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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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5 Directors James Bond

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."

Joe Wright, Anna Karenina
Joe Wright
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.
Bennett Miller
Bennett Miller

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.

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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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