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  M.   February 16, 2008

James Bond star Daniel Craig has been caught up in a real-life action thriller, dodging bullets and armed gangs while making the new 007 film.

The 39-year-old actor found himself at the centre of a deadly gun battle after movie crews upset a fragile truce between rival mobsters.

Police guarding the star have already “taken out” one gangster in a hail of bullets. And that led to an explosion of violence that has left dozens injured.

While the stars try to film death-defying action scenes, they are also having to brave genuine gun battles on the streets of Panama.

Daniel has had to dodge the crossfire as gangsters spray bullets at each other on the set. Bond girls Gemma Arterton, 22, and Olga Kurylenko, 28, are also under armed guard, while terrified crew are having to brave the deadliest warzones as they struggle to get the blockbuster “in the can”.

The amazing scenes of violence in Panama City were kicked off by rioting gangsters who are battling for control of protection rackets surrounding 22nd Bond film Quantum Of Solace.

Now movie insurers are so worried about the danger facing the stars that they may order makers to suspend filming and completely rewrite the script to get them out alive.

A source on the film’s set said: “It’s a war zone out there. There are literally hundreds of masked people taking to the streets.

“We’re having to film between protests and riots. It’s so dangerous.

“Quite a few of the crew are considering clearing out because they fear for their lives. It’s chaotic.”

Trouble struck the moment movie-makers arrived in the country. Criminals started stealing valuable equipment from the set.

Producers allegedly tried to call on one of the gangs for “help and protection”, but that enraged rival gangs – and now they have declared all-out war.

The violence got even worse when police were given a Licence to Kill anyone who tried to infiltrate the set or its crew.

Officers then shot dead “union member” Al Iromi Emoir Smith Renterìa on Tuesday, sparking even more rioting and angry demonstrations on the streets of the city. Our set source added: “The police warned the city’s gangs to stay away from the film set while crew were making the movie.

They’ve been given permission to shoot on sight anyone thought to be trying to harm the crew. But now they’ve killed that young man, the people are fighting back.”

Filming had been taking place near Panama City’s Presidential Palace, but the set had to be completely shut down after the violent protests reached the area.

Riot police, armed with batons and shields, set up 10ft-high steel mesh fences around the crew in a bid to protect them from the furious demonstrations.

They have been struggling to contain rioting crowds ever since, despite using teargas.

Bandits are constantly playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with police, trying to get access to the set and squeeze the crew for cash and valuables.

The killing on Tuesday came after the Daily Star reported that an advance party of crew members had been robbed. The film-makers apparently then asked a local gang for protection against the robbers.

But that upset a rival mob, which vowed to target the movie team. Bond chiefs have tried to make peace with the second gang, but the muggings and thefts of equipment from the set have continued.

Patrick Hanssens, director of the Pastoral Social organisation in Panama, condemned the police’s use of force. He insisted: “We want to live together in peace. Things do not have to be resolved with violence.”

A representative of EON Productions, which makes the Bond films, insisted that the crew were being well protected and said plans were afoot to get the filming back on track.

He said: “We hope that filming should be able to go ahead as normal from now on. None of the cast have been harmed.”

But a source in Panama said yesterday: “The insurers are very stressed about things coming off the rails and holding up the shoot.

“Crew are close to walking off the set because they are concerned for their safety. And I’ve heard that corrupt police are leaning on the production team for payoffs to protect them.

“If things get any worse, they may have to put the project on hold and rewrite scenes so that they allow for a change of location – then move back to civilisation as soon as possible.”

Makers are desperate to travel on to Italy, where they plan to film a classic Bond car chase featuring 150mph supercars.

A source close to Daniel Craig insisted he was “doing fine and in good spirits” last night, but a spokeswoman for the star would not comment.

Source: Daily Star