British actors Ralph Fiennes (L) Daniel Craig (C) and French actress Berenice Marlohe (R) pose together as they arrive to attend the royal world premiere of the new James Bond film 'Skyfall' at the Royal Albert Hall in London on October 23, 2012. -AFP Photo

LONDON: Daniel Craig said Tuesday it had been a “real honour” to play James Bond in the franchise's 50th anniversary year, as he led the way up the red carpet at the world premiere of “Skyfall” in London.

The rugged Craig, making his third outing as James Bond, was followed by the movie's other stars, including Judi Dench, again playing his controller 'M', and Spanish actor Javier Bardem, alias the spy's latest nemesis Raoul Silva.

Heir to the British throne Prince Charles attended the screening, which fittingly took place amid the regal splendour of the Royal Albert Hall.

Critics have declared the 23rd Bond film one of the finest in the British secret agent's half century on the silver screen.

The release of “Skyfall” has special resonance because it is half a century this month since Bond strode stylishly into a film for the first time in “Dr.No”.

“It is just a real honour to be part of it and to have a chance to make a movie in this 50th year,” Craig told Sky News on the red carpet, where guests filed past a huge gold 007 logo and a classic Aston Martin.

“There is nothing quite like it, but this feels even more special for me than the ones that have gone before,” Craig said of the premiere.

In “Skyfall”, Britain's foreign intelligence agency MI6 comes under attack, leaving Bond to hunt down the threat.

Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes hands 'M' a more prominent role than in recent Bond adventures, giving Dench a chance to develop her testy personal relationship with Craig's inscrutable 007.

“There was lots more to explore, a continuation of what has been happening to us over several years,” Dench said at the premiere. “I boss him about all the time.”

She said the Bond films remained popular 50 years on because “he (is) just very British” and “a hero that we love”.

Even for a veteran of dozens of films, acting in a Bond movie was a unique experience, Dench told BBC TV.

“It is quite different from any other film. And they make you very, very welcome and they make you feel part of the franchise and part of the family.”Mendes meanwhile described taking charge of his first Bond film as a nerve-wracking experience.

“You're looking after something that is public property and you have to treat it properly,” he said before the screening.

“I just wanted to make a film that I would like to see. if you spend too much time worrying about the Bond the world wants to see, there is no perfect Bond. “And I just wanted to channel my inner 13-year-old boy.”

Other luminaries include Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw, playing a younger version of Bond's gadgets man “Q” than his predecessors Desmond Llewelyn and John Cleese.

“Skyfall” opens with a spectacular scene in an Istanbul market but returns to home ground with a terror attack in London.

In his two previous outings in “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace”, 44-year-old Craig has played Bond as a brooding presence, which critics say is far closer to the agent portrayed in the novels by his creator Ian Fleming.

Craig said he hoped “Skyfall” would show a lighter side too.

“It's a good, dense storyline but it's adult in many ways. It's also got a lot of fun in it, and people might be surprised by the fact that there's a lightness of touch in the movie that hasn't been in the last two,” he told Time Out magazine this month.

Time Out's critic found it a “highly distinctive Bond movie”, praise echoed by most reviewers.

The Daily Telegraph's reviewer said that while the Bond staples remained, fast cars, beautiful women, high-tech gadgets and vodka Martinis, it was a “blistering comic book escapade” that he predicted will be “a stratospheric hit”.

The Bond franchise has gone on to become one of the most successful in history, with the 22 films released so far taking more than five billion dollars (3.85 billion euros).

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