Pandora: Who would dare to call this Dame second best?

Author: By Henry Deedes

The sultry actress is currently on location in Germany filming The Last Station, a film about the last year of Leo Tolstoy’s life.

She plays the Russian novelist’s wife Sofya, and is joined by a glittering British cast which includes the award-winning Atonement actor James McAvoy and his wife, Anne-Marie Duff.

Although it’s a suitably juicy role for an actress of Mirren’s standing, she is working in the knowledge that it wasn’t actually meant for her.

At a recent press conference for the movie, Mirren let slip that the film’s Hollywood-based director Michael Hoffman had originally intended the part to be played by that another grand dame of the big screen, Meryl Streep.

“Michael, I know very well that you offered the part to Meryl Streep before me, but it just makes me want to work all the more harder,” she joked. “It’s a really great role, and Meryl: I’m afraid you made a big mistake.”

I only hope that her British co-star Christopher Plummer, who plays the role of Tolstoy, is similarly thick-skinned. An on-set mole informs me his part was also originally supposed to be played by Anthony Hopkins

Yasmin plans a return to her roots

Plucky Yasmin Le Bon is eager to immerse herself in the powder keg of Middle Eastern politics.

Although born in Oxford, the timeless beauty is in fact half Iranian. With Iran’s relations with the West currently at an all-time low, Yasmin, left, is now keen to do a bit of spinning on behalf of father’s former homeland.

“I haven’t been there since I was 10,” she tells me. “I’d be very keen to go back just to show everyone that the country isn’t made up of bloody fanatics ? half the country aren’t even Muslim. It’s a tough one though, that kind of political arena. I don’t know if I’m ready for it.”

Earlier this year, it was reported that Morrissey was attempting to play a concert in Tehran. Perhaps Yasmin can persuade her husband Simon and his chums from Duran Duran to join the Smiths legend and spring an unlikely 80s pop pairing on the Iranian public.

Friends disunited

The designer Matthew Williamson was conspicuously absent from the glitzy launch of Jade Jagger’s “Jagger Dagger” promotion for Belvedere vodka, opting for fashion photographer Tim Walker’s party instead.

It was a surprise, since he and Jagger are said to be the closest of friends. In fact, Jagger is regularly described by fashionistas as Williamson’s “muse”.

“I wish her all the best of luck,” Williamson told Pandora. “I’m sure she’ll have a great party without me. It’s just I’m really tired. I got off the plane from New York this morning ? we haven’t fallen out.”

Maybe so, but it’s not the first time the question’s been asked. When Williamson launched his Mayfair boutique several years ago, Jagger (as reported in this column) was due to DJ, but failed to show up.

From the life

The Australian actor Heath Ledger has won his first posthumous award, of sorts, since he was discovered dead in his New York apartment in January.

Not long ago, Pandora reported that the painter Vincent Fantauzzo had been nominated for the prestigious Archibald Prize for his portrait of Ledger, who sat for him shortly before his untimely death.

The award is Australia’s equivalent the Turner Prize. Fantauzzo didn’t scoop the big one, but he did land the People’s Choice award, which is voted for by the public.

Touchingly, Fantauzzo has declined all offers to buy the picture ? which attracted record crows in Oz ? but has instead given it to Ledger’s mother Sally, who in turn has donated it to the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Tim walks the line with Joaquin

Sadly for the geeky bean counters at 11 Downing Street, the Charlatans singer Tim Burgess has no plans to return to these shores any time soon.

Burgess, a long-time stalwart of the British music scene, packed his bags 10 years ago and moved himself to the sunnier climes of Los Angeles.

“I just love being in Hollywood, I find it a really inspirational place to write music,” he tells me. “I live near Joaquin Phoenix, who’s a really good mate of mine.

“When he was preparing to play Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, he used to invite me round to check out his guitar playing.

“Not that he needed much help. He had a real talent for it.”

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