Do you remember the days when a new James Bond film was considered cinematic popcorn: fun, lightweight, reliable. You went for the villains, the gadgets, the one-liners, Bond’s ability to make borderline alcoholism charming. Whether it was Connery, Moore, Lazeby, Dalton, or Brosnan, you knew pretty much what you were going to get. Then Daniel Craig came along in 2006’s ambiguously rebooted Casino Royale and suddenly Bond became something more. Craig’s Bond was vulnerable, tormented — he might have worn the tux, but he could give a damn how you served his martini.
Last year’s installment, the 23rd in the series, was critically acclaimed and (almost) universally adored. Skyfall had everything you could want in a Bond film: a cracking theme song, an insane/charismatic villain in the form of Javier Bardem‘s platinum-coiffured Silva, action sequences from which any frame could be hung on your wall as an objet d’art, plus the return of some old friends. It kept the grittiness and psychological fidelity of the new Bond while reintroducing elements of the original. Did anyone else get a shiver when they heard Ben Whishaw‘s Q archly refer to Bond by his assignation? And who did we seemingly have to thank for this?
Well, director Sam Mendes would seem a prime candidate: he brought a sense of love and nostalgia to the series, bringing Bond home while keeping him moving forwards. However, despite rumors to the contrary, Mendes has revealed, in an exclusive interview with Empire Magazine, that he will not be returning to direct the next installment. Can you heart that? It’s the sound of million fans crying out and being suddenly silenced, myself amongst them.
Full details are available at the link, but in brief, Mendes has made the decision that his commitment is to theater, including a production of Roald Dahl‘s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory that is due on the London stage. He says that, “It has been a very difficult decision not to accept Michael [G. Wilson] and Barbara [Broccoli]’s very generous offer to direct the next Bond movie“, and that “Directing Skyfall was one of the best experiences of my professional life“, though he doesn’t rule out a return to the franchise at some point down the line. Wilson and Broccoli, producers and keepers of the Bond flame, have responded that “We would have loved to have made the next film with him but completely respect his decision to focus on other projects and hope to have the opportunity to collaborate with him again.”
With Skyfall having won the BAFTA for Outstanding British Film and become the first Bond film to gross over $1 billion at the box office, suffice to say that Mendes is leaving the franchise on an all time high, which is about all you can ask, really.
We don’t envy whoever comes next (well, we do, hugely, but it’s nevertheless a tough gig). Hopefully it won’t take four years – the gap between Skyfall and Quantum of Solace – for us to find out who will be the next to sit in the directing chair. But one thing is absolutely certain: James Bond will return!