We expect you to dye, Mr Bond ...
THE tuxedo is laundered, the Walther PPK fully loaded and a fresh round of dry Martinis - shaken, not stirred - have been ordered on M's bar tab. After months of speculation, the worst kept secret in showbusiness was finally revealed yesterday as Daniel Craig was officially announced as the latest James Bond.
The new 007, number six, will be darker and edgier with the cheesy one-liners so beloved of Roger Moore dispatched via the ejector seat. He will also be the first blond James Bond. Or will he? Publicity photographs of the actor yesterday showed Craig in classic Bond-style pose - complete with dark, dyed hair.
Film-makers said they were as yet undecided on what the final colour will be when Craig replaces Pierce Brosnan in Casino Royale, an adaptation of Ian Fleming's first novel to feature Britain's 007, and the 21st Bond film in the popular film franchise which has earned over $3 billion at the box office in the past 43 years.
Craig's pedigree as an accomplished actor and his lack of the traditional suave good looks associated with the role of James Bond signal the producers' desire to re-invent the popular character, who first appeared in 1962, for a new generation of cinema-goers.
However, Craig may yet require time to get into character. He admitted to being "scared s***less" yesterday as Royal Marines sped him along the Thames to attend a world press conference on board HMS President.
Craig, whose previous roles included playing Ted Hughes opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in Sylvia, and appearing with Paul Newman in The Road to Perdition, said he has been a fan of the films since childhood: "It is a huge iconic figure in film history, and those things don't come along very often."
The actor also revealed that he only discovered on Monday that he had definitely been given the role, and had to consider the offer. "It was difficult, but I tried to think about it like any other job. We have got an incredible script, and that is my first line of attack. Once I had read it, I knew I did not have any choice. It is a huge challenge, and I think life is about challenges."
The Casanova qualities of James Bond, who rarely completes an adventure without slipping under the sheets with a few women, was also raised at yesterday's press conference. Craig, who previously dated Kate Moss and was the subject of tabloid attention after allegations he had an illicit romance with Jude Law's girlfriend, Sienna Miller, was asked which of them would make the better Bond girl. Slipping into his new role as a secret agent, he replied: "I'm not going to get into that."
The announcement draws to an end a torturous process which saw EON Productions, the Bond producers, audition a host of candidates. Others actors were considered then dismissed for a variety of reasons.
According to a leaked memo, Hugh Jackman, who played Wolverine in the X-Men movies as well Curly in the Broadway musical Oklahoma, was favoured by the producer, Michael Wilson, but dismissed as too fey by Barbara Broccoli. Colin Farrell, who played Alexander the Great, was dismissed as too sleazy, while Eric Bana, who was the Incredible Hulk as well as Hector in Troy, was ruled out as lacking adequate good looks. Ewan McGregor, who would have been the first Scottish Bond since Sean Connery, was dismissed as too short.
The closest contender was considered to be Clive Owen, who appeared in Closer.
Goran Visnjic, who plays Dr Lucka Kovac in ER, was said to have spent ten days in London preparing for his screentest, but is thought to have failed to master the necessary British accent. The decision to replace Pierce Brosnan, who appeared in the last four films, including Die Another Day which took over $400 million at the box office, was made after the actor allegedly demanded $30 million to reprise the role. The producers later insisted that, at 53, he was too old for the part.
Once informed in a brisk telephone call that his secret services were no longer required, Brosnan struck out at the role which had made his fortune.
He said: "It never felt real to me. I never felt I had complete ownership over Bond. Because you'd have these stupid one-liners - which I loathed - and I always felt phoney doing them."
As late as last week, however, he was back-tracking, offering an olive branch to the producers.
He said: "Would I go back if they asked me? Sure. It was a real body blow. I thought I'd made inroads with the character after playing him four times."
Martin Campbell, who directed Brosnan in his first Bond film, Goldeneye, will also direct Casino Royale and guided Craig through the role. He said of the first blond 007: "The thing about James Bond is that each actor who has filled the role has brought his own style and imprint. With Daniel as our new Bond, I am thrilled to be returning to shepherd the new 007 in the Bond adventure."
The director insisted the film would be "tougher and grittier" with "more character and less gadgets". He said the story would begin with Bond first becoming a "00" agent and being given his licence to kill.
"It is really the arc in which he becomes Bond," Campbell said. "He starts out just having earned his double-0 stripes and comes out at the end as the Bond we know and love."
Casino Royale will begin shooting in the Czech Republic in January and is scheduled to be released next November. The issue of Craig's hair is expected to be decided during make-up tests in January. A spokesman for EON Productions said: "There has been no decision made on his hair yet. He will undergo hair and make-up tests in January."
However, he is not the first actor to present the film-makers with a follicle challenge. Sean Connery began wearing a wig while shooting Goldfinger, while Roger Moore said he endured a dozen different haircuts until the director was satisfied with his look. Then both Timothy Dalton and Brosnan required hairpieces to restore their hairlines as they aged in the role.
Wilson and Broccoli, the film's producers, yesterday insisted that, regardless of his hairstyling, their new choice would bring a "contemporary edge to the role".
Wilson said: "It has been a long-time ambition for us to film the first book in the series, Casino Royale, which defined the complex character of James Bond. We are thrilled Daniel Craig will play the character of 007. Daniel is a superb actor who has all the qualities needed to bring a contemporary edge to the role.
"Casino Royale will have all the action, suspense and espionage that our audiences have come to expect from us, but nevertheless takes the franchise in a new and exciting direction."
In the novel, Casino Royale, James Bond is sent to a casino in the French Riviera to bankrupt an enemy spy. T
he British bookies, however, are already betting against the new agent. Ladbrokes yesterday announced they are offering odds that the next film will fail to match the box office takings of Pierce Brosnan's last film.
The high street bookmakers are also taking bets on how long Daniel Craig will last in the role. He is just 10/1 to be axed after one film. However, EON Productions have already signed him to a three picture deal.
Name's Bond, Hoagy Bond
WHILE Ian Fleming swiped the name for his secret agent from an ornithologist who wrote a book entitled Birds of the West Indies, he modelled his appearance on Hoagy Carmichael, right, the fifties jazz musician. In the opening chapter of Casino Royale, the first James Bond novel published in 1953, one of the characters says of 007: "He reminds me rather of Hoagy Carmichael, but there is something cold and ruthless." The author later said of Bond: "He was good- looking in a dark, rather cruel way."
Mr Fleming's original choice to play the film role was actually David Niven.
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