She is a three-time Oscar winner and co-writer of some of the biggest blockbusters ever made, but the notoriously private Fran Walsh (described by the New York Times this week as "one of Hollywood's biggest living mysteries") opens up about movies, music and marriage - and no, Sir Peter Jackson has never popped the question.

"He's not my husband. He's never asked me, and if he did, I probably wouldn't say yes," the 53-year-old Walsh told the Times in a rare interview ahead of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hitting theatres.

Walsh is Jackson's life partner - in work and love. They live in Wellington's Seatoun and commute to their studio in nearby Miramar by black Mercedes sedans. He plays director, a visual genius; she the gifted scriptwriter, having co-written 11 of Jackson's movies. She also produces and writes music for them, and has even played director when Jackson's been unavailable.

Making Heavenly Creatures, it is said, was her idea. Jackson wasn't thrilled, but Walsh got her way. Melanie Lynskey, who was discovered by Walsh at high school and cast as one of the leads in the movie, has said Walsh and Jackson acted as co-directors.


Hollywood manager Ken Kamins, who has represented Jackson and Walsh for more than 20 years, said the pair and their longtime collaborator, Philippa Boyens, have a co-dependent relationship.

"They are all so involved together in every layer and detail of their productions that sometimes it's hard to distinguish whose voice you're hearing in a particular scene or moment," Kamins told the Times. "They are perfectly blended."

Walsh and Boyens are producers, scriptwriters, best friends and neighbours. Together they adapted J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit for the big screen, but whereas Philippa, a hard-core Tolkien fan, was happy to strut the red carpet in Wellington last week, Fran avoided it like the plague.

The women like to collaborate on scripts in bed in their pyjamas and surrounded by dogs. "We gave up going to the office," Boyens said. "It just seemed like one more thing to do," Walsh added.

They drew the wrath of Tolkien fans by adding female characters to the largely female-free Hobbit which, they say, adds an emotional depth and meaning to the story. Cate Blanchett's character, the ethereal elf Galadriel in Lord of the Rings, and Evangeline Lilly who plays Tauriel, were added to the Hobbit movies because "the lack of feminine energy becomes very evident", said Boyens. "And oppressive," said Walsh.

A former singer and guitarist in a punk band, Walsh, the mother of teenagers Billy and Katie, is no shrinking violet. She avoids the spotlight as a way of preserving a normal life for her family, but her voice is heard very clearly behind the scenes. Andy Serkis, who plays Gollum in the LOTR trilogy and The Hobbit, said of Walsh: "It's impossible to overstate her importance." It's fair to say she is the not-so-silent partner of Middle-earth.

Read a full review of The Hobbit here.
Celebrity chef sells up

Wellington stalwart Al Brown is moving to Auckland in the new year as he expands his restaurant empire in the City of Sails. The celebrity chef is selling his four-bedroom Lyall Bay home in the capital and tenders close next week. The bungalow is an entertainer's paradise with an outdoor fireplace, pizza oven, teppanyaki plate, chargriller and a second kitchen in an outdoor living room.


A rep for Brown said the celebrity chef has a lot of exciting plans in store for next year.

His eatery Depot, which got rave reviews from Gordon Ramsay, is a hotspot in SkyCity's Federal St precinct. The casino giant has signed Brown on to take over the space next door currently occupied by Luke Dallow's Red Hummingbird bar, which will close next year - not at the end of this year, as reported in a Sunday newspaper. A rep for SkyCity says they have no plans to work with Dallow on another property in the Federal St area, despite what was reported.

Hayley no wag

Marc Ellis personally selected her to join the More FM breakfast team and Hayley Holt proved yesterday she was more than a match for the motor-mouth entertainer. Holt's debut was met with an endurance test from her co-host and a nosy listener. And Holt passed with flying colours.

First, she tolerated a painful Chinese foot massage while live on air. It was the sort of dare Ellis would play on lad mate Matthew Ridge, although he'd probably have been less resolute. Then, an inquisitive listener phoned in with a question about All Black captain Richie McCaw's, er, package. Holt, who's never blabbed about her ex, demurely responded: "Oh, I would never talk about that."

Richie with Robshaw's girl

They posed this week shaking hands in front of the Webb Ellis trophy and St Paul's Cathedral, but rugby skippers Richie McCaw and Chris Robshaw shared something else - Kiwi Camilla Kerslake.

The 24-year-old classical singer, who grew up in New Zealand before relocating back to her birthplace London, lives with England rugby captain Robshaw in Surrey.

But it was her divided loyalty to the All Blacks that made headlines in Britain this week.

Kerslake excitedly tweeted photos posing with McCaw and Dan Carter at a gala reception following the All Blacks match against England on Saturday.

She was chuffed that Carter - who is now with team mates in Germany working with sponsor adidas - thought her Maori "was pretty good".

The exchange was relayed in the Daily Mail who reported Kerslake's father, a Kiwi, wanted her to date an All Black.

The young blonde, who sang the New Zealand national anthem before the Twickenham match that saw the ABs thrashed 38-21, told the newspaper: "When I started going out with Chris, he said: 'Why couldn't you have gone out with Dan Carter?' I said you should be happy I'm dating a rugby player."