So earlier today we exclusively revealed that Sam Mendes and EON Productions have saluted the nearest Union Jack and bid each other a fond farewell (for the time being, at least). Given Skyfall’s colossal box office success and the franchise’s great good health, the studio should have pick of most of the hottest directors in town – but who is best equipped for the gig? We sort through some of the leading candidates…
Technically, The Duke Of Albion Danny Boyle has already directed Bond, with Daniel Craig’s secret agent helping Her Majesty – “The name’s Queen… The Queen” – to parachute out of a helicopter and into the Olympic Stadium last summer. If there’s one thing that prepares you for directing a Bond movie, it’s definitely dodging puddles of corgi widdle and dealing with huge names – that, along with an inimitable visual style and one of the most accomplished and varied back catalogues in the business, from the Oscar-winning not-that-feelgood-when-you-think-about-it Slumdog Millionaire to the toilet disaster movie that was Trainspotting.
The trouble is, Boyle has told Radio 4’s Front Row that he isn’t that keen on directing a 007 outing. "Don't trust me with huge amounts of money anybody," he said. "I did a film, The Beach, which was a proper Hollywood scale budget and it didn't suit me. I love watching those kinds of films, but I'm much better with a smaller amount of money and trying to make it go a long way." A Bond movie with an indie feel? It would be an interesting experiment.
A regular he-could-definitely-direct-the-next-one name where Bond botherers gather, Ridley Scott certainly has the action chops to deliver some high quality spy-on-megalomaniac mayhem, but his recent run of films haven’t been all that encouraging. For all his Gladiators, Aliens, Blade Runners et al., his past three films were the slightly underwhelming Body Of Lies, Robin Hood and Prometheus. Still, if he’s hoping for a return to form with the immensely promising Cormac McCarthy-penned The Counselor (out November 2013), a Bond movie would certainly do as a follow-up. What’s more, as Roger Ebert put it, Body Of Lies had “a James Bond plot put into today’s headlines” – and if that doesn’t chime with Broccoli and co.’s post-Skyfall aims, we’re not sure what does…
After successfully bringing the cinematic hammer down with Thor and resurrecting the reboot-of-a-reboot-of-a-reboot that is Jack Ryan, there’s no doubt Shakespeare’s representative on earth is perfectly comfortable parachuting himself into established franchises, Her Maj-stylee, and handling huge action alongside his undeniable dramatic chops. The question is, would he want to do it again? And could he pull a Mendes (Sam, not Eva, and no, not in that way) and prove that visceral neck-snapping action is part of his directorial wheelhouse? Jack Ryan (out December 26) should prove a useful calling card for Branagh, so perhaps if he can smuggle some rushes of that under Michael G. Wilson’s pince-nez, we could be onto something, forsooth!
Though he proved the rumourmongers wrong by not getting the Episode VII gig, Mr. Vaughn’s dance card is still pretty full right now. There’s his producing work on the upcoming Silver Surfer reboot and X-Men: Days Of Future Past (which he also wrote), as well as Mark Millar comic-book adaptation The Secret Service which he has set up – a movie set to do for 007 what Kick-Ass did for comic-book movies. But considering he was the man who made the excellent Layer Cake back in 2004 – and in so doing helped Daniel Craig win the role of Bond –it seems a bit of a no brainer to put him on the shortlist.
Then there’s what he’s previously said during the press for X-Men: First Class, a movie he described as “an X-Men film and a Bond thing… [a] Frankenheimer sort of political thriller. I'm desperate to do a Bond film, always have been, and here I got to have my cake and eat it.”
"I sort of want the Brocollis to regret never hiring me,” he went on to tell Bleeding Cool. “I was very keen to direct Bond. I don't know if I am any more, to be blunt, now that I've done this. I really love Daniel [Craig], though you know, it might be interesting if they one day decide to cast Fassbender as Bond, then maybe I'll go 'Hey!'" That’s not going to happen for Bond 24 and 25, but don’t count this particular Bond nut out just yet…
Quentin has ruled himself out of directing the next James Bond film, and with good reason. For starters, "Casino Royale was the one I wanted to direct, they [the producers] missed their opportunity." QT wanted it to be a period piece, set in the ‘60s with Pierce Brosnan still in the saddle and Uma Thurman as Vesper Lynd. EON said no. Then he considered doing a rival spy franchise with Len “The Ipcress File” Deighton’s spy trilogy of Berlin Game, Mexico Set, and London Match, but as Django and Basterds proved, that did not come to pass.
Then there’s his opinion on Skyfall, heralded both by fans of the franchise and the Broccolis themselves as one of the best Bond movies ever made. Mr. Tarantino has different thoughts, however, telling The Telegraph: “To me, it felt more like an action movie than a Bond movie.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a deep burn – and it’s worth noting that Bond has very rarely had an American director in any case, so the feeling might be mutual, with Eon likely reluctant to hand over their reins to quite such an idiosyncratic director. But with Knoxville’s finest being such a 007 aficionado, you can just about keep a spark of hope alive… you know, if you want to.
Paul Greengrass once told Empire that James Bond was "an Imperialist right-wing fuckface.” When asked to compare Bourne and Bond, Greengrass said: "I think James Bond is the secret agent who likes being a secret agent and likes killing people. He's a misogynist, an old-fashioned imperialist, and Jason Bourne is an outsider on the run and he's one of us and he's fighting against them, I think. That's the profound difference, and that's why I like Bourne."
But time has passed, and the Bourne helmer has mellowed his opinions on 007 of late, even turning up to the Skyfall world premiere and hosting a directorial Q&A with Sam Mendes. So Greengrass is not a big Bond lover, despite his chumminess with Mr. Mendes. But if you’re looking for a homegrown director who’s an action expert and more than familiar with telling a spy story, Greengrass could be your man. But unlike, say, J.J. Abrams (who was a Star Wars fanboy from the off), persuading the Bourne helmer to jump spy ships is going to be a very tricky one for the brave EON producer who decides to tap his shoulder.
Like the FA picking England football managers, EON prefer to keep the British end up, and considering Alfredson is Swedish, there’s no doubt his nationality could count against him (then again, Marc Forster’s German and landed Quantum Of Solace). But Alfredson is the man behind 2008’s modern vampire classic Let The Right One In, and more recently, the director who managed to cram all of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy into a critically-acclaimed and decidedly frosty 127 minutes, invoking the old school spy world that the end of Skyfall seems to harken at.
The trouble, then, is in his action credentials, so perhaps a solid second-unit director would be called in to capture all the arm-breaking and train-headbutting. To make matters even more intriguing, Alfredson currently has no plans to direct anything at the moment, so at least he’ll have time for a meeting…
Empire has long championed the Point Break director as a potential Bond herder, with our very own Nev Pierce writing enthusiastically about the idea back in 2009: “If [Bond is] to be brash, rash and go ballistic once again, why not give the megaphone to Kathryn Bigelow? [In the] The Hurt Locker she shows she knows what Bond is all about: adrenaline. The Hurt Locker is one long high: set piece after set piece, bomb by bomb, always explosive. This is what Bond is supposed to be.”
Perhaps after Zero Dark Thirty Bigelow is sick to the back teeth with spies and espionage, but then again, the somewhat cartoonier 007 might be the perfect antidote to all the paper pushing and forehead-scrunching of her 157 minute Osamarama. What’s clear, however, is that she’s excellent at action and doesn’t have a new project lined up – it’s a shame she’s American then, as no Yank has directed an official Bond.
Should he fancy the job, Christopher Nolan will take up position at or near the front of the queue. After all, job applications don’t come much more impressive than Inception’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service-homaging ski chase or the 007-esque gadgetry and nods of The Dark Knight Rises. “I’ve been plundering ruthlessly from [Bond movies] in everything I’ve done,” he told Empire in 2010, a fanboy fanaticism that chimes with Mendes’ love of From Russia With Love. His Batman films play like Bond films, so we’re intrigued to see what he’d actually do with a real Bond. Heck, Dark Knight Rises even follows a traditional Bond girl formula.
Nolan ticks boxes we haven’t even thought of yet, bringing his Oscar-laden physical effects and VFX teams with him, not to mention a keen eye for the spectacular and those ginormous 75mm cameras of his. Daniel Craig’s budgie-smugglers in IMAX, anyone?
London’s Donmar Theatre isn’t a bad place to pick up a Bond director these days. Joe Wright, like Sam Mendes before him, is overseeing the theatre’s board-treaders now with a production on Trelawny Of The Wells, but should be free to take the reins later this year if the cards fall that way. Neatly mirroring Mendes’ gift for the intimate and the spectacular, Wright has shown himself adept at both in a career that’s stretched from Pride & Prejudice to Anna Karenina, via Hanna and Atonement.
Another of Wright’s virtuoso tracking shots, perhaps of Daniel Craig trying to find the MI6 canteen, would cement a place in Bond lore. And like Mendes and Nolan, Anna Karenina saw Wright officially join the “driving-trains-through-things” club – in a manner of speaking. What’s more, he could probably steal Keira Knightley away from Jack Ryan and make her quite an interesting Bond girl.
From tense and innovative Brit flick (The Escapist) to successful blockbuster reboot (Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes), Rupert Wyatt’s, ahem, rise won’t have gone unnoticed by the keepers of the Bond torch. He’s young, energetic, has a sharp eye for visuals and a self-confidence that should lend itself to one of the biggest jobs in the business. He even has a possible future-Bond cheerleading for him. “I think my friend Rupert Wyatt would be a fantastic Bond director,” Damian Lewis told GQ Magazine.
Question is, will he fancy moving from one blockbuster property to another, or prefer to stretch his legs on something smaller? And given that he’s just withdrawn his name from consideration for The Equaliser because he wants to make Birdsong, will he have a gap in his schedule?
Aside from Irvin Kershner, who made the non-canon Never Say Never Again, no American has taken the reins of a Bond movie. Could Tony Gilroy, with his Bourne past and skill with thrillers (the terrific Michael Clayton, especially), be the first?
Gilroy, who was rumoured – no, murmured – to be in the running for a Bond back in 2009, would be an outsider for the job, especially with Bourne 5 possibly on the cards. He’s a well-respected double Oscar-nominee and a safe pair of hands, but Bourne Legacy rarely captured the fizz Team Eon would look for from Bond 24.
Pixar alumnus Bird has dipped into the Bond well on The Incredibles (secret lairs! Gadgets!) and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (ridiculous stunts! More ridiculous stunts!), a fact that won’t have gone unnoticed by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. A studio veteran who made a conspicuous success working on an established big blockbuster franchise, he’d do an ace job with action sequences and those classic comic beats we love about Bond.
The Pixar experience would make him pretty handy with the product placement side of things too – look out for a scene with Bond and Moneypenny chowing down on a Pizza Planet margherita. Just one problem: he’s gearing up for Tomorrowland (formerly 1952) and that looks like taking him out of the picture for the next couple of years. Also, he’s another American.
Well, he can’t be busy… oh, wait. Maybe not.