'Casino Royale' Premieres In London

LONDON (November 14, 2006) — Fans lined up in the London rain to catch a glimpse of the new blond Bond, as sandy-haired Daniel Craig made his screen debut as suave secret agent 007.

“Casino Royale,” the 21st James Bond film and the grittiest to date, received its world premiere Tuesday. Stars including Elton John and Beyonce Knowles were expected in the audience in London’s Leicester Square for Craig’s date with double-O destiny.

The film was being screened as the annual Royal Film Performance, a 60-year-old tradition that raises funds for performers’ charity the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund. It is the second Bond film chosen for the royal honor, after “Die Another Day” in 2002.

Craig, 38, is already being praised in some quarters as the best Bond since Sean Connery, who played the first Bond role in 1962’s “Dr. No.” His debut has restored the buzz around a franchise that many felt was past its prime.

An adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first-ever Bond novel, “Casino Royale,” was previously filmed as a 1967 spoof starring Peter Sellers. It is one of the few Bond adventures not to feature the MI6 gadget-maker Q or the sharp-witted secretary Miss Moneypenny.

The Sony Pictures film retains many of the essential Bond elements, including sharp suits, gravity-defying chase sequences and spectacular locations that range from the Bahamas to Montenegro. Judi Dench once again appears as Bond’s boss, spy-master M.

But the screenplay, partly written by “Crash” writer-director Paul Haggis, provides a grittier-than-usual take on Bond, showing how he earns his license to kill. When asked if he prefers his martini shaken or stirred, he replies, “Do I look like I give a damn?”

“Casino Royale” opens in Britain and North America on Friday.

Craig has already signed up for the 22nd Bond film, due for release in November 2008.

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