It appears that James Bond's latest mission is to launch the London Olympic Games as Britain's best-beloved spy delivers the Queen to the opening ceremony.
"Sir James" has long risked his life on Her Majesty's secret service. Ian Fleming's first Bond book, "Casino Royale," debuted in Elizabeth II's coronation year (1953). It sparked the longest-running and most profitable series in film history, a franchise that has now racked up 50 years of guns, gold, gadgets and glamour. But Bond shows no sign of flagging: He's still Britain's favorite secret agent, with 39 percent of the vote compared to Jason Bourne's 21 percent, according to a LOVEFiLM poll.
Daniel Craig is the most recent actor licensed to kill, cinematically at least, for queen and country. Pre-Olympic rumor had it that the monarch may have tapped him on the shoulder to bestow the honor of knighthood last spring, while Craig was filming the latest Bond film, "Skyfall," in London (which would make this her first fictional role on-camera).
Opening ceremony artistic director Danny Boyle showed footage of Craig, as Bond, greeting the Queen in Buckingham Palace for 80,000 on-hand spectators and around a billion TV viewers worldwide. Bond and the "Queen" (in the form of precision parachuters) leaped from a helicopter into the Olympic Stadium in east London before Her Royal Majesty took the stage to greet the audience.
Knighthood or not, plenty of ways exist to shake — not stir — up excitement about the MI6 agent during the Games and before the opening of "Skyfall" on November 9.
A swanky secret agent
From ice palaces to dry martinis, London's Barbican Center celebrates "Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style" through Sept. 5 (£12). Enter the Gold Room through the barrel of Bond's gun, then wander through Q's lab, Miss Moneypenny's chamber and a replica of Fleming's office, flavored by the author's years in Jamaica.
Cigarette-pack detonators. The Hasselblad camera gun. The white bikini Ursula Andress wore as she emerged from the sea in "Dr. No," the first Bond film. This 007th heaven even includes a fully interactive martini bar. After September, the exhibition will move to Toronto.
The asset's automobiles
The name's Bond. James Bond. But the vehicle can be anything from the razor-hubcapped 1964 Aston Martin DB5 to a Honda motocross bike from the upcoming "Skyfall." Now, South England's Beaulieu Abbey — home to the National Motor Museum — celebrates intrigue and transport with "Bond in Motion."
This exhibition, the world's largest collection of 007 vehicles, includes 50 cars in all and runs through Dec. 31. Bonus for car lovers: Abbey admission also gets you access to the World of Top Gear.
The man of mystery's martinis
Legend has it that Fleming refined his "shaken, not stirred" catchphrase at Dukes Bar in London. The Mayfair watering hole has become a pilgrimage site for Bond aficionados, especially since the creation of two cocktails honoring the spy's silver-screen heroics.
Fleming's Classic Vesper, named for Bond girl Vesper Lynd, riffs on the spy's recipe in "Casino Royale." But Bartender Alessandro Palazzi threw in a twist: No. 3 London Dry Gin, Lillet Blanc, Angostura bitters and Potocki vodka — a wink and a nod to Polish-born Christine Granville, a wartime spy who inspired several of 007's leading ladies.
The Fleming 89, on the other hand, infuses Russian vodka with the same vanilla beans that scent Bond's signature cologne: No. 89 Eau de Toilette. Dukes serves this in a frosted martini glass with Lillet, sugared rose, English vermouth and a few drops of chocolate bitters. Visitors can infiltrate the back of the bar to learn more secrets with Palazzi's Martini Masterclass (£95 per person).
An operative's outlook
From cocktail lore to video games and new book releases, ways abound to bring home some Bond. But to best tail the iconic agent, head over to The O2 — better known as "The Dome" — in Greenwich. Pierce Brosnan plummeted from a balloon onto this entertainment venue in "The World Is Not Enough." These days, visitors can climb to a platform centered between the distinctive yellow masts for 360-degree views of England's capital (£22).
Go on... After all, you only live twice.
By Amanda Castleman
Photo: An employee poses in front of a Sean Connery wax figure and the famous Aston Martin DB5 at the Barbican Center's new "Fifty Years of Bond Style" exhibition. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)