As the famous James Bond title goes, "Never say never again."

After being kicked to the curb by Viacom chief Sumner Redstone and Paramount Pictures chairman Brad Grey three years ago, it "appears" Tom Cruise will return one more time to play agent Ethan Hunt in "Mission Impossible 4."

According to the print edition of TV Guide, J.J. Abrams told the publication he'll produce the fourth installment of the franchise, but has not committed to direct.  Abrams began his relationship with the studio directing "Mission Impossible 3," but the action flick disappointed grossing only $134 million domestically.  International returns brought the total closer to $400 million, but the film was not considered a profit center for its distributor, Paramount Pictures.  More importantly, now the "Lost" creator is on a hot streak (and ridiculously being hailed as "the new Spielberg" by too many) after the phenomenal critical and box office success of "Star Trek" which has reached unexpected highs of $220 million in the U.S. alone. 

Cruise, on the other hand, showed he still has some punch with moviegoers as his nazi thriller "Valkyrie," thought dead in the water by many, pulled out an impressive $200 million worldwide run this winter.  His scene stealing turn as an out of control movie executive in Ben Stiller's "Tropic Thunder" last sumer hasn't hurt either.

If the report is true, however, the actor's involvement in a new "Mission Impossible" is an even more bizarre turn in what has become a story strange even by Hollywood standards. After making his production home on the Paramount lot for over a decade, Cruise's antics while romancing wife Katie Holmes (i.e., the couch jumping Oprah incident) and increasingly defensive stance on Scientology tarnished his public image.  Along with his incredibly lucrative back end deals, the collective drama caused the studio (which is a division of Viacom) to sever ties with him after "MI3."  It didn't help the situation that Redstone publicly chastised the actor and blamed him for the film's demise. 


Consequently, one of the reasons Paramount may be willing to work with Cruise again is because he recently severed ties with his longtime producing partner Paula Wagner.  The former manager was notorious for her indecisive ways and hamstringing both marketing and creative efforts.  Additionally, this news is curious as the return of Cruise would seem to contradict reports the studio was planning on rebooting the franchise with a new and younger Hunt.

As for the duo's take on the next installment, Abrams was quoted as only saying, "Tom and I have come up with some really cool idea we are pursuing" and left it at that.

Cruise's next picture is a different road for the action star and untitled romantic comedy with former co-star Cameron Diaz.  Abrams has not committed to his next directorial effort, but is expected to helm the already in development "Star Trek" sequel.

Are you interested in "Mission Impossible 4"  at all?  Does Tom Cruise's involvement perk your interest in the project? Share your thoughts below.