New Bond film gets premiere after 18-month delay

British actor Daniel Craig has walked the red carpet for the final time as James Bond in a rainy London, at the star-studded but much-delayed world premiere of No Time To Die, the 25th film in a series that has been running for more than 50 years.

Craig’s fifth and final outing is finally hitting cinema screens after its release was repeatedly postponed as the coronavirus pandemic swept the world.

The release will be in cinemas only, with the struggling industry hoping the film will lure crowds back.

“I’m greatly relieved, we make Bond movies for the cinema,” Craig, dressed in a pink velvet tuxedo jacket, told broadcaster Sky News on the red carpet on Tuesday.

Reflecting on 15 years of playing the spy known as 007, Craig said: “I genuinely don’t have any bad memories, but I think it’s going to take about another 15 years to unpick all this.”

Vue Entertainment, the UK branch of the cinema operator Vue International, hailed the movie’s release as “the cinematic event of the year”.

The film will go on general release in Britain on Thursday and in the United States on October 8 – a year and a half behind schedule.

In the film, reportedly costing $250m, Bond returns to active service after retirement, vowing: “I have to finish this.”

He deploys his trademark hi-tech gadgets in spectacular scenery in Italy and Norway while battling the villainous Safin, played by Oscar-winner Rami Malek.

“I get shot and then I get blown up. It feels like James Bond to me,” Craig said in an official podcast.

With Craig bowing out, calling the role “a massive part” of his life, speculation has mounted over who will inherit his fabled licence to kill.

UK bookmakers are betting on the likes of Tom Hardy,  who was in the movies The Revenant and Dunkirk, or Rege-Jean Page, the mixed-race star of the Netflix hit Bridgerton.

Craig, 53, has held onto the role longer than any of his predecessors since his 2006 debut in Casino Royale.

He has won praise for adding depth and emotional complexity to the all-action role, but only reluctantly agreed to one final appearance as Bond.

After Spectre in 2015, Craig told Time Out magazine he would rather “slash his wrists” than reprise the role but recently apologised for appearing flippant.

Emmy award-winning US film director Cary Joji Fukunaga helmed the new film, becoming the first American to oversee the franchise.

His previous films include a 2011 adaptation of author Charlotte Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre.

The filmmaker stepped in after the original director Danny Boyle, known for Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting, left over “creative differences” in 2018.

Fukunaga said in a promotional video that his Bond is “like a wounded animal”, struggling because “the world has changed, the rules of engagement aren’t what they used to be: the rules of espionage (are) darker in this era of asymmetric warfare”.

The Bond films are based on a character created by upper-class British writer Ian Fleming in novels published in the 1950s and 1960s.

As the MeToo movement has heightened awareness of misogyny in popular culture, some have argued that time has run out for the franchise.

The new film’s director has also criticised Bond’s sexual exploits.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter magazine, Fukunaga said that in one 1960s-era film, “basically Sean Connery’s character rapes a woman”.

“That wouldn’t fly today,” he stressed.

Among those working on the screenplay was Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the British creator and star of the TV series Fleabag and writer of the first series of Killing Eve.

In the film, Bond spars with a black female MI6 agent, played by Briton Lashana Lynch and has to take a back seat to her as she flies a plane.

“It’s an incredible moment to have a female black lead in a movie who is holding her own,” she told Sky News on the red carpet.

“It feels really empowering for me to even play her. It felt like the stars aligned for this one,” she said.

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