Oscar winners Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren are in final negotiations to star in a film about a stolen painting — and a crime that gripped the nation.
In the summer of 1961, Francisco de Goya’s celebrated 1812 portrait of a victorious Duke of Wellington was stolen — just 19 days after it had been put on display at the National Gallery.
Alerts were posted at seaports and airports around the globe. Scotland Yard asked Interpol and the FBI to check on highly placed sources in the art world in case the painting was being auctioned on the black market.
In the picture: Jim Broadbent (pictured left) takes on the role of thief Kempton Bunton alongisde Helen Mirren. Bunton allegedly stole the Francisco Goya’s painting Portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London in 1961
A £5,000 reward was offered and the hue and cry continued until an anonymous letter was sent to a newspaper, demanding that £140,000 (the painting’s worth at the time) be donated to charity. Further correspondence was sent to the Daily Mirror declaring: ‘The Duke is safe, his temperature cared for, his future uncertain.’
The theft even featured in the first 007 film, Dr. No. The Bond baddie had the portrait of Wellington propped on an easel in his lair. Sean Connery walked in, glanced at it, and muttered: ‘So there it is.’
Unfortunately, back in the real world, the authorities had no idea where the national treasure was. Not, that is, until June 1965, when a letter arrived at the Mirror, along with a left luggage ticket for Birmingham New Street station. The Goya canvas was found there, rolled up inside a locked box.
But who had taken it remained a mystery until Kempton Bunton, a 61-year-old retired Geordie bus driver who lived with his wife May, a cleaning woman, and their children in a council house in Newcastle upon Tyne, gave himself up.
Bunton hid the painting (pictured) in the back of a wardrobe and later told police that he had stolen the picture to protest against pensioners having to shell out for a television licence
He had hidden Wellington’s portrait in the back of a wardrobe. He hadn’t confided in his wife because ‘otherwise the world would have known’. When he did finally reveal it, she gave the Goya a good spray of Mr Sheen and a wipe because she didn’t want it to be returned dusty.
Bunton told police he had stolen the painting to protest against pensioners having to shell out for a television licence. He’d noticed that the Goya had been partially acquired through state and private funding, and felt the money could have been better used to help pensioners.
The assistant keeper of the National Gallery (pictured left) and Bunton (right) appeared outside Bow Street’s Magistrates Court on August 11, 1965
Confidential files from the director of public prosecutions, released via the National Archives in 2012, added another layer to the mystery, but I haven’t space to give the whole story away.
It is out there, if you’re curious. Or you might want to wait until director Roger Michell — whose films include Notting Hill and the upcoming Blackbird with Kate Winslet and Susan Sarandon (showing at the BFI London Film Festival this Sunday) — has made the movie.
Production hasn’t started yet but it’s about to be green-lit by Pathe UK.
Michell has told friends he wants the film to have the raw, working-class grittiness and humour of British New Wave movies that came out in the Sixties, such as A Taste Of Honey.
Helen Mirren is to star in the upcoming production which focuses on the scandal which rocked the nation. A £5,000 reward was offered and the hue and cry continued until an anonymous letter was sent to a newspaper, demanding that £140,000 (the painting’s worth at the time) be donated to charity for the artwork’s return
It’s the A-list mafia!
There’s no stopping them! Martin Scorsese is pictured surrounded by Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro — the crème de la crème of heavy mobs.
The veteran stars populate Scorsese’s epic film The Irishman. It’s about a truck driver turned ‘helper’ by the name of Frank Sheeran; and how he came to do favours for friends.
‘I hear you paint houses,’ is a phrase mentioned in the movie. Sheeran adds that he does carpentry, too. And he wasn’t talking about painting and decorating.
The heavy mob: Pesci, Pacino, Scorsese, Keitel and De Niro make a sleek ensemble. Their film The Irishman will close the BFI London Film Festivalon October 13
Sheeran’s friends are mobsters and union bosses. He tosses so many used guns from a particular bridge into a river that he quips if the water was ever dredged, there’d be enough weapons for a small army.
The Irishman is about the continuing development of America, a country forged by blood and bullets. But it’s also about a man looking back over his long life with regret.
There’s love involved, too — love of family. And it’s love denied that stings Sheeran, in the end.
There’s been a lot written about the de-aging process used to make De Niro and others look younger. It might bother you…for five minutes…but the storytelling is so compelling that after that, the process doesn’t register. I sat on the edge of my seat for the swiftest three-and-a-half hours I’ve spent at the movies.
The film’s closing the BFI London Film Festival on October 13. Netflix will distribute it for a cinema run across the country, before streaming it from November 27.
Watch out for…
Christian Bale (pictured holding a trophy) gives one of his best performances in Le Mans ’66 which focuses on British-born racing car driver and mechanic Ken Miles
- Christian Bale (right), who gives one of the best performances of his career as British-born racing car driver and mechanic Ken Miles, in James Mangold’s riveting movie Le Mans ’66 (Ford v Ferrari in the U.S.). Bale stars with Matt Damon, as designer and driver Carroll Shelby, and together they battle the corporate chicanery at Ford to burn up the track . . . and defeat the Ferrari team at Le Mans. It’s a great story about friendship. Caitriona Balfe and Tracy Letts also star in the picture that’s screening at the BFI London Film Festival next Thursday and Friday (October 10 and 11). I’ve seen it twice and am raring to see it again.
- Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta, who are on magnificent form in Noah Baumbach’s brilliant Marriage Story, a Netflix gem which has five screenings at the BFI Film Festival, starting this Sunday at the Odeon Luxe Leicester Square.
Morfydd Clark and Jennifer Ehle, who are both terrific in Rose Glass’s psychological stunner Saint Maud, which screens at the BFI London Film Festival over the weekend and on Sunday. Check it out!
Tom’s a star to the Cor!
Tom Bateman, the classically trained actor with matinee idol good looks, will flex his stage muscle as Coriolanus, the great Roman general who didn’t know how to hold on to power.
‘I see him as a caged lion,’ said the star, who played the tragic warrior when he was studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA).
Coriolanus excels in battle but out of uniform he’s thwarted by politics. ‘He doesn’t unbend, he sticks to his values,’ Bateman said, ‘so he’s ill equipped to meet those wicked senators.’
Classical looks: Tom Bateman will flex his stage muscle as Coriolanus, the great Roman general who didn’t know how to hold on to power
He noted that the play has great relevance now. But he said director Robert Hastie didn’t want his actors ‘walking around doing impressions of certain political figures’.
However, Hastie does want the play to be bloody. ‘Rob wants the battles to be visceral,’ the actor said. ‘We talk, through the entire play, about how brilliant a fighter and combatant he [Coriolanus] is. So if you shy away from that, because you’re afraid of shocking people, then I think you’re doing the play a disservice.’
The play will run at the Crucible in Sheffield from March 6 next year.
He dons a simply elegant blazer with a grand-dad shirt while attending Wimbledon Tennis
Bateman has a wide-ranging portfolio of works including Da Vinci’s Demons (pictured left) and makes appearances at fashion shows (pictured right). He has taken on the role of Coriolanus in a play at the Crucible in Sheffield from March 6 next year
Bateman has starred in several TV dramas — he’s just completed Behind Her Eyes for Netflix and Left Bank, the companies behind The Crown.
He was in the Branagh Company’s The Winter’s Tale and last year’s Murder On The Orient Express.
He started filming Kenneth’s Branagh’s version of Agatha Christie’s Death On The Nile on Tuesday, at a location in the Cotswolds. ‘I can see the Nile from here!’ he joked.
he started filming Kenneth’s Branagh’s version of Agatha Christie’s Death On The Nile on Tuesday (pictured is the classic’s cover)