Daniel Craig Returns in New James Bond Film Skyfall

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Dave M. Benett / Getty Images

Actors Javier Bardem, Berenice Marlohe, Naomie Harris and Daniel Craig attend a photo call to mark the start of production of the new James Bond film, Skyfall, on November 3, 2011 in London, United Kingdom.

Fifty years to the day since Sean Connery was cast as James Bond in Dr. No, the latest installment of one of the world’s most popular film franchises was announced. Skyfall, which is officially the 23rd Bond film, will be released in the U.K. on October 23, 2012 (and is slated for a November 9 opening in the U.S.).

Skyfall marks the third outing for Daniel Craig as 007. Joining the familiar face of Dame Judi Dench as his boss ‘M.,’ will be Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney and Javier Bardem, who stars as the film’s villain. The all-important Bond girls (in so many ways, the Bond franchise is still stuck in the 1960’s) will be Naomie Harris and French actress Berenice Marlohe. Marlohe will play “a glamorous, enigmatic character” (snooze…) named Severine while Harris is a field agent named Eve. “I’ve been doing yoga three times a week to get into shape and stunt-driving and firing machine guns, which I’ve discovered I’ve got a real taste for,” said Harris.

(PHOTOS: The Best Bond Girls)

So far so expected. But the choice of director does mark an interesting departure for the franchise. Oscar-nominated Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) may well provide a more artistic take than Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace), Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, Goldeneye) or Lee Tamahori (Die Another Day, a film so bad it came closer than any Bond villain to actually killing 007 off for good).

At the lavish London launch on Thursday, Mendes couldn’t give too much away – presumably he’d have to kill us if he did – but confirmed that the film would be shot in London, Turkey, China and Scotland. One considerable concern has been the suggestion that Mendes would tone down or, heaven forbid!, abandon altogether the action sequences which are part and parcel of Bond folklore. Fear not, said Mendes, the “fantastic script” had “all the elements of a classic Bond movie, including — to quell any rumors — lots of action.” In other words, those scared by the notion of the film resembling one of Mendes’s plays or the tight narrative structure of Revolutionary Road can rest easy.

Inevitably, concrete details about the “fantastic script” were difficult to come by. Finney, for example, has already been a villainous star of a rival Bond franchise (Jason Bourne), but producers wouldn’t expand upon his or Fiennes’ roles. Instead, producer Michael G Wilson merely said that the title was “the worst kept secret in London” (it had already been leaked by an eagle-eyed fan who’d figured out that Sony had registered domain names such as ‘jamesbond-skyfall’ and ‘jamesbondskyfall’). And that title (which we’re all agreed on is a marked improvement from Quantum of Solace, right?) has an “emotional meaning” which will be explained during the movie.

But if Bond fans are delighted that they can finally set a calendar date for the next film, the most relieved group of all might be the money-men at Sony. Added together, the past two movies took in over a billion dollars in global ticket sales. According to Craig, the film starts shooting today. Bond is back.

(MORE: See the Best Bond Villains and More Bond Lists)