Sam Mendes Won't Direct Bond 24

Exclusive on 'a very difficult decision'

Sam Mendes, Skyfall

Bond may be back, but Empire can exclusively reveal that Sam Mendes won't be joining him. At the BAFTAs recently, basking in the glow of Skyfall's triumph for Outstanding British Film, it seemed that Mendes, who had previously claimed he would make just the single Bond entry, could be tempted back for another go. But, having bumped into the Oscar-winning director on a barren Scottish glen - or was it a glitzy Macau casino? - he confided in us that he won't be returning to direct Bond 24.

“It has been a very difficult decision not to accept Michael and Barbara’s very generous offer to direct the next Bond movie," explained Mendes. "Directing Skyfall was one of the best experiences of my professional life, but I have theatre and other commitments, including productions of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and King Lear, that need my complete focus over the next year and beyond."

With Skyfall freshly crossing the $1.1bn mark at the box office and still hoovering up plaudits - it dominates the nominations at this year's Jameson Empire Awards - the news will no doubt be a blow to producers Broccoli and Wilson. Then again, with a freshly reinvigorated franchise to oversee and actors of the calibre of Daniel Craig, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Ralph Fiennes to work with, there'll be no shortage of high-calibre applicants to pick from for Bond 24.

If his gifted direction of dramatic beats came as no surprise to movie-watchers, Mendes' adroit handling of Bond's action sequences wowed fans and elevated Skyfall to critical and commercial echelons previously never enjoyed by a Bond movie. For his part, the 47 year old director refuses to rule out the possibility of a Martin Campbell-like return to the franchise in years to come. "I feel very honoured to have been part of the Bond family", said Mendes, "and very much hope I have a chance to work with them again sometime in the future".

A response from Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli has just reached us, and it more than leaves the door open to a Mendes return. "We thoroughly enjoyed working with Sam, he directed our most successful Bond movie ever, Skyfall. We would have loved to have made the next film with him but completely respect his decision to focus on other projects and hope to have the opportunity to collaborate with him again."

So there you have it. It's a sad farewell - for now - from Mendes to Bond, and a big question about who will direct the next film. Share your thoughts below.