Sam Mendes is not returning for the next James Bond movie. Citing scheduling conflicts, the 'Skyfall' director is taking the cash and clout that comes with making the highest grossing film in the history of a fifty year old franchise and escaping/moving on to other pastures. The Bond series runs through directors like Agent 007 does love interests, but this is the rare case where we'll actually miss a director (especially since he's probably taking cinematographer Roger Deakins with him).
But it's time to move on! It's time to speculate! Who should direct the still-untitled 'Bond 24'? Here are the five people who we think should get a shot at the job. Of course, this is pure spitballing on our part, but we can dream, right?
Joe Cornish is not a particularly big name outside of a particular niche of genre fans, but his anonymity could actually work in his favor. After all, the Bond producers may very well want avoid a "name" director for the next entry. Film buffs will know Cornish from his spectacular sci-fi action horror film 'Attack the Block,' but he also co-wrote Steven Spielberg's wonderful 'The Adventures of Tintin' (and co-wrote Marvel's upcoming 'Ant-Man' as well). So, in addition to being British (which is always a plus for this franchise), he's got an eye for action, knows what it takes to build an epic adventure and can tell a story where we all give a damn about the people on screen. Hollywood already shot itself in the foot when they didn't hire him to direct 'A Good Day to Die Hard' (and we saw how that turned out), so hopefully the Bond team will see the light. This guy is one big film away from being a Big Deal.
Like Joe Cornish, Neil Marshall has been lurking on the edges of Hollywood for awhile, just waiting for someone to give him a big project and let him go nuts. He's built an entire career out of taking low budgets and putting everything on the screen, from the terrifying 'The Descent' to the '80s throwback 'Doomsday,' which may be one of the most cleanly shot action films in recent years. Heck, he even directed the already iconic 'Game of Thrones' episode "Blackwater," which may be one of the most epic things ever accomplished on a TV budget. So what happens when you give him $150 million? Since there's no one out there with a better eye for action right now, we know it would result in a spectacular Bond film.
There was a time when the James Bond franchise was a startling example of rampant, macho sexism (have you seen the Sean Connery films recently?). Kathryn Bigelow has built a career out of defying expectations based on gender, highlighting the inherently homoerotic nature of action cinema with 'Point Break' before making two of the most enthralling and realistic action movies of all time with 'The Hurt Locker' and 'Zero Dark Thirty.' Although Daniel Craig's Bond is kinder and gentler to women these days, we'd love to see a feminine perspective on one of cinema's greatest manly men, especially from a filmmaker who can deliver incredible action. And before you say "But she has an Oscar! She won't need a Bond film!", remember that Sam Mendes has an Oscar, too.
It sounds blasphemous. How could you put the most quintessentially British action hero of all time in the hands of a *GASP* Frenchman?! But do yourself a favor and check out Frederic Jardin's 2011 action film 'Sleepless Night' and find yourself an instant convert. Although his style is a little shakier (dare we say Paul Greengrass-ier?) than some of the directors on this list, he's able to utilize the chaos and confusion that comes with handheld camerawork and use if to build gripping and brutal action. 'Sleepless Night' is an action movie that means business and James Bond is nothing if not a professional.
Where are they going to take Bond next? 'Skyfall' saw Agent 007 venture further into a dark, character-driven rabbit hole, a far cry from the silly and frequently ludicrous adventure films that define much of the franchise. If they continue down this path, any of the first four filmmakers on this list would be great choices...but if they decide to go in the other direction, they'd better call Brad Bird. After getting his start on 'The Simpsons,' Bird made tremendous animated films like 'The Iron Giant' and 'The Incredibles' before making his live action debut with 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.' Despite being an animated superhero film, 'The Incredibles' showcases a firm grasp of Classic Bond, from the villain's hidden lair to the John Barry-esque musical score and his 'Mission: Impossible' showcased a knack for creating something incredible (and accessible) in someone else's playground. If the Bond producers decide that 'Bond 24' needs to be a lighter, poppier adventure, you can't ask for a better director.
Who do you think should direct the next James Bond film? Share your hopes and dreams in the comments below. Note: people who say Christopher Nolan or David Fincher will receive scorn.