LONDON — James Bond is going back to his roots. And they’re blond.
Sandy-haired English actor Daniel Craig was unveiled Friday as the star of the next Bond film, “Casino Royale,” due in theaters in November 2006.
“I had a couple of martinis when I found out,” Craig said.
Craig’s name, the subject of speculation for weeks, was revealed as he was whisked down the River Thames aboard a military speedboat to a waterside news conference. He replaces Pierce Brosnan, who has starred in the last four Bond films.
Craig, 37, said he’d only found out on Monday that he definitely had the part. He said that while being considered, he’d had to think about whether he really wanted the job.
“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,” Craig said. “It is a huge iconic figure in movie history, and those things don’t come along very often.”
Producer Michael G. Wilson said 200 actors had been considered, but Craig was the only one who had been offered the role.
Speculation about the new Bond included Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Gerard Butler, Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger and Eric Bana.
Craig has had a busy career that includes roles in the 1990s British TV drama “Our Friends in the North” and films including “The Mother,” “Enduring Love” and “Layer Cake.” He played Paul Newman’s sinister son in “Road to Perdition,” was poet Ted Hughes opposite Gwyneth Paltrow’s Sylvia Plath in “Sylvia” and appeared in this year’s thriller “The Jacket” with Adrien Brody.
He’s currently filming another thriller, “The Visiting,” with Nicole Kidman.
Craig is the first blond Bond and the second Englishman to play the suave British superspy.
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Of the five other actors to play 007, only Roger Moore is English-born. Sean Connery is Scottish, George Lazenby Australian, Timothy Dalton was born in Wales and Brosnan is Irish.
'Tougher and grittier'
A respected screen actor but not — until Friday — a household name, Craig acknowledged feeling uncomfortable with the level of fame his new role will bring him.
At the packed press conference inside a Royal Navy facility on the Thames, he fielded questions from various reporters, tabloid gossip columnists and a journalist from the Ministry of Defense magazine.
His favorite Bond? Sean Connery.
Favorite Bond film? “Goldfinger.”
Favorite Bond girl? Diana Rigg in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
But he brushed aside questions about supermodel Kate Moss and actress Sienna Miller — both tabloid fixtures whom he has reportedly dated.
“I’m not going to get into that,” he said.
Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, originally published in 1953, “Casino Royale” is one of the few Bond adventures not to feature the MI6 gadget-maker Q. It was previously filmed as a 1967 spoof starring Peter Sellers.
Director Martin Campbell — who directed Brosnan’s first Bond outing, “GoldenEye” in 1995 — said the movie would be “tougher and grittier” than previous films, with “more character and less gadgets.” He said the story would begin with Bond first becoming a “double-0” agent.
“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 the Bond we know and love.
“A lot of the embryonic Bond things will come out in the film — how he gets the Aston Martin, how he mixes a martini.”
“Casino Royale” is due to begin filming in January, in the Czech Republic, the Bahamas, Italy and at Pinewood Studios near London. Campbell said the budget will likely exceed $100 million.
“I am looking most forward to actually starting getting on with it, and feeling intimidated about pretty much everything,” Craig said. “It is a sort of responsibility, but it is also a huge adventure.”
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