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5 Directors Who Could Helm The Next James Bond Film

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton 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.
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Cary Fukunaga
Cary Fukunaga
Why He Could Do It: Only two films into his career, and Cary Fukunaga (who's still only 35) is shaping up to be one of the more exciting and unpredictable directors of the next wave. The NYU grad made his debut with 2009's thrilling Spanish-language film "Sin Nombre," a gripping picture about Mexican immigrants trying to make it to the U.S., and followed it two years later with something at the entirely different end of the scale -- the haunting, romantic period-drama "Jane Eyre." Both were excellent, and have placed Fukunaga firmly on the map. The director was on the shortlist for both "The Wolverine" and "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," and he's got a two-part adaptation of Stephen King's "It" set up at Warner Bros. So he's clearly not telling his agency to turn down franchise prospects, and while an artist, he's careful to make his films entertaining at the same time. Technically gifted, and good with suspense and tension ("Sin Nombre" was more exciting than most blockbusters released that year), he could be a fine choice for Bond -- and having spent a couple of years in the U.K. for "Jane Eyre," might be a little more of an Anglophile than some of the options.
Why He Might Not: He's very, very busy, for one. It's slightly unclear exactly what's coming next for Fukunaga, but HBO crime series "True Detective" with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, Civil War train heist picture "No Blood, No Guts, No Glory," sci-fi flick "Spaceless" and "It" are all jostling for attention. "True Detective" is the most likely to go first, but even then, it would have to wait for McConaughey to wrap on "Dallas Buyers Club." This doesn't rule Fukunaga out unless he then goes on to a movie straight away, but it makes things trickier. Furthermore, what Fukunaga lacks is marquee value. Sam Mendes might not be quite a household name, but as an Oscar winner, he certainly was able to convince some audience members who might otherwise be Bond-averse. Fukunaga has fans in our circle, but is essentially unknown to the general public, and a 007 flick "from the director of 'Jane Eyre,'" doesn't have the same effect as 'from the director of 'Road to Perdition.'" So hiring Fukunaga, as inspired a choice as it might be, could end up risking the momentum gained on "Skyfall."

Juan-Antonio Bayona
Juan Antonio Bayona
Why He Might Do It: A man whose sole released film to date was a foreign-language ghost tale might not be the obvious call for a Bond movie. But Juan Antonio Bayona is a hot property at the moment, and could well be even more in demand once "The Impossible" lands in theaters next month. The 37-year-old Spaniard came up through music videos and shorts before enlisting Guillermo Del Toro to produce his feature debut, "The Orphanage." The clever, wrenching and terrifying spookfest premiered to raves at Cannes in 2007, and he immediately became a hot property in Hollywood, as he was courted to make the third "Twilight" movie, and was attached to direct "Hater" for Universal. Neither came to pass, and it's taken Bayona five years to follow up his first film, but "The Impossible" sees him working on a bigger, broader scale than before with a highly emotional tsunami-set real-life drama that sees Bayona achieve an impressive degree of destruction on a relatively meager budget. It's already paid off with huge box office in his native Spain, and, with enough awards heat, could repeat the feat over here. Bayona's ended up on recent shortlists for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and "Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes," so again, he could well be in the hunt for this sort of thing, and has the right blend of critical plaudits and commercial appeal to be in the mix. Plus he has nothing firm lined up after this, so could get to work quickly, and he'd be on the cheaper end of the scale, which always helps.
Why He Might Not: Nothing in "The Orphanage" or "The Impossible," other than the heat behind them, makes Bayona an obvious pick for Bond. The films have a very specific style, and the horror of his first film, and the bruising disaster-movie stylings of his second, doesn't quite fit into either. This isn't to say he couldn't do a good job (he's arguably got more experience at large-scale action and set pieces than anyone on this list), but we wonder if he's tonally the best fit. He also doesn't have the same kind of pull with actors (unless "The Impossible" takes off in awards season), and if his latest fails to make coin in a competitive Christmas season, he might not be in favor to the same degree. As with Fukunaga, there's not necessarily much marquee value to his name at this point either.

Joe Cornish
Joe Cornish
Why He Could Do It: The British comedian/DJ turned director has been one of the hot prospects out there in the last few years. Having turned screenwriter with pal Edgar Wright to pen "The Adventures of Tintin" and "Ant-Man," Cornish made his directorial debut midway through 2011 with "Attack The Block," a glorious John-Carpenter-in-a-hoodie action-horror that became a serious fan favorite when it debuted last year. Since then, Cornish has been courted for several blockbusters, including "A Good Day To Die Hard" and, yes, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," but has pretty much preferred to stick to the beat of his own drum to date. But, and I say this as a Brit, 007 holds a very special place in the British psyche, and as Mendes has shown, directors who might not otherwise dream of making a franchise picture would still consider it. And Cornish is a confessed and avowed Bond fan -- witness his loving ribbing of the series in a faux "Quantum Of Solace" theme song composed for his radio show with Adam Buxton a few years back. Furthermore, the sensibilities shown in his debut, for thrills and laughs in equal measure, all with real directorial skills and a firm sense of Britishness (one of the refreshing things about Mendes' entry), suggest a Cornish Bond could be something truly excellent.
Why He Might Not: Cornish's next film is slated to be the "E.T"/"Iron Giant"ish sci-fi "Rust." Word has been quiet since it was announced a little while back, but it's presumably intended to shoot sometime during 2013. When exactly that film rolls may be the deciding factor for the director when it comes to availability, but even then, he's developing an adaptation of seminal cyberpunk novel "Snow Crash," and possibly a new original script too. So there's a certain amount on his plate. Furthermore, Cornish is cautious about jumping early into the big-budget world, telling us late last year of his "Die Hard" offer, "Ultimately I think it would have been too big a step to take." Bond would seem to qualify similarly, unless he's able to fit it in after "Rust." And even then, we're just not sure how interested Cornish would be in actually directing a Bond movie, as big a fan as he might be of the series. Time, we suppose, will tell.

Other Contenders: Given that he's made two of the great Bond movies, we certainly wouldn't be against the idea of "Casino Royale" director Martin Campbell coming back, especially as he's coming off the gigantic misfire of "Green Lantern," and could probably use a hit. From the more commercial end of the spectrum, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" director Rupert Wyatt doesn't have a gig immediately lined up, and "Safe House" director Daniel Espinosa is in a similar boat, though the latter seems like a slightly more pedestrian choice. Rising star J. Blakeson ("The Disappearance Of Alice Creed") is on a lot of shortlists these days, though he's supposed to be shooting the crime thriller "Bad Blood And Trouble" with Bradley Cooper in the latter half of next year, and we suppose Rupert Sanders might be feasible, but we'd rather someone with a firmer sense of story in charge.

Danny Boyle's been rumored for Bond in the past, and will be done with his next project, "Trance," early next year, but will 007 seem like a step down after Oscar and Olympic triumphs? Ang Lee could be an interesting choice, and is a theoretically free agent after "Life Of Pi" hits in a few weeks, while the idea of Tomas Alfredson tackling Bond is a very intriguing one, though he likely feels he's scratched his espionage itch after "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." Park Chan-Wook's also picking up a lot of English-language work in anticipation of next year's "Stoker," but hasn't firmly lined up another project; the idea of the "Oldboy" director taking something like this on is definitely a fun one.

And for more left-field choices, the great Jonathan Glazer ("Birth") should be finished with his long-gestating "Under The Skin" in the immediate future; he's possibly too sedate for 007, but we'd love to see his take on the franchise. British helmer Ben Wheatley could also be fascinating, though he seems happy carving out his own path for the most part. And with "Lawless" marking a more commercial side to John Hillcoat's work, he might be in the running in theory, which we'd like to see if only for a Nick Cave-penned Bond theme.

Anyone else you'd like to see considered? Let us know in the comments section below.

This article is related to: Features, Skyfall, Joe Cornish, Juan Antonio Bayona, Joe Wright, Bennett Miller, Cary Fukunaga


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