A hunk in trunks: (the The image that was the making of a new Bond)

A photograph of the new James Bond, Daniel Craig, after emerging from the sea in the Bahamas in Casino Royale, is set to become as iconic as the similar shot of Ursula Andress in Dr No, and usher in a new era of the British all-action hero, says Guy Adams

If pictures could speak, this one would raise a suggestive eyebrow, smile knowingly, and say five words: the name's Bond, muscle-Bond.

It captures Daniel Craig emerging from the blue waters of the Caribbean to reveal a pair of manly shoulders followed by the sort of bulging pectoral muscles you would expect to find on a professional athlete.

Four days after the premiere of Casino Royale, the photograph is already being heralded as a future classic. Craig's piercing blue eyes, washboard stomach, and body-hugging swimming trunks are said to perfectly embody the new James Bond.

The shot was taken by Jay Maidment on location in the Bahamas last year, and has already graced countless newspaper and magazine articles. Fans predict that, along with the jet-pack and underwater car, it will become an iconic symbol of the British super-spy's 45-year career.

"This captures the birth of a new James Bond," says the comedian and Bond expert Charlie Higson. "In the way that Dr No was remembered for Ursula Andress coming out of the sea in her bikini, I suspect that Casino Royale will go down as the film where Daniel Craig walked on to a beach in tight swimming trunks."

Craig is pictured on a private beach in front of Albany House, a historic sea-front building in the south-west corner of New Providence, a short distance from the Bahamian capital, Nassau.

It is halfway through Casino Royale, and he is attempting to track down a baddie, Alex Dimitrios, who is staying at the One & Only Ocean Club on Paradise Island, off the north coast of New Providence. A future love interest, who is known only by her first name, Solange (and is played by the Italian actress Caterina Murino) has just arrived on the scene. She is seen galloping down the white sand beach on a grey stallion.

"The girl quickly fades into the background, and the camera's focus falls squarely on Daniel Craig," adds Higson, author of the Young Bond novels. "It's a fantastic image, and I actually think it could end up changing the history of British cinema."

Higson, and others, predict that the brooding, muscular 007 portrayed by Craig - and captured by Maidment's photo - will spark a revival of the English action hero, who last graced our screens during the golden era of the 1960s. "Since about 1972, we've been inundated with wimps like Jude Law and Orlando Bloom. Even in Bond films, you had Roger Moore who, let's be honest, never looked like much of a threat to man nor woman.

"But Daniel Craig has real physical presence. I think this image may lead to a rebirth of the tough-guy action hero, the sort of character that was last seen in the days of people like Stanley Baker and Richard Burton."

Maidment has been the official unit stills photographer on the last three Bond films. His photograph is also a firm favourite with 007's rapidly growing female following, who have been wowed by Craig's muscular physique.

Several commentators have suggested that it cleverly subverts the - somewhat outdated - traditional practice of jollifying Bond films with images of "eye candy" women in bikinis.

Craig, for his part, gave interviews this week in which he described how he beefed up for the role, undergoing a rigorous, military-style fitness regime in order to become a physically intimidating Bond.

"I started training for the film when I knew there was a possibility I might get the part," he said. "I thought: 'I'll start trying to get myself fit anyway and even if it doesn't come off I'll live another year.' If Bond should at some point take his shirt off, we should feel that he's physically imposing, that he's done the things he's supposed to have done, like being a commander in the Navy."

Meanwhile, Craig's choice of swimming trunks - a pair of £50 light blue, front tie "aqua shorts" by the Italian underwear manufacturer La Perla - are selling like hot cakes in up-market boutiques across Britain and Europe.

At Selfridges, they had sold out yesterday. Shoppers were being advised to try their luck in Harrods, or at the nearby La Perla store on Sloane Street.

"Everyone's seen the clips of Bond emerging from the water, and everyone wants to look that good," said Selfridges' assistant buyer Mitham Ramanadi. "The 'Bond factor' is really true: all girls want to go out with James Bond, and all men want to be him."

Surprisingly, given the notorious commercialisation of the James Bond franchise, La Perla does not have a formal sponsorship agreement with the film-makers. "They just seem to love our designs," says a spokesman. "The orange bikini Halle Berry wore in the last film was also by La Perla. Daniel Craig's are called Lodato, and come from our Grigioperla men's range. They were launched for the summer/ autumn season this year, although obviously we are now keeping them in the shops throughout the winter."

The firm, which was founded in Italy during the 1950s, sent a range of its designs to Lindy Hemming, who was costume designer on the film. However, the company claims: "The actual pair was picked out personally by Daniel Craig."

It's the sort of product placement money can't buy, and is already starting, if you'll pardon the pun, to make waves on Britain's domestic market.

"The aqua-short style of trunk is very in trend; it's definitely one of the hottest things to be seen in at the moment," says Adrian Ward-Rees, the global head of products at Speedo.

"This year has already seen a growth in styles of classic racing briefs, with David Beckham photographed in white ones during the summer, and we expect that trend to continue alongside this one. Normally, we would mostly sell just plain black shorts in the aqua short style. But next season we are going to be selling 20 to 30 different types. Some are very exciting, in vibrant pinks and greens, and floral prints."

The backdrop to Bond's iconic appearance is also about to change. It was announced last week that Albany House is to be developed into a luxury golf and beach club. Tiger Woods and Ernie Els are acting as consultants to the project, which is scheduled to be completed by next autumn.

It will become an exclusive haven for the seriously wealthy, who are (ironically) the sort of people whose lifestyles are unlikely to provide them with the honed physique necessary to feel comfortable in a pair of aqua shorts.

However, Mr Ward-Rees insisted yesterday that Bond's latest style of swimwear can (sometimes) be suitable for those who - unlike Craig - do not boast an impressive six-pack.

"They actually offer a very flattering silhouette," he added. "Obviously Bermuda shorts are best at hiding a bad shape, but they are not great for swimming in. Aqua shorts combine the style advantages of bermudas with the practicality of traditional racing briefs. Honestly, you don't have to look like Daniel Craig to carry them off."

The wannabe James Bonds who will now be buying these Lycra trunks in their thousands will be crossing their fingers (and crunching their abs) in the hope that Mr Ward Rees isn't joking.

What (not) to wear at the beach

* SPEEDO

In August, the resolutely unfashionable Speedo "brief" received a shot in the arm, from an unlikely quarter. David Beckham was photographed strutting around a yacht in St Tropez, in a bright, white pair of the company's traditional packet-bashers. Sales of white trunks soared, helping Speedo achieve record profits. The brand was started by Alecander McRae, a Scotsman who emigrated to Australia in 1910. It is a firm favourite among Olympic swimmers, and celebrity afficionados range from Pierce Brosnan to Peter Stringfellow.

* VILBREQUIN

The Hawaii-style shorts have been a favourite of the Hollywood A-list since being launched by a Saint-Tropez waiter, Fred Pascal, during the 1970s.

Characterised by splashy floral, fruit, or fauna prints in bright colours, they retail at between £75 and £91, and have in recent years been worn by Hugh Grant, Michael Douglas, Prince William and George Clooney.

Sadly, the brand suffered a major setback in 2005, after Tony Blair was spotted wearing a £82 pair of apple print shorts in Barbados. "We haven't had any interest in those shorts since Mr Blair was seen in them on holiday," said the manager of Vilbrequin's Fulham Road store. "It's strange. They are normally very popular."

* MONDO TEES

The comedian Sasha Baron Cohen wore a lime green sling-back "mankini" while publicising his Kazakhstani alter-ego, Borat, at the Cannes film festival. Following the film's launch last month, an American designer, Mondo Tees, decided to launch a replica of the V-shaped monstrosity. It quickly sold out. The Florida-based company that makes it specialises in gay men's clubwear; it said the majority of purchasers were seeking fancy-dress outfits for Halloween.

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