Comic Con in Abu Dhabi on Friday. (Mohamed Fawzy/Arab News)
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Updated 07 March 2023
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Matt Smith talks Daemon Targaryen and Doctor Who roles at Middle East Film and Comic Con 

Matt Smith talks Daemon Targaryen and Doctor Who roles at Middle East Film and Comic Con 
  • The British actor gave a shout-out to Pedro Pascal’s new HBO show, ‘The Last of Us’

ABU DHABI: British actor Matt Smith, the star behind fan-favorite roles such as Daemon Targaryen (“House of the Dragon”) and Doctor Who, said he was relieved that fans enjoyed the “Game of Thrones” prequel series, at a Middle East Film and Comic Con panel in Abu Dhabi on Friday. 

“I think you’re always just relieved that people enjoy it. We were coming off the back of a show that had enormous success. And we were never going to be able to recreate the dizzy heights of (‘Game of Thrones’). We tried to create something original. And in it, there are characters that I think you can get a hold of. So it’s more relief than anything,” Smith said during a panel hosted by writer and celebrity interviewer William Mullally.




At MEFCC, Matt Smith said he was relieved that fans enjoyed ‘House of the Dragon.’ (Mohamed Fawzy/Arab News)

The actor took a moment to give a shout-out to another successful HBO series, “The Last of Us,” starring Pedro Pascal and “Game of Thrones” star Bella Ramsey.  

“Speaking of which, has anyone been watching ‘The Last of Us’?” Smith asked. “That’s good, isn’t it? What a cool show that is. Brilliant, brilliant. I’ve been enjoying that. But at 7pm at night.” 

The “7pm” quip was an earlier reference to Smith’s shock when he was informed that fans in the Middle East wake up at 4am-5am to catch “House of the Dragon” to avoid spoilers. 

“What about work? What are you all doing with your lives?” Smith laughed when he heard about the early morning television-watching. “You get up at 5 in the morning. You wouldn’t just wait till the evening that night when you got home from work? You nutters! Oh wow. Well, I’m going to have a word and see if we can get it on a more convenient time here.” 

The actor also went back to discuss his “Doctor Who” role, where he played the Eleventh Doctor for three seasons, after David Tennant bowed out from the show.  

When a fan asked if he’d always been a follower of the show, Smith replied that he missed it when he was younger but fell in love with the character when he read the script of his first episode. 

“I read the first episode and I was like, ‘Wow, he’s the most amazing character in the world,’ and fell in love with it and then subsequently went back and watched every episode,” said Smith, adding that he became a “super fan.” 




Matt Smith and David Tennant in ‘Doctor Who.’ (Supplied)

When asked to compare the two roles, Daemon and Doctor Who, and how they challenged him as an actor, Smith said: “Well, they’re both really challenging parts, which is one thing. Doctor Who is an amazing thing to get to play, because you get to be really close to the notion of time travel every day, which is just a wonderful thing to think about constantly. And he is the most wonderful character. And, so, to sort of carry that around with you is pretty amazing.”  

“And, then, it’s cool being Damien, because I get to ride a dragon, wear a cool, long wig and be a Targaryen. So, they’re both real gifts that I feel very pleased with and both represent completely different challenges,” he said. 


Review: Jeremy Paxman’s ‘A Life in Questions’ is a humorous take on a media icon’s life with lessons to learn

Review: Jeremy Paxman’s ‘A Life in Questions’ is a humorous take on a media icon’s life with lessons to learn
Updated 20 February 2024
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Review: Jeremy Paxman’s ‘A Life in Questions’ is a humorous take on a media icon’s life with lessons to learn

Review: Jeremy Paxman’s ‘A Life in Questions’ is a humorous take on a media icon’s life with lessons to learn

RIYADH: In his 2016 memoir, “A Life in Questions,” Jeremy Paxman, the prominent British journalist and presenter, outlines how he has been inquisitive his entire life.

The autobiography uncovers Paxman’s early years, interviews with prominent figures, insights into journalistic integrity, political engagement, and the power of asking the right questions.

Paxman takes a humorous approach in recounting past experiences, notably an incident involving Marks & Spencer underwear. He described an occasion when he put his leg through his briefs, causing the elastic to detach from the cotton.

Paxman asked the other people in the gym: “Any of you blokes had any trouble with pants?" His concerns about the quality sparked a media frenzy, resulting in an abundance of underwear being sent to him, even from strangers.

The book showcases Paxman’s recollections over four decades of journalism. However, when considering his interviews, I hoped for more insights into his technique and style. Renowned for his unconventional approach, his interviews often left interviewees feeling unsettled or nervous, as if they were “quaking in their boots.”

At times, the narrative becomes monotonous, particularly in sections where Paxman delves into less compelling aspects of his career, making the reading experience somewhat laborious.

However, Paxman’s recounting of iconic interviews and behind-the-scenes anecdotes kept me from looking away. A notable interview showing his commitment to getting answers, which was widely praised, took place in May 1997, where Paxman questioned former Home Secretary Michael Howard a total of 12 times about his potential overruling of the head of the Prison Service, Derek Lewis.

The writing style can feel a bit disconnected, shifting between different times in Paxman’s life with abrupt transitions. This might make it a little harder to follow his story. Paxman’s memoir might be more relatable to those familiar with the UK’s political and cultural scene, as it assumes a certain level of knowledge about the figures and events discussed.

Learning from Paxman’s methods can help journalists develop their own style and ensure that they can engage with and extract valuable information from interviewees.

Overall, “A Life in Questions” is recommended for those fascinated by unconventional interviewing styles. It not only tells stories but also acts as a guide for journalists seeking to enhance their interviewing skills.


Saudi Arabia’s Film AlUla to add music studio to production lot

Saudi Arabia’s Film AlUla to add music studio to production lot
Updated 20 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Film AlUla to add music studio to production lot

Saudi Arabia’s Film AlUla to add music studio to production lot

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Film AlUla is adding a music recording studio to its production lot in June.

Film AlUla’s current production facility includes a 30,000-square-foot soundstage, backlot, production support buildings, workshops, warehouses, recording studio and training and rehearsal space.

AlUla is also home to the mirrored Maraya concert hall, a multi-purpose venue that plays host to international concerts.

The film commission will inaugurate a recording studio with audio and recording equipment comprising a control room and two soundproof booths that can be used by individual artists, choirs, rehearsals for film score production, music videos and orchestral work, Variety magazine reported.

Film AlUla’s Executive Director Charlene Deleon-Jones commented on the upcoming opening, saying: “Following the successful launch of our film studios last year, we are continuing to strategically expand the complex and become a one-stop destination for creatives, with the recording studio being a natural next step in this vision.

“We are delighted to welcome artists starting from June whom we have no doubt will be inspired by the magnificent surroundings and heritage that AlUla has to offer while making the most of our cutting-edge facilities to create magic,” she added, according to Variety magazine.

Previous Hollywood productions shot in AlUla include the Gerard Butler-led action-thriller “Kandahar,” directed by Ric Roman Waugh, and “Cherry,” starring Tom Holland and directed by Anthony and Joe Russo.

The news comes after December’s Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah saw global media company Stampede Ventures announce further films in its 10-movie partnership with Film AlUla.

Hollywood movies “Fourth Wall” and “Chasing Red” are set to be filmed in AlUla in 2024 as part of a 10-project deal between Film AlUla and Stampede Ventures, in addition to the previously announced feature “K-Pops!”

There will be emphasis on using Saudi talent during the production process, Deleon-Jones told Arab News at the time, adding: “One of the most significant parts of what we’re doing is the training and development, because this gives us an opportunity to really develop below-the-line crew in somewhere like AlUla, where traditionally the main careers open to you would have been agriculture. We have a young working population who are vibrant and digitally engaged somewhere which is seen as one of the more remote places, (and now) you have this whole new exciting career path.”


First film announced as Saudi Arabia launches Big Time Investment to fund Arab productions 

First film announced as Saudi Arabia launches Big Time Investment to fund Arab productions 
Updated 20 February 2024
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First film announced as Saudi Arabia launches Big Time Investment to fund Arab productions 

First film announced as Saudi Arabia launches Big Time Investment to fund Arab productions 

DUBAI: Egyptian actress Mona Zaki is set to star in a film portraying the life of legendary singer Umm Kulthum, which is the first film in a slate of productions as Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority announced the launch of a film fund named Big Time Investment, aimed at fostering the production of Arabic cinema.

The inaugural project under this initiative will be a biopic celebrating the life of Egyptian legend Umm Kulthum, who was referred to as “The fourth pyramid” by Arabs, as well as “The star of the East,” “Mother of the Arabs” and “Lady of Arabic Song.” 

Egyptian filmmaker Marwan Hamed has been tapped to direct the film titled “El Set,” with acclaimed Egyptian actress Mona Zaki set to portray Umm Kulthum.

The announcement regarding the fund took place in Cairo, where Turki Al-Sheikh, the chairman of the GEA, disclosed that the authority would serve as the main sponsor of the approximately $130 million fund. 

The Ministry of Culture will act as a co-sponsor, as reported by the Saudi Press Agency. Several  Saudi companies will also contribute to the fund, including Sela Studio, SMC Company, Rotana Audio Visual Co., and Benchmark Company.

The fund aims to germinate roughly 20 Arabic titles a year.


Model Nora Attal shows off winter fashion on the Burberry runway

Model Nora Attal shows off winter fashion on the Burberry runway
Updated 20 February 2024
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Model Nora Attal shows off winter fashion on the Burberry runway

Model Nora Attal shows off winter fashion on the Burberry runway

DUBAI: British Moroccan model Nora Attal made an appearance at London Fashion Week, after hitting the runway in Paris and New York in recent weeks.

Attal walked in British luxury label Burberry’s Fall/Winter 2024 show.

The fashion house’s creative director Daniel Lee this week showed his third brief at London Fashion Week, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, with an ode to the brand’s outdoor heritage.

The 24-year-old model strutted down the star-studded catwalk in a cream-colored calf-length coat. (Getty Images)

Set in a dark marquee in London’s Victoria Park where guests sat on big fluffy brown cushions, songs from late British singer Amy Winehouse set the mood for the night.

The 24-year-old model strutted down the star-studded catwalk in a cream-colored calf-length coat, accentuated with luxurious fur-like detailing on the knees, arms and neckline.

Attal hit the grass runway in an ensemble that was accented with black chunky-soled leather boots and a matching clutch.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Burberry (@burberry)

Other models paraded leather and faux-fur coats in shades of muted green and brown, oversized stripy suit jackets and trousers with zipper detailing.

The show heavily featured outerwear and sporty silhouettes with bomber jackets and Burberry’s iconic trench coat that sat alongside flowy beaded and velvet dresses.

Burberry’s famous beige, black and red check was reimagined into a moody autumnal color palette and featured on the inside of floor-sweeping skirts with long slits down the side.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Burberry (@burberry)

Accessories included checked umbrellas, large canvas, leather and faux-fur bags in cream, brown and green — often adorned with gold detailing — and paired with scarves worn over the head.

British models Naomi Campbell, Agyness Deyn and Lily Cole were among those sashaying on the catwalk.

Saudi film producer and CEO of the Red Sea Film Foundation Mohammed Al-Turki attended the show. (Getty Images)

The show was attended by Saudi film producer and CEO of the Red Sea Film Foundation Mohammed Al-Turki, actress Olivia Coleman, model Jourdan Dunn and Irish actor Barry Keoghan among others.

This is not the first time Attal has modelled for Burberry. In September 2023, she wore low-waist tailored pants, a cropped printed blouse and a blazer with fur detailing around the sleeves from the brand’s Spring/Summer 2024 collection that was also showcased at London Fashion Week.  

Earlier this year, Attal walked the Chanel and Fendi shows during Paris Haute Couture Week.


Hans Zimmer to return to Dubai on May 31

Hans Zimmer to return to Dubai on May 31
Updated 20 February 2024
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Hans Zimmer to return to Dubai on May 31

Hans Zimmer to return to Dubai on May 31

DUBAI: Following the success of “Hans Zimmer Live” in Dubai last year, the multiple Academy Award-winning composer will return to the emirate on May 31 at the Coca-Cola Arena.

Zimmer’s musical legacy, marked by the creation of memorable movie scores, secured him two Academy Awards and four Grammy Awards, along with nominations for three Emmys and a Tony.

With an impressive repertoire, he composed the music for movies like “Interstellar,” “The Dark Knight,” “Gladiator,” “Top Gun Maverick,” “The Lion King,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and most recently “Dune” and “Dune: Part 2” — as well as more iconic movies.

“I am immensely grateful for the warm embrace Dubai gave to my music during our first performance in the city. I firmly believe that music has the power to transcend language and resonate with the deepest emotions within us,” Zimmer said in a statement.