INDEPENDENT 2024-04-06 16:04:35


Timing of Isla Fisher and Sacha Baron Cohen divorce raises eyebrows

Isla Fisher and Sacha Baron Cohen’s divorce announcement follows allegations made about Cohen by Rebel Wilson.

On Friday (5 April), the couple, who met in 2001, announced they had split up last year, sharing a joint statement that read: “After a long tennis match lasting over 20 years, we are finally putting our racquets down. In 2023, we jointly filed to end our marriage.”

“We have always prioritised our privacy, and have been quietly working through this change. We forever share in our devotion and love for our children. We sincerely appreciate your respecting our family’s wish for privacy.”

The announcement comes weeks after Pitch Perfect star Wilson branded Cohen a “massive a**hole”, and accused him of trying to “bully” her into silence over a contentious chapter in her memoir.

Wilson claimed that she struggled with Cohen, 52, on the set of 2016 comedy Grimsby – something that the Ali G and Borat actor has strenuously denied.

Cohen’s representatives told The Independent: “While we appreciate the importance of speaking out, these demonstrably false claims are directly contradicted by extensive detailed evidence, including contemporaneous documents, film footage, and eyewitness accounts from those present before, during and after the production of Grimsby.

News of Cohen’s divorce from Wedding Crashers actor Fisher, 48, arrives suspiciously soon after Wilson’s claims surfaced – but sources are conflicted on whether they impacted the announcement.

While one source told The Sun that the headlines were the “catalyst” in their decision to share the news, claiming Fisher was “starting to get embarrassed” by the claims, US Weekly reported that there was no link and had “nothing to do” with Wilson.

“They have been living separate lives since last year but wanted to give this space and time for their children to be OK with this before the news came out and they got all this attention,” a source told US Weekly.

But a source told The Sun: “Rebel’s book was a catalyst in Isla deciding to announce this to the world; she’s got her own career and reputation to worry about.

“Those close to her said it was starting to get embarrassing with all of the allegations that were spilling out of Rebel’s book. So she felt as though it was the right thing to do to inform everyone of their decision.

“Sacha, on the other hand, did not want that. He has been making as though it’s business as usual before they made this announcement.”

The couple, who have three children, are said to have “battled to make things work for the sake of their family” ahead of their decision to split in 2023.

“This decision wasn’t taken lightly and they remain incredibly close – there’s still a lot of love there,” a source told The Sun.

Baron Cohen reflected on first meeting Fisher in an interview with the New York Times, noting that he knew “instantly” that she was going to mean something to him.

“She was hilarious,” the 52-year-old comedian said. “We were at a very pretentious party, and me and her bonded over taking the mick out of the other people in the party. I knew instantly. I don’t know if she did.”

The couple got engaged in 2004 and married in a private ceremony in Paris in 2010.

Netflix’s Scoop manages to buck TV’s worst trend

Right now, TV is in thrall to five little words: “Based on a true story”. Events that have barely had time to, well, happen are immediately snapped up by production companies and turned into shows that are forgotten almost as quickly. Scammers, court cases, celebrity scandals: they’re all fodder for the content mill (and a great excuse for beautiful actors to experiment with dodgy prosthetics). We’ve had a drama based on the Wagatha Christie trial, Kenneth Branagh in horrifying Boris Johnson cosplay for Michael Winterbottom’s Sky series This England and a whole spate of shows about start-ups gone very, very wrong (see Apple’s WeCrashed and FX’s The Dropout). And that’s just a tiny, tiny cross-section.

It has all got so out of hand that whenever anything remotely newsworthy happens, everyone on social media makes the same joke: that ITV is on the verge of casting Sheridan Smith in a three-part ripped-from-the-headlines drama (aptly, it’s a gag that was quite engaging the first three times, but now just feels a bit derivative). So forgive me for rolling my eyes when Netflix commissioned one-off drama Scoop, depicting the events leading up to Emily Maitlis’ notorious Newsnight showdown with Prince Andrew in November 2019. It is based on a memoir by Sam McAlister, the Newsnight booker who secured that fateful interview, who’s played by Billie Piper, alongside Gillian Anderson as Maitlis and Rufus Sewell as the prince. And it’s ended up proving my preconceptions wrong, showing that, when they’re done well, true-story dramas can bring nuance and new perspectives.

Initially, I’d wondered: did we really need a TV reconstruction of… a TV interview? Wouldn’t it be a bit “inside baseball”? Hasn’t every possible meme about Woking Pizza Express been made? The fact that Amazon then announced their own drama called A Very Royal Scandal, with Michael Sheen and Ruth Wilson in the palace hot seats, just seemed to further prove the industry’s mania for true-story IP (and lack of fresh ideas). This rival project, a three-part series, is being produced by Maitlis, so will inevitably be geared towards her personal experience.

But once you get past the eye-catching wigs, the fake jowls (apparently Sewell spent about four hours in the makeup chair to transform into Andrew) and the fact that, several years post-Crown, Anderson’s voice still has an uncanny touch of the Thatchers about it, Scoop is actually much greater than the sum of its parts. The film bucks this trend of turning recent events into bland streaming fodder, by re-framing an incident we think we know inside out: it takes out much of the sensation and sniggering from a story that, thanks to all those jokes about that branch of Pizza Express and the prince’s miraculous inability to sweat, has become a bit of a punchline.

In that infamous interview, Andrew was being questioned over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier and convicted sex offender, as well as allegations that he sexually assaulted Virginia Guiffre on three occasions, when she was aged 17 (the prince has always denied the allegations, and the case was settled out of court in 2022)From the start, Scoop gestures towards Epstein’s victims. We see paparazzi photos of young girls leaving his New York home, which act as a reminder of the human cost and, as they re-appear throughout the film, of the urgency behind McAlister’s quest for an exclusive.

In the feverish aftermath of the Newsnight interview, especially the online scramble to have the hottest take or to make the best joke about Andrew’s bizarre pronouncements, the victims often seemed to become an afterthought. It was as if, collectively, we all conveniently forgot that this was a story about alleged abuse, not “straightforward shooting weekends” and excesses of adrenaline. Scoop goes some way to re-address that. Perhaps it helps that a good few years have elapsed since the interview, allowing the writer and producers to wade through the hysteria and see things in a different, clearer light.

And although Sewell’s Andrew has plenty of screen time (did we really need that shot of him in the bath?), the story has been re-framed to focus on the women who made the interview happen. We see the sacrifices that McAlister has to make in service of a job that exhausts and exhilarates her, and there are gestures towards the inscrutable Maitlis’ motivations, too: screenwriter Peter Moffat imagines that her failure to grill Bill Clinton over his affair with Monica Lewinsky during a past interview might have galvanised the presenter to push Andrew for answers. Keeley Hawes is especially strong in the tricky role of Amanda Thirsk, the prince’s private secretary who became McAlister’s contact at the palace. In different hands, it might’ve been easy to play up the “what was she thinking?” angle or present her as a caricatured simpering courtier. But instead, Hawes plays her as someone who has perhaps over-invested in her job and become blinkered to reality.

Of course, some of the clichés of the based-on-a-true-story industrial complex are still present and correct. Personally, I could’ve done without the self-congratulatory scene towards the end, when the Newsnight editor played by Romola Garai rallies the troops to deliver a speech about how the programme tells “stories that need to be told” while Anderson and Piper nod approvingly. I’m yet to work in or hear of a newsroom where this sort of Hollywood set-piece moment actually happens (we’re all too busy refreshing Twitter and thinking about what to have for lunch).

But for the most part, it’s refreshing to be reminded that the true story drama doesn’t have to be a case of flat re-enactments and diminishing returns – it can make us re-interrogate the stories we think we know. And when Prince Andrew seems to be cropping up at royal events despite his apparent retirement from public life, that interrogation feels particularly important. Now the pressure will be on for Amazon’s drama to top it: Sheen and Wilson, the ball’s in your court.

Sharon Osbourne issues another brutal James Corden takedown

Sharon Osbourne has issued yet another takedown of James Corden after criticising him on Celebrity Big Brother.

When the former X Factor judge appeared on ITV series last month, she surprised viewers with her candid views on everyone from Ellen DeGeneres and Anna Wintour to her former employer Simon Cowell and Adele, whose accent she mocked.

But it was during a discussion of celebrities who name-drop that Osbourne called out Gavin & Stacey star Corden, stating: “I tell you who does that: James Corden – he does that all the time.’

She continued: “I go to him, ‘I really like your shoes,’ and he goes, ‘Yes, Stella McCartney.’ I’m like, ‘I didn’t ask you who made them.’ He constantly, constantly throws out names.”

Reflecting on his arrival in the US, Osbourne said: “When he got to America, he played the LA game really well.” She then concurred when Louis Walsh, who finished fourth on the series, said he “kissed all the right people”.

Now, while discussing her time on the series with husband Ozzy, daughter Kelly and son Jack, Sharon doubled down on her criticism of the former Late Late Show host, who has cleared up rumours he was fired from the series.

When she said that Walsh “got into so much s***” for his candid opinions, Jack told her: “You weren’t a f***ing saint – you went after everyone as well!”

Sharon, defending herself, replied: “All I said was Anna Wintour’s a c***,” to which Kelly reminded her she also criticised DeGeneres and Adele.

Jack then said: “You f***ing went off at James Corden,” but Osbourne described her assessment as “fair”.

“That’s fair,” she said, adding: “I mean, he’s fair game. That fake laugh.” When Ozzy said he didn’t know who Corden was, Jack told his dad: “He was that British actor who became the talk show host in America.”

Sharon then said, in reference to the 2013 film One Chance: “His claim to fame is playing Paul Potts in a movie.”

Corden started his career as an actor and writer in the UK before moving to the US in 2015 when he scored a gig presenting The Late Late Show.

His credits before One Chance include comedy series Gavin & Stacey, which he wrote alongside co-star Ruth Jones, and The History Boys , which began life as a stage play.

In 2011, he also received acclaim for his theatre performance in One Man, Two Guvnors.

BBC defends Kate coverage as Harry has ‘no choice’ but to see William on visit

The BBC has been forced to defend its coverage of the Princess of Wales’s cancer diagnosis after receiving complaints from people who believed it was “excessive and insensitive”.

Kate revealed she was undergoing treatment for the disease in an emotional video message released on 22 March.

The Independent understands the broadcaster, which aired the full video, received just over 100 complaints about its coverage of the Princess of Wales’s health.

In a statement issued on Friday in response, the corporation said it was “mindful” of its reporting approach and did not speculate on details that had not been made public.

It comes as royal author Tom Quinn told the Mirror Prince Harry will have “no choice” but to meet with his father King Charles and his brother Prince William in the likelihood that he makes a trip to the UK next month for a celebration of 10 years of the Invictus Games.

Millions get national insurance cut from today – here’s how much you’ll save

Millions of hard-pressed Britons are receiving a national insurance cut from today the new tax year gets underway, helping to ease the burden of the cost of living crisis.

The main rate of employee national insurance was cut from 10 per cent to 8 per cent from April 6 – the first day of the 2024-25 tax year.

This two per cent decrease was the centrepiece of chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s spring budget – a cut he said will benefit 27 million workers.

When combined with a cut previously announced in the autumn statement, this will save the average worker on £35,400 more than £900 a year, the government said.

The move from Mr Hunt is intended to try and make a dent in Labour’s commanding poll lead, with a general election looming.

Mr Hunt said the cuts show “we stand behind those who work hard and fires the starting gun on our long-term ambition to end the unfair double tax on work”.

£15,000 – Take-home pay of £14,320 in 2024/25, compared to £14,235 in 23/24 – Increase of £85

£20,000 – Take-home pay of £17,920 in 2024/25, compared to £17,660 in 23/24 – Increase of £260

£25,000 – Take-home pay of £21,520 in 2024/25, compared to £21,085 in 23/24 – Increase of £435

£30,000 – Take-home pay of £25,120 in 2024/25, compared to £24,510 in 23/24 – Increase of £610

£35,000 – Take-home pay of £28,720 in 2024/25, compared to £27,935 in 23/24 – Increase of £785

£40,000 – Take-home pay of £32,320 in 2024/25, compared to £31,360 in 23/24 – Increase of £960

£45,000 – Take-home pay of £35,920 in 2024/25, compared to £34,786 in 23/24 – Increase of £1,135

£50,000 – Take-home pay of £39,520 in 2024/25, compared to £38,210 in 23/24 – Increase of £1,310

£55,000 – Take-home pay of £42,457 in 2024/25, compared to £41,138 in 23/24 – Increase of £1,320

£60,000 – Take-home pay of £45,357 in 2024/25, compared to £44,038 in 23/24 – Increase of £1,320

£65,000 – Take-home pay of £48,257 in 2024/25, compared to £46,938 in 23/24 – Increase of £1,320

£70,000 – Take-home pay of £51,157 in 2024/25, compared to £49,838 in 23/24 – Increase of £1,320

You can use our tax calculator below to determine if all the changes announced in the spring Budget will leave you better or worse off in the new tax year:

Savvy spending guide: 5 ways to shop more mindfully and save money

The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. This information is from an independent third party, these are their own views and do not necessarily constitute the views of American Express.

Whether you’re trying to be more sustainable, save money or a bit of both, there’s no doubt that adopting a more mindful approach to shopping has real benefits for us and the planet we live in. So, whether you’re splashing out on a new wardrobe item or the latest piece of tech, how can you ensure you shop savvily, and don’t end up disappointed or having to throw good money after bad?

According to finance coach Ellie-Austin Williams, the founder of financial wellbeing community ‘This Girl Talks Money’ and author of Money Talks: A Lifestyle Guide for Financial Wellbeing, it’s all about having a strategy when it comes to spending.

“A lot of it is just about taking your time to make the decision and being confident that you have explored all the options,” she explains. “Work out what you actually need or want as well as why, do your research, and then buy smartly.” Here Ellie shares her advice for savvy spending, so you’ll never regret a splurge again…

Whether it’s a new tech item for work or one of your hobbies, a vital piece of homeware or a new pair of shoes – investment buying is about adopting a more thoughtful, mindful approach to spending, which will pay off in the long run.

“For me, investment purchases are where you have to spend a little bit more money up front but in the long term, you’ll save money because you’re buying something that will stand the test of time, that’s going to be better quality and is going to meet your needs for a longer period,” says Ellie.

When it comes to things that you use or wear everyday – whether a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or a new sofa – it’s worth making sure you’re buying something that will last. “Sometimes paying a bit more for higher quality materials will mean that something lasts several times longer as something that’s half the price so overall you end up spending less,” says Ellie.

It’s not about spending more money for the sake of it – the best buy won’t always be the priciest one. But when you are looking to drop some cash on something more significant than your small, everyday purchases, it can pay off to spend more upfront.

There’s nothing better than the feeling of buying the right thing, at the right time, for the right price. But too often we can end up feeling like we’ve made a mistake with our purchases. So how should you approach an investment buy?

“I think the key question to ask yourself is, why am I buying this?” says Ellie. “Is this something that I need or want? If it’s something that you want, that’s fine, but know why you want it. Is it something that actually is going to elevate or enhance your life in a valuable way or is it just part of a trend or fad?”

Be realistic with what you can afford, too. When it comes to any non-essential buys, Ellie always recommends prioritising essentials and long-term finances first. “So, figure out how much you want to put into your savings and then look at what’s leftover as disposable income.”

Work out your budget before you start browsing. “There will nearly always be higher end options, as well as cheaper ones, but be focused in your research and look for the best option within that budget,” says Ellie. “If you’re buying a washing machine and your budget is £600, don’t spend time looking at the £1000 machines that have great reviews but you can’t afford.”

Don’t rush it, either. One good strategy for buying bigger or more expensive items is to go home and think about it, or put it in your virtual basket and leave it there for a few days. “It’s good to sit on investment purchases for a little bit,” says Ellie. “A day or two – maybe longer if it’s a bigger purchase. Just to see if you feel the same about it once the initial buzz of the idea has worn off.”

An easy mistake to make with investment buying is assuming you should always go for the more expensive item where possible. The latest phone release might be getting all the headlines – but do you really need everything it offers, or would a lower range or slightly older model suit you just as well?

It’s all about working out what product best suits your needs, says Ellie. “For example, I don’t do a lot of heavy video editing or gaming so I don’t need a super high processing speed laptop and have saved money on that,” she says. “But I do a lot of filming on my phone for my social channels and the lowest level model doesn’t have the best quality camera. So it’s all going to be individual to your specific needs and usage.”

Especially when you’re buying out of your comfort zone, speaking to an online sales advisor or – even better – going into a store can be helpful in pinning down which specific product is going to be right for you. “If you’ve got the time to actually talk to someone with some expertise, that can be really helpful in finding an item that really suits your needs rather than just buying something that’s new and shiny and might require spending more money than you need to. You’ll get the chance to try it out, talk through the product and functions, and look at alternatives.”

Even if you intend to buy online eventually – if you have a specific online or app deal or discount code for example – it’s worth looking at things in person first.

While getting the advice of salespeople is useful, do your own research, too. When it’s a big purchase, make sure you look at independent consumer review websites like Which?, even if you have to pay a small fee to access them.

“Sometimes paying for a subscription to a site like this is worth it if you’re going to spend a lot of money on an item, to get a well-rounded assessment, see the pros and cons in one place and to see it compared to similar products,” says Ellie.

Search online for write-ups in national news titles or specialist magazines, and check out customer reviews on the big retailers’ sites. “I look at the negative reviews just to see if there are any specific complaints that consistently pop up,” says Ellie.

Seek advice closer to home, too. “Getting recommendations from friends and family is a great way to cut through the noise and overwhelm.” Social media can be a great place to ask for opinions and recommendations, including in any relevant social media groups you’re a member of, such as on Facebook or Reddit.

Once you’ve figured out what it is that you need (or want!), make sure that you’re shopping around and buying in the most cost-effective way.

“Google Shopping is a good starting point to compare prices, as it searches a wide range of retailers, including Amazon, Currys, John Lewis and Tesco, as well as less traditional sites such as eBay, Etsy and daily deals site Groupon,” says Ellie. “But use the filters to select retailers that you know and trust. If a price looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

Look into price-tracking sites – these have browser extensions that scour the internet for coupons and promo deals and automatically apply them at online checkouts. There are also specific sites that track Amazon prices and show the pricing history so you can see if you’re buying at a good time.

Money Saving Expert have created a special tool to help you find bargain buys in Amazon Warehouse (where you can buy customer returned or slightly damaged products for low prices). Also explore fashion and sale aggregate sites – many of these have discount alert functions, allow you to create watchlists of items from different online retailers, and set target sales prices, so you can maximise your discounts.

“A lot of retailers offer discounts of 10 per cent on your first purchase if you sign up to mailing lists, so that can be worth doing, and you can always unsubscribe later,” says Ellie. If you’re already signed up with a retailer, it’s worth leaving something in your online basket without buying it – sometimes they’ll email you with an offer to tempt you to complete the purchase.

Be clever about when you buy, and hold out for seasonal discounts. “If you don’t need something urgently then it can be worth waiting for one of those calendar moments to see if you can get a discount. The obvious ones are Black Friday and after Christmas, but there can be deals throughout the year.”

And don’t rule out buying pre-loved options via sites like eBay and Facebook Marketplace. “It’s a great way to get things that are high quality but that are usually out of your price range,” says Ellie, “and many items are sold unworn with tags.”

By making purchases on your credit card, you can take advantage of cashback offers and exclusive retail discounts, making your buy even savvier. “Also make sure that you’re checking the big cashback websites like TopCashback and Quidco before you make any purchases,” says Ellie. “Some retailers are on certain sites but not others so check them all. These are all little things that you can do to help you to save a bit extra.”

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Biden must do more to stop the war, and the imminent invasion of Rafah

The explanations thus far offered by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for the fatal drone attack that killed seven international aid workers are, to say the least, unsatisfactory. Absent the possibility that the aid workers were targeted simply because they were providing aid – which would be unthinkable, even for the wilder elements of the Israeli military – of course the incident was “a grave mistake” and a case of “mistaken identity”.

The IDF thought, apparently, that the occupants of the three vehicles were Hamas terrorists – but we are still none the wiser as to why such an assumption was made about travellers in a deconflicted zone.

Nor does that account for how, precisely, it came to happen – or who, exactly, was responsible. Thus far, two officers have been dismissed over the strikes, for alleged mishandling of critical information and violations of the army’s rules of engagement, though it is unclear at this time whether that will be the extent of their punishment. Perhaps this will become known in due course, as part of the “transparent” process.

What the history of ‘honeytraps’ tells us about MPs’ security

The Conservative MP William Wragg has said that he surrendered the personal telephone numbers of fellow MPs to someone he met on a dating app because he was “scared” that the man had “compromising things on me”. Wragg has apologised for betraying their confidence, and he’s been widely praised for his openness as a victim of a nasty crime.

At least 12 men in political circles have received unsolicited WhatsApp messages: some were sent explicit images, and two MPs were apparently sent images of themselves. The recipients are reported to include a government minister, political advisers, and journalists at Westminster. The incident has heightened concerns about cybersecurity – particularly the phenomenon of “spear phishing”, which can lure people into situations in which they are vulnerable to blackmail…