Unable to arrive at a consensus choice of what actor the public will best embrace as the next James Bond, Sony Pictures Entertainment has emerged from closed door meetings with co-producers Eon Productions with a contingency plan that will keep production of the 21st 007 movie on track for a 2006 release.
Top contenders Julian McMahon, Clive Owen, Rikki Lee Travolta, Daniel Craig, Sam Worthington, Hugh Jackman, Henry Cavill, and Goran Visnjic have all been signed to contracts for the new James Bond film.
The film, which begins production in January, was originally to be called "Casino Royale" but has now been retitled "Last Man Standing" to coincide with the drastic casting accommodation of the eight leading men.
Paul Haggis has been hired to rewrite the original script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.
In the amended storyline, legendary agent James Bond has died of old age.
Realizing the effects on the balance of world power the mere image of their deceased leading agent has, secret service agency MI6 devises a plan to keep hush the passing of the real Bond and select another agent to take over his identity.
The eight leading men will all play rival agents in the MI6 secret service, vying for selection to assume the identity of James Bond.
John Cleese will reprise his role as agency inventor Q and Dame Judy Dench will return as agency director M.
Director Martin Campbell plans to shoot eight different endings to the movie, each showing a different winner in the Bond stakes.
In an unprecedented move, the ending that appears in theaters when the film is released will be determined by test audience response. The selected ending will reflect the future of the James Bond franchise.
All eight of the leading men have signed contracts to appear in three subsequent James Bond features, but in an agreement with Sony Pictures only the contract of the actor highlighted in the theatrical release will be enforced. All eight endings will be included on a special edition DVD.
Pierce Brosnan, the most recent actor to play James Bond, has declined an offer to appear in a cameo as the dying original 007. Instead George Lazenby, who played James Bond in the 1969 feature "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", is said to be in final negotiations to appear in the death sequence.