The actor, recently linked to Sienna Miller, will be Pierce Brosnan's successor as 007

By Pete Norman and Stephen M. Silverman
Updated October 14, 2005 07:00 AM

It’s official: Daniel Craig is the next James Bond.

“It’s something else, I’m a bit speechless,” Craig, looking suave in a charcoal gray Brioni suit, said at a London press conference Friday after he arrived by a Royal Marine commando boat on the Thames.

News of his casting was hardly a secret. He’d long been the rumored top choice for the role, and on Thursday night, the actor’s own mother let the cat out of the bag before the producers could make the announcement official.

“Obviously we are thrilled to bits,” Craig’s mother, Carol Blond, told the family’s hometown paper, the Liverpool Daily Post, about her son’s new role.

“It has come at a very good time in his career,” she added. “He has worked extremely hard all his life and this would be his biggest populist role.” She also conceded, “It will be life-changing.”

“She’s a proud mom,” explained Bond producer Barbara Broccoli at Friday’s news gathering. As for the new star, the divorced dad of a daughter refused to say who he would prefer as his leading lady in the upcoming $100-million-plus caper, Casino Royale. There have been rumors that it could be Sienna Miller, with whom Craig has been linked personally, or even troubled model Kate Moss, with whom he reportedly had a fling last year.

“I’m not getting into that,” he stated. But of his new job, he did say: “I knew positively on Monday when I was in Baltimore. I needed a drink. … a couple of martinis.”

With Craig, 37, sitting down to the roulette table, he becomes the sixth secret agent with the license to kill – and the first blond Bond (though there were times that Roger Moore’s hair seemed to be awfully highlighted).

Moore was the series’ third Bond, during the ’70s. Before him, starting with Dr. No in 1962, Sean Connery played 007 – with some saying he is still the one and only James. After Connery came the one-shot George Lazenby, followed by Moore, Timothy Dalton and then Pierce Brosnan – who recently told the San Francisco Chronicle that not having his Bond contract renewed a fifth time was a “body blow.”

Said Craig: “I don’t have many qualifications, but hopefully I can bring something to the role. I’ve got a big pair of shoes to step into after Pierce.”

Despite the unabashed praise from his mother, Craig remains a little-known commodity outside of Britain, having had only small roles in big moves (alongside Paul Newman in The Road to Perdition) or else big roles in small movies (the lead in the British gangster caper Layer Cake).

This week, however, he got a huge dose of publicity not only for the rumblings about the Bond casting, but for his supposed leading role in helping to break up the real-life bumpy engagement of Jude Law and Sienna Miller.

Craig and Miller dined and danced out on the town in London last month and were pursued by the press. Miller said that the two were only friends.