Spectre tickets are already on sale, here's what we know about the new Bond film
Mendes and Craig are back, but who is the new Bond baddie and what the hell is Spectre anyway?
Sony Pictures UK announced late last night that tickets for Spectre, the 24th and surely most eagerly-awaited Bond film, had gone on sale seven weeks in advance of the film's opening. So what do we know about the film? The salient facts are assembled below. Burn after reading. (No, don't do that.)
Director: Sam Mendes. This is his second Bond film after 2012's Skyfall, generally regarded as the most complex and grown-up Bond film ever made, even if some people criticised it for being exactly that. In any case, Skyfall raised expectations.
Theme tune: Almost certainly being performed by either Radiohead or Ellie Goulding, or possibly both. Or neither. But certainly not Sam Smith. [EDIT: Definitely, absolutely, categorically, not Sam Smith … *ahem*]
The gang's all here: Daniel Craig returns as 007, amid some absurd controversy about whether or not the immensely versatile Idris Elba could ever play the role, although Craig isn't even being replaced yet. A stray bullet in Skyfall having, as it were, retired Judi Dench's M, her successor is Ralph Fiennes, whose M is a former SAS officer and therefore a bit of a waste if he doesn't get into a fight at some point. Naomie Harris is Eve Moneypenny; Ben Whishaw is Q; Rory Kinnear is Bill Tanner.
High-profile international guest stars: Léa Seydoux plays psychologist Dr Madeleine Swann, and as if that's not going to sufficiently ratchet up the UST, Monica Bellucci plays Lucia Sciarra, the widow of an assassin Bond has killed. At 50, three years older than Craig himself, Bellucci is the oldest actor ever to play a Bond girl, but given the stature of actors like her and Seydoux and the generally edgier turn Bond films have taken since Craig took over, we expect both of them to be given something more interesting to do than be breathlessly rescued from multiple explosions. Spectre assassin Mr Hinx is played by wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista, who gave a hilarious turn in Guardians of the Galaxy as the very literal-minded Drax the Destroyer ('Nothing goes over my head! My reflexes are too fast! I would catch it!'); be nice if some of that gift for comedy could be put to use. And of course Christoph Waltz very much appears to be playing the big bad as Franz Oberhauser, another Spectre operative who apparently knows Bond.
Actor making the leap from TV stardom to supporting role in Bond movie: In the tradition of Robbie Coltrane in The World Is Not Enough and Rowan Atkinson in Never Say Never Again, it's Andrew Scott (Sherlock) as Max Denbigh, some sort of British government chap.
Spectre? Explain: Spectre made its debut in the eighth Bond novel, 1961's Thunderball. The principal enemy in previous Bond novels had been the Soviets, but when Fleming was writing Thunderball he was convinced that the Cold War was about to end, and so created a new set of politically neutral villains, the Special Executive for Counter-Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, an international crime network which commits mayhem strictly for financial reasons. This has a convenient side-effect: nobody, except maybe Donald Trump, is going to root for a villain who's motivated chiefly by money, which in turn makes SPECTRE acceptable targets in pretty much every market on the planet. In the official Eon films canon, SPECTRE was crushed by Sean Connery 44 years ago in Diamonds are Forever, but they appears to be back.
They're back, and it's presumably personal?: Indeed. Regarding Waltz's Franz Oberhauser, Fleming's 1966 short story 'Octopussy', which gave nothing but its title to the generally lame 1983 film, had a character called Hans Oberhauser. In the story, Oberhauser is a skiing instructor and warmly remembered mentor to the teenage Bond, but he's killed at the end of WWII by villainous British Army officer Dexter Smythe, who covets some gold bars Oberhauser is carrying. Smythe hides Oberhauser's body in a glacier, but when the glacier thaws decades later and the body comes to light, Bond tracks Smythe down, gets the truth from him and compiles a report which will lead to Smythe's court martial. In the Spectre teaser trailer, Jesper Christensen's character of Mr White looks an awful lot like he corresponds in some way to Smythe; Waltz's Oberhauser clearly isn't over-chummy with Bond ('I am the author of all your pain'), and it's already been speculated that elements of the 'Octopussy' story have been recycled into Spectre. But what of Andrew Scott, whose Denbigh flashes a very sinister Kubrick Stare two minutes and fifteen seconds into the official trailer? Scott played Sherlock's Jim Moriarty as a fabulously OTT psychopath; you don't hire that guy and cast him as a boringly nice person. Clearly, surprises are in store.
Spectre is released in the UK on Mon 26 Oct.