James Bond aims to bounce back with new film launch

LONDON: James Bond returns on Thursday with the launch of the 23rd instalment in the famous film franchise, and aims to bounce back after a studio bankruptcy put production on hold for months and the last movie earned mixed reviews.

As ever ahead of a major Bond announcement, unconfirmed rumours have been flying across cyberspace.

What can be said with certainty is that Daniel Craig returns for his third outing as the suave secret agent, and Sam Mendes, Oscar winner with "American Beauty" who worked with Craig on "Road to Perdition", will direct.

Spanish actor Javier Bardem and Britain's Ralph Fiennes are expected to join the cast, and Judi Dench is set to return as Bond's stern boss "M".

Other stars reported to be involved include Albert Finney, who would be making his first Bond appearance aged 75, and Naomie Harris as Miss Moneypenny.

Locations and plotline are largely unknown to the outside world, although some media have said scenes shot on a train in India are likely to feature.

A spokeswoman for Sony Pictures declined to give details about Thursday's event beyond what appeared on a press invitation -- that producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli would present Mendes and "key" cast members.

Sony Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp, will distribute the film, which is set to hit British theatres on Oct. 26, 2012 and U.S. cinemas on Nov. 9.

Next year is the 50th anniversary of the series, which began in 1962 with Sean Connery on Her Majesty's secret service in "Dr. No".

Debt-laden Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc, known for its roaring lion logo and behind some of Hollywood's most fabled films including "The Wizard of Oz", filed for bankruptcy in November last year.

Two months later it confirmed Bond 23 would hit theatres in November, 2012, and in April MGM and Sony announced they would co-finance and distribute the next two Bond movies.

The studios previously partnered on "Quantum of Solace" and Craig's 2006 Bond debut "Casino Royale."

The high-octane, action-heavy films are expensive to make and market, with Quantum of Solace estimated to have cost around $200 million.

But they have a good record commercially, and according to movie tracking website boxofficemojo.com, Casino Royale earned $594 million in global ticket sales and Quantum of Solace $586 million.

Craig's first appearance as Bond was hailed as a refreshing change in direction towards a tougher, more serious 007, and reviews were overwhelmingly positive.

Quantum of Solace fared less well with the critics, although positive reviews still outweighed the negative. (Reuters)


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