Humphrey Bogart, speaking at the 1951 Academy Awards, famously said that the only fair way to find the best actor would be to let everybody play Hamlet and let the best man win.
An agreement was made a few years ago, which has now been revealed by SAG and RADA - the actors' unions of America and Britain, to put this idea to the test. All the best actors from both nations will play the same two parts, depending on whether they are considered leads or supporting actors.
It was also agreed that it would be ludicrous to let other nations take part, such would be the gulf in quality between the only two nations to produce actors of any quality, and everybody else - though exceptions may be made for Christopher Plummer and Anthony LaPaglia.
During extensive debates Hamlet was dismissed as the character all actors should play. It was decided the play was outdated, set as it is in a world where concepts such as monachy and Denmark have relevance on the international stage.
It was decided that Sherlock Holmes represented the perfect character for this exercise, as he is both a compelling and outrageous character - perfect for both subtle and hammy actors. In addition, the opportunity to set such a story in the past means wearing weird old clothes that make the stories seem more classy. An example of this principle is the recent Dynasty reboot, Downton Abbey.
In the spirit of sportsmanship, an American, Robert Downey Junior, was allowed to go first, as it was argued by RADA that they would find it harder to play an intelligent character.
Several versions of the stories have already been planned for upcoming years. In addition to Downey Junior and Benedict Cumbersomename, who have already played Holmes, Pierce Brosnan, Martin Clunes and Craig T. Nelson are due to play the role later this year.
As there are not characters in the Holmes canon who would be appropriate for all actors to play, several versions will feature characters with their gender, race, or species altered.
Next year Lucy Liu will play Doctor Joan Watson opposite the guy from Eli Stone in Elementary, and Nicole Kidman will play Shirley Holmes opposite Callista Flockhart's Jane Watson in 221B.
As it was decided that Graham Norton is too camp an actor to play a character who isn't gay, in 2015 he'll appear as Harry Adler, with Michael C. Hall playing Holmes, in an as yet untitled production.
Before that Uggie, best known as 'the dog from The Artist' will play the hero in 'His Last Bow-wow-owwwww!' in a summer 2013 adaptation that is being described as 'a dark and gritty take on the classic character'.
Isaac Barrett, curator of the Sherlock Holmes museum in London, is excited by the upcoming rash of Holmes adaptations.
“Well, as much as an abomination as this is, it'll allow me to cash in through media interviews," he said, grinding his teeth with joy. While he spoke, he was puffing on a pipe and wearing a deerstalker hat, a look that seemed oddly familiar from somewhere.
"Personally, my favourite is Ben Syder," I told him, to be met with a look of disdain. "Well, he battled dinosaurs during World War Two! Which other version of Holmes managed that?"
Having clearly defeated Barrett with my superior logic, the jealous curator showed me to the door.
Given the clashing use of the original Holmes canon, the next few years will be confusing for many film and television viewers.
Particularly with the news that JJ Abrams is to helm Mystery, in which Matthew Fox plays struggling London detective Sherlock Holmes, who stumbles across a mystery that encompasses heads of states, Bruce Partington's submarine, time travel, military secrets, conquistadors, a conspiracy spanning the history of mankind, a magical dog and Holmes' mysterious ally Professor Moriarty, who may not be totally trustworthy...
Fans may be confused but, by the end of the decade, we should finally have a definitive answer to the question of who is the best actor in the world. Which is important to them for some reason.
Holmes_-_Steele_1903_-_The_Empty_House_-_The_Return_of_Sherlock_Holmes taken from Wikimedia Commons