After $3.6bnworldwide, 43 years, 20 films, 58 girls and 18 Martinis, James Bond has a sixthface - English actor Daniel Craig.

The 37-year-oldactor was officially announced as the new James Bond today at a London newsconference held at HMS President, a naval training facility, on the RiverThames.

Commenting onwhy he wanted to take on the coveted role, Craig said, "It's a huge challengeand life is about challenges. It's an iconic figure in movie history and thesethings don't come along very often."

Answering aScreen International question about the franchise's longevity and ongoingpopularity (the last film, Die Another Day, was the most successful yet grossing nearly $430mworldwide), producer Michael G Wilson said "It's being able to recast and reinventBond from time to time. This is another step along that path."

Craig agreed,"It redefines itself. It's always of its time."

"He's a hugelyentertaining character," said director Martin Campbell, who returns to the Bondhelm with Casino Royalefor the first time since introducing Pierce Brosnan to the role with 1995's GoldenEye. He is very sexy, very entertaining andlethal."

Craig could notbe drawn on his approach to the role. "I have a big pair of shoes to step intoafter Pierce. I think you just have to make the best movie you can."

Arriving at thevenue courtesy of the Royal Marines on a 'Rigid Raider' amphibious assaultvehicle, which sped up the Thames, Craig said, "I'd like to thank the RoyalMarines for bringing me in like that and scaring the shIt out of me."

Craig will takeon the world famous role in Casino Royale, due for worldwide release through Sony Pictures onNovember 17, 2006. The film is based on author Ian Fleming's first Bond title,the only Bond book never adapted by producer Cubby Broccoli and the first filmsince 1987's The Living Daylights to be based on work originated by Fleming.

Craig has beenin the frame to play Bond for some months with rumours circulating on theinternet after The Sunnewspaper said the actor had been asked to do the role in April. Craig revealedhe official knew he had the role on Monday in Baltimore but producer BarbaraBroccoli said the announcement on the casting had to wait on the script.

"We didn't havea script until recently," said Broccoli. "Daniel read the script and agreed todo it."

Oscar-nominatedscreenwriter Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby, Crash) is currently doing a dialogue polish onthe script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. "[Haggis] was a great fan of thescript" Broccoli said. Wilson added that Purvis and Wade are now starting onthe next Bond script.

Neither theproducers nor Craig would say whether that film would involve Craig, however.The BBC has reported he had only been signed to one film. This was neitherconfirmed or denied, although cryptically Craig did say when responding to aquestion on whether he was concerned about being defined as Bond, "I don'tthink like that. I just look at the agenda. The agenda ahead is to do thismovie."

Only the secondEnglish Bond (after Roger Moore, the actor who remained in the role longestwith seven official films) Craig has been building his international profilewith lead supporting roles in films such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Road To Perdition (2002). He will also be seen in StevenSpielberg's Munich atthe end of this year. He has also seen critical acclaim in recent years from avariety of leads in British films including The Mother, Sylvia, EnduringLove and Layer Cake.

Casino Royale is expected to start shooting in Januaryand Campbell revealed Bond staples, the Aston Martin car and a Martini, will bein place, "You'll learn the ingredients of the Martini mix". However, Wilsonrevealed that not all of the famous supporting characters might be returning."We're planning to bring M back, but the script, as it stands, doesn't have Qor Moneypenny in it."

The productionwill shoot at Pinewood Studios and on location in Prague, the Bahamas andItaly. The budget could not be revealed but Campbell said it would "probably benorth of $100m."

"We have plentyof action in this one," picked up Wilson. "We'll be lucky to keep it in thebounds of the last film." Die Another Day was budgeted in the region of $140m.