'Casino Royale' Set Goes Up In Flames

Until now, upcoming Bond installment Casino Royale's greatest obstacle—aside from a script by Paul Haggis—was the new Bond himself, Daniel Craig, who seemed doomed from the start to weather the emasculating taunts of the British tabloid press. But now the production has come against a foe far greater than a Bond with uncharacteristically fair coloring and an inability to drive stick: A freak chain reaction has resulted in the studio containing all the Bond sets to burn to the ground.

A chain of explosions ripped through Pinewood Studios, in Bucks, after a welder's stray spark accidently set fire to plastic sheeting and ignited a cluster of gas canisters.

The blaze — visible from ten miles away — sent the roof caving in on Europe's biggest movie set, destroying a replica of the Italian city of Venice built as a backdrop for actor Daniel Craig.

It is the SECOND fire to burn an 007 set to the ground. But an insider said last night: "We came back before and we'll do it again. We're shaken, certainly, but not stirred."

While the damage won't affect the wrapped Royale, the next, already-greenlit installment will face considerable delays, unless of course producers use the misfortune to their advantage, and pit the spy against a cunning supervillain who will stop at nothing until he sets back the British motion picture industry several months at least.