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James Bond: News from the Bahamas set

92016__bond_lHow does Agent 007 fight his most troublesome foe: negative buzz? Perhaps by offering reporters a trip to the Bahamas, to the set of Casino Royale. That’s what the film’s producers did this week, and it seems to have paid off with an avalanche of mostly positive coverage from international print, TV, and online reporters.

For instance, USA Today writes that the film may be ”the first art-house-style 007 movie.” The paper’s article and an accompanying photo of Daniel Craig in action suggest that this will be a much grittier, grimier Bond movie than we’re used to, with a hero who relies more on his wits than on Q’s gadgets, which will be absent from the film. (USA Today also has a cast photo gallery.)

Reuters lets Craig defend himself against the hatas who say he’s miscast. Second-string Bond girl Caterina Murino tells MTV News that shooting a love scene with Craig ”felt very, very good. Danny is a great actor and I was comfortable with it. Very sexy. He has a great, huge body. He’s very sexy, I think the sexiest in James Bond’s history.” Okay, okay, we get it.

Fans who want more reassurance, or who just want to see some cool behind-the-scenes footage, can watch the TV reports from Extra and the BBC. And there’s still more news from the set at SuperHeroHype, including a mild spoiler about the new opening sequence.

So, are you finally feeling shaken and stirred about Casino Royale? Can we finally spill that Craig Haterade down the drain, or do you remain unconvinced?

Daniel Craig is 007: Deal with it

9617__bond_lHasn’t poor Daniel Craig suffered enough this week? First, he reportedly gets two teeth knocked out while filming a Casino Royale fight scene. Now, along come some disgruntled James Bond fans with a new website, craignotbond.com, that urges fans to boycott the upcoming film because they don’t think Craig is fit to check the oil of Bond’s Aston Martin. (Their chief complaint seems to be that they don’t like his looks, as is apparent from this cruel but funny page of separated-at-birth photos.)

Enough. You Craig-hatas out there need a license to chill. All you naysayers should rent Layer Cake, where Craig proves he can handle the gunplay, nightlife, and international intrigue requirements of the 007 role; in fact, he plays a guy so cool he doesn’t even need a name. Craig’s dramatic work in such movies as Road to Perdition, Enduring Love, and Munich speaks for itself, and if you’re worried that his unconventional appearance means a lack of sex appeal, allay your fears by watching him smolder in Sylvia or Love Is the Devil.

Okay, he’s not very funny or polished, but then he’s not being asked to play the quip-a-minute, every-hair-in-place Bond of the Roger Moore era; rather, he’ll be the brutal, two-fisted Bond of Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel.

Think of Craig as one of Q’s cunning and deadly gadgets: now that he’s been given to you, don’t you want to take him into the field and see what he can do?

addCredit(“Casino Royale: Greg Williams”)

Finally! The new Bond girl is...

101611__green_l(Drum roll please…)

…little known French actress Eva Green (The Dreamers, Kingdom of Heaven), who’ll play Vesper Lynd opposite the new 007, Daniel Craig — as well as recently cast villain Mads Mikkelsen — when Casino Royale hits theaters in November. Adding a dollop of critical clout to the flick, Jeffrey Wright is also joining the cast as stealthy CIA man Felix Leiter.

And thus ends weeks of breathless speculation in the James Bond casting sweepstakes. Now, let the inevitable post-announcement kudos/kvetching begin.

addCredit(“Eva Green: Queen/WireImage.com”)

Meet the new James Bond villain

94327__mads_lThere’s still no Bond girl cast in Casino Royale, which is already shooting, but producers have finally cast the role of the villain, Le Chiffre, a crimelord who clashes with 007 at the baccarat table and elsewhere. It’s Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. Who? English-language audiences may know him best as Tristan, one of the more efficient killers among Clive Owen’s knights in 2004′s King Arthur. Here’s his IMDb page, and here’s an English language fan site. I’d say he’s got the right brooding attitude; too much hair, but the filmmakers can shave his head.

addCredit(“Mads Mikkelsen: Randall Michelson/WireImage.com”)

What's Weirder? (Casting Edition)

85319__mm_lLet’s play What’s Weirder?…

A) Connie Nielsen (best known for costarring in Gladiator and dating Metallica’s Lars Ulrich) will fill in for Mariska Hargitay for six episodes while she’s on maternity leave from Law & Order: SVU.

B) Lost‘s Matthew Fox is costarring in another plane-crash disaster tale, this one based on a true story. It’s a movie about a West Virginia college football team that tries to rebuild itself after a crash kills several players and staffers. Matthew McConaughey and Fox will play coaches; McG is directing.

C) Marilyn Manson (pictured) plans to make his writng/directing debut in Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll. (So reports Production Weekly; click on the link marked ”january thirty-one.”) He’d also play the Alice in Wonderland author, while Angelina Jolie is in talks to play the Queen of Hearts.

D) Rachel McAdams and Thandie Newton are rumored to be the frontrunners for the top Bond girl role in Casino Royale, which has already started shooting but still has yet to cast a female lead and a villain.

(See Gary’s answer after the jump…)

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Who should be the next Bond Girl?

92215__eva_lNow that they’ve finally cast Daniel Craig as 007, the James Bond producers still have to finish another extensive casting search to find his leading lady for Casino Royale. Contrary to rumor, Variety reports, they still haven’t settled on anyone yet. Apparently, you can forget such top-of-the-wish-list names as Charlize Theron and Angelina Jolie (who, now that she’s announced that there’s a Brangelina baby on the way, probably won’t be doing any Lara Croft-type stuntwork for a while). One rumored name was Craig’s Layer Cake costar Sienna Miller. Among the four women reportedly testing for the role are Natasha Henstridge and Australian actress Kimberly Davies. 

addCredit(“Eva Mendes: Steve Granitz/WireImage.com”)

I’m not sure who I’d want to cast, since Bond Girl is a career-killer role unless you’re already an established actress. (It’s no problem if you’re Halle Berry or Michelle Yeoh, but have you ever seen Izabella Scorupco or Maryam D’Abo again?) I’d like to see someone more exotic than the usual Euromodel types play the part: say, Eva Mendes (above), or Thandie Newton, or Sofia Vergara.

Who would you pick, PopWatchers?

Psychoanalyzing James Bond

93439__craig_lThe new Casino Royale will put 007 on the couch, metaphorically anyway. Director Martin Campbell tells USA Today it’s an origin tale, meant to explain everything from why he likes his martinis shaken-not-stirred to why he’s a compulsive womanizer.

I’m not sure we want to know all that. Bond’s psychology has never been all that important; he’s not a Marvel Comics hero. Still, if the producers really want a brooding Bond, it helps explain more why they’ve picked the stormy Daniel Craig (left). (As opposed to, say, Clive Owen, who’d be a more quietly smoldering Bond.) And you have to give the filmmakers credit for nerve if they truly intend to make the franchise less about gadgets and more about character.

addCredit(“Daniel Craig: David Fisher/LFI”)

Updating James Bond: 'Royale' without cheese, please...

Although we finally have a new James Bond star in Daniel Craig, Casino Royale screenwriter Paul Haggis (Crash) still has his work cut out for him in making sure the screenplay is equally fresh. In next week’s issue, Entertainment Weekly’s Joshua Rich offers Haggis five unsolicited suggestions:

1. Get Real. No more invisible cars and ice chateaus. If 007 is seen at the casino playing baccarat instead of poker, he’ll seem woefully out of date. Take a page from the Bourne movies and try some real-world intrigue, actual locations, recognizably human relationships between characters, and plausible fight scenes involving hand-to-hand combat instead of fanciful gadgetry.

2. Get Badder.
Where are the memorable Bond villains of yesteryear? The movie needs someone roiling with personality, like Goldfinger, Blofeld, or for that matter, the Oedipally driven killer Craig played in Road to Perdition.

3. Get Better Buddies. Bond needs sidekicks who are equals, or at least near-equals. Think Halle Berry’s Jinx in Die Another Day. Or think Ron and Hermione, only grown-up.

4. Go Darker. James Bond’s not the most introspective guy, but heroes forced to confront their own guilt, bitterness, and vengeful feelings have done well lately (like Spider-Man‘s Peter Parker). Plus, that makes them more compelling when they finally go medieval (like The Matrix‘s Neo or even Tony Soprano).

5. Assassinate Product Placement. It’ll never happen, but we can dream.

How would you shake and stir the 007 storylines?

Yep, Daniel Craig is the new 007

8539__dc_lIt’s official: Daniel Craig has the job. Some secret agent — his own mother leaked the news before today’s London press conference. Actually, I think Craig (left) is a pretty edgy choice. Look at him in Layer Cake, Sylvia, Road to Perdition, and (if you really want to be creeped out) Enduring Love, and you’ll see he’s capable of the vicious streak that marks the Bond Ian Fleming created in the pages of Casino Royale.

So, readers, does the announcement leave you shaken or stirred?

addCredit(“Daniel Craig: Jamie Tregidgo/WireImage.com”)

Yet another reason to love Friday: Bond will be named!

Who will be the next 007? That’s the million-dollar question Sony Pictures will finally answer, when the studio unveils The Actor Who Will Be Bond at a London news conference on Friday. Is the towheaded Daniel Craig a done deal (as has been extensively rumored)? Or will the Broccolis actually surprise us with a last-minute dark horse? Will Pierce Brosnan crash the party?

Casino Royale begins shooting in January in preparation for a fall 2006 release, but until then, chew on this: What changes would you make to the enduring (some say stale) 007 formula? Film critic James Rocchi bemoans the sorry state of the Bond franchise, placing the blame squarely on that of the writers. What do you think? Is the idea of a megalomaniacal villain fixated on world domination dated? Or is it too topical? Early reports say Casino centers on a sinister game of Texas Hold ‘Em. Will this pave the way for cameos by Celebrity Poker Showdown hosts Dave Foley and Phil Gordon?

Most importantly, though, who’s your vote for the next Bond babes (for me, it’s all about Thandie Newton and Sienna Miller), and who should croon the theme song (we’re looking at you, Beyoncé)?

Weigh in. Help us help Sony design the perfect Bond flick.

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