Well it looks like we have held onto the wreckage for another week so welcome back for another name-dropping journey back in time. This week I recall two star encounters at Elstree Studios 18 years apart, with the last being about 20 years ago.

The first was in 1980 and came about with a chance encounter in the street with one of the studio management. I casually asked if anything was happening and he informed me that no less than Sophia Loren was in filming for a few days on a television movie in which she played herself. Now this was an opportunity too good to miss so I phoned up the producer who was Alex Ponti, her step son. It was so simple in those days and he said yes, pop down and he would introduce me.

They were filming on the backlot mound, recreating a scene from a film she had made with Cary Grant in the 1950s. Between takes Alex kindly introduced me and what a lovely lady she was, both in looks and personality. We chatted about a film she had made at Elstree in the late 1950s called The Key with William Holden and Trevor Howard.

Sophia also recalled a sad occasion in 1960 when she was filming The Millionairess with Peter Sellers at the MGM Studio in Borehamwood. She was staying at a house next to what is now the Laura Ashley hotel in Barnet Lane. While there, her valuable jewellery collection was stolen. It was never recovered, but many years later the burglar came forward because he was annoyed another criminal was taking credit for it in a newspaper article. Due to the passage of time I think he was not charged.

At the end of our chat Miss Loren asked if there was a good Italian restaurant in Borehamwood and I was able to direct her to one directly across the road from the studio. I still have photos of her casually walking across the road to that restaurant, which still exists but under new owners serves another cuisine. As far as I know, Miss Loren, now aged 84, is enjoying her retirement from the screen. In those days these encounters were possible. Nowadays if I approached Elstree Studios on say the day they film Strictly Come Dancing I would be tasered and then strip searched, such is the security. Mind you, I am always up for new experiences.

The second encounter was 18 years later at Elstree on Remembrance Sunday. I had been told that Tom Cruise was coming to the otherwise quiet complex to record a television interview with famous American talk show host Barbara Walters. He was staying at nearby High Canons mansion near Shenley, preparing to film Eyes Wide Shut. The original plan was that he would be driven to a plush hotel suite overlooking Tower Bridge in London but for some reason opted for a room at the studio only a few minutes' drive away. Being nosy I thought I would watch the taping and saw his car arrive while I was at our local war memorial. I walked across the road into the studio and took a side entrance to avoid the welcoming party. However, Tom's driver had dropped him at the wrong door so I literally walked into him standing alone and a bit lost. The rest of what happened can wait for another time as I am running out of room but I found him to be a great guy.

Now here is the strange link. When he was leaving he asked if there was an Italian restaurant nearby and I directed him to the same one I did for Miss Loren all those years earlier. I bet those Sunday diners that day were surprised, or perhaps they did not notice. After all, Tom Cruise dropping in for a meal in Borehamwood was not an everyday event. I guess he is now fast approaching 60 but still big box office with his action movies. I have never met either of them since but they are happy memories. I have now bored you enough so until next time, remember winter draws on so keep warm.