Great news: the producers of the James Bond franchise have put aside the redundant and insulting search for the next 'Bond Girl', instead announcing a full cast for the 23rd title in the series, Skyfall. In fact, if you look at those involved there's nary a hint of a Halle Berry or a – shudder – Denise Richards. French actress and model Bérénice Marlohe will be supplying the requisite glamour, but there's also the talented Naomie Harris (28 Days Later) as a fellow MI6 agent, alongside Helen McCrory, who specialises in playing Cherie Blair (The Queen, The Special Relationship), while Dame Judi Dench will return as spymaster M.
Daniel Craig, who will play 007 for the third time in the November 22, 2012 release, appears to be serious about putting his imprint on the series. It was Craig who reportedly insisted that Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) was his unlikely choice to direct, and after a kind of extended audition where Mendes developed the story that was eventually penned by usual Bond writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, as well as American John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator), the former theatre wunderkind has the job.
Craig will not be indulging in anything as ludicrous as the invisible car that farcically carried Pierce Brosnan in 2002's Die Another Day, but do audiences really want a serious James Bond film? The Marc Forster directed Quantum of Solace in 2008 wasn't big on laughs, but that didn't make it particularly memorable. This time, however, Craig not only has one of the cinema's great contemporary actors, Spaniard Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men), as his adversary, but three generations of gifted British actors – Albert Finney, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw – will also feature. It's an exceptional ensemble, and a year from now we'll know if they're at their best or merely well paid.
An actor who knows all about playing the villain is Frenchman Vincent Cassel. The French star, who appears to have more breadth to his output when working in his native tongue, will join James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class) and Rosario Dawson (Alexander) in the next picture from British filmmaker Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire). Trance is about a love triangle that develops out of a botched art heist and, as is the way with casting, McAvoy and Cassel replace the Boyle's previous male leads Michael Fassbender and Colin Firth.
It's just over a decade since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon made then teenager Zhang Ziyi an instant star, and while she remains a celestial object in Asia, her Hollywood productions haven't worked: 2005's Memoirs of a Geisha was all production design and starchy melodrama, while very few people have even heard of the 2008 thriller Horsemen, where Zhang starred alongside Dennis Quaid. Now she'll produce and play the lead in My Lucky Star, an international co-production intended as a romantic comedy (i.e. no swords). The director, worryingly, is Dennie Gordon, whose work is a staple of $4.99 DVD sales: Joe Dirt, What a Girl Wants and the Olsen twins masterpiece New York Minute. Maybe Zhang Ziyi should just wait for the 24th James Bond film.