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MY WORD IS MY BOND; Exclusive Producer Broccoli says Craig was first and only actor for 007.

Byline: By Rick Fulton

BOND boss Barbara Broccoli claims Daniel Craig was the ONLY actor offered the 007 part ... and denies Ewan

McGregor was ever in the frame.

And Hollywood's leading female producer said a memo, allegedly written by her, listing actors short-listed for the part never existed.

As the world prepares for the 21st Bond film, Casino Royale, the woman who is the real power behind the suave superspy fights as well as her cinematic hero.

Barbara, 46, said: "I'll tell you that Michael

(her half-brother Michael G. Wilson who produces the Bond films with her) and I wanted Daniel from the very beginning.

"We approached him and he wanted to read a script. We always wanted him but didn't know if he was going to do it, so we met other people. But we never offered it to anyone but him.

"He just seemed like he was a man who is a 21st-century Bond.

"This script was very complex and we needed an actor who could handle all of these things.

"He has to be agile physically, tough and you've got to believe that he can kill people.

"But in this script you also get to see inside of him.

"He's probably the most exciting actor that we have right now, and I think his commitment to the film and to all of his work is exemplary.

"I think he's fantastic."

But when Daniel was unveiled as the new Bond, fans went ballistic.

An internet site was set up to try and get him axed with claims he was "too soft", was blond, couldn't drive, was afraid of heights and didn't like guns.

Barbara finds it all perplexing.

She said: "We were in the Bahamas and we'd been shooting for a month and all this stuff was coming out, and I thought, 'How can people be judging something that they haven't seen? It's the most bizarre thing'."

Even the film's director, Martin Campbell, claimed Ewan McGregor had turned down the part and he "wasn't totally convinced" about Daniel.

There was also a leaked memo, reportedly from Barbara, listing the actors in the frame for the role and crossing them off.

It claimed Hugh Jackman was "too fey", Eric Bana was "not handsome enough", Colin Farrell was "too sleazy" and Ewan McGregor was "too short".

Barbara is furious about it. "That list is a complete fabrication," she said. "It does not exist and I'm really glad you asked me.

"Apparently, on some internet site they said there was a leaked memo from Eon Productions. There is no such thing and it attributed all these comments to these various actors, and there is no list.

"Unfortunately when something appears on the internet, it goes so quickly you can't stop it and it keeps being repeated."

And what about all the criticism levelled at Daniel Craig?

Barbara shrugs and claims it was as bad when Sean Connery was cast by her father as the first 007.

He was said to be too working-class and too Scottish, despite writer Ian Fleming's description of the agent as half Scots.

Barbara, who took over from her famous dad Albert R. Broccoli, said: "When my father hired Sean, everybody from Ian Fleming was saying: 'Oh, what about...'

"Even the studio which sent the screen test for Sean Connery said: 'Try again. Keep looking.'

"But once Fleming saw him play the role he said: 'Wow, he's fantastic'."

Barbara's first taste of working on a Bond movie was Octopussy in 1983 as an uncredited assistant director. She's since worked on A View To A Kill as an additional assistant director and The Living Daylights and A Licence To Kill as an associate producer before becoming the franchise's producer on GoldenEye in 1995.

Barbara has steered Bond to huge profits, averaging $350million a movie and topping that with Die Another Day in 2002, which was the biggest grossing 007 film of all time at $425million.

The last four movies had Pierce Brosnan as the star and, when rumours started that he wasn't wanted, it was Barbara who was named as the driving force behind getting rid of him.

Barbara totally denies this. Taking a deep breath, she said: "It wasn't like that at all.

"We were very happy, obviously, with Die Another Day. It was the most successful film we'd had. We loved Pierce and he had made four great films for us.

"We then sat down to figure out what we were going to do with Bond 21. Michael and I felt at the end of Die Another Day that we had sort of taken Bond along a sort of fantastical journey and that we had kind of reached the point of no return in terms of a little bittoo much CGI, the invisible car and things like that.

"We felt that the world had changed. The world wasmuch more serious and we were trying to figure out where to go. Michael said: 'Maybe we should do Casino Royale'.

"Now, Casino Royale was the first book that Fleming wrote about James Bond and when my father and his partner Harry Saltzmnan had gotten the rights from Ian Fleming, Casino Royale was not available."

It had been adapted by Fleming into a one-hour television adventure for American station CBS in 1954, starring Barry Nelson as secret agent James "Jimmy" Bond and Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre.

Barbara's father and Saltzman ended up doing Dr No and then Columbia made the Casino Royale spoof starring David Niven.

But in the Nineties Barbara bought the rights back.

Once they'd decided on doing Casino Royale, she insisted that, because it was Bond's first mission, it couldn't be someone who had played the part before.

Barbara said she and Michael had talked to Pierce about taking the franchise right back to the beginning with a new Bond. She said: "He was very gracious about it and he's a great guy.

"He was a great Bond and he did four wonderful films for us."

Daniel has signed up for three movies and, with the first film in the can, will Barbara remake the films in order? Could it be that Sean Connery's Dr No is ripe for a new version?

Barbara declared: "That's not the plan at the moment.

"The plan at the moment is to continue along in the way that we've set Bond up on this sort of new story, a contemporary story of him moving forward."

Casino Royale is in cinemas from

Friday, November 17.

CAPTION(S):

SPY VS SPY: Clockwise from left, Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell were rumoured to be in the running to be the new 007, Sean Connery was the first Bond, Pierce Brosnan with Izabella Scorupco in GoldenEye, and new Bond Daniel Craig with producer Barbara Broccoli
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 11, 2006
Words:1132
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