New Bond missing for Fleming tribute

“IS GOD DEAD?” Time magazine inquired in 1966.

Now the persistently modern, free-thinking Bill Maher seems to be asking the question again with his usual sardonic twist in the entertainingly funny documentary “Religulous.” Bill promotes this unique film by saying, “I’m only asking questions,” insisting he is simply a man wanting answers. My favorite in Maher’s religious travels? The Creation Museum in Kentucky. Don’t miss it. When I went to the promo lunch in Brasserie Ruhlmann hoping to ask Bill some questions, the thinking man’s comic was being mauled, pestered, pushed around by photographers, reporters and a clutch of dynamic women (I glimpsed Debra Winger, Nora Ephron, Janeane Garofalo and Tatum O’Neal.)

GIVING UP on getting next to Maher, I talked with his movie’s director, Larry Charles. I asked if directing the big hit “Borat” gave a big zip to his career?

Liz: Were you already a name in films before that?

Larry: Maybe in my own mind. Yes, I had a small cult following. But doing “Borat” made me hot, in the sense that I was able to get another job — for this movie! I hadn’t known Bill before, but we discovered we had the same friends and ideas.

Liz: Are you and Bill of like minds — as atheists, as agnostics?

Larry: Oh, we are not atheists. We don’t know the answers. We just wanted to ask questions about God, about religions, what people believe — and we wanted to have fun.

Liz: Well, I never heard of you before “Borat” so where have you been all my life?

Larry: Hmmm, well, I did make a movie in 2003 called “Masked and Anonymous,” which was a title of Bob Dylan’s. He was in the movie as a version of himself. It had a great cast — Penelope Cruz, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges, Luke Wilson, Angela Bassett, Bruce Dern, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer and Cheech Marin.

At this, I excused myself, said goodbye and rushed off to find a DVD of “Masked and Anonymous.”

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THE OTHER night in London, Daniel Craig (James Bond) didn’t appear at the “Tribute to Ian Fleming” with his usual girl, American movie producer Satsuki Mitchell. His date was his mother, Olivia. We’ll be seeing Daniel soon in the film with the incredible title “Quantum of Solace.” I can just hear people saying, “Let’s go to see the “Kumquat of Solemn” or whatever it is…er, you know, the James Bond movie!” Roger Moore was there, saying he’d been voted ” the worst Bond ever — yes, it’s on the Internet. I had too much fun and didn’t take 007 seriously.” You can read about it in Moore’s delightful new book, out in November, “My Word Is My Bond” full of anecdotes about a long successful life.

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HOW ABOUT the divine Joan Collins?! I ran into Joan at the big Fete de Swifty event here in NY last week. (She’s touring the country with her one-woman show.) Joan looked like a million bucks and was as lively, witty, wicked as ever. Joan, now 74, insists — though I’d never ask her — she’s not had a smidgen of plastic surgery. (Everybody else asks!) My favorite memory of Miss Collins was meeting up with her after a screening of a TV movie she did a few years back, “These Old Broads” with Shirley MacLaine, Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor. In the movie, Joan, playing an actress desperate for a comeback, performs a musical number that required a full split. As we chatted, somebody came up to us and said, “Joan, darling, you were marvelous. But who did that split for you?”

Miss Collins’ beautiful face darkened, “Darling, nobody did anything for me. I did that.”

“Joan, please…”

Folks, never contradict a true diva. Miss Collins tossed her little clutch purse on a table, shrugged off her luxurious fur shrug, hitched up her Chanel-style skirt and right then and there went into a full split. The room gasped. Even better, she got out of the split in one graceful, athletic movement. Joan picked up her purse, gathered her fur, and headed for the buffet table.

It was one of the great moments, in a lifetime of celeb-watching.

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SPOTTED: At Trader Vic’s Lounge at the Beverly Hilton: Kevin Costner and writer/director Ron Shelton. Were they discussing ‘a “Bull Durham” sequel that would also bring back Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins to their original roles? A big-eyed, big-eared spy says yes.

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