''Casino Royale'': Inside the big bet on the new 007. Daniel Craig is the new name on that License To Kill, and the latest Man Who Would Be Bond is resetting the spy franchise's clock. No pressure...

By Benjamin Svetkey
Updated August 11, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Daniel Craig Photograph by Greg Williams
  • Movie

The jumbo jet parked on the runway is ready to be blown up.

The fuel truck with the leaky gas tank — and a terrorist bomber behind the wheek — is idling in a nearby hangar. And the Aston Martin belonging to a certain secret agent has juts pulled up to the curb.

In other words, everyone at this secluded airfield outside London, on this picture-perfect July afternoon, is waiting for the cameras to roll on what could be one of the most spectacularly explosive — not to mention spectacularly expensive — action sequences ever shot for a James Bond movie.

Unfortunately, so is the guy in the hang glider, making swooping circles in the sky overhead, snapping as many photos as he can.

”The paparazzi are everywhere,” sighs a weary Daniel Craig, taking a break as security guards chase after the winged intruder. ”We pulled two of them out of the bushes last night. They were in Prague when we were there. They were in Venice. They were on the beaches in the Bahamas. Everywhere Casino Royale has shot, they’ve been there.”

Well, who can blame them? The press — and public — always get a little curious whenever someone new starts shaking James Bond’s martinis. And this time around, there’s certainly plenty to be curious about. After all, many moviegoers had never heard of Craig before October 2005, when it was announced that the 38-year-old blue-eyed Brit would follow Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan to become the sixth James Bond. Frankly, some wish they still hadn’t heard of him: A group of hardcore purists have been so outraged by the casting of a fair-haired actor in a role they believe is strictly for brunets, they’ve gone so far as to launch an anti-Craig Internet campaign and threaten a boycott of the movie (yes, Mr. Blond, they expect you to dye!). But even those who don’t care about hair color, who admire Craig’s work in films like Layer Cake and Munich, may have questions about this 21st official installment of the seemingly eternal action series. Because the hair isn’t the only thing different about this new 007. In fact, with Casino Royale, Bond is undergoing his boldest makeover since swaggering onto screens some 45 years ago in Dr.No.

”I watched every single Bond movie three or four times, taking in everything I could about how the character had been portrayed in the past — then threw all that away once I started doing the role,” Craig announces. ”There’s no point in making this movie unless it’s different. It’d be a waste of time unless we took Bond to a place he’d never been before.”

Casino Royale

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 144 minutes
  • Martin Campbell