LONDON - Ah, Mr. Bond, we've been waiting for you - and at last 007 is back, several years after his last screen adventure.
Producers announced Thursday that filming has begun on "Skyfall," the delayed 23rd film in the series and Daniel Craig's third outing as the suave British superspy.
Craig, who has brought a hard edge to his portrayal, told reporters that the movie, directed by Sam Mendes and shot in London, Scotland, Turkey and China, would be "Bond with a capital B."
Craig said he was "tremendously excited" to be stepping back into the role for the first time since 2008's "Quantum of Solace."
Work on the film was postponed, and Bond's future looked uncertain, when studio MGM filed for bankruptcy in 2010. But MGM's new management and EON Productions announced earlier this year that the spy would live to fight another day.
Craig will be joined by Spanish star Javier Bardem as Bond's nemesis, while British actors Albert Finney, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw will play as-yet-undisclosed roles.
Judi Dench returns as spy chief M and the film introduces two new Bond girls - English actress Naomie Harris as a field agent named Eve and French performer Berenice Marlohe as "a glamorous, enigmatic character" named Severine.
"There's lots of surprises," said Mendes, who won an Academy Award for his 1999 film "American Beauty."
"I think this has all the elements of a classic Bond movie, including - to quell any rumors - a lot of action," Mendes said.
Some have questioned the choice of Mendes, best known for his stage work and emotionally intense dramas like "Revolutionary Road" and "The Road to Perdition."
But he and the producers said they did not plan to take the series in a radically new direction.
Producer Michael G. Wilson said the series had "started down a path" with Craig's first appearance as a gruff, muscular Bond in "Casino Royale" in 2006.
"And we're sticking to that path," Wilson said. "An interesting story, well written, with a great cast and plenty of action."
Mendes said action movies were "a world that's new to me, and I've embraced it."
"The action needs to coexist with the drama, and that's the balance we've got to strike," he said.
Filming will take place in London's government district of Whitehall, at Pinewood Studios outside the British capital and on location in Istanbul, Shanghai and the Scottish wilderness.
Early reports that the film would shoot in India and South Africa have not materialized, but the producers insisted they had not trimmed Bond's budget since "Quantum of Solace," which was widely reported to have cost roughly $200 million.
"It is in the same range as the last one," Wilson said. "We haven't had to change anything in the script to get what we want."
Cast members said they had been training hard for their roles - Craig, it seems, by growing the designer stubble he sported at Thursday's press conference.
Bardem joked that the hardest part for him was "learning the English vowels." Harris said she had been doing yoga, learning stunt driving and firing machine guns, "which I've discovered I have a real taste for."
Producers Wilson and Barbara Broccoli - old hands at building suspense around the movies - kept many details under wraps.
Of the plot, they revealed only that "Bond's loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her" and MI6 comes under attack.
As for the meaning of the title, Broccoli said it "has some emotional resonance which will be revealed in the film."
Broccoli said the producers hoped Mendes would sign up for a second film, and "definitely" wanted Craig to return as Bond.
"Skyfall" is due to be released on Oct 26, 2012 in Britain and Nov. 9 in the United States, 50 years since the release of the first 007 film, "Dr. No."
There will be no change to one part of the series' winning formula - attractive women and hunky men. Asked whether Craig and Bardem would take their shirts off, Broccoli sought to reassure fans.
"Damn right," she said.
"If Barbara gets her way," Wilson added, "it'll be more than just their shirts."