btw

The New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane must be feeling pleased with himself about the news that the next James Bond movie - the 21st in the franchise - will be Casino Royale, based on Ian Fleming's first Bond novel, published in 1953. Reviewing the plonking Die Another Day three years ago, and deploring the triumph of technology over suavity that the films had become, Lane addressed the master spy in these words: "All right, 007, listen carefully: I want you to go and meet a gentleman named Lee. Ang Lee. Take him a copy of this novel, Casino Royale. It may look like an ordinary paperback, but concealed within is an array of clever tricks, some of them, I don't mind telling you, on the dodgy side, and - here's the thing - nobody seems to have put it to proper use. There was once a joke version, but that doesn't count. Be a good chap and tell our Mr Lee to turn the book into a period drama, would you?" The "joke version" was a terrible 1967 spoof movie starring David Niven, Peter Sellers and, er, Woody Allen. It looks like the people at MGM have heeded Lane's suggestion. Now all they need is a new Bond. Pierce Brosnan parted company with the management after a row about profit share.

Escort agencies everywhere will be rethinking their fee structure after Geri Halliwell's evening with the German impresario Dickie Lugner at the Vienna Opera Ball. First she refused to attend a press conference at her host's Lugner City shopping mall, then she hid from photographers at the Imperial Hotel, then she ran away from some more photographers at the Opera House and had to be dragged back inside. And when she was supposed to be personally greeted (live on television) by the Austrian President, Heinz Fischer, she'd got lost somewhere in the corridors, trying to find the ladies'. For this triumphant service, Herr Lugner is said to have shelled out a mere pounds 500,000. For his sake, I hope she was worth it.

Michael Gambon, slated to play Falstaff at the National Theatre's Henry IV in May, has a Falstaffian fondness for winding up people. He once met Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in a London club and the subject of his knighthood came up. "What would anyone want with a goddamn knighthood?" the US actors demanded. "You don't understand," said Gambon, "If you're an English knight, you can sleep with any woman in the land. It's called the Knighting Law. No woman is allowed to say no." Pacino and De Niro believed him for approximately 30 seconds before loudly denouncing him as a fantasist. During a lull between drinks, Gambon had a word with a quartet of girls at the bar. Five minutes later, the girls walked past the starry crew of Pacino, De Niro, etc, and Gambon said to one girl, "Excuse me, young lady, but I would like to sleep with you tomorrow night." "How dare you?" exclaimed the girl. "You foul man." "Perhaps I should point out I'm Sir Michael Gambon," said Gambon suavely. "Oh God, the Knighting Law," said the girl, playing along. "Oh - all right then." The faces of the American thesps were, they say, a picture.

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