Spectre returns to haunt James Bond
Oscar-winning star Christoph Waltz and Moriarty actor Andrew Scott are to be in the cast of forthcoming James Bond movie, which director Sam Mendes has announced will be called Spectre.
French actress Lea Seydoux and Italian star Monica Bellucci will become Bond girls for the latest outing of the British agent, which will see Daniel Craig reprise his role as 007 for a fourth time.
Details of the new film were unveiled at Pinewood Studios, the traditional production base for the movies and currently being used for rehearsals ahead of the start of filming next week.
The film is named after the shadowy terrorist organisation created by Bond author Ian Fleming which first appeared in his novel Thunderball. It is an acronym for SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Robotics and Extortion and is led by led by Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
Austrian actor Waltz, 58, is to play a character called Oberhausen - the name of the climbing and skiing instructor from Fleming's books who taught Bond while he was at Fettes College.
It is not yet clear whether there is any connection between Waltz's screen role and Blofeld. Bond producers regained the rights to the use of the name Blofeld a year ago so the expectation is that he will appear in the film.
Mendes, who is in the director's chair for a second Bond film, said the team were "very excited to be on the verge of shooting" the next instalment.
Irishman Scott, 38, is best known for his maniacal performances in the BBC1 drama series Sherlock, and he is now to play one of the Whitehall staff, Denby.
Seydoux has starred in films such as Blue Is The Warmest Colour and the 29-year-old has previously shared screen time with Waltz in Quentin Taratino's 2009 Inglourious Basterds.
Bellucci, 50, is familiar to cinemagoers through her roles in the likes of The Passion Of The Christ and The Sorcerer's Apprentice.
Other returning figures include Ralph Fiennes, who comes back as Gareth Mallory - the new M, whom film fans saw succeeding the character played by Dame Judi Dench in Skyfall.
Rory Kinnear returns as Tanner, Naomie Harris is back as Eve Moneypenny and Ben Whishaw has another outing as Q.
Bond will once again be driving an Aston Martin, this time a DB10. Movie fans saw a previous Aston, his vintage DB5, was blown to pieces in Skyfall.
Locations for the new film will include London, Mexico City, Rome, Morocco's Tangier and Erfoud, as well as Solden in Austria, which promises to see Bond returning to the ski slopes.
"All of them are amazing places. I'm very excited to be going to these locations over seven months, which is how long we'll be shooting," said Mendes.
Announcing the production today, film-makers said of the plot: "A cryptic message from Bond's past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind Spectre."
There will be high expectations for the film - to be released on November 6 next year - as its predecessor was the biggest movie ever at the UK box office, taking in excess of £100 million.
Ajay Chowdhury, who edits the journal of the James Bond International Fan Club, welcomed the announcement of the details today.
He said: "For Bond fans, this is the best Christmas present - the return of James Bond and classic elements of the series with yet another classic title coined by Ian Fleming.
"This announcement is like opening the first window of a Bond advent calendar. Further windows will be: who will sing the song, the first trailers, the premiere. The only thing better than this news would be Santa driving an Aston Martin sleigh."
Companies which have already signed up to feature in the film include Aston Martin, Bollinger, Heineken, Jaguar Land Rover, Omega, Sony Electronics, and Sony Mobile.
There will now be speculation over the coming months about who will sing the theme song, to follow Adele's performance on the Skyfall soundtrack.
Bookmaker William Hill puts Sam Smith as favourite at 4/1, with Ed Sheeran second at 6/1, while Lana del Rey, Rita Ora and One Direction are at 8/1.
"The Spectre of Adele's smashing effort for Skyfall will still be looming large but Sam Smith could certainly be the man to take over the mantle," said Hill's spokesman Joe Crilly.