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Oscar winner Malek unveiled as Bond villain in Craig 007 swansong
[LONDON] Oscar winner Rami Malek was unveiled on Thursday as the villain in the long-awaited new James Bond movie that is set to see Daniel Craig bow out after eight years as 007.
The 25th edition of one of the world's most enduring franchises will also see the return of Ralph Fiennes as Bond's boss and French actress Lea Seydoux.
"I promise you all I will be making sure Mr Bond does not have an easy ride in this," Malek said in a livestream announcement of the new film's cast outside Bond creator Ian Fleming's private villa at Goldeneye in Jamaica.
The production has been repeatedly delayed over script disputes. It is now due to open in cinemas in the United States, Britain and France on April 8, 2020, distributor Universal Pictures International said.
Long-time Bond producer Barbara Broccoli was tight-lipped about the new film's name but she did reveal one tantalising plot line.
Bond will be in what suspiciously sounds like retirement when the action kicks off at Goldeneye.
"Bond is not on active service when we start," Broccoli said. "He is actually enjoying himself in Jamaica."
Craig jocularly played along with Malek's warning about the tough time he faces in his fifth and final appearance as everyone's favourite British spy.
"Scared, a little bit creepy," Craig said of Malek's message.
Craig, who has already said that it will be his last outing as 007, spoke of how he had been a Bond fan since childhood.
"I remember going to see them as a kid and they were a moment - a new Bond coming out was incredibly exciting," he recalled.
"We've tried to continue that tradition of just making movies that stand out."
'QUITE A RIDE'
Malek, who won this year's best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in "Bohemian Rhapsody", said it would be honour to appear alongside Craig on his swansong.
"It's Daniel's last film - that's pretty sad - but I'm going to give him a run for his money," he said in an interview on US television.
"Daniel has just done such an astounding, stunning job, in a way making him relatable. Obviously there's a lot of things that none of us can do as James Bond but he brings this class to it, this human factor, and he's kind of cynical at the same time and ruthless but you are always rooting him."
Malek said the last couple of years had been a dream for him, "playing Freddie Mercury, getting an Oscar for it and now being the villain in a Bond movie."
"We have had such great villains in film history and I have just been going back and watching so many of them and trying to perhaps steal a little nugget from each one of them," he told ABC.
Fiennes will return for another mission as British secret service chief M, as will Jeffrey Wright as the CIA operative who last helped 007 in "Quantum of Solace".
Moneypenny will be played by Naomie Harris while Ben Whishaw is back as the gadget-savvy - and cat-loving - spook Q.
"Q is very fond of cats and he has two feline companions which may or may not appear in this new film. That's all I'm saying," Whishaw said of the character, who never appeared in the Fleming novels.
The new production's delays were prompted in part by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle's replacement by Cary Fukunaga in September.
London and Hollywood media reported that Boyle left because producers refused to let him kill off the current Bond and replace him with a woman or a non-white actor.
Boyle said only that revealing the true reason would be "unfair" on his successor and Fukunaga ("True Detective," "Beasts of No Nation") gave little away on Thursday.
"Daniel is my favourite Bond I want to continue that... to make sure this run of films have a really great next chapter, upping the ante and making sure who comes next has a tough job," the new director said.
The film is due to feature its familiar mix of exotic locales and those closer to Bond's London home.
It will shoot across the seas from Jamaica to Norway and include some scenes in the cave city of Matera in southern Italy.
In an interview with Britain's Press Association, Broccoli held out hope that it wasn't necessarily Craig's 007 finale.
"He's saying it's his last film, but I hope it's not," she said. "We'll have to wait and see."