Now James Bond has been handed arguably his biggest challenge yet – breathing new life into the cinema industry, 18 months after it was forced to close down virtually overnight.
Daniel Craig has set off down the red carpet for a final time in the role – 15 years after his first thrilling appearance as Bond, emerging from the sea in a pair of pair blue swimming trunks.
The British secret agent has come out of retirement for his latest adventure, No Time To Die, which has finally been unveiled after one of the most troubled run-ups in the history of the franchise.
The new movie sees Craig’s Bond come up with against a new adversary in the form of Rami Malek’s terrorist leader Lyutsifer Safin, and Christoph Waltz has revived his role as the secret agent’s long-time nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
If that wasn’t enough to tempt Scottish film fans back to the cinema, there is the prospect of spotting several locations in the Highlands, including Aviemore, Loch Laggan, the Ardverikie Estate and the Cairngorm National Park.
No Time To Die marks a definitive swansong for Craig, who stunned fans by returning to the role despite insisting he would rather slash his wrists than play Bond again after shooting finished on the previous film Spectre.
It would take almost four years for filming to begin on the follow-up after the departure of Trainspotting director Danny Boyle, with the production suffering another blow when Craig injured an ankle in Jamaica, delaying the end of filming until October 2019.
But just weeks before the film’s planned launch, in China in April 2020, the franchise’s producers were thrown into turmoil by the spread of Covid-19 and its release was pushed back three times.
Its long-awaited arrival in cinemas appears as perfectly timed as any of Bond’s many dramatic entrances, with venues across the UK finally able to attract much-needed full houses again.
Early ticket sales suggest it is on track to be one of the biggest movie releases of the past five years.
UK Cinema Association Phil Clapp said: “The release of a James Bond film is a big event in any year … but never more so after the last 18 months.”
Craig and director Cary Joji Fukunaga joined US Open champion Emma Raducanu, along with the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, among high-profile arrivals on the red carpet at the London premiere on Tuesday night.
The film’s French star Lea Seydoux also braved the London rain as she said she had mixed emotions for Craig’s 007 swansong.
The actress, reprising the role of Madeleine Swann, said: “I’m really, really happy the film is finally coming out, even if it’s raining. And tonight will be very emotional because it is Daniel’s last film.
"I’m a bit sad and happy at the same time.”
And Seydoux, 36, welcomed No Time To Die’s arrival in cinemas following the chaos wrought by the pandemic.
She said: “Cinema is one of the greatest art forms. We need it and I’m happy this film is coming out in cinemas. It’s such a relief and a joy.”