Willie Nelson's annual Farm Aid benefit concert will take place in Raleigh, North Carolina in September (14) and feature stars including Jack White, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews. The event takes place on 13 September (14).
Getty Images/Anthony Harvey
Since Gwendoline Christie joined the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII back in June, rumors have leaked that Brienne of Tarth will be going over to the Dark Side. According to Badass Digest, Christie will play an imperial Commander – specifically, the commanding officer who hunts down John Boyega’s character after he deserts his post. But as exciting as the idea of Christie playing the antagonist is, there’s a bit more to this rumor, as the site also posits that her role was originally written for a man.
Send your minds back several months, when casting announcements for the film were just a distant hope and every actor in Hollywood was reportedly in talks for the role. Around that time, Benedict Cumberbatch was one of the names being thrown around for a part, and as Badass Digest says, he was in talks to play an Imperial Officer. According to one of their sources, a major role in the film was re-written from male to female, all of which leads them to believe that Christie’s role is indeed the one that has been gender swapped.
It might just be a rumor, but it’s an exciting one, and outlets and fans have already shown support for director J.J. Abrams’ decision to make such a progressive change to the Star Wars universe. Casting a woman as an authoritative villain isn’t unheard of, but it is rare, and giving the role to someone like Christie over an actor like Cumberbatch is an interesting, unexpected twist on the typical sci-fi archetypes. It’s always a big deal when major blockbusters have better roles for female character than just being the films’ eye candy or damsel in distress, but to have Abrams make such a significant change to this particular universe also helps modernize things a bit. The original films might have had a strong female character in Leia, but she was the only prominent female character; by contrast, Episode VII seems to be lining up several complex, surprising roles for their actresses, including Lupita Nyong’o’s rumored Sith and Daisy Ridley’s alleged Jedi knight.
Whether we like it or not, roles like an Imperial Commander are generally thought of as male ones, and so casting Christie in such a role subverts the typical expectations that the role would be played by the standard “British white guy” that has become the go-to type for blockbuster villains. It opens the door for more women to take on roles like that, ones that we might subconsciously consider to be a manly character, which in turn opens the door for more Hollywood blockbusters and sci-fi projects to diversify their cast lists a bit.
But even though we might automatically consider an Imperial Commander to be a man, it might not have be written that way in the first place. There’s nothing in the character description to suggest that it wasn’t a gender-neutral role all along. It’s entirely possible that the script has always called for a woman to play the part, especially since Cumberbatch was in talks for the film back when they were using a script from Michael Arndt. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan have since taken over as writers, so it’s entirely possible that this Imperial Commander is a completely different one than the character that Cumberbatch was up for.
Still, even if the role was meant for Christie all along, it’s hard not to get excited about seeing such a talented actress get a prominent, compelling role. Her performance as Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones has proven that she can be both compelling and compassionate, both of which will likely come into play in her Star Wars role. In fact, she might even be better suited to this role than Cumberbatch would have been, as she has a great deal of experience portraying a character that is often authoritative and intimidating. Whether or not the Imperial Commander role was written for her, it’s hard to imagine anyone, male or female, who could do a better job with it than Christie could.
Besides, if she’s half as good with a light saber as she is with a sword, she’ll have no trouble keeping the entire galaxy in line.
Opera composer Seymour Barab has died at the age of 93. The Chicago, Illinois-born musician passed away in New York on 28 June (14).
He began his career as a cellist before becoming a composer, and was a founding member of the Composers String Quartet in the 1960s.
He went on to write music for texts by poets W.B. Yeats and John Dryden and author Kurt Vonnegut, before moving on to composing operas, such as Philip Marshall, A Piece of String, Passion in the Principal's Office and the satire La Pizza Con Funghi.
Barab also penned shows for children, including adaptations of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Snow White.
Veteran actor John Lithgow was recently subjected to verbal abuse on the streets of New York after a fan took a disliking to the thick beard he is growing for his new stage role as King Lear. The Oscar winner has been grooming his facial hair since March (14) in preparation for the Shakespeare in the Park production in the Big Apple's Central Park, but he admits the bushy white beard hasn't won him many compliments.
During an appearance on America's The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Thursday (17Jul14), he said, "It's making me feel nice and old... (but) not everybody likes it.
"If you're a recognisable person, you walk through town with a kind of swagger, but with my beard now... I was crossing a New York street and this guy had just slowed down (in his car), looking for an address or something, so I crossed in front of him, he saw me, he sort of sped up, chased me off the street, rolled down his window and said, 'Why don't you f**king shave?'"
Lithgow was too shocked by the unexpected insult to respond, but he decided to use his TV interview to send a message back to the rude driver.
He explained, "That's why I did (this talk) show, so in case he's watching, I can say, 'The Tonight Show, King Lear, that's why I didn't f**king shave!'"
Lithgow will star opposite Annette Bening in the open-air revival, which begins its limited run on Tuesday (22Jul14), and he can't wait to hit the stage as Shakespeare's tragic royal, adding, "It's been the answer to the question, 'What role would you want to play?' for all these years, and now I'm playing it!"
Model Chrissy Teigen suffered an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction during a recent taping of U.S. chat show Chelsea Lately when she opted to go bra-less for the appearance.
Singer John Legend's wife, who is known for going without a bra, didn't realise how chilly the TV studio where Chelsea Handler shoots her show was and had to apologise when her nipples started poking through her white dress.
She said, "I've got a mic (microphone) sliding down my butt and these are out."
Comedienne Handler joked, "I like your nipples, thanks for bringing them. I was trying to make mine hard too, but it's, like, who's gonna look at mine while yours are here?"
The model added, "They were bad to begin with and then we got in here and it was so cold."
Ringo Starr has teamed up with fashion designer John Varvatos to raise funds for director David Lynch's transcendental meditation foundation. The former Beatles star is the face of Varvatos' 2014 Peace Rocks autumn fashion collection, and the rocker announced the news during a rally in Los Angeles on Monday (07Jul14) to mark his 74th birthday.
In a black and white promotional picture for the drive, Starr wears sunglasses and a leather jacket and pulls his trademark 'peace' sign. Each campaign snap will be accompanied by the #PeaceRocks hashtag.
Fans are encouraged to post 'selfie' snaps of themselves making the peace finger gesture on Twitter.com and every time the hashtag is used, Varvatos' company will donate $1 (£1.70) to the Ringo Starr Peace & Love Fund, which supports Lynch's foundation.
The moviemaker's charity promotes the use of transcendental meditation in public schools and for members of the military.
Starr also appears in a short film for the campaign in which he sits behind a drum kit and talks about his musical aspirations as a youngster.
The musician tells WWD.com of his new project, "John Varvatos made me a male model finally. At home, I've always been a male model. And now I'm out on the streets with it."
Bradley Cooper's return to the Broadway stage in The Elephant Man has been delayed by a month due to scheduling conflicts. The American Hustle star is set to reprise his role of severely deformed John Merrick in the play, which is based on the real life story of Brit Joseph Merrick, marking his first stint on the Great White Way in eight years.
However, a spokesman for the producers tells the New York Times that the production, which was slated to begin previews in October (14), has been pushed back to November (14) because of a scheduling conflict. No further details have been given.
The show will officially open on 7 December (14) and the original 13-week run has now been extended to 14 weeks.
Cooper previously starred in The Elephant Man at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts in 2012, and he was last seen on Broadway in 2006, when he co-starred with Julia Roberts in Three Days of Rain.
Scottish rockers Twin Atlantic were so desperate to achieve their dream of performing at Britain's iconic Glastonbury Festival that they ditched their holiday plans to play a last-minute set. The band was drafted in as an emergency replacement when Canadian DJ duo Chromeo pulled out of a planned appearance at the event last weekend (27-29Jun14).
Twin Atlantic took Chromeo's place on the John Peel Stage as support for main headliners MGMT on Saturday (28Jun14), and they have now revealed they took a drastic step to fulfil their Glastonbury dream.
Singer Sam McTrusty tells Scotland's Daily Record newspaper, "(Bassist) Ross (McNae) had arranged to go to a couple of Hebridean islands with his wife and get some time away.
"(Drummer) Craig (Kneale) had this whole big trip planned to go to Oslo to see Pearl Jam play with a couple of friends and a girlfriend. He has a Pearl Jam tattoo and is in the fan club so it is a big deal that he dropped that and we got to go and play Glastonbury."
However, the band's performance was bittersweet for McTrusty as he missed out on seeing some of his favourite acts at the event.
He adds, "The only negative was that we were on at the same time as the Pixies, who are one of our favourite bands, and we clashed with 30 minutes of Metallica and Jack White."
Britain's Glastonbury Festival has been marred by a second death just hours before the first official performances kicked off on Friday (27Jun14). A 67-year-woman died of natural causes at the event shortly after the gates opened at the site in Somerset, England on Wednesday (25Jun14), and a male reveller was later admitted to hospital in critical condition after suffering an allergic reaction to the drug ketamine.
The 26-year-old man died in hospital on Friday morning (27Jun14), shortly before the festival got into full swing with performances from acts including the Kaiser Chiefs, John Newman and Blondie.
A statement from local police reads, "A man has died following a suspected reaction to ketamine. The man was taken ill overnight on Wednesday into Thursday and was taken to the Bristol Royal Infirmary. Unfortunately he died earlier today (Friday)... His death is not considered suspicious. At this stage we believe this was an individual reaction to ketamine and was not from a bad batch of the drug."
The festival, which runs until Sunday (29Jun14), is also set to feature performances from Arcade Fire, Metallica, Kasabian, Lily Allen, Ed Sheeran and Jack White.
Electronic dance stars Chromeo have been replaced by rockers Twin Atlantic on the bill for Britain's Glastonbury festival after pulling out of their scheduled set this weekend (27-29Jun14). The Canadian DJ duo had been booked to perform the penultimate set on the John Peel Stage on Saturday (28Jun14), but they have since had to cancel the show.
Glastonbury bosses have now drafted in Scottish rockers Twin Atlantic to fill the gap - and the band can't believe its luck.
Singer Sam McTrusty says, "It's been a dream of ours to play Glastonbury. It's the biggest and probably most famous festival in the world so it's genuinely an honour to be asked to play our songs and be a part of it all.
"Being there this weekend is a massive achievement for us and will feel very special on Saturday night... Hopefully you can join us for what will be a historic moment for our band."
Acts including Metallica, Kasabian, Arcade Fire, Dolly Parton, Jack White and Lily Allen are all due to perform at the festival from Friday (27Jun14).