U.S. pop star and director Madonna (C), poses with actresses Andrea Riseborough (L) and Abbie Cornish on the "W.E" red carpet at the 68th Venice Film Festival September 1, 2011. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

MADONNA’S LUCKY STAR

Andrea Riseborough was sitting on the terrace of the fabled Excelsior Hotel on the Venice Lido on Wednesday and nobody noticed.

Twenty-four hours later, she was on the red carpet with Madonna, and this time the world sat up and paid attention.

Riseborough, who trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, is a sensation in Madonna’s great love story W.E. about the romance between Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII.

Andrea plays Mrs Simpson, who later became the Duchess of Windsor, and itÕs one of those career-changing roles. I predict her days of being able to sit on the Excelsior terrace unrecognised are over.

Yet Riseborough’s success is due, in part, to a chameleon-like ability to transform herself that she has always possessed. Watching an early screening of the film the other day I had the strangest sensation that I was seeing the real Mrs Simpson mixing cocktails. Andrea can crawl under the skin of the person she’s portraying.

And when she played the young Margaret Thatcher in The Long Walk To Finchley, she made us believe she was the real Iron Lady. It’s a rare gift.

But filming W.E. sometimes left her feeling “heartbroken”.

“I hadn’t realised how lonely Wallis Simpson was and how empty her life became when she was in exile with the Duke of Windsor,” she told me on that empty terrace.

That comes through in Madonna’s film. All those pugs, those frocks, those gems, that mountain of embroidered linen, all those houses...they were substitutes.

She knew that was how it was going to be the moment the King told her he would abdicate. “I will have to be with him always and always and always,” she wrote to her Aunt Bessie in a moment of pure despair.

Seeing the film a second time I felt that even the irritating modern-day parallel love story involving Abbie Cornish and Oscar Isaac works - most of the time - because of the passion of the actors and, it must be said, their director.

I still think that ten minutes could be carefully edited out and everyone would be happier.

But the score is superb. Abel Korzeniowski composed most of it with a couple of haunting piano pieces by Yann Tiersen.

And I think W.E. is likely to garner Andrea some best actress award heat - and possibly some awards interest for Madonna, too.

The film opens in the UK in January, but it will have a special gala at the BFI London Film Festival next month.

PRETTY STRONG STUFF

Billie Piper is trying something a bit different for her next big role on stage.

She will play a security guard - she’s probably hired one or two of them over the years - in Neil LaBute’s startling play Reasons To Be Pretty.

The drama begins on November 10 at the Almeida Theatre, with Michael Attenborough directing.

Along with Billie, it also stars Kieran Bew, Sian Brooke and Tom Burke, and is part of a series of dramas from LaBute about the way we look and other people’s reactions to our appearance.

I saw a production of Reasons To Be Pretty in New York a couple of seasons back and much of the play’s heat revolves around one, really rather mundane, word - and how it can be used to devastating effect. The word in question is “regular”, and it is extraordinary to observe the misery it causes.

LaBute is one of the most provocative playwrights around and this play has some stinging moments.

WEISZ AND EASY DOES IT

It surely canÕt get any better for Rachel Weisz.

She now has movies opening and closing the BFI London Film Festival - both among the best films of the year so far.

Terence Davies’s delicious interpretation of Terence Rattigan’s play The Deep Blue Sea will close the festival, while Fernando Meirelles’s cracking new movie 360 will open it.

I have seen 360 - a BBC/Revolution Films production based on a screenplay by Peter Morgan, who wrote The Queen.

It features a sublime ensemble cast that includes Rachel, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Ben Foster and Maria Flor.

All IÕm going to tell you is that a man is supposed to meet with a prostitute and, for various reasons, he doesnÕt. He goes back to his wife, and she dumps her lover, and so on. ItÕs beautifully done and takes us to London, Paris and Vienna among other locations.

Hopkins has a scene at an AA meeting that lasts just five minutes, but it’s the best five minutes of acting you will see on the screen this year. I kid you not.

Rachel is at the top of her game. Book those London Film Festival tickets now!

HEAVE HO! QUEASY KATE SUFFERS FOR HER ART.....

Kate Winslet gave a Venice masterclass in the fine art of - there’s no way to put this nicely - vomiting.

But there was no food or alcohol involved, and it was all perfectly ladylike, as the Oscar-winning actress discussed a key scene in Roman Polanski’s film Carnage, based on Yasmina Reza’s play The God Of Carnage, which played to packed houses in London, New York, Los Angeles and Paris.

Even more unlikely, Kate told the audience yesterday that some of the scene called for computer generated vomit, which meant she had to wear a special CGI suit, making her look like a cross between a projectile vomiting Avengers’ heroine and Barbarella.

She plays a woman whose son has hurt another 11-year-old schoolboy in a scrap. She and her screen husband, played by Christoph Waltz, visit the parents of the injured lad, played by Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly.

Kate’s character, Nancy, has to throw up, spectacularly, after eating apple and pear cobbler. Kate said director Polanski was most particular about it looking realistic, so, as well as CGI, technicians had to set up a complicated rig to aid the flow, so to speak.

In addition to a fermented apple and pear mixture, “I suggested adding rancid, mashed banana,” Kate told me, matter-of-factly, to bind it together.

By this time, I was feeling pretty queasy myself.

Of course, the movie is about much more than regurgitated puddings. It has some serious points to make, but is also, at times, laugh out loud funny.

Kate should exercise her comic timing more, because she knows where to find humour in a scene.

A NIGHT OUT WITH MR COOL AND THE GANG

IT WAS three in the morning and cool George Clooney and his gang - Evan Rachel Wood, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman and a handful of others - were very much in a party mood.

Evan (pictured left in a cream gown by Alessandra Rich) was all ready to let her hair down - until she remembered she’d already had her tresses shorn off for her new pixie cut, so instead she sang Marvin Gaye’s classic What’s Going On and the Tina Turner hit Proud Mary.

The actress has a good singing voice, as she proved in Julie Taymor’s underrated film Across The Universe, which she made with Jim Sturgess.

Clooney and Co. were at the Venice Film Festival where the movie The Ides Of March, which shines a harsh light on the ruthless U.S. Presidential primaries, opened the ten-day event.

The cast attended the gala screening, followed by a supper on the beach of the Hotel Excelsior.

Afterwards, some of them went to an after-after party with executives from movie companies Exclusive Media Group and Cross Creek Productions, who helped get the film made, while others jumped into launches that whisked them over to the Cipriani Palazzo for cocktails and the impromptu singalong.

In The Ides Of March, Evan plays a political intern who becomes involved a little too closely with the campaign’s main players.

Ryan Gosling is terrific as a political consultant, while Clooney, who also directed the film, plays a governor who has hopes of taking up residence in the White House.

It’s a fascinating picture to see as the 2012 Presidential race slowly gears up in the U.S.

The film opens in the UK on October 28. Clooney will attend a special gala screening of the movie on October 22 as part of the BFI London Film Festival. - Daily Mail