Sun, 13 Feb 2005


007's first book to be 21st film Charlotte Higgins Guardian News Service/London

I must be dreaming, as Commander Bond might say: Casino Royale has finally been confirmed as the 21st James Bond film, to be released in 2006.

Casino Royale was Ian Fleming's first Bond novel, published in 1953, in which the spy, an expert baccarat player, is assigned to take on Le Chiffre, gambler and Soviet agent. The magnificently named Vesper Lynd is the highly sexed Bond girl.

It contains a notorious scene in which 007 is stripped naked, tied to a seatless chair, and beaten from below.

New Zealand-born Martin Campbell, who reinvigorated a tired franchise with Goldeneye in 1995, will direct.

But who will replace Pierce Brosnan -- who has made no secret of his disappointment not to be continuing in his role as the womanizing secret agent -- has yet to be announced. Names of muscular, chiseled young fellows being bandied about include Colin Farrell, Hugh Jackman, Eric Bana and Jude Law.

It has taken so long to make Casino Royale because Fleming had already sold the film rights when Albert Broccoli made the 1961 deal that was to form the foundation of the Bond franchise under the aegis of his Eon production company.

They ended up in the hands of Charles K Feldman, who, with Columbia, produced a spoof film version in 1967. In it, David Niven, Woody Allen and Peter Sellers all play characters called James Bond, with a surrounding cast ranging from Ursula Andress to Orson Welles.

By the late 1990s, Sony had taken over Columbia and owned the rights, but surrendered them in the course of a dispute with Eon's parent company, MGM.

Campbell, currently finishing filming The Legend of Zorro, will shortly join Casino Royale writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade to develop the script.