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Faces of the week (Friday, 11 June, 2004)


Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are Alex Kingston (main picture), with Brigitte Bardot, James Murdoch, Andrea Levy and Ronald Reagan.

ALEX KINGSTON

Her role in US medi-drama ER has made Alex Kingston one of Britain's most successful acting exports. But, after the producers' decision not to renew her contract, Kingston believes herself the latest victim of Hollywood's obsession with youth.

As NBC bosses confirm that the series now being filmed will be her last, their official line is that Kingston's character has "run its course".

Despite this, the actress points out the number of older stars on their way out of the show, the focus on young faces and bemoans feeling like "one of the old fogeys who are no longer interesting".

"Out of context"

Kingston, who has been with the show since 1997, currently earns $150,000 an episode, but the actress has suggested that this huge sum, too, could have counted against her.

With Fiennes, Kingston felt like the "invisible woman"
In a new post-Friends era, Kingston believes that producers are wary of the financial pulling-power of established stars and eager to encourage young, cheaper talent.

Kingston is now dismissing her remarks, saying that her "tongue-in-cheek comments were taken out of context". Nonetheless, she joins a list of leading actresses, including Dame Helen Mirren, Holly Hunter and Sharon Stone, who have complained of the paucity of parts for women of a certain age.

Whatever the reasons behind it, Doctor Corday's exit from the Emergency Room of Chicago's County General will bring Alex Kingston to another crossroads in her already tumultuous life.

Lucrative contract

The daughter of a Surrey butcher, Kingston was trained at Rada and appeared mostly on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as in such art-house films as Carrington and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.

But at the time she was far less famous than her husband, fellow British actor Ralph Fiennes. Kingston unwillingly saw her personal life take centre stage in 1995, when her marriage very publicly failed, and Fiennes left her for older actress Francesca Annis.

Does it mean that I'm the geriatric being pushed out because she's too old?

Alex Kingston reflects on her ER prospects

Kingston admitted to getting to a point "where I thought I wouldn't survive it". Despite this, she went on win plaudits for her gutsy performance as Moll Flanders on television.

Bold and bodice-ripped, Kingston caught the eye of casting agents on both sides of the Atlantic, and soon found salvation, both professional and personal, in Hollywood.

ER bosses offered her a lucrative contract with one of the most successful television drama series ever made.

As the glamorous Dr Corday, she got to enjoy an on-screen romance with the show's nominal lead Dr Greene, played by Anthony Edwards, and spent her free time playing basketball and having barbecues round at George Clooney's place.

Diminishing role

Kingston's LA existence brought her wealth, a high profile and also personal happiness. She vowed never to date another actor, and settled down instead with her second husband, German journalist Florian Haertel.

Kingston's LA life included hanging out with George
The couple underwent fertility treatment before their daughter Salome was born in 2001. After a decade of trying for motherhood, Kingston admitted to having changing priorities and feeling that "life is so much bigger than work".

Just as Kingston's family focus has expanded, it seems her on-screen character has shrunk. After Edwards' departure from the show, writers seemed unsure what to do with his wife, and the star has complained for some time about her diminishing role.

Despite this, when Kingston finally got the chop, she still found it "a shock and very upsetting".

The recent star of television mini-epic Boudica, she now plans to return to the UK to make a film and work on television projects, before completing her contract on ER.

Asked once what she missed most about England, the actress was able to reel off a list that included, "the fog, roast chestnuts and cold, damp, rainy days". The Californian sun may be setting on Dr Corday, but it seems Alex Kingston will be ready with her brolly.


BRIGITTE BARDOT

World famous for stirring other passions, former sexpot Brigitte Bardot was fined by a French court for inciting racial hatred in a book. As a seasoned animal rights campaigner, Bardot has previously criticised the Muslim practice of slaughtering sheep, but this time apologised in court, and also admitted to her literary shortcomings. "I never knowingly wanted to hurt anybody," said the legend, adding, "Certainly, I'm not Balzac."

JAMES MURDOCH

James Murdoch has made his first major strategic manoeuvre since taking the reigns at BSkyB. The company is planning its launch of a free-to-air satellite package that will offer more than 200 television and radio channels and interactive services. Already fielding complaints that the promotion hides a two-year time limit, 30-year-old James will be hoping to prove himself as the freshly-crowned scion of the Murdoch dynasty, particularly to the shareholders who initially questioned the appointment of "Rupert's boy".

RONALD REAGAN

Former US President Ronald Reagan received full military honours at his state funeral. Tens of thousands of Americans have honoured their 40th president, after his death last week aged 93. Reagan was finally laid to rest at his Californian library, borne out on a wave of affection and nostalgia. The feelings of many Americans were summed up by one tearful onlooker, who explained, "He brought back American pride. He put us back together."

ANDREA LEVY

More than half a century after her parents stepped off the boat from Jamaica, Andrea Levy's account of their experiences has just won her the Orange Prize for Fiction. Her novel, Small Island, tells of an immigrant couple overcoming prejudice to start a new life in Britain. Levy, who saw off such contenders as Margaret Atwood and Rose Tremain to collect the prestigious £30,000 award, admitted to her surprise at winning. She said, "I'm absolutely convinced I'm dreaming."

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