British actress Naomie Harris and French actress Berenice Marlohe to star as Bond girls, Javier Bardem confirmed as villain.

The title of the 23rd James Bond film has been confirmed as Skyfall. Daniel Craig returns as Bond in the latest production, to be directed by Sam Mendes, which will also star Albert Finney, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw.

Exactly 50 years to the day that Sean Connery was announced as James Bond in Dr No, the film was officially launched at a press conference in the Corinthia Hotel in Whitehall, close by where the film will be shooting next week. Mendes, producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli and cast members Craig, Harris, Dench, Bardem and Marlohe were alternately revealing and evasive as they were quizzed by the international press about the movie.

What is known is that the film will be released in the UK on October 26 2012.  The budget is expected to be in the same range as Quantum Of Solace (which was understood to have been made for around $200 million.) “Does it look like we’re cutting back!” Broccoli joked.

Mendes confirmed that the film will, as usual, be based at Pinewood. Whitehall is one main location. Other places where Bond’s travels will take him include “the wilds of Scotland,” Istanbul and Shanghai.

The script, by John Logan, Neal Purvis and Rob Wade, is a stand-alone story that doesn’t carry on directly from Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace.

As has been widely reported, the film was postponed because of the financial problems at MGM. However, that delay will mean it is now due to be released 50 years after Dr No. Wilson confirmed that a new Bond documentary is being made as part of the celebrations to mark the franchise’s Golden Anniversary next year. “We have a lot of other things planned but we are not prepared yet to announce them,” Wilson said when asked if 2012 would be a “Bond year.”

“Back in the early days when Dr No was going to be released, nobody really thought that we were going to get to 50 years of Bond, let alone 23 pictures,” Wilson said of a franchise which was originally planned by United Artists and original producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to last for four pictures. “Even then, they thought that was stretching it. No-one contemplated this kind of success.”

Mendes declined to say which parts Fiennes, Whishaw and Fiennes would be playing. However, new “Bond lady” Berenice Marlohe said she would be playing “the glamorous, enigmatic character called Severine” while Harris said she would be playing “Field Agent called Eve.” Both have been in training.  Harris confirmed that she’d been busy learning stunt driving and practicing firing machine guns

“I’ve always been a huge fan of the Bond movies as a child. Of course, every young English schoolboy grows up with them,” Mendes explained when asked why he had taken on what (on the face of it) seemed an unusual assignment for a director best known for his stage work and for upscale films like American Beauty and Road To Perdition. He said that when he saw Daniel Craig as Bond in Casino Royale, he thought the film opened up “all sorts of wonderful opportunities for the character.”

Mendes insisted he would be involved in the action sequences. “It (the action) is entirely part of the main body of the film  and every decision is mine,” the new Bond director said.

Broccoli and Mendes both also raised the possibility that Mendes may return to direct subsequent Bond movies.

As for the title, few clues were offered to what it means. All Broccoli would say was that Skyfall “has some emotional context that will be revealed in the film.”