James Bond: According to Variety, with six months to go before the 21st installment of the franchise should start lensing, MGM and Eon Prods. still don't have an actor to play the suave British superspy, a director or even a shooting script.
And the lack of all three is fueling the rumor mill.
For several months, Pierce Brosnan has been distancing himself from the project and pundits have taken that to mean he's retired as Bond. And complicating things, Orlando Bloom is being courted to play a teenaged 007, based on a series of books that Miramax will start publishing in the fall, and to replace Brosnan in the next adventure.
But Brosnan, who is not under contract to play Bond for a fifth time, has not yet been made an offer to come back -- nor has any other thesp been offered the role.
And Miramax's book deal does not include rights to make films based on the younger Bond's adventures.
After 20 films, the franchise's producers are under pressure to take a risk and try something new, such as rely less on explosions and effects and go back to the earlier pics, which were heavier on character and plot.
Brosnan has publicly said that the producers are in "a state of paralysis" as to which direction the next film should go.
And with Brosnan's involvement a question mark and the thesp only getting older, producers are eyeing younger candidates, with names like Bloom, Hugh Jackman, Eric Bana, Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, Colin Firth, Gerard Butler, Jude Law and Ewan McGregor said to be in the running.
Going younger is especially enticing now that Matt Damon is generating B.O. coin playing spy Jason Bourne in Universal's emerging series.
Bond's not the only franchise having development issues.
Less than two months before it starts production, Mission: Impossible 3 is still looking for a director, Warner Bros. has hired yet another team of writers, director and producers for its new Superman saga, and Indiana Jones is still waiting for a greenlight at Paramount.
What is certain is that a new Bond film is in the works -- and that MGM is as dependent on the franchise now as in the past. Grosses from the last and most successful entry, Die Another Day, accounted for 42% of the Lion's domestic B.O take in 2002, when that pic was released.
Next pic is being prepped to start shooting before March in order to bow Nov. 18, 2005. Pic's producers have agreed on a plot; scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who penned the last two Bond adventures, turned in the first draft of their script last week.