You may have read recently that Orlando Bloom has been cast as the young James Bond in a forthcoming Miramax film about the secret agent's schooldays. Miramax has categorically denied this, claiming it has no plans to make such a film and, even if it did, Bloom would be too old for the part.
Nevertheless, I think there's a kernel of truth of in this story. The next Bond film is due to go into production next year and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Eon Productions, the company behind the franchise, announces that Orlando Bloom has been cast as the fully-grown 007.
The 27-year-old pretty boy may not be everyone's idea of an action hero, but the current thinking in Hollywood is that the era of the two-fisted leading man has passed. Look how poorly the latest films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Kevin Kostner have fared. Even Harrison Ford, whose last two films have flopped, is no longer the bankable star he once was.
The new generation of Hollywood stars, by contrast, look like the "before" pictures in one of those old Charles Atlas ads. Chiselled jaws and rippling muscles have been replaced by moist eyes and trembling lips. I'm thinking of Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, Leo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Christian Bale, who's just been cast as the next Batman.
True, Russell Crowe seems more like an old-fashioned leading man, but even he is emotionally available in a way that the stars of the 80s and 90s weren't. These days, if you want to be cast as a masculine hero you have to be in touch with your feminine side.
Schwarzenegger himself recently coined a phrase that sums up this new breed when he described his political opponents as "girlie-men". The Governor intended this as an insult, but for Californian metrosexuals it's become a badge of pride. T-shirts bearing the legend "Girlie-Man" are now one of the top-sellers in the state capital.
Orlando Bloom is very much in this mould. Admittedly, he hasn't yet had to carry a film by himself and, in that respect, remains an unknown quantity. But Ridley Scott, for one, is convinced he has the X-factor. He has cast Bloom as the lead warrior in Kingdom of Heaven, his forthcoming film about the Crusades.
To my mind, the question of whether Bloom will be the next Bond doesn't turn on whether Eon Productions would offer him the part, but whether he'd deign to accept it. Of all the names in the frame--Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, Hugh Jackman, Colin Firth, Eric Bana--he would be the biggest catch. He may be a "girlie-man", but it's precisely that androgynous quality that makes him so well qualified to pilot the Bond franchise into the 21st Century.
Hair of Sorrows
As someone who started going bald in his early 20s, I was among the first to embrace the new fashion for very short hair. For the past five years I've been labouring under the illusion that, provided I don't allow my hair to grow any longer than half-an-inch, no one will be able to tell that I'm as bald as a coot.
Alas, it seems as though the skinhead look has finally gone out of style. In his new film Collateral Tom Cruise has a thick mane of grey hair. Clearly, this is the last word in masculine chic and it isn't a trend I'll be able to follow. It's not the greyness I have a problem with, but the length. If I allow my hair to grow out it'll be grey all right, it just won't look very cool. On the contrary, I'll resemble a cross between Robert Kilroy Silk and Friar Tuck.
Women often complain that if men had to go through the pains of childbirth society's attitude towards C-sections and epidurals would be very different. Anything to relieve the discomfort would be completely acceptable. However, I often wonder how they'd cope if they started losing their hair. My hunch is that the cosmetics industry would come up with a cure for baldness within six months.
Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right
I breathed a sigh of relief when David Blunkett banned Jerry Vlasek from visiting the UK. This is the American heart surgeon who believes in extreme measures when it comes to defending animal rights, including murder. I was worried that he might try and stand up for the latest victims of our callous disregard for non-human life, namely, the humble hover fly.
In what promises to be the biggest silly season story of the year, Britain is facing an epidemic of these yellow-and-black creatures. Ever since I returned from Los Angeles last month, I've spent at least an hour every day chasing them round the house with a can of fly spray. Not that they bother me, but my wife is convinced that they pose a mortal threat to our one-year-old daughter. "Think how you'd feel if one of them stung her," is her constant refrain.
I've tried pointing out that hover flies don't sting--I've even stuck a newspaper cutting on the fridge door that says they're completely harmless--but it's no good. As far as she's concerned, the hover fly is a species of wasp and, as such, each one has to be dealt with in the severest possible terms. No room is safe, either for her or the baby, until it's been completely cleared of these pests.
Scarping the Bottom of the Celebrity Barrel
Have you ever wondered why it is you've never heard of the so-called "celebrities" on programmes like I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here and Celebrity Big Brother? The answer is that no genuinely famous person would ever agree to be on them. The producers start with the A-list, then gradually work their way through the celebrity alphabet until they find some Z-list no-hoper who's pathetic enough to say "yes".
How do I know this? Because when the producers are really, really desperate they call me. Occasionally, these offers are quite tempting--the producers of Celebrity Wife Swap dangled £25,000 under my nose to spend a week living with Jade Goody--but most of the time they're easy to turn down.
Last week, for instance, I was asked if I wanted to appear on a programme which involved spending 10 days in Thailand with an ex-Page Three girl being inducted into the secretes of tantric sex.
When I pointed out that my wife might object, the producers backtracked slightly and said that sex with the ex-Page Three girl wouldn't be compulsory. However, they did say that the "course" would involve an element of "solo cultivation" and that this would be "discreetly filmed".
I was forced to tell them that there were some depths to which even a craven self-publicist like me wouldn't stoop.