It has been the question on everyone in Hollywood’s lips - a source of rumour, intrigue, plots and characters straight out of a spy novel.
Daniel Craig famously said, following the conclusion of 2015’s Spectre, that he would "rather slash my wrists” than do another Bond film.
With Craig seemingly ruling himself out, speculation has been rife as to who could be the next actor to don the tuxedo – with Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy and Poldark’s Aidan Turner the current favourites. Some even speculated that Idris Elba could become the first black actor to take the role.
Yet now sources close to Craig are telling New York tabloids that Craig has changed his mind and is now ready to sign on to return as 007, after Bond bosses decided Tom Hiddleston is “too smug and not tough enough” for the role.
Hiddleston, 36, is said to have come onto the producers’ radar after his much acclaimed performance in The Night Manager.
But Barbara Broccoli, the producer of the franchise, daughter of Bond pioneer Albert Broccoli, has reportedly decided against Hiddleston, and convinced Craig instead.
Broccoli produced a hit off-Broadway performance of Othello, that saw Craig star alongside Golden Globe-nominated David Oyelowo. The production, which received glowing reviews in New York, was intended, it was reported at the time, to win Craig the serious acting acclaim he wanted, and thus convince him to carry on working on Bond.
A Hollywood source reportedly told The New York Post: “Daniel was very pleased with how Othello went and the great reviews.
“Now Daniel’s talks with Barbara are going in the right direction. They have a script - screenwriting duo Neal Purvis and Robert Wade [who’ve penned several Bond movies] are writing and they’ll go into production as soon as Daniel is ready to commit.”
The source added: “Plus, Barbara Broccoli doesn’t like Tom Hiddleston, he’s a bit too smug and not tough enough to play James Bond.”
The paper reported that Hiddleston’s “cringe-making romance with Taylor Swift sealed his fate” with Bond producers, in addition to what the tabloid termed his “self-righteous Golden Globes speech, pontificating about his trip to South Sudan, and how Doctors Without Borders ‘binge-watched’ his series.”
Broccoli has made no secret of her wish to keep Craig in the role.
"Maybe I'm in denial, but I don't want to think about another Bond." she told The New York Times, after the 2015 premiere of Spectre. "Until he definitely says otherwise, I'm not going to give it another thought."
She described Craig's performance – which began in 2006 with Casino Royale - as "perfect for his time".
"We just didn't feel in a post-9/11 world that we could be as fantastical as before. Craig is more rounded. And now I don't even want to think about someone else as Bond."
Another source told the paper: “Daniel had such a good time in Othello, produced by Barbara, that he’s ready to do a final Bond.”
In February Wade, who has co-written every Bond film since The World is Not Enough in 1999, told The Telegraph that the new film would be different from its predecessors.
"I'm just not sure how you would go about writing a James Bond film now,” he said.
“Each time, you've got to say something about Bond's place in the world, which is Britain's place in the world.
“But things are moving so quickly now, that becomes tricky.
“With people like Trump, the Bond villain has become a reality.
“So when they do another one, it will be interesting to see how they deal with the fact that the world has become a fantasy."