Yes, the bit of casting that 007 enthusiasts have been quivering in their boots to hear is official - Dame Judi Dench has confirmed that she will return as the iconic secret agent's no-nonsense boss at MI6 (the monosyllabic M) in the currently untitled 23rd James Bond flick.
Miss Dench's assured return for Mr. Bond's next onscreen venture may not be all that surprising, but it's more than welcome. There's a reason the Oscar-winner has portrayed 007's efficient superior since 1995's Goldeneye - back when Pierce Brosnan was beginning his run as the suave fellow with a license to kill.
MI6 (the website) broke the news concerning Dench, who remained tight-lipped when it came to the plot of the new James Bond pic. Oscar-nominee Peter Morgan (The Queen) was brought onboard to work with franchise vets Neal Purvis and Robert Wade on the script way back in 2009 and described it as having "a shocking story," but the recent official press release from MGM revealed that screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator) had replaced Morgan on the project.
Fellow Oscar-winner Sam Mendes (American Beauty) will direct Dench and star Daniel Craig in the new James Bond movie, following in the foosteps of Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) and Green Lantern director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale). Mendes falls somewhere between those two fellows on the filmmaking scale, since he is considered foremost an arthouse auteur but has some experience handling larger-scale, action-heavy material like Road to Perdition and Jarhead as well. So long as the director doesn't repeat Forster's mistake of relying on headache-inducing amounts of shaky cam cinematography, the set pieces and fight scenes in Mendes' Bond flick should be an improvement on those in Quantum.
While there have been unsubstantiated rumors floating here and there about Rachel Weisz playing the villain in the new James Bond flick, there's not yet been any official word about who Craig might end up squaring off against in the film. Shooting is scheduled to begin in the latter half of 2011, with a theatrical release date set for November 12th, 2012 - so it might be a few months before anyone else is confirmed for the cast.
We'll keep you updated on the development of the 23rd James Bond movie as more information is released.