Paparazzi gathered in Namibia are pacing the floor like anxious fathers in a maternity ward.
With tabloids predicting the imminent arrival of one of the most famous celebrity babies of the year, Hollywood stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt remained almost invisible in their remote Namibian resort, ducking reporters intent on getting a career-making scoop.
Despite a widely reported due date of May 18, there was little sign on Thursday the baby was about to make its appearance -- leaving gossip hounds panting for news.
A local newspaper on Thursday quoted sources saying Jolie was to give birth within the next two days, possibly opting for a home birth with a special aircraft on standby.
“Jolie ... is expected to go into labour in the next 48 hours,” the Namibian said under the banner headline “Jolie-Pitt baby expected shortly.”
There are three private hospitals in the two closest towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund.
But other baby-watchers have concluded the real due date could still be weeks away, making for an even longer wait for what one New York magazine dubbed the most eagerly anticipated birth since Jesus.
Residents of the southern African desert country known chiefly for its giant sand dunes say they are confounded by the relentless media interest in their famous guests, who arrived six weeks ago with adopted children Maddox and Zahara.
“I think it is such a big fuss, I couldn’t give a damn to be quite honest. I feel sorry for them, they should just be left alone,” said Ingrid Wheal, who owns a local curio shop.
Tough securityThe arrival of Pitt, 42, and Jolie, 30, -- dubbed “Brangelina” by the tabloid press -- in Namibia six weeks ago created a media frenzy that prompted the stars’ bodyguards and security to try hound journalists out of town.
Reporters that remain lurk in coffee shops or quietly scout the area, latching onto any movement or scrap of information from the lodge, and keeping a low profile out of fear of possible deportation.
Green cloth screens mask the beach resort, while pepper-spraying bodyguards and police in camouflage have made the task almost impossible.
Security around the lodge was heightened even further on Thursday, as bodyguards cased the surrounds for prying lensmen hoping to earn the multimillion-dollar paycheck the first pictures of the baby are expected to earn.
The Daily Mirror in London reported the couple has signed a deal with a U.S. weekly magazine for the baby’s first pictures.
“They’ve signed a 2.6 million ($5 million) deal with a publication, and the money will go to children’s charity UNICEF,” the tabloid quoted a source close to the couple as saying.
“Angelina’s very private but they figured they might as well use the opportunity of one child being born to help a lot of others.”
Namibia, a country of deserts and diamonds neighbouring South Africa, was seen as a perfect getaway for Jolie, with its sparce population largely unfazed by the Hollywood buzz.
Jolie spent months in the area while filming “Beyond Borders,” largely unrecognised by the local residents.