Bond. James Bond.

LONDON (AP) - Blond. James Blond. Daniel Craig, a 37-year-old, sandy-haired Englishman was introduced Friday as the new James Bond, ending months of speculation. He'll star in "Casino Royale," directed by Martin Campbell, due out next year.

"I had a couple of martinis when I found out," said Craig, who replaces Pierce Brosnan in the role of the suave spy.

Craig is the first blond actor and only the second Englishman to star as Agent 007 in the movie series. His selection was revealed as he was whisked down the Thames River on Friday aboard a military boat to a waterside news conference.

"It is a huge iconic figure in movie history, and those things don't come along very often," Craig said.


Producer Michael G. Wilson said 200 actors had been considered for the role, but Craig was the only one who had been offered it. Craig said he only found out Monday that he definitely had the part.

Speculation about the new Bond had also included Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Gerard Butler, Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger and Eric Bana.

At the packed press conference inside a Royal Navy facility on the Thames, the new Bond fielded questions from newspaper and television reporters, tabloid gossip columnists and a journalist from the Ministry of Defense magazine.

Craig brushed aside questions about supermodel Kate Moss and actress Sienna Miller - both tabloid fixtures whom he has reportedly dated.

"I'm not going to get into that," he said.

"I understand that doing this doesn't help" preserve his privacy, Craig added. "We'll take it one day at a time."

Of the other five actors to play 007, only Roger Moore is English-born. Sean Connery is Scottish, George Lazenby is Australian, Timothy Dalton was born in Wales and Brosnan is Irish.

Relatively unknown outside Britain, Craig appeared in the landmark 1990s British TV drama "Our Friends in the North" and in films including "The Mother,""Enduring Love" and "Layer Cake."

His screen credits also include "Road to Perdition,""Sylvia" and this year's thriller "The Jacket" with Adrien Brody. He is now filming another thriller, "The Visiting," with Nicole Kidman.

Ian Fleming's first-ever Bond novel, originally published in 1953, "Casino Royale" is one of the few Bond adventures not to feature the MI6 gadget-maker Q. It was previously filmed as a 1967 spoof starring Peter Sellers.

Campbell - who directed Brosnan's first Bond film, "GoldenEye," in 1995 - said the movie would be "tougher and grittier" than previous films, with "more character and less gadgets." He said the story would begin with Bond first becoming a "00" agent.

"It is really the arc in which he becomes Bond," Campbell said. "He starts out just having earned his double-0 stripes and comes out at the end the Bond we know and love."

"A lot of the embryonic Bond things will come out in the film - how he gets the Aston Martin, how he mixes a Martini."

Casino Royale" is due to being filming in January in the Czech Republic, the Bahamas, Italy and at Pinewood Studios near London. Campbell said the budget likely will exceed $100 million.

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