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Adeel Akhtar: ‘People are ready to stretch their ideas on diversity’ | Food

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I don’t know if it’s the heat – it’s 35C on the late summer day we meet for lunch at an outside table at the Canton Arms on south London’s busy Lambeth Road – but there’s an enjoyable sort of maziness to conversation with Adeel Akhtar. He prefaces nearly every response to a direct question by saying, “I don’t know if this is a connected thought at all”, or “I’m going to answer that by talking about something else entirely”. The lightly evasive manner fits with Akhtar’s beguiling screen presence, you can never quite pin him down; his resting face is a mournful tragic mask, which means he is capable of generous comedy as well as convincing pathos and despair. He’s stolen tons of scenes on film and TV, but if you picture him in a couple of defining roles, they might include Faisal, the most vulnerable of the slapstick jihadis in Chris Morris’s Four Lions (famously strapping improvised explosives to “Brother Crow”), or as the homicidal dad in Murdered by my Father, one of the great recent BBC performances, for which he won a Bafta in 2017 – the first and only non-white best TV actor winner.

He’s arrived on a bike and is mouthing apologies for being five minutes late while he locks it to a railing – he’s flying to New Zealand for Covid-free filming the next day with his wife and two young sons and things are a bit frantic at home. (The godsend of lockdown for him, he says, sitting down and getting a breath and a beer, was his wife’s inspired decision to buy a very large trampoline early on. “To start with, every time I looked at it, I got really agitated because the garden is now just a really massive trampoline. But she was right. The boys are four and two. It’s got us through.”)

In normal times Akhtar comes to this pub – and to the Anchor and Hope and the Camberwell Arms, part of the same local group – quite often. He traces the habit back to a memorable evening when a mate brought another friend, Sam Soan, back to his flat after a somewhat drunken evening and they felt peckish. “I mean, this honestly isn’t typical of what’s in my fridge,” he says, “but I had these partridges in there, which I’d bought at the butcher that day on a whim and not been sure what to do with, and Sam rustled up this amazing late-night meal. Later I went to the Camberwell Arms and discovered he was the head chef there, so I’ve been a fan ever since.” We scan the menu of seasonal plates, cod cheeks and rabbit leg and lemon sole and wild mushroom tart, and drink warm ale beside the heat haze of traffic.

The day before, I’d watched Akhtar in a preview of his most recent film, Enola Holmes, about Sherlock’s sleuthing kid sister, in which he plays a befuddled and bewhiskered Inspector Lestrade. The film stars Millie Bobby Brown (from Netflix’s Stranger Things) who, aged 16, is also one of the film’s producers. “I don’t know if it’s me getting older,” says Akhtar, “but the more I see of that generation of teenager, it seems they are on to something. They have all this information coming at them and they process it in a really effortless way. They can test out what it’s like to be one thing, and then another. Whereas for my generation, what you could be seemed so much more prescriptive.”

Akhtar is 40. His acting life to begin with was defined by not being the son his father imagined. His parents, then both recent immigrants – his father from Pakistan, his mother from Kenya – met at Heathrow Terminal 3, where they both worked. After his father became a successful immigration lawyer, Akhtar was sent to board at Cheltenham College. The expectation was that he would become a lawyer, too, and a pillar of his parents’ home counties Muslim community, after an arranged marriage. He managed to avoid all those fates, though he studied law at university.

“I really tried,” he says. “But there was an element of me that was completely resistant, I just couldn’t retain the law stuff. I kept on failing exams.”

There was a good chance he would have carried on regardless, as his father wished, but after he graduated his then girlfriend was invited to New York to audition for the Actors’ Studio drama school. He went along just to be her scene-study partner but he ended up being offered a place at the school. The luck of that endorsed the faith of his mother who had sent him along to National Youth Theatre workshops in school holidays, without the knowledge of his father. (“She was interested in me doing something I enjoyed,” he says. “It didn’t have to be acting, it could have been badminton or whatever.”)

His mother has been an inspiration in his career in other ways, too, he has lately come to realise. One of his diversions in the months of lockdown has been to write little fragments of family history, to make sense of that past for himself.

“My mum came over when she was 17 and stayed at the YWCA in Notting Hill,” he says. “It was winter and she was sharing with three young Irish women. She goes to bed lonely one night and the next thing she comes round in hospital. There was a gas leak and she nearly died; none of which I knew until I found a newspaper report that she had kept.”

Lunch With Adeel Akhtar




Adeel ate
Salt cod cheeks, tomato, lime, coriander and olives £8; confit rabbit leg, broad bean puree £16.80.
Tim ate
Salt cod cheeks; grilled lemon sole, sweetcorn and roast garlic butter, £18; green salad, £3.50.
Adeel drank
½ of Landlord bitter
, £2.35.
Tim drank
Pint of

Landlord bitter, £4.70. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer

When Akhtar heard his mother tell that story for the first time, it was, he says, like hearing the opening line of a novel, or watching an artist put a brush stroke on a blank canvas. He likens the process of assimilation that followed for her to making art – imagining a future, and then having it happen. “We don’t give any of that the same weight as we would somebody who writes a classic novel,” he says, “but they are both deeply creative endeavours, and one is far more high risk.”

Sitting in the hot sun, asking for refills of the water jug, our conversation as we eat covers a lot of ground – the nightmare of having to die in front of Judi Dench (in Victoria and Abdul); the bits of advice received from the perennial actors’ guru Stellan Skarsgård on the set of the BBC’s River (“once you are a professional actor you are always trying to go back to being an amateur, right?”); the ways in which Chris Morris proved terrorism should be a subject for comedy – but it returns a few times to these questions of belonging. Akhtar received a brutal lesson in racial profiling on a trip to New York in 2002, when he was hauled off a plane and arrested as a terror suspect, in a disturbing case of mistaken identity.

“Those hierarchical structures are everywhere present, you know,” he says at one point. “It’s just whether you want to pay attention. Most days you can go by and not have to worry about them. Other days they are so present that you can’t ignore it.”

I wonder if in recent years, with greater acceptance of colour-blind casting, and commitments to greater diversity in front of and behind the camera, he has noticed a shift in the industry. Are things changing quickly enough?

“I think we’re sort of muddling our way through a conversation,” he says. “It’s complicated. It’s the equivalent of saying to somebody, ‘I want you to look and acknowledge my differences and my history.’ But at the same time, in the same instant, you must try and make that not matter. The good thing is I think people are ready to stretch their ideas on that, a bit more than they ever were.”

At the time he received his Bafta, the overwhelming feeling, he said, was one of sudden, immense opportunity. When I ask if that feeling has proved to be true he circles the answer and talks about some of the things he has been proud of doing lately. Such as a film with the director Clio Barnard, Ali and Ava, a love story between an English woman and him as her much younger boyfriend; the stage version of A Christmas Carol, where he played Bob Cratchit to Jim Broadbent’s Scrooge, in a production that drew parallels between the disenfranchised of Dickens’s time and our own. In both cases he liked the way that the roles “might get under the defences” of the audience, and find ways to ask subtle questions about difference and connection. “But,” he says, “to answer your question, finally, I think I’ve got a lot more to give.”

Enola Holmes is out now on Netflix


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11 Songs In Scary Movies You’ll Never Hear The Same Way

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“You’ll get the chills just thinking about them.”

When it comes to making a truly scary horror movie, every element counts—including a killer (no pun intended) soundtrack.

Sometimes, a well-placed song in a horror movie can change the way you hear it forever. Here’s 11 songs that we can’t help but associate with films that give you the heebie-jeebies.

1. Nick Cave, “Red Right Hand” (Scream)

View this video on YouTube


Miramax / YouTube

Goth-rock icon Nick Cave’s 1994 single perfectly sets the ominous mood in Wes Craven’s 1996 horror classic. (And, not to spoil anything, but this won’t be the only time Scream pops up on this list.)

2. Luniz, “I Got 5 on It” (Us)

View this video on YouTube


Universal / YouTube

Jordan Peele’s 2019 fright-fest flipped Oakland duo Luniz’s 1995 hit on its head—drawing out the beat to a creep and perfectly soundtracking the film’s terrifying trailer (as well as its thrilling climax).

3. XTC, “Dear God” (It Chapter One)

View this video on YouTube


Warner Bros. / YouTube

Sometimes, the song in question doesn’t even have to be associated with scary images within the movie—it can just set the tone for the according scene perfectly, so you’ll never think of it the same way again.

4. Gary Jules, “Mad World” (Donnie Darko)

View this video on YouTube


Newmarket Films / YouTube

Donnie Darko might not be a traditional horror film, but it’s plenty chilling—and Gary Jules’ cover of Tears for Fears’ classic song serves as a haunting ending to the film.

5. John Denver, “Rocky Mountain High” (Final Destination)

View this video on YouTube


New Line Cinema / YouTube

Once you hear John Denver’s breezy, easygoing song soundtrack several deaths in the Final Destination franchise’s inaugural 2000 installment, you’ll never feel relaxed by the late singer-songwriter’s voice again.

6. Q Lazzarus, “Goodbye Horses” (Silence of the Lambs)


Orion

Synth-pop singer Q Lazzarus’ 1988 single found new life three years later in this pivotal and utterly unforgettable scene from Jonathan Demme’s horror classic.

7. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Freebird” (The Devil’s Rejects)

View this video on YouTube


Lionsgate

“Freebird” is the kind of song that’s been overused in popular culture to the point where even touching it is a risk. And yet: Rob Zombie’s 2005 blood-soaked cult favorite managed to give the tune a new twist, soundtracking its road-weary and unbelievably gory finale.

8. Sam Cooke, “Blue Moon” (An American Werewolf in London)

View this video on YouTube


Universal

A lovely version of Sam Cooke’s “Blue Moon” (get it?) hovers just over the horrifying werewolf transformation scene in John Landis’ 1981 horror-comedy classic.

9. Donovan, “Hurdy Gurdy Man” (Zodiac)

View this video on YouTube


Paramount

David Fincher’s 2007 masterpiece isn’t exactly horror, but its chronicle of the Zodiac Killer’s persistence is terrifying in its own right—and psych-pop icon Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” provides the soundtrack for one of the film’s most chillingly murderous moments.

10. Harvey Danger, “Flagpole Sitta” (Disturbing Behavior)

View this video on YouTube


MGM

Not only did Harvey Danger’s karaoke classic soundtrack this 1998 teen horror film’s trailer, but it popped up in a key montage near its thrilling climax, too.

11. Alice Cooper, “School’s Out” (Scream)

View this video on YouTube


Miramax

It only makes sense that one of the best horror films of the last several decades appears twice on this list and closes it out. Shock-rock icon Alice Cooper’s booming tune comes in right at the end of this typically gory scene.

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TV Shows And Movies Like The Haunting Of Bly Manor

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Time to start watching, Poppins.

1.

Bates Motel


Bettina Strauss / A&E / Everett Collection

A prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic Psycho, this series tells the story of Norman Bates and his mother Norma. While the series is set in present day and in a different town, it showcases what led up to Psycho in an interesting and brilliant way. If you loved the friendships and family dynamics of Bly Manor, this should be your next binge-watch. Bates Motel is incredibly smart and will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Where to watch it: Netflix.

2.

Hush


Blumhouse Productions / Intrepid Pictures

If you love Kate Siegel, aka Theo Crain and Viola from Hill House and Bly Manor, plus creator Mike Flanagan’s mesmerizing directing style, then you’ll want to check out Hush. Written by Kate and Mike and directed by Mike, Hush follows Maddie Young, a deaf horror writer who moves to a cabin in the woods to get in some much-needed writing time. However, one night, a masked killer appears and quickly begins to terrorize Maddie. This movie manages to capture the edge-of-your-seat horror aspects with very little dialogue.

Where to watch it: Netflix.


HBO

Created by Misha Green and executive produced by Jordan Peele and JJ Abrams, Lovecraft Country follows Atticus, his Uncle George, and his friend Leti as they road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America while searching for Atticus’s missing dad. Adapted from Matt Ruff’s novel, the series brilliantly blends aspects of horror and sci-fi to not only tell small stories about a family’s struggle, but also larger stories about the Black experience. If you loved how Bly Manor used the horror genre, then I cannot recommend Lovecraft Country enough.

Where to watch it: HBO Max.

4.

Oculus


John Estes / Relativity Media / Everett Collection

Based on Mike Flanagan’s short film, this movie follows Kaylie, a young woman who is convinced that a mysterious mirror is the cause for all of her family’s suffering. The movie stars Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, and Rory Cochrane. And it also features some Hill House and Bly Manor favorites like Kate Siegel, Katie Parker, and James Lafferty. Once again, if you’ve become a fan of Mike’s writing and directing, this film is a must-see. Also, the Oculus mirror makes a small appearance in Hill House.

Where to watch it: Hulu.


Beth Dubber / Netflix

If you watched Bly Manor and now have a massive crush on Victoria Pedretti, 1) you’re not alone, and 2) it’s time to watch some more of her work. Victoria joined the cast of You in Season 2 and will star in the upcoming Season 3. You follows Joe Goldberg, played by Penn Badgley, a dangerous man who falls head-over-heels in love with women he just meets. Joe’s toxic and unhealthy obsessions often lead to Joe killing people in order to “protect” the people he is transfixed by.

Where to watch it: Netflix.

6.

iZombie


Katie Yu / The CW / Everett Collection

Two words for you: Rahul Kohli. If you absolutely adored Owen, his relationship with Hanna, and his iconic puns, then it’s time to check out Rahul as Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti on iZombie. The series follows Liv, who takes a job at a morgue in Seattle after she turns into a zombie following a boat party incident. iZombie is truly a super-fun watch, and Rahul’s comedic timing and charm is on full display as Ravi. I cannot recommend this underrated series enough.

Where to watch it: Netflix.

7.

Gerald’s Game


Netflix

Another film written and directed by Mike Flanagan, Gerald’s Game is based on the Stephen King novel and follows a couple who take a vacation to an isolated house. Once there, the husband suddenly dies and his wife is left handcuffed to the bed without a way to escape, and is now forced to battle her inner demons. The movie stars Carla Gugino and also features appearances by Henry Thomas and Kate Siegel, aka the Hill House and Bly Manor fam together again.

Where to watch it: Netflix.

8.

Penny Dreadful


Jonathan Hession / Showtime / Everett Collection

Penny Dreadful follows Sir Malcolm Murray, Ethan Chandler, Victor Frankenstein, and Vanessa Ives as they band together to help combat supernatural threats in Victorian London. Penny Dreadful brilliantly weaves together classic stories and characters from Frankenstein, Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and more. I consider this one of the most underrated shows in recent memory and hope more people continue to find it. Like Bly Manor, this is a show that has elevated the source material in order to tell a mesmerizing story.

Where to watch it: Netflix.

9.

Years and Years


HBO

I think it’s safe to say that T’Nia Miller gave one of the best performances in Haunting of Bly Manor as Hannah Grose. So, if you’re looking to watch T’Nia shine again, Years and Years is the perfect watch. This limited series follows the Lyons family and how all of their individual lives converge during one night in 2019. It then follows their lives over the next 15 years. Alongside T’Nia, the series also stars Emma Thompson, so what more could you ask for?

Where to watch it: HBO Max.

10.

The Invisible Man


Mark Rogers / Universal Pictures / Everett Collection

I think we can all agree that Oliver Jackson-Cohen was one of the best parts of Hill House, and his ability to play a completely different character in Bly Manor is astounding. So, if you haven’t already, it’s time to watch Oliver in The Invisible Man. The film follows Cecilia, who begins to believe her abusive boyfriend is stalking her after his apparent death. She soon learns that he is actually invisible and is wreaking havoc on her life. Oliver stars alongside Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, and more in this horrifying adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel.

Where to watch it: HBO Max.

11.

Dark


Netflix

One of the best and most underrated Netflix series to date, Dark follows the connections between four estranged families as they try to figure out a wild time travel conspiracy that ultimately spans generations. The series is truly one of the smartest shows I’ve watched, and the cast is absolutely brilliant. Like Bly Manor, if characters and intricately weaved stories are your thing, then you need to watch Dark.

Where to watch it: Netflix.

12.

Absentia


Fallback Plan Productions

This is actually Mike Flanagan’s first feature film and stars Katie Parker, who played Poppy in Hill House and Perdita in Bly Manor. Absentia follows Callie and her sister as they begin to link a mysterious tunnel to numerous sudden disappearances, including Callie’s husband. If you want to see where it all began for Mike, I suggest giving this one a watch, maybe with the lights on.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime Video.

13.

Jett


Christos Kalhourdis / Cinemax / Everett Collection

There’s no way you watched Bly Manor without loving Carla Gugino even more than you already did, so I suggest checking out Jett. This sadly short-lived series follows Daisy, a world-renowned thief who begins doing what she does best for criminals shortly after getting out of prison. I don’t know how it has taken this long for Carla Gugino to lead a series, but I just want to celebrate it 24/7.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime Video with Cinemax or you can buy the season on iTunes and Amazon.

14.

Hemlock Grove


Brooke Palmer / Netflix

Another great and underrated horror series, Hemlock Grove follows all of the strange occurrences that take place in, you guessed it, Hemlock Grove. This is one of Netflix’s first original series, and chances are you might have missed it the first time around. Like Bly Manor, this show is made to be binge-watched and is another great example of how so much can be done within the horror genre.

Where to watch it: Netflix.

15.

Castle Rock


Dana Starbard / Hulu

Starring Bill Skarsgård, Lizzy Caplan, André Holland, and Sissy Spacek, Castle Rock tells the story of the town of Castle Rock and all of the interesting things that take place there. The series was inspired by Stephen King’s novel and brings to life some of King’s classic horror genre themes. Once again, if you’re just in a horror TV show mood after Bly Manor, this underrated series should be high up there on your list of upcoming shows to binge-watch.

Where to watch it: Hulu.

16.

Wayward Pines


Ed Araquel / Fox / Everett Collection

Based on the novels of the same name, Wayward Pines tells the story of a secret service agent who arrives in the mysterious town of Wayward Pines after two federal agents go missing. The series used creepy and somewhat strange stories to bring to life a very intriguing show. Also, it starred Carla Gugino, so automatically worth checking out. Basically, I just feel like this show was at the wrong place at the wrong time and deserved a little more love when it was on.

Where to watch it: Hulu.


HBO Max / DC Comics

Okay, hear me out on this one, Rahul Kohli lends his voice as Scarecrow in several episodes of this brilliant DC TV series. Harley Quinn follows Harley Quinn, who has recently broken up with the Joker and has now started her own villain crew with the help of Poison Ivy. This show is phenomenal and might be the best Harley Quinn–centered adaptation. Also, if you liked watching Dani and Jamie — someone who is struggling with their demons and someone who adorably loves plants more than humans — fall in love, then Harley and Poison Ivy are here for you.

Where to watch it: HBO Max.

18.

Doctor Sleep


Jessica Miglio/ Warner Bros. / Everett Collection

Based on Stephen King’s novel, Doctor Sleep is a sequel to The Shining and follows Danny Torrance, a man with psychic abilities who is also struggling with his childhood trauma. Mike Flanagan directed and wrote the screenplay for this adaptation starring Ewan McGregor. If you loved Bly Manor, you should just add all of Mike’s films to your list and enjoy a cozy and spooky night in.

Where to watch it: HBO Max.

19.

Dracula


NBC

Starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Dracula, this series follows the notorious vampire as he arrives in London posing as Alexander Grayson, an American entrepreneur who claims to be a genius when it comes to modern scientific advances. The series also stars Oliver Jackson-Cohen before he starred as Luke and Peter from Hill House and Bly Manor.

Where to watch it: NBC.


Michelle Faye / SYFY

While on the surface, The Haunting of Bly Manor is a horror TV series, it ends up telling a very compelling and heartbreaking LGBTQ love story with Dani and Jamie’s relationship. So, if you’re looking for another series with great LGBTQ representation, but also all the fun of a genre TV show, Wynonna Earp is for you. The series follows Wynonna as she is forced to rid her hometown of revenants, the resurrected souls of the criminals her great-great-grandfather, Wyatt Earp, killed years ago. Wynonna Earp tells some compelling female-centered stories all while being a sci-fi series.

Where to watch it: Netflix.


Netflix

Okay, this is an obvious one, but some people might’ve watched The Haunting of Bly Manor and not The Haunting of Hill House. So, if you are one of those people, I URGE you to go back and watch Hill House. It’s truly a flawless season of television. The series follows the Crain family as they grapple with everything that happened to them after they lived in the mysterious Hill House. The series gifted us some of the best new characters in recent memory, a perfect episode with “The Bent-Neck Lady,” and accomplished an episode that consists of only five long takes.

Where to watch it: Netflix.

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Scarlett Johansson And Colin Jost Are Married

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They followed all of the CDC’s “COVID-19 safety precautions.”

Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost are officially married!


Trae Patton / Getty Images

The Instagram account for Meals on Wheels shared the news when it posted a picture of the Staten Island Ferry with aluminum cans tied to the back.

“We’re thrilled to break the news that Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost were married over the weekend in an intimate ceremony with their immediate family and loved ones, following COVID-19 safety precautions as directed by the CDC,” the caption read.

“Their wedding wish is to help make a difference for vulnerable older adults during this difficult time by supporting @mealsonwheelsamerica. Please consider donating to celebrate the happy couple by clicking the link in our bio,” it continued.

Scarlett and Colin have been dating for two years. In May 2019, they got engaged in a very “romantic” way, as she later described to Ellen DeGeneres.


Chelsea Guglielmino / Getty Images

“He’s very charming,” she told the talk show host. “It was very personal. It was a very special moment and I think more than anything, when someone tells you they want to share the rest of their life with you, it’s a lovely, special thing.”


SAG / Via giphy.com

Although this is the first time Colin is getting married, Scarlett actually tied the knot two times before. She was previously married to actor Ryan Reynolds from 2008 to 2011 and journalist Romain Dauriac from 2014 to 2017.

Congrats to the happy couple!

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