The date was Saturday, June 26, 1999.

The mission was to open the new-look National Museum of Photography, Film and Television.

And the agent sent to Bradford to complete this mission? The name was Bond. James Bond.

Hollywood star Pierce Brosnan – the 007 of the time – flew in to Bradford on Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

This year sees the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise, and latest movie Skyfall is being hailed as the best 007 adventure ever.

The 23rd in the Bond series has become the second highest-earning film in the UK, taking £20.1 million in its first three days of opening. Starring Daniel Craig as the super spy, it has been a hit with critics and movie-goers and topped box office takings worldwide after opening last Friday.

Also starring Dame Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris, Skyfall takes the longest-running, most successful franchise in film history into its next half century.

But back in 1999 it was all eyes on Pierce Brosnan as he swept into Bradford, wearing an immaculate suit and shades, greeted by hundreds of cheering fans.

The movie star flew in to the city centre by helicopter, arriving at a helipad at mail order firm Grattan. Fans who had been expecting Mr Bond waited for hours outside the museum – now the National Media Museum – and when he arrived in a blue BMW, the atmosphere was electric.

Waving to the crowds, the hearthrob action hero revealed to reporters that he was exhausted after finishing a punishing filming schedule for his latest Bond movie, The World Is Not Enough, the previous evening. “As they say in the old country, I’m banjaxed,” he said.

“How did you bruise your thumb?” someone in the crowd asked him as he signed autographs. “I whacked it on a submarine yesterday,” he replied, cool as a cucumber.

In a major coup by museum bosses, Brosnan was in town to reopen the venue, following its £16 million facelift. His appearance followed months of negotiations between the museum and Eon Productions, makers of the Bond movies.

Before taking a tour of the museum, the Irish-born film star chatted to fans – including a nun he’d befriended in Africa. The Telegraph & Argus reported that the first person he met in the crowd was Sister Julie, who was in Bradford visiting her sister.

“I met him when he was on location for a film called Mister Johnson, a group of us became good friends of his,” she told the T&A. “He was very concerned about the development work we were doing with the local people. I was visiting my sister Margaret in Clayton and couldn’t resist coming to see him. He recognised me straight away and said it was a very good omen.”

Inside the museum, crowds of people gathered on four floors of mezzanine balconies overlooking the foyer, trying to catch a glimpse of the movie star. Special guests included film producer Lord Puttnam, then chairman of the museum’s advisers, and TV dramatist Kay Mellor.

The museum revamp involved a new glass frontage, additional galleries including the Animation Gallery, an upgraded 3D version of the giant IMAX screen and a 12-seat cinema named after former Bond producer Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli. Construction of the cinema was funded with a donation from the Dana and Albert Broccoli Foundation.

The museum had closed for its renovation in September, 1997, signalling the biggest evacuation of a national museum collection since the Second World War. The new building was 30 per cent bigger than the old one and brought it under the same roof as the neighbouring Pictureville cinema.

It was thought that the museum persuaded Pierce Brosnan to do the honours at the opening ceremony through its link with Bond producer Michael G Wilson, who was chairman of the museum’s advisory board from 2004 until February this year. Mr Wilson – who is one of the producers of Skyfall, alongside his step-sister Barbara Broccoli – had authorised a special exhibition in Bradford in 1996, which included behind-the-scenes access to Goldeneye, Brosnan’s first adventure as Bond.

In his speech to open the revamped museum, Brosnan said he was honoured to be in Bradford and had been given a wonderful reception. He described the museum’s new attractions as “very entertaining” and revealed that the last time he’d been to Bradford was in the 1970s as a young actor touring with a group in a minibus.

“I had a great time in Bradford – great restaurants, great people,” he said.

The popular star even kept his trademark Bond-esque cool during an awkward moment when the cork on the jeroboam of Champagne, which was to have declared the museum open, snapped off inside the bottle. “Has anyone got another bottle?” Lord Puttnam asked, as if calling for a doctor in the house.

Among the crowds jostling for a glimpse of Brosnan were five-year-old Riley Allen who won the T&A’s prize draw competition for a family day out at the glittering ceremony.

Described by his dad as Brosnan’s “biggest fan in the world”, Riley, of Guiseley, was even dressed like his idol, sporting a bow tie, black jacket, braces and toy pistol. Proudly clutching Brosnan’s autography, the youngster said: “He’s a cool character. He’s just like I imagined.”

All too soon, Bradford’s encounter with Bond was over. After an hour-long stay at the museum, Brosnan returned to his helicopter, taking the time to sign a few more autographs first. “Thank you for this reception,” he said. “All the best.”

The licence to thrill returned to Bradford in 2002 when the museum celebrated the 40th anniversary of James Bond with an exhibition of memorabilia from the 007 movies. Called Bond, James Bond, it featured some of the original gadgets, guns, cars and costumes that had dazzled fans on the big screen since Sean Connery first stepped into the Italian leather shoes of Ian Fleming’s laconic spy.

Connery’s classic Aston Martin from Goldfinger and Pierce Brosnan’s hi-tech Q-Boat from The World Is Not Enough took pride of place in the museum foyer.

Visitors were turned into “spies”, first stepping into a typical Bond opening sequences by walking along the famous blood-stained gun barrel, complete with gyrating dancing girls. They were then inducted into MI6, using a swipe card to access the exhibition, which started with a nod to Bond’s Cold War roots.

Following a briefing by spyboss M, the “spies” were kitted out with gadgets by Q and invited to navigate a series of challenges to reach an explosive finale in the villain’s secret lair.

Along the way visitors marvelled at an array of memorabilia, such as storyboards, costumes and props including Oddjob’s bowler hat, Jaws’s teeth, Rosa Klebb’s flick-knife shoes, Bond’s crocodile submarine and the Acrostar jet plane from Octopussy.

The exhibition, exploring the formula that made the Bond movies such a success, went on to tour the world.

Bond producer Barbara Broccoli said at the time that it created the ultimate 007 experience.

“For 40 years the James Bond films have brought excitement and glamour from exotic locations to audiences around the world, making 007 one of the best-recognised and most popular characters ever created,” she said. “We are pleased to be working with the museum in creating a major exhibition of the Bond films that examines and celebrates this global, but very British, success.”