Last year Skyfall brought the James Bond franchise roaring back to life after a four-year-long hiatus due primarily to the financial difficulties of the once mighty studio MGM. Under the direction of Academy Award-winner Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition), Skyfall became the definitive Bond film for many, earned critical raves, and was the first movie in the series to gross over $1 billion worldwide. Mendes’ intelligent handling of the material and the performances he elicited from series leads Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench were credited rightfully for a major part of the film’s creative and commercial success and it had been assumed that the director would return to helm the next outing for Ian Fleming‘s iconic superspy.
Sadly that does not look to be so. Mendes said in a recent interview with Empire that he’s turned down an offer from the producers to direct the next Bond film.
“It has been a very difficult decision not to accept Michael and Barbara’s very generous offer to direct the next Bond movie. Directing Skyfall was one of the best experiences of my professional life, but I have theatre and other commitments, including productions of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and King Lear, that need my complete focus over the next year and beyond.”
Naturally Mendes would not rule out a possible return to the series in the future. If that happened he would join the company of directors like Guy Hamilton, Lewis Gilbert, John Glen, and Martin Campbell who have directed more than one Bond film. Franchise producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli released a statement not long after Mendes’ announcement that indicates the parting of ways is mutual and that there is always the possibility that Mendes could take the helm of another James Bond adventure:
“We thoroughly enjoyed working with Sam, he directed our most successful Bond movie ever, Skyfall. 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.”
This news only has me feeling mildly disheartened. As much as I thought Skyfall was amazing and is one of my favorite Bond movies, I also understood that Sam Mendes is not the type of filmmaker to base the remainder of his career in the industry around making E-ticket blockbusters. Unlike directors like Sam Raimi and Christopher Nolan, the non-franchise movies Mendes prefers to make are more intimate and eclectic than your typical Hollywood fare. That’s probably the main reason why it came as a surprise for admirers of his films and fans of the Bond movies when it was announced he would direct Skyfall. Even before Mendes turned to filmmaking, he was already one of the world’s most lauded theater directors, a title he continues to hold onto deservedly to this day.
At least Mendes’ exit from the series – for now anyway – leaves the door open for other talented directors to try their hand at making a Bond movie. There are plenty of viable candidates out there with a great deal of skill in working with actors and shooting coherent, visually spectacular action sequences just waiting to get the call. With Skyfall revitalizing the franchise and laying the groundwork for more exciting James Bond adventures the future is looking pretty good for 007.