ALISON BOSHOFF: Strictly at the palace is in a bit of a twirl

ALISON BOSHOFF: Strictly at the palace is in a bit of a twirl as plans for a royal residence-based episode are shelved

Prince Charles and Camilla are Strictly Come Dancing super-fans — but plans to host an episode in the ballroom at Buckingham Palace appear to have collapsed. 

Sources say that, barring a miracle, it’s just not going to be possible this year. Instead, the royal couple are pencilled in to attend the filming of one of the shows at Elstree in person, or via video link. 

I am told: ‘There has been a lot of back and forth about different ideas and different possibilities… but the likelihood is that it’s probably not possible to pull off an episode in the Palace in the time frame. 

‘If we can’t do it this year, the hope is that we will do it next year.’ 

Prince Charles and Camilla are Strictly Come Dancing super-fans — but plans to host an episode in the ballroom at Buckingham Palace appear to have collapsed

Back in June, rumours abounded that a semi or quarter-final might be filmed in the Buckingham Palace ballroom. A source said: ‘Charles and Camilla are very much driving this; and the BBC couldn’t quite believe what was being offered. Strictly at Buckingham Palace is just TV dreamland! It should be a wonderful spectacle.’ 

The source added: ‘The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are, like millions of others, huge fans of Strictly Come Dancing — and so is the Queen — so there is a real desire and energy to make this happen.’ 

This week, the Beeb has been announcing the latest crop of contestants; among them footballer Tony Adams, singer Matt Goss, TV presenter Helen Skelton, Paralympian Ellie Simmonds and actress Kym Marsh. The professional dancers have started rehearsals already; and the launch show will be filmed in the first week of September and go out on September 17. 

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Craig Revel Horwood dance the Cha-Cha

The series — the 20th — will conclude on Saturday December 17 after a 13-week run. 

Back in 2017, a segment of the Strictly Christmas Special was filmed at the Palace, with Camilla hosting competitors and judges for a tea dance with members of the local community. She even took a twirl with Brendan Cole. 

This time, judge Anton du Beke is determined to get cheek to cheek with Camilla — and has said that he’s heard ‘through the grapevine’ that he is her favourite dancer.

Brave Sam battles on despite cancer shock

Actress Sam Womack revealed on Tuesday — the day the death of Olivia Newton-John was announced — that she is starting her own battle with breast cancer. 

Womack said she planned to continue in her role as the White Witch in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, which opened to rave reviews at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in the West End last month, and is running until January. Understudy Rachel Dawson will take over if the star needs time off for treatment. 

It’s a physically demanding part, with Womack, 49, being hoisted up at one point so she can ‘fly’ over the audience — a particular challenge during this scorching summer. ‘I feel like a little baked potato up there,’ she joked. ‘Sometimes I’m absolutely draped in fake fur… shoulder pads and wigs and flying… and the heat at the top of the auditorium is otherworldly. 

Samantha Womack bows at the curtain call during a performance of ‘The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe’ at the Gillian Lynne Theatre

‘I am OK with heights. That’s never been one of my phobias. When it’s not 45 degrees, it’s a really pleasant place to be.’ 

Womack has two children, Lili and Benji, with former husband Mark Womack, who appears in Emmerdale. They split up four years ago, but have carried on living together. 

For the past two years she has been dating actor Oliver Farnworth, 40. Womack reveals that the three of them now form a ‘blended parenting unit’ — dividing their time between homes in Bedfordshire and Liverpool. 

She explains: ‘We have worked very hard at creating our situation. It’s not that traditional — we do all spend lots of time together. Mark often stays at the house [in Bedfordshire]; or Oli and I stay with him in Liverpool. Oli and Mark really get on. It is nice. I think Mark and I came to the same place at the same time, so it’s probably easier for us to stay friends. I know it’s not always possible, if someone is in pain or hurting. But we just really enjoy our friendship.’

Samantha Womack revealed she has breast cancer as she paid tribute to the late Olivia Newton-John in a 1993 image with the late actress and her daughter Chloe

Daughter Lili, 17, is studying music at LIPA in Liverpool while Benji, 20, is a university student. Womack recently bought a house in Valencia, Spain, which she intends to be her principal residence with Farnsworth when she isn’t working. 

She said: ‘My ex-husband is an actor, so the three of us trying to get our schedules together can be quite challenging. But on the plus side, we’re all incredibly understanding of the fact that sometimes we just need to drop things and run to a job. 

‘Coming out of the pandemic, we were so desperate to remind ourselves that there was an industry. It felt very frightening for all of us, for different reasons. We were all very grateful to get back to work, because it was a hair-raising two or three years.’

Damian takes a break to focus on dad duties

He has created some of the most memorable TV characters in recent history — including Nicholas Brody, the conflicted marine at the heart of Homeland and Henry VIII in Wolf Hall — but it seems we may have to get used to seeing less of Damian Lewis on the box. 

The star of long-running hit show Billions, and before that Band Of Brothers, is ‘on a hiatus’ from acting while he looks after his two teenage children following the death of their mother (and his wife) Helen McCrory. 

Lewis shot a big budget thriller A Spy Among Friends, based on the story of Kim Philby, at the end of last year, but hasn’t taken on any new roles since. 

Actor Damian Lewis with his late wife Helen McCrory

A friend says: ‘He’s stepped up amazingly to look after the kids, and does so without any help. He is there at pick-up every day. His priority is being with them and he stepped in to do everything Helen did, and he’s doing it so well.

‘He won’t put them into boarding school or anything like that, so it looks like a hiatus from acting work for him for some time. 

‘There was a little bit of work to do in America recently and he brought the kids with him, so they had a holiday — although they all came down with Covid, naturally.’ 

Lewis himself said last October that he planned to stay in London for the foreseeable future ‘for obvious reasons’. 

He is aiming to release an album of music next year; and last week played a gig in London. Many of the songs were about Helen, who died aged 52 after a battle with cancer in April of last year. Lewis was visibly emotional on stage and at one point joked that he ‘shouldn’t have worn mascara’. 

Damian Lewis pictured last month in London with his girlfriend Alison Mosshart

A friend said: ‘He still wears his wedding ring and all the songs were about Helen. No one could have grieved harder than he did.’ 

I’m told that he remains very close to Helen’s parents Iain and Ann, and consulted them before going public with his new girlfriend, musician Alison Mosshart. Iain and Ann were in the audience at London’s Omeara when Lewis played there. 

He and Mosshart, of The Kills, are thought to have got to know each other via mutual friends and went public at a fundraiser for the National Gallery in July. She wasn’t spotted in the audience at his gig. 

A Spy Among Friends is due out on the new ITV streaming service ITVX in November or December.

Lion king Idris reveals some beastly secrets 

Idris Elba is the hero of Beast, a survival story which pits a widowed husband, on a trip to South Africa with his daughters, against a huge rogue lion who is tracking them. 

The lion was created using special effects and during filming there was a stand-in stuntman wearing a big foam mask. 

Elba said: ‘I haven’t done a movie where I’m imagining — and fighting with — something that is not really there, in such close proximity. 

Idris Elba as Dr. Nate Samuels in Beast

‘I’ve fought in other movies with swords and weapons and against things that aren’t there. But how fearful can you be when you’ve got a guy in a grey suit and a big floppy head trying to beat you? So that was a skill set that I had to learn.’ 

He added: ‘I don’t like to watch films that I’m in. 

‘I typically go to a premiere, watch the first ten minutes and then leave. But for some reason, I stayed… which was torture! However, I was just fascinated about how we achieved the ferociousness of this lion.’ 

  • Beast will be in cinemas from August 26.

Check in at The Holiday cottage

Cameron Diaz in ‘The Holiday’

Classic Christmas romcom The Holiday had many Americans fall in love with the quintessentially British home that Cameron Diaz (above) moved into after Kate Winslet moved out in a dream of a house swap. 

Now, a replica is being built in Georgia’s Blue Ridge mountains — as a holiday let, of course. Designer Lucy Small said: ‘Everyone just loves this house…I thought, I could build this.’ 

Back in 2006, the studio used the exterior of a house in Holmbury St Mary, Surrey, and built an interior on a sound stage in LA. Ms Small admits that her version is not an exact duplicate: ‘Some things are just not possible, due to [building] code.’ 

But she added: ‘If you stay there, I want you to feel like it’s an old cottage in the English countryside — and Jude Law might appear at any minute.’

Piet van der Valk puts his life on the line every day to clear up crime in Amsterdam. And Marc Warren, who plays him, did pretty much the same every time he popped on a pair of cycle clips. ‘The bike I was given to travel around Amsterdam during filming didn’t have any brakes — front or back,’ reveals Warren, who stars as the maverick Dutch detective in the Sunday night ITV series. ‘You had to do some serious back-pedalling to stay safe and avoid accidents.’

Hastings the singing detective!

Officially, ITV say they ‘can’t speculate’ about their new Sunday night detective drama Ridley filling the hole left by Morse and Endeavour and turning into a long-running staple. 

But that hasn’t stopped the cast, including Line Of Duty favourite Adrian Dunbar, from hoping. 

Dunbar, 64, says he’s excited by the prospect of developing his character, Alex Ridley, a former detective brought out of retirement to help solve a murder, beyond the initial four episodes.

 ‘Ridley’s on a journey of redemption after a tragedy, so there are aspects of his personality, such as his sense of humour, that we don’t see initially,’ he says. ‘He isn’t at that place yet where he can laugh at things — but hopefully he will further down the line.’ 

Dunbar, an accomplished singer himself, suggested Detective Ridley should have a musical bent and was delighted when producers agreed

He lost his wife and daughter in a fire; and one of the ways he copes is by singing in a nightclub he owns. Dunbar, an accomplished singer himself, suggested the detective should have a musical bent and was delighted when producers agreed. ‘I’ve always liked the idea of a singing detective — it has a nice ring to it! So you see me performing and even playing the piano a little bit.’ 

Dunbar has played Ted Hastings in Line Of Duty for six series. He says he’s delighted to be playing someone less office — and uniform — bound than Hastings. 

‘Ted’s uniform, especially the starched white shirt, didn’t do me any favours,’ Adrian concedes. ‘I met a woman in Tesco who said: “You don’t look nearly as fat as you do in Line Of Duty. It’s probably those police-issue white shirts, isn’t it?” I thought: “Charming!”’ 

The new show will go out later this month.

Sir Elton John insisted that theatregoers would ‘walk out elated’ after watching the new musical version of the book The Devil Wears Prada, for which he wrote the songs. 

However, the show has just opened in Chicago to a mauling from critics. The kinder among them called his songs ‘by the numbers’; the New York Post was harsher (‘Every song is lousy’). The musical was destined for Broadway next year, but it now looks like it might need an overhaul before that happens. 

There’s no word — yet — as to whether Elton will consider any tweaks. He had a smash hit with the Billy Elliot musical, and his work on The Lion King is considered a masterclass on how to write for the theatre.

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