NEW YORK -- It was enough to make die-hard "Sex and the City" fans choke on their Cosmopolitans.
When news broke that a long-stalled "Sex" movie will begin filming this fall with its four stars (Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis and Kim Cattrall) reprising their roles, word also came that there's a big gap in the production.
A Mr. Big gap, that is.
Chris Noth still has not signed on to play Carrie's on-again, off-again (and, for a time, married) boyfriend who took six seasons to tell the Manolo-mad sex columnist the heartfelt words she desperately wanted to hear: "Carrie, you're the one."
In 2004, 10.6 million viewers tuned in for the series' final episode and heard him say it. The scene was shot in Paris, where Big had gone to win Carrie back from an egomaniacal artist played by Mikhail Baryshnikov.
Last seen, Carrie was on the phone with Big (whose name is revealed to be the humdrum John), looking very much in love.
Game On for Carrie and Big, the poster couple for commitment-phobes.
Still, Noth isn't saying "I do" just yet to revisiting his role in the much-anticipated film.
As of early this week, the word from Noth's manager was that "we are waiting for an offer still and hope schedules can be worked out."
For many devotees, a "Sex and the City" movie without Mr. Big is no movie at all. Big appeared in 41 episodes and in a series with four leading ladies, he was the leading man who left an indelible impression.
"He was like the fifth Beatle," said one longtime fan.
Dragging her (high) heels seems to have worked for Cattrall, who plays Carrie's PR pal, Samantha Jones. The actress agreed to do the movie after sweetening her arrangement.
Spies who've read Michael Patrick King's "Sex and the City" screenplay confirm that Mr. Big is part of the story ("He's in the flesh, not just on the other end of a phone," said one insider) and Noth has plenty of reasons to join the film cast.
One of them is dough. Noth, 52, a Yale School of Drama grad, just renewed his contract for the TV crime show "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" -- but he didn't get an expected 5 percent bump in salary as part of the deal.
Another motivation is ego. At Ron Perelman's Fourth of July bash last week, Noth didn't object to the succession of blonds who lined up to chat with the man who made Carrie's love life so tumultuous.
Noth has expressed great affection for his prosperous, man-about-town alter ego. He even stated feelings of concern when Aidan and Carrie's romance heated up and there was a chance Big would be written out of her life and the show.
Big is the role that made Noth a household name. Quick: Can you even name the character he plays on "L&O"? (It's Mike Logan). As Big, he also got a Golden Globe nomination.
Odds are, Big on the big screen won't bring an Oscar nomination, but top New York City casting agent Bonnie Timmermann says Noth should get into the picture.
"Chris Noth should definitely sign," she says. "If the role is a good one, it's always a plus for a TV actor to do a film, especially if he created the role. And he made a huge impression with that character.
"If he doesn't do it, they shouldn't replace him, but create a new character," she adds.
"People who love the TV show will go to the movie and expect him to be in it."