Bond 24: Who Should Direct?

If you haven’t seen Skyfall yet, what the hell have you been doing instead? The newest James Bond film has crushed box offices domestically and internationally, setting records and taking in some praiseful reviews in the process. With another $40 million intake in its second weekend after being expectedly dethroned by the final Twilight film, 007 is sitting well with American audiences, as is director Sam Mendes. The Best Director winner of American Beauty handled a Bond film with ease, and his brilliant work has already started speculation about who will be considered to replace Mendes on the next James Bond film. Some might point to big names with upcoming or recent projects like Guillermo Del Toro, J.J. Abrams, the Coen Brothers, the Wachowski Siblings, Tom Hooper, or Matthew Vaughn to step up without considering the specificity associated with tackling a James Bond movie. There have even been rumors, some mentioned by Daniel Craig, that Quentin Tarantino is under heavy consideration. I have a list below that I slaved over judging the vast expanse of directing talent that could potentially continue the James Bond legacy.

There are twenty names divided into four categories. First we have Long Shots, which are likely contenders in early stages like the present but will either be avoided by the studios or will just reject the opportunity outright. Second, there are Potentials, which are directors that will expectedly be considered based on their work but still have a little more growing to do before they can accept or there’s a pressing reason why I think they should pass. Third, there Franchise Adapters, the group from which the eventual director pick will come and it contains filmmakers that adapt or manipulate genre and atmosphere successfully and can therefore enter the Bond world without fear. Sam Mendes was a franchise adapter because he had been successful in numerous genres and went into Skyfall confidently. Finally, we have Dream Choices, options that we educatedly guess will be asked for sure and the chance that they accept is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Did your director choice make the list?

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Long Shots:

1) Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code)

Who knew that David Bowie’s son would turn out to be such a talented filmmaker? His debut film, Moon, featured the charisma of star Sam Rockwell but also featured a visually unique storytelling style that then copied over to his arguably better sophomore film, Source Code. I think Jones would handle the action of a James Bond film wonderfully and with a star like Daniel Craig at the forefront, he’d mind another killer performance from the blonde Bond. Unfortunately, with Jones having passed on The Wolverine, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll so readily attach himself to a franchise. His first two films weren’t box office smashes, but they were critically praised and original films, and there isn’t too much room for originality (the originality similar to Moon and Source Code) in the Bond franchise.

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2) Nicolas Winding Refn (Pusher, Drive)

Danish visualist Nicolas Winding Refn wowed audiences with his underseen Bronson but solidified his place as a contemporary auteur with last year’s Drive. As a director who prefers extreme violence, no Bond film has ever been branded with a R rating and Refn has never made a film rated any lower than R. He’s an intriguing storyteller, though not a very accessible one. As an innovator of pacing motion pictures, many have found Drive to be a grueling visual experience. No doubt a Refn Bond film would look marvelous, but the common moviegoer isn’t looking for something that’s simply visually appealing. In the end, the parameters already established by the franchise may not mesh with the filmmaker and audiences may not be so eager for a Drive or Bronson-like Bond film.

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3) William Friedkin (The Exorcist, Killer Joe)

Friedkin has made very little of quality recently, let alone films in general, but he’s a helmer with bold visual ideas and knows how to keep audiences engaged. Despite my dislike for The French Connection, the same fuel that resides within the engines of Bond films propels the sparse action throughout that film, namely the climactic car chase. I think given the opportunity to captain a Bond film, Friedkin could work wonders, but his days of high public acclaim are a few decades old. When he was making films like Connection and The Exorcist and Sorcerer, Bond was in a very different place than it is now (the Moore era) and around when the Brosnan era began, he was starting to fumble with recent disappointments like The Hunted and Rules of Engagement. Had he been tapped, who knows if he would have even taken the job, but at the very least we know that there could have been a Bond film with the aesthetic, adrenaline, and brutality of To Live and Die in L.A., which may have combined nicely with a Dalton, Brosnan, or Craig bond. Truthfully, I think that the window of time when a Friedkin Bond could exist has closed; the franchise’s timeline and Friedkin’s career unfortunately never crossed.

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4) Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels, Sherlock Holmes)

There will be disagreement here, especially after the success of Sherlock Holmes, but I think that Ritchie’s cinematic tendencies and visual tricks would destroy the Bond atmosphere. Sherlock Holmes and his dirty London crime flicks, like Snatch and RocknRolla, were developed based on his vision and creativity (and Holmes was a reboot of sorts) whereas Bond has so much in place after fifty years. I think Ritchie is talented and could probably make a pretty thrilling Bond film, but his ingrained nuances are not something that would fly within a Bond flick. His fast-forward/slow-down integration would feel beyond out of place and the pulp fictional style wouldn’t match. Bond always requires a layer of polish, Ritchie’s earlier films are grainy and cloudy while the Holmes films look like dusty storybooks. Bottom line: I can’t see Ritchie adapting well to the franchise and I think the studio will side that way.

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5) Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World)

With Wright at the wheel, Eon Productions would kill two birds with one stone because they’d have a talented scribe as well as a stylish director unified into one individual. However, Wright is partial to original work that he creates and even with script control, there is the potential for studio flare-ups. In addition, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are gruesomely violent and as visual inventive as Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is, a James Bond can never, ever look that that film. Maybe after Ant-Man, Wright will become a much more viable option for a Bond film director, but the studio probably fears a too darkly humorous tone and a lack of box office success with any of his three films is not super reassuring. While I’d personally be interested to view an Edgar Wright Bond film, I wouldn’t be hard pressed for the studio to seek him out because there is more to weigh regarding Wright than one would initially believe.

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Potentials:

1) Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina)

Joe Wright is a skilled filmmaker, there is no doubting this. His films are visual wonders and their picturesque maturity alongside his classical presentation shows his understanding of directorial etiquette. However, I find Wright to struggle as a storyteller. Yes, Pride & Prejudice works but we have Bronte to thank for that; Atonement and The Soloist stink because of their faulty storytelling, the latter especially (Atonement is still a beauty of film despite my issues with it). Why Joe Wright nabs a spot here is because of what he did with Hanna, it’s a highly frenetic flick with heavy stylization and studying it from a director’s standpoint, it’s a wonderfully inspired actioner. If he were to improve his storytelling ability, he would be an ideal choice for a Bond director, but presently we are not at that point just yet.

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2) Joss Whedon (Serenity, The Avengers)

This decision does not come solely from my fond adoration for The Avengers. This pick actually comes from his impeccable skills as a writer. Like another director mentioned farther down on this list, Whedon is an individualized writer with a knack for constructing separate characters with specific attitudes, nuances, personalities, etc. and also adapting to pre-set or predetermined personas, i.e. The Avengers. With the world of Bond consisting of twenty-three movies, that’s a lot to learn from and I think Whedon would adjust to the Bond style quickly and efficiently. As a director, he can direct action (Serenity and Firefly are proof as well) and can make character-driven moment sting with rousing poignancy. Unfortunately, Whedon’s touch might be too light in comparison to the darker tone James Bond has taken recently. If this were forty years ago, amidst Connery’s era, Whedon would be at the top of the list

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3) Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball)

Miller’s filmography is limited, but he’s shown a lot of promise as a filmmaker (he’s also been lucky with some major performers and great scripts). If he brings along Moneyball cinematographer Wally Pfister, we could be seeing another visually spectacular Bond film and Miller’s taut attentiveness and thoughtful pacing could make for a nicely tense Bond adventure. With Moneyball, he showed that he could engage us in intense sports history despite our knowledge of the outcome and with Capote he expressed his understanding of strong central character development and action. I’m very curious to see what a Bennett Miller Bond would feel like but I think before I can push him any further, he needs to up his repertoire. He’s got potential, but he’s a few steps behind having me completely sold.

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4)  Joe Carnahan (Narc, The Grey)

Carnahan isn’t exactly the most consistent director. Now, one could easily argue that Mendes had his ups and down as well (for American Beauty and Road to Perdition there was a Revolutionary Road and Away We Go and Carnahan could easily deliver much like Mendes. Currently, Carnahan is batting a .500 with two very good and two very bad, but all reach their respective extremes. When Carnahan is on point, his films strike hard; Narc is super gritty and dingy with some great coloration and atmospheric work, meanwhile The Grey is an emotional stab to the heart with thrilling and shocking plot progressions and mesmerizing performances. With the ultra-dark take that Bond is taking, Carnahan should not be ruled out as a potential director. The biggest question is whether he will deliver to the best of his ability. With his most recent film being one of the year’s biggest surprises, I’m not super against letting him have a shot.

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5)  Tom Tykwer (Run, Lola, Run, Cloud Atlas)

The other half of the Cloud Atlas directing duo is an ingenuitive and somewhat bizarre filmmaker. His style is adaptable and his eye for tone is notably impressive (he practically directed three thirty minute short films for Cloud Atlas, one being a period drama, the other a pulpy detective tale, and the third a modern day British comedy), but previous films like Heaven and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer are aberrant to say the least and his most popular film, Run Lola Run, is an original work based on a gimmicky narrative trick. He could adequately helm a Bond picture, I’m sure, but whether he’s a particularly strong choice is simply unknown. Like with the rest of these filmmakers in this section, I would not be against seeing a Bond film by them but they being hired has yet to become a must, this holds true for Tykwer. Nonetheless, The International has a breathtaking action sequence incorporating the Guggenheim Museum as the set piece, so at the very least we could anticipate commendable action scenes in a Tykwer Bond.

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Franchise Adapters:

1)  Peter Weir (Dead Poets Society, The Way Back)

An unfairly forgotten filmmaker, Weir’s career has contained some real gems, namely The Truman Show. He’s a crafty filmmaker with an aptitude for jumping from genre to genre. He’s nailed mystery, crime, period, action, and swashbuckler all within solid dramatic proficiency. He’s as diverse as they come and should be high on the actual consideration list. If that’s not enough, he’s a more than competent screenwriter and could easily deliver a usable script. Remarkably, he remains pretty low key even though he’s been nominated for six Oscars. To see him reunite with The Truman Show writer Andrew Niccol for a James Bond movie would be a huge treat. Here’s to hoping he lands on Eon Production’s actual list of candidates.

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2)  Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol)

An up-and-coming master of genre adaptation, most definitely, Brad Bird made a seismic jump from animation to live action with last winter’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and made it prevalent that his understanding of genre construction is top notch. In Pixar-animated classics, Bird captured the essence of action films and Parisian Woody Allen-like romances and transferred them effortlessly to the medium of animation. Then, with something like MI:4 as the first non-animation effort, Bird showed enough promise that I see him as an ideal choice. He revived the seemingly worn out Tom Cruise-led action franchise to where the possibilities connected to a Brad Bird 007 film are exciting. I think it’s very possible that he gets a call to piggyback Mendes and I think he should take it. Studios went home happy with the results of Ghost Protocol and I’d be shocked if they don’t see him as sound Bond director.

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3)  Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper)

Similar to Bird, up-and-coming Rian Johnson is a genre manipulator. With just three feature-length directing credits, Johnson has attempted noir, caper comedy, and sci-fi with winning results. His most recent success, Looper, was an intelligent time travel thriller and saw him working with a relatively large budget, for an independent picture, and big name actors which critics applauded and audiences enjoyed thus bumping up his reputation. In less than two months since that film’s release, I’ve noticed a big growth in his popularity and recognition. I see it as very possible that he gets an offer to take on Bond 24 and declines feeling like he isn’t ready…He’ll be sooner than he realizes.

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4)  David Yates (Harry Potter 5-7)

For those who know my opinions of the Harry Potter films, they may see this inclusion as surprising. Outside of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, I have mostly disliked David Yates’ installments of the franchise. However, where the earlier Chris Colombus entries had a mostly saccharine aura and appearance tonally reminiscent of ABC Family, Yates’ darker adaptations showed some exemplary visual talent. While I never felt fulfilled by his films I have come to admire them at a directorial level, and I could see Yates getting a call because many see him as the reason that the franchise ended so “perfectly.” My overall filmic criticisms aside, Yates does have the capacity to add yet another breath of fresh air into this franchise making sure 007 hits a stride.

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5)  Fernando Meirelles (City of God, Blindness)

Maybe not the most familiar of names, this man directed the near-masterpiece, City of God. That harrowing inside look at the crime world of Brazil would be an impelling and ambitious work for any director, but Meirelles worked it effortlessly and then followed up with the pensive and depressing The Constant Gardener, based on the John le Carre’s original novel. He’s got an aspiring hand behind the camera, but has had two clunkers between Gardner and now. Bond 24 could be Meirelles’ big leap back toward the top, it would remind of Mendes’ own progression to the Bond helm. I think he’d make a fantastic Bond director and could leave an auteuristic mark on the franchise. Plus, he’s already worked with Ralph Fiennes.

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Dream Choices:

1)  Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight Rises)

Maybe this is an easy one. I’ve heard some worry that Nolan may be a questionable direction choice, but I think that the Brit is maybe the only sensible direction to head. Sam Mendes showed major determination behind Skyfall and I think Nolan would put a lot of focus into a Bond film and could really make something bold. Not that Skyfall wasn’t bold, but from someone who created The Dark Knight Trilogy and smart plots for The Prestige and Inception I foresee something unbelievably special. His ideas regarding scope make me feel bad for the director tasked with following a Nolan Bond film. My expectations for a Christopher Nolan James Bond film are possibly outlandish, but I think there’s a stronger possibility of them being met which makes him maybe the best choice to take on Skyfall’s successor.

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2) Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 127 Hours)

A contemporary British filmmaker whose work can be admired again every day, Boyle is one hell of a director. Ventures into horror, uplifting drama, biopics, science fiction, dark drug-induced fever dream, stage work, and even the Olympics, Boyle has got strong visions and innovative ideas filmically and in real life. Speaking of the Olympics, Boyle’s opening ceremony featured a segment with Daniel Craig playing James Bond so it would only make sense to let Boyle continue on to the director’s chair. He’s an Oscar-winning and beloved director who could make a Bond film with lots of visual flair and personality, he could maybe even outdo Mendes. And I wouldn’t mind an A.R. Rahman soundtrack either.

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3) Steven Soderbergh (sex, lies, and videotape, Magic Mike)

In my mind the best American option to direct a Bond film, it kills me to know that a Soderbergh Bond is pretty unlikely because his scheduled retirement is set to begin immediately after the release of Side Effects in early 2013. Soderbergh is an experimenter and had willingly jumped into nearly every genre with mostly positive results. Dirty films like Contagion and Traffic as well as the great, polished Oceans franchise come from Soderbergh, and all of that combined aesthetic is the template for a classic Bond. If he doesn’t stick to his retirement plans (I sincerely hope he doesn’t), Soderbergh should be the highest ranked American director in the running for Bond 24. Remembering the brutality of his recent Haywire and applying that to the Craig Bond of today makes me ever more excited…and then immediately discouraged since Soderbergh’s future as a filmmaker is uncertain.

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4)  Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday, Green Zone)

An accomplished action director, Greengrass’ claim to public fame are the second two entries is the Matt Damon Jason Bourne franchise, but he paralyzed audiences with his gripping Best Director-nominated work for United 93, chronicling the terrors of 9/11 from the point of view of the passengers on United flight 93. He’s big on freneticism, but think about Martin Campbell’s frantic direction of Casino Royale. With enough control, the shaky cam-quick edits formula can work and Greengrass is one of those directors with ample control. I’d be stoked to see a Paul Greengrass-directed James Bond movie.

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5) Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tú Mamá También, Children of Men)

Ironically, I’m not a big fan of the Cuaron movies I’ve seen. Yet, I think that he’s a courageous filmmaker and after his upcoming Gravity he might be the most courageous. He has epic visions and his visual take on material is always impressive which leads me to believe that he could make a wholly unique and original James Bond film. He altered the feel of the Harry Potter films completely and if the producers and studio are willing, Cuaron could assuredly make a very dynamic Bond film.

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Now it’s your turn! Who should direct Bond 24? Sound off below!

Article by Mike Murphy

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