Bland? No, best-paid Bond

London, Nov. 18: Daniel Craig is to receive more than $50 million to star in the next two James Bond films, making him the best paid 007.

Craig, who is winning accolades for his portrayal of the British secret agent in Skyfall, is signing up for a further two movies ' the first of which should be ready for autumn 2014, the second for 2016.

The deal places Craig near the top of the Hollywood pay league, vying with Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio.

It marks a huge increase in pay for the 44-year-old actor, who earned $3 million for Casino Royale, which was released in 2006, and $7 million for Quantum of Solace, which appeared in 2008.

Both payments are considerably less than Pierce Brosnan received for his last two Bonds ' $12 million for The World Is Not Enough (1999) and $16.5 million for Die Another Day (2002), though Craig got $17 million for Skyfall.

Craig, who is married to the actress Rachel Weisz, is widely seen as the best Bond since Sean Connery, despite the criticism levelled at Quantum of Solace.

The payments to Bond stars have risen massively over the past half-century. When Connery was plucked from comparative obscurity in 1962, he earned $17,000 for the first Bond film, Dr No, according to the MI6-HQ website, widely recognised in the Bond world for its accuracy.

Connery's pay rose to $250,000 for From Russia With Love. When he returned to star in Diamonds are Forever in 1971, he earned a basic $1 million. Film-makers were so keen to sign him up that he also took 12.5 per cent of the profits made from the film in America.

Connery starred in six official Bond films, earning an average of �218,000 ' about �3 million in today's prices. Roger Moore's average pay per film in today's prices was �6.3 million, Timothy Dalton got �5.4 million and Brosnan �8.7 million. Craig will earn more than all his predecessors, with an average of �9.6 million.

It is a far cry from the criticism Craig received when producers picked him in preference to other names linked with the Bond role, including Hugh Jackman and Clive Owen.

One newspaper was so unimpressed by the choice of Craig that it ran the headline "The name's Bland ' James Bland".

Skyfall's success, however, and Craig's new deal will propel the actor, whose other credits include Road to Perdition, into Hollywood's A-list.