Rabu, 5 Mac 2014

The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Singapore police probe 'unnatural' death of American CEO of bitcoin trader

Posted: 05 Mar 2014 07:55 PM PST

SINGAPORE: Singapore police are investigating what they have called the "unnatural" death of a 28-year-old American woman who ran a small exchange that traded virtual currencies, including bitcoins, from the Asian city state.

Autumn Radtke, chief executive of First Meta Pte Ltd, was found dead at her Singapore home on Feb 26.

"The police are investigating the unnatural death," a police spokesman said late on Wednesday when asked about media reports Radtke had been found dead last week. He gave no more details.

First Meta said in a statement on its website that its team was shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of its CEO.

"Our deepest condolences go out to her family, friends and loved ones. Autumn was an inspiration to all of us and she will be sorely missed."

Before heading up First Meta in 2012, Radtke had business development roles at tech start-ups Xfire and Geodelic Systems, according to information on her LinkedIn profile.

First Meta runs an exchange for virtual currencies and assets. It initially functioned as an online trade platform for the currency used in online world Second Life, and then expanded to other games. Last year it allowed users to sell bitcoins for dollars. That feature is not currently available. -Reuters

Corby sister says sorry to Indonesia for interview

Posted: 05 Mar 2014 06:13 PM PST

SYDNEY: The sister of Australian drug mule Schapelle Corby on Thursday apologised to Indonesia "from the bottom of my heart" for an interview that sparked calls for her sibling to be thrown back in jail.

Australia's Channel Seven aired a documentary last Sunday in which Mercedes Corby suggested her sister had been set up, claiming the drugs she was caught with "could have been from Indonesia".

It included footage of Schapelle Corby as she was whisked from jail in a van after her release on parole last month, and showed candid video of the first moments back with her family.

Schapelle Corby

The documentary angered Indonesian authorities, who suggested Corby was seeking to profit from her crime. There has been unconfirmed speculation of a lucrative deal with Channel Seven, which the broadcaster has denied.

Indonesian Justice Minister Amir Syamsuddin, under significant domestic pressure, warned of a "big possibility" that Corby's parole could be revoked.

"From the bottom of my heart I am very sorry to the people of Indonesia if my interview on Australian TV caused unease," Mercedes Corby said in statement sent to News Corporation.

"I apologise if my words were disrespectful to Indonesia. I did not intend any disrespect.

"Our family are happy and grateful that Schapelle is free on parole. We thank the Indonesian government," she added.

Corby was arrested in 2004 at Bali's main airport with 4.1 kilograms (nine pounds) of marijuana in her surf gear, and subsequently jailed

She has always proclaimed her innocence. The saga has riveted Australians and generated significant sympathy in her home country, where her plight has been given blanket coverage.

When an Indonesian minister visited to warn that her parole was in peril on Tuesday, he said Corby brandished a knife and threatened to kill herself, although her family have since denied it was a serious suicide bid.

Corby was diagnosed with depression and psychosis during her time in prison, and her brother-in-law Wayan Widyartha told Australian media that she was stressed and struggling mentally.

"She is stressed now as she can't go out because many journalists are pursuing her," he was quoted as saying by the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

"I hope all media can please let us get comfortable... so that the parole can be carried out successfully until 2017."

Corby was jailed for 20 years, but the end of her sentence was brought forward to 2016 for good behaviour. She must remain in Indonesia until 2017 as a parole condition. -AFP

Australian missionary tells of daily North Korea interrogations

Posted: 05 Mar 2014 06:10 PM PST

SYDNEY: An Australian missionary deported from North Korea has told of the gruelling interrogations he faced during his 13-day ordeal in the Stalinist state and the stress of being under constant watch.

John Short, 75, flew out of Pyongyang on Monday to Beijing after he signed a detailed "confession" and apology after his arrest for distributing religious material in the North Korean capital.

"There were two-hour sessions each morning, which were repeated again in the afternoons," Short said of the questioning which he said was part of a "long and gruelling investigation" into him by authorities.

Short, originally from Australia but who has lived in Hong Kong for decades, said the confinement he faced after his February 18 detention was particularly difficult, given his habit of long daily walks.

"This I found to be most painful physically as an active senior person," he said in a statement supplied to Australian Associated Press.

Short's release came as North Korea test-fired half a dozen short-range missiles into the sea over the past week, in a sign of tensions on the Korean peninsula fuelled by ongoing South Korea-US joint military drills.

The missionary, who was picked up after leaving "Bible tracts" in a Buddhist temple in Pyongyang during a tour, said he insisted to his interrogators that he was not a spy and did not wish hostilities on North Korea.

The non-denominational Christian Evangelist said he was told that distributing religious pamphlets was a violation of local laws and that he faced up to 15 years in prison.

In his confession to North Korean authorities, Short said he realised that "my actions are an indelible hostile act against the independent right and laws of the (North)" and requested forgiveness.

In his statement released late Wednesday, he said: "I confessed that I had knowingly broken the law in what I believed is my God-directed duty and as I do in every place and country I visit."

Although freedom of worship is enshrined in North Korea's constitution, it does not exist in practice and religious activity is severely restricted to officially recognised groups linked to the government.

A UN-mandated commission recently published a damning report detailing horrific human rights abuses in North Korea and concluding that they could comprise crimes against humanity. -AFP

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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Niger extradites Gaddafi's son Saadi to Tripoli, Libya says

Posted: 05 Mar 2014 09:25 PM PST

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Niger has extradited Muammar Gaddafi's son Saadi, who just arrived in Tripoli and was brought to a prison, the Libyan government said on Thursday.

The North African country had been seeking the extradition of Saadi, who had fled to the southern neighbour nation after the toppling of Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

"The Libyan government received today Saadi Gaddafi and he arrived in Tripoli," the cabinet of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said in a statement.

Saadi, one of Gaddafi's seven sons, was being held by judiciary police forces, the government said. It thanked Niger for its cooperation and said Saadi would be treated according to international justice standards for prisoners.

The website of a government-backed militia showed what it said were pictures of Saadi wearing a blue prison uniform, calling him a criminal. Libyan news websites also ran pictures showing him with his head shaven in prison.

Saadi, who had a career as businessman and professional footballer, is not wanted by the International Criminal Court, as is Gaddafi's most prominent son Saif al-Islam.

But Libya wants to try him for allegedly misappropriating property by force and for alleged armed intimidation when he headed the Libyan Football Federation.

The ICC has indicted Saif al-Islam for crimes against humanity. Saif, once viewed as a likely successor to his father, is held by a militia in western Libya, where he is being tried for various charges.

Fighters from the western Zintan region caught Saif al-Islam in the southern desert a month after his father was captured and battered to death by a mob in 2011. The militia has defied an order from the government to deliver him to a jail in the capital.

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing and Ahmed Tolba; Editing by Eric Walsh)

U.S., China officials agree Ukraine's territorial integrity important

Posted: 05 Mar 2014 09:25 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China agrees with the United States that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected in its dispute with Russia, the White House said in statement on Wednesday after top-level contacts between the two countries.

China is treading a cautious path in the Ukraine dispute, withholding criticism of strategic partner Russia while adhering to its traditional policy of not interfering in the affairs of other countries.

President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, spoke to Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi about the Ukraine situation.

A White House statement outlining what was discussed said the two officials reaffirmed the importance to U.S.-China relations of deepening "practical cooperation to address regional and global challenges."

"They also agreed that the United States and China share an interest in supporting efforts to identify a peaceful resolution to the ongoing dispute between Russia and Ukraine that is based on respect for international law and upholds Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the statement said.

The United States has engaged in global diplomatic efforts to gather opposition against Russia's deployment of troops in the Crimea region of southern Ukraine.

Obama spoke earlier to British Prime Minister David Cameron as Washington seeks to mount European pressure on Europe.

Vice President Joe Biden talked by phone with Latvian President Andris Berzins to underscore the United States' commitment to peace and security in the Baltic region.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Ken Wills)

Pope very popular in United States, but no 'Francis effect' - poll

Posted: 05 Mar 2014 09:10 PM PST

(Reuters) - One year after his election, Pope Francis is "immensely popular among American Catholics," a survey said on Thursday, but there is no sign of a "Francis effect" inspiring more to attend Mass or do volunteer work.

The Washington-based Pew Research Center said 85 percent of Catholics in the United States viewed the Argentine-born pontiff favourably, with 51 percent reporting a "very favourable" view of him, while only 4 percent expressed a negative opinion.

Among Catholics, 68 percent thought he represented "a major change for the better," a view shared by 51 percent of the non-Catholics responding to the poll in telephone interviews of 1,340 Americans from February 14 to 23.

But the poll also found the rock-star status of the pope, whose simple style has attracted record crowds to the Vatican and won Time magazine's Man of the Year title for 2013, has not clearly translated into greater lay participation in the church since his surprise election on March 13, 2013.

"There has been no measurable rise in the percentage of Americans who identify as Catholic," the survey said. "Nor has there been a statistically significant change in how often Catholics say they go to Mass."

Forty percent of Catholics said they were now praying more often and 26 percent were "more excited" about their faith, but their frequency of going to confession or volunteering at church has not changed.


"If there has been a 'Francis effect', it has been most pronounced among Catholics who already were highly committed to the practice of their faith," the survey concluded.

Francis's 85 percent favourable rating lags behind the 93 percent the late Pope John Paul scored in 1990 and 1996. Pope Emeritus Benedict's rating reached 83 percent in 2008, just after his only visit to the United States, but it was mostly in the 70s.

The survey said women were slight more favourable to Francis than men and Catholics aged 40 and older were more likely to have a very favourable view than younger believers who came of age under the more dogmatic popes John Paul and Benedict.

Pope Francis's openness to reforming some Church doctrines seems to have raised U.S. Catholics' expectations of fundamental changes in coming decades, judging by responses to the poll.

The biggest jump concerned allowing the now celibate clergy to marry. Some 51 percent thought priests would be able to marry by 2050, compared to 39 percent who thought that a year ago.

Some 56 percent expect artificial birth control to be allowed by 2050, a slight rise from 53 percent last year, and 42 percent expected to see women priests, up from 37 percent.

"Regardless of their expectations about what the Church will do, large majorities of Catholics say the Church should allow Catholics to use birth control (77 percent), allow priests to get married (72 percent) and ordain women as priests (68 percent)," the survey wrote.

"Half of Catholics say the Church should recognise the marriages of gay and lesbian couples," it added.


These responses were roughly in line with results reported in Germany and several other European countries last month to a Vatican survey on sexual morality being taken for a major synod of world bishops on family policy due in October.

Most national bishops conferences have not published their results for the Vatican survey, but the few reports released in Europe indicated a wide gap between Church teaching on sex and the views that many Catholics actually hold.

Some disappointment rang through in comments on how Francis is doing his job. In his lowest rating, only 54 percent said he was addressing the clerical sexual abuse scandal well.

U.S. Catholics rated the abuse scandal the most important issue for the new pope in a Pew survey in March 2013.

By contrast, 81 percent thought he was spreading the faith well and standing up for traditional moral values. Some 76 percent credited him with addressing the needs of the poor.

The survey said 22 percent of Americans identify as Catholics and 40 percent of them reported they attended Mass weekly or more often. Another 42 percent of self-identified Catholics went to church only occasionally and 18 percent never.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

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The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

Indonesian flick 'The Raid' gets a Hollywood remake

Posted: 05 Mar 2014 07:15 PM PST

Expendables 3 director Patrick Hughes is set to direct the new film.

Australian filmmaker Patrick Hughes has been tapped to direct the American version of the Indonesian action movie The Raid, which caught the attention of international film critics at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival.

Hughes will follow in the footsteps of Welsh director Gareth Evans, who helmed the original Indonesian-language action movie. Released in the US in 2012 under the title The Raid: Redemption, the feature gained more attention for its spectacular fight scenes than it did for its screenplay.

The plot follows two members of an elite police squad who move in to take control of a Jakarta apartment complex that houses one of the country's most dangerous drug dealers. Tipped off by a mole, the drug lord anticipates the raid and awaits the officers with a trap.

Gareth Evans also directed the sequel – The Raid: Berandal – which is due to arrive in US theaters on March 28. Before beginning production on the remake, Hughes will wrap up on the set of the third movie in the Expendables franchise. — AFP Relaxnews

Hailee Steinfeld is lethal

Posted: 05 Mar 2014 08:00 AM PST

Hailee Steinfeld dishes on cigarettes, college and dancing with Kevin Costner.

IN the three years since earning an Oscar nomination at age 14 for her film debut in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit, Hailee Steinfeld has had barely a moment to catch her breath.

Last year, she tackled sci-fi (Ender's Game) and Shakespearean tragedy (Romeo And Juliet). And the 17-year-old high school junior has a cluster of films completed, including 3 Days To Kill.

Penned by Luc Besson and Adi Hasak and directed by McG, the spy thriller-drama finds Steinfeld playing Zoey, the estranged teenage daughter of a dying CIA assassin (Kevin Costner).

Also in the pipeline for the actress are the Toronto Film Festival fave Can A Song Save Your Life?, Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman and the action-comedy Barely Lethal – in this one, she's the assassin.

So, the Internet was abuzz last week with pictures of you smoking.

I did get a phone call from my dad after those pictures got out.

What did he say when you told him they were actually herbal cigarettes and the pictures were from the set of Ten Thousand Saints?

He's like, "It's all part of the game." I get it. It's cool. The movie, which involves a lot of things including smoking, drugs and alcohol, has been an interesting learning experience for me.

Speaking of interesting experiences, what was it like being on location in Paris for 3 Days To Kill?

Oh, my God, that alone was so incredible! It was my first time spending more than a weekend there. I watched the film for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It's heart-pounding to watch.

There's a quiet moment where Costner teaches you how to dance.

That was one of my favourite scenes in the movie. We had a great, great time. Kevin and McG worked with me in creating something really special.

You also just worked with Tommy Lee Jones, who not only stars in but also directs The Homesman.

That is a period piece. I don't know if it is sort of classified as a Western, but I play a very, very, small part in it. I will say I don't think I have ever been more nervous in my life as I was when I was doing one scene with Tommy Lee Jones. I had like three lines and they wouldn't come out of my mouth. I get nervous about pretty much everything.

Really? Even when you were just 14 and going through the Academy Awards three years ago, you seemed unflappable.

The thing I find as I get older that I think, maybe, I get more nervous because I have become aware of what is actually happening.

When I was 13 and shooting True Grit and when I was at the Oscars, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It took me a very long time to realise just how incredibly special that entire time in my life was. I enjoyed every single minute. But I would do anything to sort of relive it. But, I have been so fortunate to have had amazing experiences since then.

You're a home-schooled high school junior. Are you thinking about college?

Last year, I was thinking about it nonstop. The norm is that you go after you graduate from high school. I don't know where in the world I will be next week and I don't know where I will be in a year, so I was sort of worked up over that.

I had conversations with my parents and my teachers. That brought to my realisation that college is always there. That is a comforting feeling. I hope that I can find a good time to do that. – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

3 Days To Kill is currently showing in cinemas nationwide.

In praise of a strong Bond

Posted: 05 Mar 2014 08:00 AM PST

George Lazenby lacks the swagger of Sean Connery, but this 1969 black sheep is possibly the best 007 film ever.

ON Her Majesty's Secret Service (OHMSS) had a lot to live up to. As far as the entire world was concerned, Sean Connery was James Bond. And here was some impostor – worse, an impostor from the colonies, George Lazenby, whom nobody had heard of – waltzing in to take his place. It wasn't right. It wouldn't do. To rub everyone's noses in it even further, OHMSS deliberately stuck closely to the book, which meant no audience-pleasing whizz-bang gadgets. And what's with the bummer of an ending? No wonder the film only took half the amount of You Only Live Twice at the box office.

And yet, I will fight anyone who dares to tell me that they don't like OHMSS. Because they are flat out wrong. In the 45 years since it was released, it stands out as one of the best 007 films ever. Possibly even the best. It has the best soundtrack. It pushes the character into difficult new places. And that ending: that's not just a great James Bond ending, it's probably in the top 10 film endings of all time.

If you've never seen OHMSS, you should watch it. If you've seen it before, you should watch it again. And if you don't like it, I'm serious about fighting you.

Bond (George Lazenby) allowed himself one moment to be human when he married Tracey Draco (Diana Rigg), and paid the price for it -- a price hardly acknowledged later in the series.

Bond (George Lazenby) allowed himself one moment to be human when he married Tracey Draco (Diana Rigg), and paid the price for it – a price hardly acknowledged later in the series.

By George!

First things first: We need to talk about George. Lazenby isn't Connery. He lacks the swagger, the element of constant danger that his predecessor (and successor, since he returned to the role for Diamonds Are Forever) made his own. His voice is a bit all over the place. It doesn't help that he spends a huge portion of the film pretending to be a bespectacled, milquetoast man called Hilary Bray, nor that he was partially dubbed by English actor and writer, George Baker.

But what Lazenby does have, when he's allowed, is brute strength. Less slender than Connery, he is better equipped for stunt work, like in the pre-title sequence where he basically bodyslams a baddie into a tent. His awkwardness, too, ends up being his major strength. None of the other Bond actors could do vulnerability very well but, whether intentionally or not, Lazenby is an open sore. He's ruffled more easily, caught out more. He even displays palpable fear at one point.

And, of course, it helps that his Bond girl is Diana Rigg. Although she didn't have an awful lot to live up to – all previous Bond girls were more or less content to stand there and blink in bikinis – she's almost 007's equal here. She's spiky and uninterested, and initially uses him more than he does her. So, when tenderness between them grows, it's tangible. Not permanent – an hour into the film, he's in bed with someone else – but it's easily the most committed relationship we've seen him in.

All the time in the world

Not to bang on about it too much, but the final few moments of OHMSS are what sent the whole thing into the stratosphere. After defeating Blofeld, Bond rolls around in the snow with a St Bernard for a moment or two. Then, almost immediately afterwards, he's married. Diana Rigg cries with happiness. They cut the cake. Moneypenny's heartbroken, but puts on a brave face. They drive away to embark on their honeymoon. They discuss the family they're going to have. It's the first ending to a James Bond film that isn't just sex as a cathartic reaction to death. For once, maybe for the first time ever, he's actually content.

And then she dies.

That's how the film ends: with James Bond sobbing and cradling his murdered wife, refusing to believe that she's really gone.

It's a sucker punch, and there isn't a single trace of redemption, no matter how hard you look. There are no quips, no raised eyebrows; just the stark image of a bullet hole in a windscreen. Bond had allowed himself to be human, and he paid the price.


1. Then, of course, the whole thing was forgotten. As soon as OHMSS ended, Bond would only get increasingly campy. The loss Bond felt at the end of this film wouldn't be referenced in any meaningful way until Licence To Kill, and then only as particularly oblique subtext. What a wasted opportunity.

2. That's unless you count For Your Eyes Only, in which Bond lays flowers at Tracy's grave before dropping Blofeld down a chimney in what's quite clearly the most abysmal five minutes of the entire Bond franchise.

3. And don't forget that this is the film with the Gumbold office safecracking scene, possibly the most suspenseful in the series, even if it does come to nothing and 007 spends much of it gurning at boobs.

4. Also: Louis Armstrong's musical contribution of We Have All The Time In The World. That really can't be overstated enough, can it?

5. One aspect where I will agree with the OHMSS haters – the opening James Bond theme. It's rejigged here, and it sounds like a kitten trying to eat a stylophone. Horrible.

6. And fine, you might have a point about all the callbacks. The address to camera at the start. The whistled Goldfinger theme. This wasn't just a horrible portent of things to come, it actively ground away at the film's morose heart. – Guardian News & Media

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

Matt Groening spoofs Oscar shot, Homer gets the boot

Posted: 05 Mar 2014 07:30 PM PST

Find Bart and break Twitter.

ELLEN DeGeneres's now famous Academy Award selfie has been given the Simpsons treatment.

Homer being kicked out of shot is the obvious prank, but give the pic a second look – cartoonist Matt Groening challenges viewers to find the secret Bart.

"The ugly true story of that Oscar trademark selfie can finally be told!" he announced via Twitter . "Let's break Twitter again. Look for Bart."

Smartphone manufacturer Samsung was also pretty impressed with the award show's selfpic moment, reports Variety, after one of its handheld devices became central to the shot's capture.

The tech giant called it "a great surprise for everyone" and promised to donate US$3mil (RM9.8mil) to charitable causes. – AFP Relaxnews

Travis Fimmel: A model Viking

Posted: 04 Mar 2014 08:00 AM PST

Travis Fimmel plays a violent Viking on TV, but all the former Calvin Klein model would love to do is live a peaceful life on a farm.

IF actor Travis Fimmel looks familiar, it is probably because he was the face of Calvin Klein products at the beginning of his career.

He grew up on a cattle ranch in Australia and was on track to become a pro footballer in his country, but a broken leg ended that career path. He came to the United States to seek his fortune and proved he was more than a pretty face when he decided to leave modelling and get into acting.

The 34-year-old is now the lead in the History Channel's drama series Vikings as Ragnar Lothbrok, a Viking with vision who is ruthless at times but capable of compassion. He is also in production for the movie Warcraft.

You are totally believable as Ragnar. Was it easy to get into that character?

Thank you for saying I was good in it. I don't know if you are right or not, but the scripts are so good. Michael Hirst, the creator, is so talented, you know? So when you get a script like that, it really helps to play a character like Ragnar.

Your resume of characters is very diverse. Are some more appealing to play than others?

I definitely just want them to be complex. I don't like the average person, you know what I mean? I want to play something more interesting. Once again, the scripts in Vikings are so good, the characters are so complex and everybody has their own voice. It's just been a great experience. It's beautiful shooting in Ireland. It's an amazing country.

When you get to wear costumes, particularly period costumes, does that help you get into character faster?

Yes, it certainly does, and everything – set decoration, costumes, the look of everybody – helps you get into character. The landscape in Ireland is just ... I've never been in such a beautiful place with the lakes and ocean and everything. And the boats.

Obviously they built the Viking boats you sail in for the show.

Yes, we really go out on the ocean with them. This season, we go out on them a lot more. It's a great experience being out there. You feel like a little kid playing dress-up.

Speaking of a little kid, what was it about your childhood that prepared you for this kind of career?

I have no idea. No idea. Just tried to make some money. When I got to the States, I wanted to travel and ended up just getting in an acting class and have sort of been doing it for the last 14 years or something. I still don't know why I'm doing it.

It has to be fun to some degree, right?

Ah, money is fun, I guess. It's a job like any other job. You try to make some money and not embarrass yourself too much while doing it.

Getting famous was not a goal for you?

No, not at all. I just want to be proud of what I do, and unfortunately, in this business, if you do all right, you sort of get recognised a bit. That is the least favourite (part) by far, for me. I just want to do the work and go home. I wish stuff never came out. I wish you could just do the job and nobody ever saw it and you still made the money.

Private stuff: Travis Fimmel loathes doing love scenes - 'It's just very unnatural doing intimate stuff in front of other people.' (Inset): Prior to being an actor, Fimmel was a much sought-after model.

Prior to being an actor, Fimmel was a much sought-after model.

So has Vikings made it harder for you to be anonymous?

No, it's not too bad. I dress like a bum all the time. I'm a pretty casual fella. You don't get recognised that much unless you want to get recognised, like if you go to the fancy joints. It's like LA – there are 10 restaurants. If you want to be seen, you go there. You know what I mean?

Does it ever bother you that because you are good-looking, some people don't notice what a good actor you are?

I don't know. I don't think about it. I let other people think about that stuff. I mean, I never think about how I'm going to look or anything. Most jobs they don't let you have a beard or any of that stuff, so that was a real attraction for me.

And is your hair really cut like Ragnar's?

Yeah, it is. I have extensions. It was like only an inch last year, and they put extensions in. It's pretty funny (laughs). I have to shower in a shower cap.

How did you build up your confidence when you first became an actor?

I don't know if it ever goes away, but I'm always thinking I'm messing up. I did a lot of classes. I can't stand being on stage or the only one talking in a room, so class really helped me deal with that. It doesn't really get any easier, but it helps you focus on the acting.

I suppose you just have to think of it as a craft, something you learn and become accomplished at doing.

Exactly, and the more you do it the more comfortable a lot of things are. The first week of shooting, I always want to reshoot. You are struggling and you are not back in your routine. But as soon as you get going, on a TV show especially, you get in the groove and it gets easier.

How do you feel about doing love scenes or sex scenes?

I hate 'em, to be honest. It's very awkward. I'm all for the free kisses, but it's very uncomfortable. It's not a natural thing. You don't do it in front of people in real life. Not many people do, I guess. It's just very unnatural doing intimate stuff in front of other people.

I had read that you just want to get back to the simple life and living on a farm. Do you still feel that way?

Yeah, 100%. That's the only reason I'm doing this, to make some money to get my own farm. I'll make some money and I'll be out. – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Vikings Season Two is aired at 10pm every Friday on History (Astro Ch 555).

An incredible ride for Benedict Cumberbatch

Posted: 04 Mar 2014 08:00 AM PST

How the actor portrays Sherlock Holmes.

BENEDICT Cumberbatch is one of several actors to step into the shoes of Sherlock Holmes lately (others include Robert Downey Jr in the Guy Ritchie films and Jonny Lee Miller on CBS' crime procedural Elementary) in the BBC crime drama, Sherlock.

While Cumberbatch's Sherlock is a little different from the conventional depiction of Holmes – he is young and doing his detective work in modern London – the Brit does follow in the footsteps of a very long list of actors (including Christopher Lee, Basil Rathbone and Michael Caine). Like millions around the world, Cumberbatch is also a fan of this beloved ficitional character.

In an interview transcript courtesy of BBC Worldwide, 37-year-old Cumberbatch gives an insight into the version of Sherlock he is portraying in the series, which also features Martin Freeman in the role of Dr John Watson.

Sherlock is a very special role for an actor to slip into. Did you do anything special to prepare for this role?

I always go back to the books because they are an endless goldmine of reference and character observation. Watson, for all of Sherlock's critique of him and their relationship, is a very keen observer from a normal person's point of view and of what this extraordinary person is, whether it his physical movements, mercurial character or mood swings, all these aspects are very well detailed. Beyond that I start to try and memorise things, to try and be a little more alert to things, whether it's short or long term memory. I look at my diet a little more specifically which is very helpful for clarity of mind and a sense of being in his skin, having his energy. Also (it ties in with) his relationship with food because he does fast in the books. He sees food as an obstacle because it slows down the metabolism, it reduces the ability to have a keen, hungry eye. There's exercise as well, I try to meditate if I can. The rest of it is just collaboration, whether it be with the directors, with Martin or the rest of the cast and crew, just getting back into the swing of being in this family.

Are there a lot of similarities between you and Sherlock?

You'd best ask the people who know me, like my mother or my girlfriends of old! There probably are a few similarities. My mum says I can be very impatient when I'm playing Sherlock. He's a very intense character, and I don't want to carry that around me. One thing I have noticed is that my memory does sharpen when I play Sherlock because of the amount of text I have to learn. Also I find myself looking at people's shoes and body language and trying to deduce things from them. I do that because I have a professional interest. But I'm afraid I'm rubbish at it!

What are Sherlock's human weaknesses?

I think his most human weakness is not understanding the strengths of being human. He tries to outplay what it is to suffer under the human condition. He's trying to be godlike, to be above the everyday and sometimes I think he misses out as a detective because of not being able to interact on a human level, and John stabilises that. I think he doesn't have too many weaknesses apart from that. I think it's the things he lacks in his humanity that are his weaknesses. He can't engage with love, a family, otherness. He has to work on his own. It's very solitary and hard but I do think he's chosen to ignore those feelings for a long time. I don't see those as failings, I see those as choices. I think we all judge him on a paradigm that is based on our own experience of what it is to be human – we all over-consume, we all have a love for children or furthering our line. He's trying to do something extraordinary with his time on Earth that separates him, not because he thinks he's better but because he realises that in order to do what he has to do he has to be separate from what the rest of us do. So I don't think this is a failing. He is different, but nobody who is different has failed in this life; I think to say that he has failings would be to castigate anyone who does not live by the status quo and that would be a terrible, prejudiced thing to say.

How difficult was it to play this new element of Sherlock?

It's been a joy, actually. As an actor you crave a character to have a developmental arc and the wonderful thing about television is that it affords you that over a period of time as opposed to the contractions of the massive story arc of a novel in two hours of a film. But the writers are very alert to that and they know what our strengths are and wrote very much to them in the second season. With the new season they're trying to test us and shift us in a new direction so yes, I've really enjoyed playing the differences and the challenges he faces.

How do you feel about the global success of the show?

It's been incredible. The gob-smacking thing about it is people who have been icons to me forever have been coming up to me to say much they adore it. At the Golden Globes, for instance, Ted Danson from Cheers came running across the floor and said, "Oh my God, it's Sherlock. You kill that!" and I'm thinking, "This is all the wrong way round!" It was the same when Meryl Streep told me, "I love Sherlock." I thought, "That's so wrong". But I can get to right the balance by telling them how much I love their work and how they have been inspiring me and millions of others for years. But to have this meaningful interaction is amazing. Just to be afforded contact with the people who have inspired me is a very heady feeling.

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An incredible ride for Benedict Cumberbatch

Posted: 04 Mar 2014 03:52 PM PST

How the actor portrays Sherlock Holmes.

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