“Normally I start my day checking the Blackpool Gazette website to see what’s happening – and to see if Blackpool FC has signed any players,” says Hollywood showbiz reporter Sandro Monetti.
“But today I have the pleasure of starting my day speaking to the Blackpool Gazette.”
It’s 7.30am in Beverly Hills, where Sandro has lived for the past 11 years, when we speak on the phone. He’s off later to interview Sherlock star, Benedict Cumberbatch, he says.
Not bad for a lad who started work on this newspaper, having growing up in Blackpool.
He honed his craft at The Gazette with the usual local reporter tasks – courts, council, community issues and breaking news.
Now, he’s interviewed just about every A-list star in Hollywood, as an LA correspondent for the British press. He’s worked on Smash Hits, Sunday Express, Sky TV, News of the World, BBC and more – he is also a celebrity biographer, TV host and show producer.
And on Friday, he is bringing one of his all-time favourite movie heroes to the North West.
The event will be Sylvester Stallone’s only live appearance in the UK this year.
The movie superstar will be appearing at Manchester’s Phones 4U Arena, for a 90-minute interview with Sandro, followed by a chance for fans to put questions to him.
And Sandro – who began his journalism career at The Gazette before going on to Express Newspapers – can’t wait.
“I think people can expect a rather unique evening,” he says, brimming with audible enthusiasm.
“Sylvester Stallone is entertaining, he’s amusing and he has been part of so many lives, as he is such a big part of movie history.
“I don’t think there’s been anyone else who has created three such big franchises.
“When you think he did Rocky, Rambo, The Expendables and a whole host of other films, I’m not sure he gets enough credit.
“I can say, knowing him, people will be in for an entertaining night. He is a great story-teller.”
And for Sandro, Stallone has always been one his of favourite childhood heroes.
He recounts the tale of using money from his 18th birthday and his life-savings combined, to pay for a one-day trip to New York – simply to see Rambo 3.
“It was coming out in America and it was going to be weeks and weeks before it came to Blackpool Odeon.
“So I got all the money I had and I spent it flying from Manchester to New York. I took a taxi from the airport to Times Square – before I had even eaten or anything – and I went straight to see the movie.
“It was fantastic, the atmosphere was so much more than I ever experienced at Blackpool Odeon.
“About 20 minutes from the end of the film, when Rambo was slaying person after person, the audience members all did something I had never seen people do.
“They actually got out their seats, formed a semi-circle around the screen and stood there watching and chanting ‘Rambo, Rambo’.
“I went for dinner on Broadway, got the taxi back to the airport and flew back – the same day.
“It feels like it’s come full circle, there was this North West teenager flying to New York to see Sylvester Stallone in Rambo and now I am living in America and bringing Stallone to the North West.
“It’s incredible really – one of those pinch-me moments. I’m so grateful and really looking forward to it.
“Growing up as an only child in Blackpool, I spent a lot of my time going to the cinema, to Blackpool Odeon, to the ABC.
“Seeing all these Hollywood movies I think gave me this fascination with America and this love of film.
“And I think seeing the shows at the North Pier, at the Grand, at the Opera House, as a boy gave me my love of entertainment.
“Seeing these stars on-screen like Sylvester Stallone – they were larger than life.
“I don’t think it was something you could even really dream about when I was growing up. It seemed a world away.
“Now the world is a smaller place, we have technology, the internet, travelling half-way around the world is much more achievable. Now it’s just a 10-and-a-half hour flight.
“I’ve lived now for this second stint of being in America, for 11 glorious years.
“It’s wonderful and it feels like a film at times – everything can be so dramatic and cinematic.”
It’s easy to see how Sandro has managed to bag some of the biggest stars in Hollywood – he’s even kissed Madonna and accidentally headbutted Tom Cruise the first time he met him – for interview, he is so bright, so chatty, so easy to talk to and full of clear passion for “the movies.”
But he remains modest about his ability to get everyone from George Clooney, Colin Firth and Mickey Rourke, to Jimmy Stewart, Angelina Jolie and Joan Rivers to talk to him.
“My philosophy in life and with regards to interviews has always been to try to be nice, to treat others how you would like to be treated.
“I think Hollywood is often seen as this vast place, but in reality, it feels like a small place because everybody knows each other and your reputation is everything.
“Whenever I’ve interviewed celebrities, I’ve always been honest and sort of said ‘look – if you want to talk about this type of thing it will be on the front page, if you want to talk about this then it will be a double page spread inside or if you want to talk about this, it’ll be a single column on page 12.’
“I think you build up trust and you need a combination of enthusiasm and empathy.
“You have to remember, with actors, they spend nearly all their time being someone else. So when they are actually being themselves, they’re quite vulnerable.
“I think you have to try to make it an entertaining experience. I do feel the luckiest person to be doing this.”
Last year, Sandro came to the North West with his hit one-man show Clooney, Cowell, Pitt and Me: Amusing Encounters With The A-List, he’s been a journalism tutor, he’s written books on Hollywood stars and now he’s director of BAFTA in LA – which he said is “tremendous fun” and has enabled him to see stars in a different way and see the charity work done in the community and outreach projects.
But one thing he has yet to do.
“It remains my ambition to be on a Blackpool stage. The thing about Blackpool is, it never really leaves you.”