Daniel Craig, a 37-year-old, sandy-haired Englishman was introduced Friday as the new James Bond, ending months of speculation.
His selection was revealed as he was whisked down the Thames River aboard a military Rigid Raider boat to a news conference.
Craig replaces Pierce Brosnan in the role of the suave spy in "Casino Royale," due in theaters next year.
"It is a huge iconic figure in movie history, and those things don't come along very often," the star said, after posing for photos with producer Barbara Broccoli and director Martin Campbell.
Craig revealed he only discovered on Monday that he had definitely been given the role and had to consider the offer.
"It was difficult, but I tried to think about it like any other job. We have got an incredible script, and that is my first line of attack. Once I had read it, I knew I did not have any choice," he said. "It is a huge challenge, and I think life is about challenges."
The film's producers tried to keep their decision secret, but Craig's mother told the tabloid Sun newspaper she was "thrilled to bits."
Craig is the first blond actor and only the second Englishman to star as Agent 007 in the movie series. (Roger Moore played Bond in seven films from 1973-85.)
Relatively unknown outside Britain, Craig appeared in the landmark 1990s British TV drama "Our Friends in the North" and in 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 starred 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.
Producers announced last year that a replacement was being sought for Brosnan, who played Bond in the last four films.
"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.
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.
"I am looking most forward to actually starting getting on with it, and feeling intimidated about pretty much everything," Craig said. "It is a sort of responsibility, but it is also a huge adventure. I want to get as much out of it as I can."
Campbell said the movie would be "tougher and grittier" with "more character and less gadgets." He said the story would begin with Bond first becoming a "00" agent.
"It is really the arc in which he becomes Bond," Campbell said. "He starts out just having earned his double-0 stripes and comes out at the end the Bond we know and love."