How many women has Warren Beatty slept with? The actor and legendary Hollywood lothario could be forgiven for having lost count. But he nonetheless takes exception to the extraordinary claim, in a new biography, that there are close to 13,000 notches on his bed post.
The 72-year-old star, currently married to actress Annette Bening, has a romantic CV which has in the past featured show-business royalty such as Jane Fonda, Joan Collins, Dianne Keaton and Julie Christie.
However, he has called in the lawyers over a book which alleges that he's energetically devoted most of his life, away from the screen, to casual sex.
In Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America, the film writer and Vanity Fair contributor Peter Biskind estimates Mr Beatty has slept with: "12,775 women, give or take, a figure that does not include daytime quickies, drive-bys, casual gropings, stolen kisses and so on."
Mr Biskind claims to have based the figure on "simple arithmetic," saying that it is supported by evidence from friends and former lovers of the actor, together with a series of interviews that he was granted with Mr Beatty.
For decades, the actor supplemented his relationships with stars like Madonna with almost daily casual liaisons, the biographer says.
So insatiable was Mr Beatty's sexual appetite, claims the book, that after losing his virginity at the age of 20, he has, on average, managed 246 sexual partners a year – a figure that seems all the more remarkable when you consider that he's been married, we must presume faithfully, since 1992.
Mr Biskind claims older partner Joan Collins dumped Mr Beatty because of his insatiable appetite for sex. "Exhausted, she stumbled out of bed [and] said, 'I don't think I can last much longer. He never stops. It must be all those vitamins he takes.' "
He also quotes the actor describing his relationship with Jane Fonda by saying: "We kissed until we had practically eaten each other's heads off." The actress could "virtually unhinge her jaw, like a python that swallows prey much larger than itself."
Other former partners of the star, who was famously the subject of ex-lover Carly Simon's song "You're So Vain," are quoted by Biskind revealing some of his colourful bedroom habits.
Beatty's lawyer, Bertram Fields, yesterday responded to publication of the biography to issue a statement denying that "Mr Biskind's tedious and boring book is in any way authorised."
"It contains many false assertions and purportedly quotes Mr Beatty as saying things he never said," the statement said. "Other media should not repeat things from the book on the assumption that they are true."