In 1953, former British Naval intelligence officer Ian Fleming published the first in his series of novels featuring the exploits of secret agent 007 - Bond, James Bond. A decade later Sean Connery became the first to play Bond on screen. Now, it's the 21st "official" Bond film adventure featuring a new 007 and a return to the original source material. Alan Silverman has a look at Casino Royale.
In 1967, David Niven headed an all-star cast including Woody Allen, Ursula Andress and Orson Welles in a comic spoof of the spy genre. This is not a remake of that movie.
Casino Royale takes Bond back to his origins, reintroducing him as a former military commando just learning the secret agent trade and earning his 'double-oh' license to kill.
The theme of the 1953 novel is updated to today's world: from Cold War to War on Terror. The plan is for Bond to bring down international terror financier and dedicated gambler LeChifre in a high-stakes casino card game. It was Baccarat Chemin-de-fer in the Ian Fleming original. This time, it's Texas Hold-Em Poker.
Casino Royale introduces a new James Bond: English actor Daniel Craig, who says his inspiration is the original character in the book, not the super-spy he would become in the movies.
"Yes, he's Bond, but he can still make mistakes and he can still screw it up," Craig notes, "and we as an audience should question his morals and his tactics. I like think that sometimes in this movie we go 'wow, that's not so good.' Also, the fact is we think that he could get into danger. The outcome might not be as healthy as we think it is.
This Bond is definitely a voracious womanizer, but Craig says he develops a resistance to romance after he falls in love with a fellow government agent, the lovely Vesper Lind.
"I was absolutely sure that if we didn't see somebody go through some sort of change, then it would just be a re-hash ...a repetition of something that had gone before," Craig says, "and I just wasn't going to get involved with that. It was important that we had within Vesper Lind a character that we could believe why he would fall in love. It would be no good having somebody that was just another 'Bond girl.' In fact, she is not just another 'Bond girl.' We had to have that dynamic because that's the heart of the movie. That is driving him and what makes him change ...and the rest of it has to seamlessly tie into that.
French-born Eva Green co-stars as Vesper.
"I really had some reservations about it," she admits. " I didn't want to be a 'Bond girl.' What does that mean? A girl in a bikini or the baddie or the goodie? There are not many dimensions. But when I read the script I was very surprised, actually. It was very unusual and very complex. So I just jumped into it, auditioned and got the part."
This is the second time director Martin Campbell has introduced a 'new' Bond. He made "Goldeneye" in 1995 with Pierce Brosnan. Campbell says his aim in Casino Royale was to move away from the high-tech gadgets, flamboyant villains and outrageous stunts and return to the gritty, edgy Bond of the novels.
"The idea was that it's his first mission. He's rough around the edges," explains Campbell. "He thinks with his heart instead of his head. He's a bit of a loose cannon. In a way, as [spy master]'M' says, he's a blunt instrument and she questions whether he should ever have the double-oh license.
"He can be a bit of a bull in a china shop and the idea was that at the end of the movie, he has become 007," adds Campbell. "Up until that point he bleeds, there is that darker side to him, he is beaten up ...he is, I think, a lot more human.
The international cast of Casino Royale includes Danish actor Mads Mikkelson as LeChifre; Italian Caterina Murino is his sultry lover (and one of Bond's conquests); and English Oscar-winner Dame Judi Dench returns as the British intelligence chief code-named 'M.'