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LONDON – Daniel Craig marks his return as British secret agent James Bond in the 23rd installment titled Skyfall surrounded by a myriad of heavyweight acting talents.
Ben Whishaw is also among the familiar faces lining up for the Bond film.
Director Sam Mendes introduced Craig, Dench, Bardem and Skyfall’s Bond girls played by French actress Berenice Marlohe and Britain’s Naomie Harris at a news conference Thursday in the British capital.
With the world’s media represented in a hotel ballroom just off Whitehall, Mendes took the opportunity to assure everyone that his Bond film would stick to the traditions of the world’s longest-running franchise and feature plenty of action.
He introduced his glamorous cast on 50 years to the day that Sean Connery was announced as the first 007 in Dr. No.
“It [Skyfall], I think, has all the elements of a classic Bond movie, including, to quell any rumors, a lot of action,” Mendes said.
He said it was his aim to dispel Internet speculation and media rumors and confirm a few facts about the latest 007, but he also spent much of the news conference unwilling to reveal any titbits about plot and such.
Mendes said the movie starts shooting Monday on location in London and at Pinewood Studios on the outskirts of the city as well as locations in Shanghai, Istanbul and other parts of Turkey and “the wilds of Scotland.”
Bardem plays the villain and Dench returns as Bond’s boss “M.”
While details of the script penned by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan remain a tightly guarded secret, the movie involves Bond’s loyalty to M being tested after her past comes back to haunt her.
As MI6 comes under attack, 007 has to track down and destroy the threat no matter how personal the cost.
When asked if the reason why some of the actors present could not reveal their character names in case Bond fans might be familiar with them, Mendes remained cagey.
“[Bond fans] might recognize them,” he said, pausing, before adding, “on the other hand, they might not.”
Craig delivered a couple of effective one-liners for the gathered media.
When asked if the script called for him to take his shirt off a lot, producer Barbara Broccoli shouted, “damn right,” before Craig drawled, “it’s all part of the gig.”
The same goes for Bardem’s character.
When asked how his recent portrayal of Mikael Blomkvist in the U.S. remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo compares to his third outing as Bond, his answer was curt and to the point.
“They’re completely different,” Craig smiled.
Sony Pictures will distribute the film, which is set to hit British theater on Oct. 26, 2012, and U.S. cinemas on Nov. 9.
The latest outing starts shooting after emerging from the fallout of the MGM bankruptcy and takeover that put production on hold for months.
2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the series, which began in 1962 with Dr. No.
MGM filed for bankruptcy in November last year and two months later confirmed Bond 23 would hit theater in November 2012. In April, MGM and Sony said they would co-finance and distribute the next two Bond movies.
The studios partnered on Quantum of Solace and Craig’s 2006 Bond debut, Casino Royale.
Craig said Skyfall, with Mendes at the helm, would not have happened without the “tireless commitment” of Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the producers of the movies.
With a reported production price tag of about $200 million for the past two movies, the 007 films are at the high end for film budgets in the current economic climate.
Wilson said the cost of Skyfall would be largely in line with Quantum of Solace.
“We’ve not had to take anything out of the script to make cost cuts,” Wilson said. “We keep adding things in. All the money spent will be seen on screen.”
Broccoli, pointing to the gathered cast and the launch, said: “Does it look like we’re cutting back?”
When asked if he enjoys the role of Bond and the perils of being typecast, Craig said: “Look, I like to work. All I know is doing a third one [Bond film], and being given the chance to do a third, means I just want to make the best possible Bond film ever. I want it to be Bond with a captial B.”
Mendes said there is no doubt that if he is still as excited in six months time as he is on the eve of shooting he wants to direct another one.
Broccoli and Wilson both indicated a desire for that to happen and for Craig to carry on as Bond “for the next six years.”
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