Premiere gives Bond team close-up on piracy

Film unspools in China uncut, uncensored

BEIJING --The specter of piracy gatecrashed the lavish and groundbreaking Chinese premiere of "Casino Royale" in Beijing on Monday.

In a twist of irony worthy of a 007 plot, Bond star Daniel Craig revealed at the event that he had been offered an illegal "Casino" DVD at a Beijing market without being recognized as the new James Bond.

The film's director, Martin Campbell, revealed that he actually bought a pirated copy of his work, adding that he "hated" it. "You work so hard to be so pristine and then you see your work on a rotten copy and it is, to put it mildly, disappointing."

Despite China's upcoming peak moviegoing season centered around the mid-February Lunar New Year holiday, Sony Pictures Entertainment will likely take a hit on earnings from "Casino" here in the face of rampant piracy in China.

"Casino Royale" became the first James Bond movie ever to screen in China and premiered uncensored -- even restoring brief scenes of torture that Campbell said were cut for U.S. and U.K. viewers.

Campbell, stars Craig and Eva Green, and producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson walked the red carpet through a gauntlet of foreign and local reporters gathered at one of the poshest hotels in the capital before leaving for a nearby multiplex to greet fans.

While the 007 name is well-known in China because of widely available pirated copies, none of the previous 20 Bond films were submitted formally for examination by the state's communist censors, said Li Chow, Sony Pictures Entertainment general manager for China.

China's censors passed "Casino" to play uncut on 470 prints in 1,000 theaters -- a record for an import. "This film is about fighting the common enemy of terrorism," producer Broccoli said, adding, "It is not political."

Sony's Li said that dubbing most of the "Casino" prints into Chinese will help explain plot twists too complex for a country where much real-life news is censored.

"When the villain in 'Casino' 'short sells' the airline stock, we needed to add a few Chinese words to make this concept clear," Li said, describing actor Mads Mikkelsen placing a big bet that an airline stock would drop after an unexpected explosion.

Director Campbell said he was happy his film would be shown intact here.

"Casino" is among the first big Hollywood films this year to be granted one of the 20 annual quota slots China uses to restrict foreign movies' influence and competition.

Producer Wilson said the idea of making a Bond film in China was a good one, but couldn't imagine working in a system where piracy was so out of control.

"Piracy is bad for foreign films but it's a disaster for Chinese films, so I think that's a point that the government should face up to," Wilson said, adding that he hopes "Casino" can do as well as "Mission: Impossible III" did here.