007's licence to kill Bond
AN exploding toupee? A poisoned olive in the martini or simply cirrhosis of the liver? The current James Bond, Pierce Brosnan, has revealed that one of his cinematic ambitions is to do 007's death scene.
In New York to promote this weekend's premiere of the 19th Bond epic The World Is Not Enough, Brosnan is making no secret of his desire to turn in his licence after 'exercising his option' to do one or two more films, according to the US tabloid press.
'I'd like to see him killed off . . . I want to do a death scene with James Bond,' Brosnan declared.
The 46-year-old Irish-born actor said he was having to face the simple fact that age was catching up with him. And at least he would never have to face the nagging comparisons with any youthful replacement.
Modern Bond films - which have long exhausted the plots in Ian Fleming's original novels - take up to six months to shoot across several countries. Brosnan must be on hand at all time as he does many of his own stunts.
His main rivals for the mantle of best Bond - Sean Connery and Roger Moore - never let either a paunch or a receding hairline get in the way and did their last films aged 53 and 55, respectively.
Brosnan has been credited with putting at least some of the old spark back in the character after the arid performances of Shakespearean actor Timothy Dalton in the 1980s.
The World Is Not Enough is his third film and is opening to mixed reviews despite considerable hype even by Bond standards.
American critics are hailing the 15-minute opening pre-title sequence involving a chase up the Thames.
The villains, played by hot British actors Robert Carlyle and Robbie Coltrane - known to Hong Kongers from the Cracker series - are, however, getting less positive attention in the US.
They have also bemoaned evidence of the continued influence of political correctness on what was once a decidedly red-meat, right-wing character. If the trend continues it is tempting to consider Bond meeting his end choking on a wild fennel and squid ink flan served over wild rice in a lesbian restaurant.
Certainly an e-mailed condolence message from Q could be on the cards if Bond meets his end and the film-makers want to stay hip.
Etiquette consultants are reporting the first appearance of expressions of sorrow on the Internet.
With an estimated one in three Americans regularly using the Net, e-mail sackings and dumpings have surfaced over the past year, to the consultants' horror. Yet they are apparently giving the green light to condolence messages.
A report from the Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation quotes consultant Dana Casperson (from California, naturally) as saying such a note would be acceptable if 'well-crafted'.
She suggests putting it aside and re-reading before sending it, adding that its speed may in fact have benefits.
Ms Casperson does advise, thankfully, a follow-up visit or phone call. And no globals either.
American smokers like to portray themselves as a shrinking and persecuted - if not dying - minority on the streets of increasingly clean-living American cities. Many now face open abuse in bars, clubs and restaurants, they claim.
However, a federal survey is reporting little change in smoking habits nationwide, despite government and community campaigns.
The latest annual poll by the Centres for Disease Control suggests 22.9 per cent of adult Americans are still regular smokers - virtually the same as two years ago.
The poll still shows Kentucky - a key tobacco-growing area with the lowest taxes in the country at three per cent per pack - has the highest rate with an estimated 30.8 per cent of adults regular smokers. At the other end, just 14.2 per cent of Utah residents smoke, a reflection of the state's high Mormon population.
Increasingly creative and aggressive advertising is considered one factor in the addiction's stubborn popularity.
New brands for the youthful and trendy are surfacing, ironically plugged as 'natural' tobacco with no chemicals or additives. Tobacco advertisers meanwhile are starting to gently appeal to the outlaw nature of the act along with the assertive individuality of those who puff, a sure traditional American winner.
'Looking Out For Number One' is a new magazine advertisement, while 'Even Communists Are Free To Smoke' seeks to appeal to old-fashioned libertarian values. The late Joseph McCarthy would have choked on his pipe.
A far quicker death apparently comes to new gun owners in what is probably the week's most alarming statistic.
California researchers claim that apparent suicide is the leading cause of death for the year after the purchase of a first gun. In the first week, the virgin gun owner is 57 times more likely to kill themselves.
Less clear is whether it stems from inexperience, curiosity or desire.