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5 Directors Who Could Helm The Next James Bond Film

by Oliver Lyttelton
November 13, 2012 12:20 PM
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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
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
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.

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  • JAFO | December 31, 2013 10:09 PMReply

    James Bond needs to be ritred. It's silly seeing a British man saving the World, especially, when the UK is no longer a major power. The US State of California now has a bigger economy than the UK and they're just a US State. I find it hard to belive, that anyone would want to see a British man run around the world trying to be the saving grace. The USA is now the majoy player and soon China. Let's make new James bonds that reflect the current World that we live in today. The UK is now a long and forgotten empire than fell decades ago. Let them be and rot, and bring in the new Hollywood.

  • Nate | November 16, 2012 10:10 PMReply

    Christopher Nolan: Guy proved he wanted it with Inception.

  • Connor | November 14, 2012 8:28 PMReply

    Why not bring back John Glen for one more Bond film. He pretty much stamped realism into Bond in the first place ? I'm also up for Joe Wright to do it as well as Tomas Alfredson. Campbell I think said he wouldn't do anymore. Wyatt & Boyle would be good choices, but I doubt Boyle would want too. Ang Lee I don't think fits into Bond very well. He's too artistic for the franchise.

  • Alan | November 15, 2012 11:15 PM

    That's like getting Schumacher for the next Batman film.

  • Umm | November 15, 2012 5:47 AM

    Getting John Glen would be count-intiuative in what they want to do with a 21st Century Bond. And you can't say he was perfect since 'A View to a Kill' wasn't realistic in the slightest.

  • Umm | November 15, 2012 5:46 AM

    Getting John Glen would be count-intiuative in what they want to do with a 21st Century Bond. And you can't say he was perfect since 'A View to a Kill' wasn't realistic in the slightest.

  • MJ | November 14, 2012 2:36 PMReply

    How can you leave out Vaughn? Layer Cake was practically Daniel Craig's screen test for Bond. He's been itching for it forever, X-Men First Class was styled after the early Bond films & now that he's left X-Men he's free to go. He's the perfect choice. Joe Wright would be pretty special as well I suspect, as would Danny Boyle, who would be my first choice but I doubt he's interested. Cornish is far too inexperienced to take on Bond, maybe after he's got another feature under his belt to show versatility.

  • Gemini71 | November 14, 2012 7:28 AMReply

    My three choices for the director of Bond 24 are: Joe Cornish (who was already mentioned), Matthew Vaughan and Katherine Bigelow. I hope that whoever gets chosen for the task will say yes to the gunbarrel motiff being put in its proper place - at the beginning.

  • SFlare | November 13, 2012 5:42 PMReply

    @PAT i capitulate to your rightness. Maybe I spend too much time on blogs. This last Batman films just attracted so much negativity on him online, I kinda wish he'd do the kind of films that take him away i little bit from the kind of people never knew who he was before he directed a Batman film. Get what I mean?

  • Pat | November 13, 2012 5:50 PM

    I agree. I want to see him do something on the scale of the Prestige now. I also hope that all the other great directors I mentioned don't get lost in only doing blockbusters. After Thor, Branagh was trying to make an adaptation of Henning Mannkell's Italian Shoes with Dench and Hopkins. Sadly, that fell apart and now he's making Jack Ryan. As great as it will be to see Mendes make another Bond fim, I wanna also see him shot On Chelsea Beach.

  • SFlare | November 13, 2012 5:12 PMReply

    @PAT yeah. He's done an excellent job so far in his career. I consider myself a fan. But reading blogs like this, I know he's not liked by all. In fact he's an object of intense hatred by quiet a few. I just think 3 Batman films is more than enough, and I hope he doesn't do anymore franchise pictures any time soon.

  • Pat | November 13, 2012 5:23 PM

    I can very much respect that; however, film blog sites are hardly the proper place to judge a person's popularity in the wider world. People commenting here aren't just fans of bloakbusters, but European art films, Ireanian cinema, the Indie world here in the States, etc. Different people have reasons for making claims on the Internet, which is hardly the best way to test the water for the popular culture. Also consider, Dickens had many detractors saying he was too populist, instead favoring Thackeray. Today, even the most obscure writing by Dickens is in print, whereas, beyond Vanity Fair, Thackerary's most popular work is hard to find.

  • Niner | November 13, 2012 5:04 PMReply

    Personally, I think Nolan lacks the ability to create characters who possess a modicum of self-deprecation, something I think Bond needs.

    I think Ben Affleck could do a great job, as could David Yates and Alfonso Cuaron.

  • Niner | November 13, 2012 5:41 PM

    Self-deprecation - the ability to down-play one's abilities to achieve an inter-personal end.

  • SFlare | November 13, 2012 5:23 PM

    What do you mean by self-deprecation?

  • Hoff | November 13, 2012 4:47 PMReply

    Joe Wright, Tom Tykwer, Alfonso Cuaron, Tomas Alfredson, David Yates.

    Barbara Broccoli said recently that she loved Chris Nolan and they met a long time ago but she doesn't think he'll do one of these. I don't really like the idea of a Nolan Bond movie. (or a Boyle Bond) Their style just doesnt fit for me personally.

    I always thought they'd get Branagh to direct one... but now he's doing "Jack Ryan" so thats probably out.

  • SFlare | November 13, 2012 4:42 PMReply

    @PAT good points. The dichotomy is a very investing one to me. His success, commercially and critically, and on the other hand, the divisive, sometimes vitriolic, often uncouth and passionate comments the mere mention of his name engenders. The first sentence of your post a good example.

  • MJ | November 14, 2012 2:43 PM

    Oh and how the hell does David Yates fit in your comparison? Before HP he was not at all the same kind of filmmaker as Nolan was pre-Batman, he was a hugely acclaimed television & drama director, that comparison isn't apt at all.

  • MJ | November 14, 2012 2:42 PM

    @Pat, do tell me how Paul Greengrass wasn't able to make tentpoles without Nolan's success? The Bourne Supremacy, released: 2004. Batman Begins, released: 2005.

  • Pat | November 13, 2012 4:57 PM

    That is hardly my intention. The fact of that matter is, just as exhausting as it is hearing the mere veneration of his name as if it were absolute paragon-Hearing detractors speak in a manner where they are a logical majority is ridiculous. Without Nolan, Paul Greenglass, Sam Mendes, Kenneth Branagh, Tony Gilroy, David Yates, and James Mangold wouldn't touch tent poles with a two mile stick. He has shown that intelligent films can be made with huge budgets that don't stink of committee meddling. This alone deserves much respect. I just hope Nolan, along with Mendes and the rest, use their success with these films to make personal pet projects ala Inception and Green Zone.

  • SFlare | November 13, 2012 3:41 PMReply

    @[A] on, we DON'T all love Nolan. He despised by quiet a few. As far as action chops, he's produced one of my favourite fight scene in film history, so he's capable of turning it on. In any case, I hope he's a long shot, and never makes a Bond film ever.

  • Pat | November 13, 2012 4:28 PM

    Good Lord, give it a break. If by quite a few, you mean a small cadre of critics who complain about his leaving the indie world for the studio and leading a great many other acclaimed filmakers like Mendes to tent poles, then you are correct. The fact of the matter is, all of Nolan's films have been both critically and commercially very well received. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but don't go around making revisionist statements as if they were cold hard facts.

  • SR | November 13, 2012 3:32 PMReply

    How about Duncan Jones.
    Seems somewhat perfect.

  • MJ | November 14, 2012 2:40 PM

    Weirdly enough isn't he working on a bio movie about Ian Fleming right now? I think I'd rather see him do that than let it go, but it'd be intriguingly great if he ended up doing that and a Bond film.

  • Ray H | November 13, 2012 2:41 PMReply

    Daniel Craig actually seems to have a good deal of power when it comes to the choice of director. He got Roger Michell involved in Quantum (which didn't work out) and was the one who basically recruited Sam Mendes to do Skyfall.

  • MJ | November 14, 2012 2:39 PM

    Then maybe he can get Matthew Vaughn on board.

  • DHE | November 13, 2012 1:51 PMReply

    What about Ralph Finnes himself ?

  • BE | November 13, 2012 1:20 PMReply


  • be | November 13, 2012 1:19 PMReply


  • somebee | November 13, 2012 1:03 PMReply

    Juan Carlos Fresnadillo did great with 28 weeks later, he could be a good choice....

  • Serge | November 13, 2012 12:49 PMReply

    what about Tom Tykwer? have you guys seen The International?

  • MJ | November 14, 2012 2:38 PM

    I could get behind that, in fact the portion of Skyfall's opening that was on rooftops made me think of The International's denouement.

  • Marko | November 13, 2012 12:49 PMReply

    But why did you not make a list of the 5 Directors that could helm Star Wars? And don't give the excuse that everyone else had already made lists, because most of those were terrible.

  • Dan Ashcroft | November 13, 2012 12:46 PMReply

    Danny Boyle needs to be top of any potential list - he's already directed a terrific Bond short ('Happy and Glorious' for the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics).

  • Alex | November 13, 2012 12:43 PMReply

    Alfonso Cuaron, Danny Boyle and Nicholas Winding Refn

  • James | November 13, 2012 1:30 PM

    Cuaron is an inspired idea! Much as I loved DRIVE, I don't think Refn would be realistic - as many people loathed that film as liked it, and I don't think Bond can afford to be turning people off right now. Cuaron has shown he can do mainstream in Harry Potter.

  • Jeremy | November 13, 2012 12:34 PMReply

    I know everyone is tired of Nolan's name being popped up, but shouldn't he numero uno on this list? He's interested, Bond producers are interested, Mendes' Skyfall was influenced by him...just a matter of time before he directs the 4th or 5th (or both) Craig film.

  • [A] | November 13, 2012 12:38 PM

    We all like Nolan. We do. But his "action chops".....aren't quite there, yet. It's not his thing. And Bond's got a little bit of action, don't you think..?

  • Larry | November 13, 2012 12:29 PMReply

    Ugh, these stupid lists on the site always have the same potential directors.

  • MJ | November 14, 2012 2:37 PM

    Oliver, you can't deny The Playlist has a soft spot for Fukunaga.

  • fukunaga | November 13, 2012 12:41 PM

    Yes, it's a bit of a Playlist cliche at this point. Joe Cornish and Cary Fukunaga, what a surprise. Next week: ThePlaylist's 5 Potential Bond Girls: Imogen Poots, Brit Marling, Brie Larson, Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender.

  • Oliver Lyttelton | November 13, 2012 12:39 PM

    We've literally never used any of those five directors in one of these pieces, bar maybe them briefly cropping up as honorable mentions. Thanks for stopping by, though!

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