By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist November 13, 2012 at 12:20PM
Even by the standards of the second most successful franchise in cinema history, "Skyfall" is doing extraordinarily well. The 23rd James Bond film, which has picked up some of the best reviews in the history of the franchise, has topped off an amazing couple of weeks at the box office with a $90 million opening weekend in the U.S., bringing it to over $500 million worldwide in only 17 days. By next weekend, it will easily have overtaken "Casino Royale" to be the franchise's top worldwide grosser, and could be on course to be the first billion-dollar Bond.
So it's not entirely surprising that Sony and MGM aren't keen to repeat the four-year gap that preceded "Skyfall," already hiring that film's co-writer John Logan to pen both Bond 24 and 25. What isn't so clear is whether director Sam Mendes will be joining him. The addition of Mendes, the first Oscar-winner in the franchise's history, has been credited by many with landing the great reviews and strong word of mouth that have lead to this becoming the biggest Bond ever, and we're sure franchise bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson would be keen for Mendes to return.
But the director's been noncommittal, saying in an interview, "I felt like everything I wanted to do with a Bond movie, I put into this film. So I would have to be convinced that I could do something that I loved and cared about as much if I was to do it again. I think the great risk of repeating oneself is that one doesn't have the great store of ideas that you have when you first tackle a subject." Of course, that's the familiar line taken by many a tentpole director (Joss Whedon said much the same on the release of "The Avengers"). But Mendes is going to be as in-demand as ever, and given that he splits his time between film and theater (his next project is a stage version of "Charlie & The Chocolate Factory"), he may be reluctant to make "Bond 24" his next film.
So assuming Mendes says no (and assuming that the much hoped-for-by-fans thoughts of Christopher Nolan is a long shot -- Nolan said in the summer that "it would have to be the right situation and the right time in their cycle of things"), who else might be a contender to helm? Our best guess is that the days of journeymen helmers like Michael Apted and Roger Spottiswoode are done with. Producers have seen the benefits of bringing in an A-list auteur, and are likely to try and repeat the trick, even if they have to pay out for it. And yet they're going to need to be available relatively soon, with a release in 2015 being loosely targeted. As such, we've picked out 5 names below who could be viable and exciting contenders for the follow up to "Skyfall."
Why He Might Do It: Seven years since his feature film debut, Joe Wright has marked himself as a more and more interesting filmmaker (almost) every time he's been at bat. His 2005 debut "Pride & Prejudice" and 2007''s "Atonement" saw him pegged by most as a prestige helmer, one with a flair for tracking shots and a grounded approach, but arguably a younger take on a director like John Madden than anything more interesting. The poorly received "The Soloist" didn't exactly change anyone's minds. But Wright has turned things around, with the bonkers pop-art spy picture "Hanna" last year, and this year's "Anna Karenina," a gorgeous, hugely cinematic take on the Tolstoy novel that shows him to be a far more playful filmmaker than many thought he was to begin with. In many ways, he'd be the obvious heir to Mendes; possessing a similar prestige-y background, and with some impressive action experience in "Hanna" under his belt to boot. He'd be capable of dealing with the high-profile cast that are in place -- Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, maybe even Albert Finney -- and attract further quality acting talent too. And while he's resisted franchise territory so far, he's been circling the adventure-y sounding "The Secret Life of Houdini" more recently, which suggests he may be ready to get stuck into that kind of thing.
Why He Might Not: Well, for one, he's pretty busy with two theatrical productions in London next year, at the Donmar Warehouse and the Young Vic, and possibly 'Houdini,' after that. If the latter definitely happens, it could make a 2015 release difficult. Furthermore, it could be a risky move on both sides of the equation. "Hanna" and "Anna Karenina" are more experimental than anything that Mendes has made before, and there could be a concern on Broccoli and Wilson's part that Wright could end up delivering an abstracted, non-naturalistic take on the franchise (though we're sure Wright would toe the line to a degree, though we hope not too much). He'd be a fascinating choice, and one that would make sense after Mendes, but we suspect it could be a long shot. Then again, we'd have said that about Mendes too 36 months ago.
Why He Could Do It: Bennett Miller made one of the more assured feature debuts in recent memory with 2005's smart, tender and impeccable "Capote," which picked up Best Picture & Director Oscar nominations, and won for its star Philip Seymour Hoffman. Miller took his time for his followup, but it finally came when he stepped in for Steven Soderbergh on "Moneyball," and again did a tremendous job, producing the best studio movie of last year, and one that proved that he could do great work within the system. And while he's sticking to more left field territory for his next film, the currently-shooting "Foxcatcher," with Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Sienna Miller, the director seems to have expressed some interest in moving into the franchise world. Miller was down to the last two to make "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," and it was seemingly only his insistence that the tentpole be delayed six months so that he could make "Foxcatcher" first that saw the job go to Francis Lawrence. Clearly, Miller's keen for the cache that could come with a massive studio picture, feels ready to make such a film, and presumably wouldn't be too upset about the money. With "Foxcatcher" heading for a fall 2013 release, he could be ready to move on to Bond by the end of next year, and as far as we're concerned, could be a great choice to pick up where Mendes left off. They both have the same skill with actors, the same strong, stately visuals, and the capacity to pull off something surprising and entertaining.
Why He Might Not: We're assuming a 2015 date, but if Eon & co. want to get back on the film-every-two-years track, they'd probably need someone working on the film full time from next summer, and with Miller likely to be on the awards circuit next season, that would be impossible. Even if 2015 is the case, Miller may not be the natural choice. There hasn't been any real action element in anything he's made so far, and while picking a prestige-y choice turned out well with Mendes, it didn't so much with previous Bond helmer Marc Forster, whose inability to shoot and cut for action really hampered the picture (after all, Mendes had at least had some gunfire in "Road To Perdition" and "Jarhead"). Also, Bond holds a particular lure to British (or at least commonwealth) helmers, and Miller may simply not be a huge fan of the franchise. It's also worth noting that an American has never directed a Bond movie, though we can't see many people objecting were that to be the case. Still, we reckon he could be a solid choice.