- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 1, 2006

Harris memorialized

Actor Russell Crowe unveiled a statue in memory of his “Gladiator” co-star Richard Harris in Ireland Saturday.

Mr. Crowe, famed for his bad-boy reputation as well as performances such as “A Beautiful Mind,” described Mr. Harris as “a very good friend” as he performed the ceremony in Kilkee, County Clare, in the west of Ireland.

Mr. Harris, star of “This Sporting Life” who portrayed Dumbledore in the first two “Harry Potter” movies, died in 2002, aged 72.

The two actors first met on the set of “Gladiator,” for which New Zealander-Australian Mr. Crowe won a best actor Oscar, in 2001.

Paying tribute to Mr. Harris, Mr. Crowe said: “Richard was a great guy and he was a very good friend.

“I met Richard at a time in his life when he was probably reflective of what he had done over the time he had spent on the planet. He very kindly passed a lot of wisdom on to me.”

Mr. Harris, a contemporary of actors such as Peter O’Toole, was notorious for his lavish lifestyle and capacity for alcohol, but he gave up drinking in the 1980s.

The life-size bronze statue depicts Mr. Harris playing racquetball, as he often played the sport while vacationing in Kilkee.

A positive note

Matt Dillon says racism was a problem in the United States, but he admires the way the country struggled to cope with it.

Mr. Dillon, who played a police officer in the Oscar-winning “Crash” about simmering racial and cultural tensions in Los Angeles, called race-relations “cathartic” while attending a film festival in Spain.

“It sounds strange but there’s something very healthy, something very cathartic about the way America deals with racism because we have such large groups of people from different ethnic backgrounds,” Mr. Dillon, 42, told reporters Friday, shortly before receiving an honorary award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival.

He said, “racism in America is obviously a problem. It’s something that we have dealt with for decades.”

Mr. Dillon chimed in on the immigration debate as well, saying he felt some current U.S. policies contradict the nation’s founding principles.

“If we deny other people coming to our country then we’re denying everything that America stands for. I feel that way especially with our neighbors in Mexico,” he said. “It’s complicated. I don’t have a solution and I don’t pretend to have one.”

Early retirement

A 14-year-old boy who plays the role of Billy Elliot in the successful stage adaptation of the film has rejected the bright lights of London’s West End.

Liam Mower, who won a prestigious Laurence Olivier Award for best actor in a musical along with two other boys who also play the role of Billy, has decided to quit because he’s homesick and wants to return to Hull, 185 miles north of London, a realization that came to him when he left home to return to work.

“I started crying because I didn’t want to go back, so I rang mum and told her. It was a big moment. She asked me if I was sure it was the right decision and she was really good about it,” Liam told the London Daily Telegraph.

The show, which was named best new musical in this year’s Olivier awards, is one of London’s more popular theater destinations. Based on the Oscar-nominated film, it boasts a score by Elton John, who has said Billy’s story reminds him of his own childhood struggle to express his creativity.

Liam, who has played the role for 18 months, gave a final performance yesterday, the Daily Telegraph reported. He is also giving up his place as a student at the Royal Ballet School in southwest London, where he was on a scholarship that the newspaper said was worth $52,000, in part because of criticism he received for quitting “Billy Elliot.”

• Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from wire reports.

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