LONDON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Daniel Craig thought he had wrapped up his tenure as James Bond with "Spectre", but the actor says his final fifth outing as the British secret agent in "No Time To Die" allowed him to fully complete his 007 journey.
Nearly 60 years after the first Bond film "Dr No" premiered, cinema's favourite spy, known for his love of fast cars and cool gadgets, returns in the highly-anticipated 25th Bond movie next week after an 18-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Costing an estimated $200 million to produce, "No Time To Die" sees Bond come out of retirement from an idyllic life in Jamaica to help track down a new villain armed with lethal technology.
"I didn't think that I was going to do another movie after ‘Spectre’. I genuinely thought that I was going to ... just pack it in," Craig told Reuters.
"But I'm so happy that I got the chance to come and do this one. And we tied up lots of loose ends. We've tried to tell one story with all my Bond movies. It's like they're all connected in some way and this one just sort of capped it off."
Running at nearly three hours long, the film, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, promises the usual Bond action, car chases and stunts in picturesque locations, including the cave dwellings of the southern Italian city of Matera.
It introduces new character Nomi, played by Black actress Lashana Lynch and described simply as a 00 agent at Bond's past employer, Britain's MI6 foreign spy service. She looks just as fierce and skilled as Bond.
"She's also a real human being. She's grounded and she's from a good background and takes every opportunity she gets and really runs with it. She's really shifted things up at MI6 and will continue to do so," Lynch said.
"It's groundbreaking for Black women, for my culture, for the franchise as well that have been pushing the needle forward for a long time now."
French actress Lea Seydoux reprises her role as Madeleine Swann from 2015's "Spectre".
"Cary wanted to explore a bit more Madeleine's character ... In a way, she's the heartbeat of the film and the relationship with Bond is much more developed," Seydoux said.
Rami Malek joins the franchise, one of Hollywood's most valuable, as villain Safin.
"I looked at every villain in the history of film almost to prepare for this," he told the movie's official podcast.
After being postponed three times since its original April 2020 slot, "No Time To Die" holds its world premiere on Tuesday in London.
"I enjoyed them all ... They’re always a bit of a struggle but anything worthwhile is always a bit of a struggle so this was a joy to make," said Craig, who began his Bond journey in 2006's "Casino Royal".
"(I'm) massively grateful to have been given the chance to do it and ... all of the memories and all the amazing times ... working with just fantastic, amazing people ... it's changed my life ... It's just amazing."
Reporting by Sarah Mills Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian Editing by William Maclean