The Week in Arts: No smoking behind the Hogwarts bike sheds

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Here's a quiz question for film aficionados. What can James Bond do that Harry Potter can't? The answer, to pre-empt any risqué ones, is light up. The British Board of Film Classification has issued guidelines, which say that the spy may smoke, but the schoolboy wizard may not. The guidelines explain that "works which promote or glamorise smoking ... may be a concern, particularly at the junior categories".

Here's a quiz question for film aficionados. What can James Bond do that Harry Potter can't? The answer, to pre-empt any risqué ones, is light up. The British Board of Film Classification has issued guidelines, which say that the spy may smoke, but the schoolboy wizard may not. The guidelines explain that "works which promote or glamorise smoking ... may be a concern, particularly at the junior categories".

A spokeswoman for the board says that Bond smoking a cigar in Cuba is acceptable as it is in context, but adds: "If Harry Potter was offering fags around it would be a serious problem. We would ask them to cut it."

Well, who knows what JK Rowling has in store for us? I suspect that a furtive drag behind the broomstick cupboard at Hogwarts won't feature; but I almost hope it does. Then the BBFC would be forced into one of the more bizarre acts of censorship in the history of movies.

I'm a little queasy at the prospect of the board freshening its remit to move beyond its traditional concerns of sex, violence and bad language. We are now, it seems, entering the age of lifestyle censorship. Smoking is, of course, bad for the health. I myself don't smoke. But it is not illegal. Since when was the BBFC an arm of the National Health Service? I dread even trying to get my head round the James Bond and Cuba remark. How often, for goodness sake, is Bond in Cuba? Is he allowed to smoke only in Cuba? Is he allowed to smoke cigars but not cigarettes?

And why stop at smoking? Now that the board has decided to go in for some serious nannying, there's no end of possibilities. Heaven help Harry Potter if he fails to recycle his copy of The Daily Prophet. And I worry for James Bond and the petrol consumption of his Aston Martin. As for Bridget Jones's failure to challenge the glass ceiling at both the publishing house and TV studio that employed her ... well, the BBFC could be in semi-permanent emergency session.

It's ironic that at the same time that it is becoming a lifestyle guardian, the board is considering relaxing its rules on swearing in films. Now that's something which really can irritate film-goers, and parents in particular, not least because it is so often inserted gratuitously to gain a higher age certificate. But now that it is smoking in movies that is of greater concern to the censors, we film-goers must take note.

Henceforth, I shall do my best to avoid any showings of Marx Brothers movies. Groucho was never without that fat cigar. And I don't think he even tried to get to Cuba.

A hothouse of British movie talent

The film Hotel Rwanda will have a shattering effect when it opens in the UK shortly. Set during the genocide in that country that killed up to a million people 10 years ago, it manages to be profoundly moving and horrifying, without once resorting to the easy option of showing graphic violence.

Sophie Okonedo plays the wife of a hotel manager who shelters and saves the lives of over 1,000 people in this true story. The actress has been nominated for an Oscar for her role, and told me this week that she would be part of a small British enclave there, staying with fellow nominees Clive Owen and Imelda Staunton

Okonedo is one of many examples of a British film star who learned her craft in the subsidised theatre. Before acting at the Royal Court, she was a spear carrier at the Royal Shakespeare Company. A fellow spear carrier was Emily Watson, who also became a movie star. The then head of the RSC, Adrian Noble, must be wishing he had kept a closer eye on the girls behind the spears.

¿ Arthur Miller's death resounded around the world, not least because he was famous with three distinct constituencies. For lovers of the theatre, he was one of the greatest playwrights of the past century. For students of politics, he was a man who refused to name names to Senator McCarthy's anti-Communist tribunals. And, for devotees of showbiz, he was the husband of Marilyn Monroe. The three parts of his life came together, when, as a playwright, he was called before the House Committee on un-American Activities. The chairman told him privately that he would be prepared to cancel the hearing if he could be photographed shaking hands with Monroe. It will make a marvellous moment in the inevitable film of Miller's life.

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