Australian actor Hugh Jackman is the new favourite to take over from PIERCE BROSNAN as the next James Bond.

Brosnan plans to hang up the superspy's famous tuxedo when filming concludes on the next installment in the series - and X-MEN star Jackman is thought to be top of the list of potential replacements.

A source at 007 movie makers EON says, "A lost of possible successors has been drawn up, and Hugh is at the top. He's got everything the producers are looking for - dark good looks, an athletic build, a sense of humour and box-office clout. At 35, he is also the right age."

British actors Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, Jeremy Northam and Paul Bettany have all been put in the frame - but they have now reportedly been eliminated.

The source explains, "Owen lacks the necessary lightness of touch to make Bond a box-office success."

While Bettany is "strawberry blond - and there's never been a blond 007".

Bond director Lewis Gilbert adds, "You can't have someone too young playing Bond because they would never be believable in the part.

"And the chances of getting a superstar like Russell Crowe are slim because he'll be too expensive, he'll have all sorts of projects lined up and is unlikely to want to commit to making a series of films. Hugh Jackman clearly fits the bill."

26/10/2003 14:12