'Bond 24': Only A-List Directors Need Apply

Daniel Craig Sam Mendes Bond - H 2011
<p>Daniel Craig Sam Mendes Bond - H 2011</p>   |   Stuart Wilson/Getty Images
Whether or not Sam Mendes directs the next installment in the James Bond franchise, 007 will likely be in the hands of a high-caliber auteur.

Whether Sam Mendes, following his success with Skyfall, returns to direct the next installment of Eon and Sony/MGM’s James Bond movie franchise, one thing is clear: Only the A-list need apply.

Over the past few days, there has been an onslaught of media speculation about Eon's meetings with potential directors for the next Bond, which will follow on the heels of Skyfall, which grossed $1.1 billion to become the most successful Bond movie of all time.

While some reports are saying that Mendes is in talks to return, insiders insist that that is unlikely because the director is prepping for the June 25 opening of the stage version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in London. The show will later move on to Broadway. Mendes is also planning a new stage production of King Lear, scheduled for early 2014.

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But if schedules can be worked out, Mendes could re-enter the picture. John Logan is already working on a screenplay.

However, if a deal doesn’t come through, the names of other potential directors, however likely, shows what kind of director the Bond producers want -- and what level of director the franchise now attracts.

Ang Lee, Christopher Nolan and Nicolas Winding Refn are just some of the names that have surfaced. They are auteurs and visionaries, men who are used to commanding their cinematic universes but who would be working under the aegis of Eon, which has strict control over the handling of the Bond franchise, if they were to take on the assignment.

They are also a far cry from the directors of the Bond movies from the 1970s and '80s, such as Guy Hamilton and John Glen, British helmers who were journeymen -- proficient at the job but did not make their mark beyond the 007 pictures.

That changed a bit with the Pierce Brosnan-led Bond movies, which saw directors such as Roger Spottiswoode and Michael Apted try their hands at Bond for a single movie each -- as well as Martin Campbell, who directed two, Goldeneye and Casino Royale.

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But Mendes took the franchise to the next level.

Attracting actors like Javier Bardem, the Oscar-winning director made a movie that looked to the past as it took its hero in a 21st-century direction. It won so much praise that it was even viewed as a potential best picture Oscar nominee. Although it ultimately did not crack the category, Skyfall received five Academy Award nominations and two wins for original song and sound editing.

Given Skyfall's commercial and critical success, Eon would no doubt love to have the Mendes back. But if not, now that it's seen what a director of his caliber can accomplish, the producers might be more willing to go with another helmer of the same level.

Additionally, there is now a whole generation of top-flight directors who have grown up on the Bond movies and would love to have a chance to put their own stamp on the franchise. They don’t look askance at the series, as previous generations did. And there’s a more materialistic factor: These are almost guaranteed hits, making the upside very attractive.

Heck, we might eventually hit the point where Eon finally comes to Quentin Tarantino for his take on the quintessential spy.
Email: Borys.Kit@thr.com

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