James Bond has a licence to thrill once more in new film Spectre, which premiered in London recently at a glitzy event attended by second in line to the British throne Prince William, his wife Kate and brother Prince Harry.
(The movie's international release is Nov 5. Scroll down to find out how you can win tickets to watch it a day earlier!)
Broadly praised by critics, Spectre is directed by Sam Mendes and sees Daniel Craig play the suave, Martini-quaffing MI6 spy 007 in what is Bond's 24th outing since the first – Dr. No – in 1962.
"I hate watching myself on screen but I love playing James Bond," Craig said on the red carpet at London's Royal Albert Hall, where he was joined by co-stars Monica Bellucci and Lea Seydoux.
"There's different sides of his character that we explore in this," said Craig, who was in black tie. He added that Spectre was intended to honour Bond classics while trying to "freshen everything up".
Mendes, who won an Oscar for American Beauty in 1999, said, "We sweated blood over it and I'm really, really thrilled and a little bit relieved. It was two and a half years' work."
Asked about what it felt like to be a "Bond girl" – a term that is sometimes seen as patronising towards actresses – Seydoux smiled and said "I don't know if I'm a Bond girl, I'm just a blonde girl."
Seydoux, who wore a gold lame dress, plays Madeleine Swann, a psychologist and daughter of a former Bond villain. Bellucci is Lucia Sciarra, the "beautiful and forbidden widow of an infamous criminal".
At 51, Bellucci is reportedly the oldest ever "Bond girl" and is four years Craig's senior.
Ralph Fiennes, who plays Bond handler and MI6 chief "M", said it was "a very well-crafted film". "It has great energy and forward momentum," he said.
The film's title stands for Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion – which last made an appearance in 1971's Diamonds Are Forever.
Craig said he had been "desperate" to revive the shadowy organisation bent on world domination. The organisation's members include classic Bond villains Dr No and Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but the group disappeared from the films for decades due to a legal dispute that was only resolved two years ago.
Spectre was filmed in Austria, Britain, Italy, Mexico and Morocco and includes the usual Bond ingredients high-speed chase scenes, sultry female leads, exciting gadgets and witty one-liners.
"I came here to kill you," Bond tells new bad guy Franz Oberhauser, played by Christoph Waltz, in the trailer.
"And I thought you came here to die," Oberhauser counters.
"Well, it's all a matter of perspective," Bond replies with a smirk.
Under Craig, Bond has transformed from urbane and dandyish into a rugged and troubled intelligence professional, a change not all critics appreciate.
"Daniel Craig, as Bond, looks like a security guard, not a man who moves easily at the highest levels of society," Telegraph columnist Charles Moore wrote. – AFP Relaxnews
Watch Spectre for BEFORE it premieres!
Star2.com, in collaboration with Sony Pictures (Malaysia), is giving our readers a chance to watch Spectre one day before its Malaysian premiere, for free!
All you need to do is to Like our Facebook page and watch out for your chance to answer some simple questions when they pop up on our FB. The first few who get it right can win a pair of tickets to a special screening next week. The catch? The contest will run anytime from today right up to Monday!
So, stay updated with us via the Star2.com Facebook page as well as on Twitter (follow us: @Star2dotcom). We may give you a heads up before the contest starts.
The Star2.com/Spectre contest is open to all Malaysians aged 18 and above. This screening is on Nov 4 and will ONLY be held at GSC Tropicana Mall in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.