'THE name is Bond, James Bond.' Pierce Brosnan is the fifth agent 007 to deliver these lines on screen - right now he's shaking Martinis, taking the brand-new BMW roadster for a spin, and cavorting with Bond girls for about an hour outside London in a converted Rolls-Royce factory in Leavesden, Watford. The US$50 million (HK$386 million) feature is codenamed Goldeneye, the 17th movie in the James Bond series. Bond, a character originally created by Ian Fleming and transferred to the screen by producer Albert R 'Cubby' Broccoli, is a film franchise that will never die - even though 85-year-old Broccoli is currently recuperating from major heart surgery and his daughter Barbara has taken over producing duties. In his original incarnation, as played by Sean Connery in 1962's Dr No, Bond was a smooth-talking, Martini-swilling, bed-hopping super-sleuth - a persona which carried 007 through the 60s, 70s and began to falter in the 80s. Connery is now 64, his successor Roger Moore (who made seven Bond films) is 68, George Lazenby, who only appeared in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, has faded into obscurity, and even Timothy Dalton, who starred in the last two Bond films, has passed 50. Time, undoubtedly, to bring some young blood to Bond - at 41, Irish-born Brosnan is a decade older than Connery was when he first assumed the role, but still manages to make a three-piece pin-striped Savile Row suit look sexy, if not quite the height of fashion. 'We have a traditional Bond script,' says Brosnan, sipping the omni-present Bollinger champagne, which the media is assured Bond now drinks (along with black label vodka). 'But there's a certain playfulness to his character - and vulnerability. That's what I'd like to bring to the role; vulnerability.' It's not a hard trait for Brosnan to command; when asked about his wife, who died of cancer after a long illness, he says: 'I am saddened that she's not here. But she's with me in spirit. She wanted me to do it.' He pauses: 'That's life.' Despite the fact that Goldeneye flits from Puerto Rico to Switzerland, St Petersburg and the French Riviera, most of the shooting (15 out of 18 weeks) will be done in bitterly cold Leavesden, with its 1.25 million square feet of interior stage space making Goldeneye the largest film set in the world. The Rolls-Royce factory had been abandoned for 18 months before Goldeneye was 'forced to create this space in less than six months because there is no other space left to film in England,' says co-producer Michael Wilson. Cracker's Robbie Coltrane, who plays the villainous Russian arms-dealer Valentin, a role he took because 'at the age of 44 and being more than a little overweight, I realised my chances of becoming a Bond girl were extremely slim', has a complaint, though. 'I play the Russian but I don't even get to St Petersburg,' he says. 'Bloody Leavesden; that's as far as most of us will go.' Bloody Leavesden is wet and muddy and houses Goldeneye's 400-strong team; it has a 1,000-yard runway, constructed in World War II, which now holds several cardboard cutout MiG 29 jets - Goldeneye will be no True Lies, which featured real-life Harriers. 'I'm not interested in competing with True Lies or Die Hard, says the director, Martin Campbell (who made the award-winning BBC series Edge of Darkness). 'We have James Bond on our side.' The production designer, Peter Lamont, explains: 'You can buy MiGs on the black market, but they cost upwards of GBP295,000 (HK$3.6 million) a piece and Goldeneye only has a GBP3 million budget design. The radio-controlled model replicas can fly at around 210km per hour, however, and we have bought three real Czech tanks.' Adds Coltrane: 'You should have seen the guy who sold us the tanks. Unbelievable! A true bandit capitalist.' A good point, because Goldeneye is all about black-market toys: Goldeneye is actually a stolen satellite component, which, when placed in a parabolic dish in the Caribbean, will activate the world's only remaining rogue satellite and black out the planet's telecommunications. A mysterious evil named Janus is behind the plot, and Bond is sent to Russia by the new M (Dame Judi Dench), armed with Q's gadgets (Desmond Llewelyn) to seek out the Russian arms mafia (namely, Coltrane's Valentin) and stop the scoundrels. But this case brings up a tragic episode in Bond's past - the loss of his colleague, 006 (Sean Bean) on active duty. Llewelyn, the longest-serving Bond staffer after 15 films as Q, has his own opinions on who is the best 007. 'The Bond with the toughest job was Roger Moore, who had to take over from Connery - Sean had been billed as the only James Bond,' he says. 'Timothy Dalton was much more of a stage actor than a film actor. They didn't buy him in America at all. I think you always prefer the Bond you saw first, so I'll go for Connery. But Pierce looks absolutely gorgeous. I understand he's had a craving to play Bond for quite some time now.' Brosnan's first tango with Bond took place in 1986. 'I screen-tested for the part and I wanted it,' he says. 'I did the wardrobe fittings and I was working out with a trainer. But there was a 60-day clause in my contract with Remington Steele (an American TV detective series); they had 60 days to sell it to the networks. And they sold it on the last day - mainly because of the Bond publicity, I suppose. I was pissed off with the whole set of circumstances. I felt manipulated. It taught me about contracts and to look at them closer in the future. But I've lost jobs before, I'll probably lose them again. 'When the opportunity to play Bond came around the second time, I had a certain edge. I'd been waiting in the wings for eight years, in certain respects. I really wanted it. For years, people said to me, you could'ha been, should'ha been, might'ha been. I don't want to go to my grave with that - the man who might have been James Bond.' But Brosnan has signed a contract for three Bond movies - and given his past experience, presumably it's watertight. He has his own favourite 007 too. 'It's hard not to think of Sean when you're doing Bond,' says Brosnan. 'I took out Dr No recently to try to work out how he exploded on to the screen in such a spectacular way. It was very dated, but Sean was powerful - it was sex. Sean was an animal there on screen, a killer who was lethal. He's indelible as an actor, and I'm always aware of this. But never mind comparisons, I just don't want to screw the whole thing up. The whole world will be watching to see what Brosnan does with Bond.' Even though Bond was 'a dream that came true' for Brosnan, he had his reservations - mainly about the media circus surrounding 007. 'When Connery did it, there wasn't this ballyhoo,' he says. 'When we held the press conference to announce I was taking the role, it was a madhouse. Astounding. I went home thinking, what have I entered into here? Could I have passed it by? But I couldn't. It's a challenge, and it comes with great excitement and a little trickle of fear inside. I'm going to be different to Sean or Roger but I can't say how yet. I guess I want to give audiences a chink in the armour. But mainly I want to learn the script, say the lines, get out on the set and have colossal fun.' Brosnan has three children, Charlotte, 23, Christopher, 22 (a film school graduate who will be working as third assistant director on Goldeneye) and 11-year-old Sean. 'He's with me here in England,' says Brosnan, who delayed the early-January start of production after injuring his hand while putting up a fence on his ranch in LA. 'He's extremely sensitive. He doesn't want to be known as James Bond Junior'. What will he make of the Bond girls when the movie is released. Brosnan says: 'I have an extremely violent sex scene with Famke Janssen (the traditional evil, manipulative Bond girl) where you're not sure if I'm doing the wild thing or beating the hell out of her.' Which brings us on to the touchy subject of bimbo-Bond girls. Goldeneye's director, Martin Campbell, says 'the two women's parts are very strong and very ballsy.' Izabella Scorupco, who plays the good-gal Russian computer programmer, adds: 'We're trying to make this film modern - strong girls, who are clever people. There's not as much sex as normal.' After further questioning, she admits: 'Bond girls do have a certain type of bimbo image. It's up to you what you do with the role.' Indicative of this was the invitation to visit the Goldeneye set, which read 'Bond Girls #1 and #2 will be available for interviews.' Fortunately, when the day arrived, their characters had been given names. In fact, they're so memorable, Sean Bean confesses: 'I think I have a couple of scenes with one of the Bond girls. Er . . . I can't remember now.' But it all mounts up to the biggie: is the supersleuth-in-a-suit James Bond still valid entertainment in the 90s? 'There's certainly a sentimentality, a nostalgia about this role,' says Brosnan. 'And to an extent, yes, it has become a period piece. But there's enough good stories out there to make it work. And for heaven's sake, it's not mystical. We're talking about entertainment, and what turns people on. And that's my job as an actor - to turn people on. End of story.'