Craig steps into 007's shoes

LONDON — Far grander than the usual London premiere, Tuesday’s royal party for “Casino Royale” took over the whole of Leicester Square as 4,200 guests filled four theaters simultaneously to watch the gritty actioner and the new blond Bond, Daniel Craig.

Bond co-producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson welcomed Queen Elizabeth II and the royal party to the preem, held in aid of the Cinema & Television Benevolent Fund.

Sony chief Howard Stringer, Sony Picture toppers Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton, Columbia marketing and distrib chairman Jeff Blake and MGM chairman Harry Sloan all stood in line to greet Her Majesty.

Cast members Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini and Caterina Murino joined helmer Martin Campbell onstage to introduce the pic.

Guests included Paris Hilton, Elton John, Shirley Bassey, Sting and wife Trudie Styler, Lindsey Lohan, Richard Attenborough, Colin Salmon, Jason Statham, Richard Branson, pop act the Sugababes and Harrods owner Mohamed al-Fayed.

No expense was spared at the swanky after-party held in a specially erected marquee in the upscale Berkley Square Gardens. Revelers played poker and sipped martinis until the early hours.

Driven by very strong reviews and sky-high industry expectations, the pic has been the talk of the town all week and the premiere did not disappoint excited attendees who clapped repeatedly during the film and whooped and cheered as the end credits rolled.

“Casino Royale” bows Thursday in the U.K. Bookers are upbeat about the pic’s prospects and project a $19 million (£10 million) opening four-day figure.

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