Le Chiffre, Mr Big and Hugo Drax could not stop him, but James Bond is now in trouble for the most mundane of reasons - a lack of cash.

Development of the new James Bond film has been suspended indefinitely, producers confirmed on Tuesday , because of uncertainty over the future of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio. The unnamed film, 23rd in the series based on Ian Fleming's secret agent, had been due for release in 2011 or 2012, to coincide with the franchise's 50th anniversary.

Daniel Craig was to play 007 for the third time, in the role first taken by Sean Connery. But Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the producers, said: "Due to the continuing uncertainty surrounding the future of MGM and the failure to close a sale of the studio, we have suspended development on Bond 23 indefinitely."

Craig, who is on location in Toronto, Canada, filming Dream House with Rachel Weisz, said: "I have every confidence in Barbara and Michael's decision and look forward to production resuming as quickly as possible."

Vastly profitable for MGM, the 22 James Bond movies are third in the list of most successful film franchises, according to the website Box Office Mojo.

The last film in the series, 2008's Quantum of Solace, made $586m worldwide. Casino Royale from 2006, which unveiled Craig, took in $594m. Sam Mendes, who directed American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, was expected to direct the next Bond outing, but had not signed on the dotted line, and his involvement is in doubt.

There is no doubt that Bond will return, but who will his paymaster be?

MGM has $3.7bn debt and has released one film this year. Efforts to raise finance through a studio sale have been fruitless. Its lenders want "either a sale of the company or a restructuring with an infusion of capital to remain a stand-alone operation", the Los Angeles Times reported.

Copyright: Guardian News & Media 2010