LONDON – Daniel Craig (search) was introduced Friday as the first blond James Bond and the third Englishman to star as Agent 007 in the movie series.
Craig's selection was revealed as he was whisked down the Thames River (search) aboard a military boat to a news conference.
Craig replaces Pierce Brosnan in the role of the suave spy in "Casino Royale," due in theaters next year.
"I'm speechless," the star said, after posing for photos with producer Barbara Broccoli and director Martin Campbell.
"Daniel is a superb actor who has all the qualities needed to bring a contemporary edge to the role," Broccoli and Campbell said in a statement.
Producers announced last year that they were seeking a replacement for Brosnan, who has played Bond in the last four films.
Craig, 37, is the first blond actor to play agent 007. Relatively unknown outside Britain (search), he has had a busy career that includes roles in the landmark 1990s British TV drama "Our Friends in the North" and films including "The Mother," "Enduring Love" and "Layer Cake."
He played Paul Newman's sinister son in "Road to Perdition," was poet Ted Hughes opposite Gwyneth Paltrow's Sylvia Plath in "Sylvia" and appeared in this year's thriller "The Jacket" with Adrien Brody.
Craig is also the tabloids' dream Bond. He once dated headline-grabbing model Kate Moss and has been linked to Sienna Miller, his "Layer Cake" co-star and on-off fiancee of Jude Law.
Earlier this year, Craig praised 007 as "an iconographic figure in moviemaking."
"I think you'd have to be stupid not to consider something like that," he said, but added that he hadn't given the role "any serious thought."
The film's producers tried to keep their decision secret, but Craig's mother told the tabloid Sun newspaper she was "thrilled to bits."
Ian Fleming's first Bond novel, originally published in 1953, "Casino Royale" is one of the few Bond adventures not to feature the MI6 gadget-maker Q. It was previously filmed as a 1967 spoof starring Peter Sellers.
Before Friday, speculation about the new Bond also included British actors Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Gerard Butler and Ewan McGregor, Irishman Colin Farrell and Australians Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger and Eric Bana.