With the hotly anticipated release of the latest Bond movie Spectre on the horizon and director Sam Mendes again claiming that it’ll be the last movie of the franchise that he will direct, I’ve taken it upon myself to make compile a shortlist of potential directors that can take the series beyond 2015.
Obviously, shortlisting candidates for such a hugely important role comes with a series of restrictions that I have aimed to honour to the best of my abilities here, the most important of which being that the director be from the “commonwealth” of the United Kingdom as has been the tradition throughout Bond’s history (excluding half German and half Swiss director Marc Forster who directed 2008’s Quantum of Solace). Even with such a restriction I am sure you’ll find the candidates on this list to be more than capable of fulfilling their role and you never know… I may even help you to get excited for life after Mendes! So let’s get down to it…
The son of legendary music artist David Bowie is more than a talent in his own right, with Moon (2009) and Source Code (2011) being hugely successful movies with critics despite their modest budgets. With a World of Warcraft movie adaptation named Warcraft set for 2016, Jones is going to have the opportunity to really prove his action-movie directorial chops, though his pacing and organisation of set pieces have already been proven with a heap of critical praise for his work on his previous titles, something that would undoubtedly fit the developing Bond franchise. His inexperience (two features) may hold him back in this case, but there’s no doubting that it’d be interesting to see how the 44 year old handles a franchise as big as Bond, and what changes he may bring to the table.
When shortlisting any list of British or British Commonwealth film directors, Christopher Nolan is almost always the first name on my list, as I am sure he is for many others. But, far from his name recognition and his obvious talents in the director’s chair, Nolan is a man who has already reinvigorated a franchise (Batman in the Dark Knight trilogy) and has worked extensively at Pinewood Studios where Bond is staged and filmed. Perhaps most importantly, Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan have garnered a reputation for themselves as screenwriters and producers too, making them a perfect fit for the mostly independently produced and funded franchise that they’d be stepping into. While detractors of Nolan would suggest that Bond is no place for twist endings or over-complicated plots, and some would suggest that the director’s storytelling success has waned since 2008’s The Dark Knight (something I largely disagree with), there’s no doubting that Nolan’s credentials in both the independent movie scene and the action franchise scene have made him a top candidate for as a replacement for the outgoing Sam Mendes, and therefore the first name on this list.
The director of Academy Award nominated The Theory of Everything (2014/15) and the Academy Award winning documentary Man On Wire (2008) has proven time and time again that he’s great at working with material that’s character driven, as Bond has become in recent years. Though his filmography reads as a mismatch between hugely successful and influential pieces and often forgotten independents, and he’s rarely tackled action as a genre nor proven he has the organisational skills required to successfully manage set pieces and so on, Marsh has proven he has the kind of love for Queen and country that motivates Bond and usually makes for a few clever quips aimed at Bond’s American counterparts through his direction of The Theory of Everything, the celebration of a British national hero. While Marsh may be considered an outsider in the race for the seat, there’s no doubting that he would be a respectable enough figure to continue the franchise beyond this year.
The director of Kick-Ass (2010) and X-Men: First Class (2011) has two huge tricks up his sleeve with regard to securing the director’s chair on Bond post-Mendes. The first is that he’s already worked closely with star Daniel Craig on 2004’s Layer Cake in which Craig starred as the main protagonist. The second is that he’s proven his ability to not only make a fantastic action movie, but also a hugely British one too, Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015). With screenwriting experience and no new movies on the horizon it seems like the 44 year old could be a perfect candidate for the director’s chair, though detractors would comment on his relatively mediocre success (in comparison to his compatriots listed here) and the fact that he’s worked almost exclusively with adapted material, the large majority of which has come from another visual medium, comic books, as reasons he shouldn’t take over the franchise at this point in his career. Though much remains to be seen, there’s very little doubt that Vaughn will be considered next time if he isn’t after Spectre.
The director of Hunger (2008), Shame (2011), and 12 Years A Slave (2013), may be the most unlikely name to accept the role of Bond director of all of the people on this list due to his artistic nature and history of tackling genre pieces. But, there’s no doubting that if McQueen was to get his hands on the franchise, we’d likely see something that we’ve never seen before from 007, with the character of James Bond as a man coming to the forefront of the series as we head into yet another decade of most people’s favourite spy. Though his style is a dominating factor of the pictures he directs and he’s yet to tackle an action movie (or spy thriller for that matter), McQueen’s impeccable pacing and undoubted talent would surely make him one of the top names on any fantasy shortlist of James Bond directors.
If ever the Bond producers wanted to turn its dark and dramatic themes into something just as dark but a little more humorous, then Martin McDonagh would be their man. The director of critically acclaimed movies In Bruges (2008) and Seven Psychopaths (2012) has proven he has an eye for almost unparalleled wit and can certainly master a gun fight or two, too. Holding him back would be his relative lack of experience and the countless fans who’d rather not see McDonagh-favourite Colin Farrell, but on the surface McDonagh seems like a smart fit for a direction shift in the Bond franchise.
Paul Greengrass is just about as long of a shot as anyone on this list. After all, why would the Bond franchise turn to the mastermind behind the two better Bourne movies (Supremacy and Ultimatum) that had many industry experts writing obituaries for our favourite British spy? What’s worse is that the director is set to return to Bourne with a release set for 2016. Even so, there’s little doubt that Greengrass is one of the best thriller directors in the game at the minute and his proven ability at the helm of an action/spy based project is unparalleled. Though his appointment as director is unlikely, Greengrass is surely a name that any creative team of producers would throw around in their discussion for a new Bond director.
Honourable Mentions: Danny Boyle, Edgar Wright, Kenneth Branagh, Guy Ritchie.
Hooper is a critically acclaimed director whose work on The King’s Speech (2010) and Les Misérables (2012) was celebrated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in their respective years, making him (at 42 years old) one of the top directors of his generation. In Les Mis, the director proved his ability to direct well put together fighting sequences, something the Bond franchise clearly requires, and his work on character development specifically in The King’s Speech makes for good reading for any expectant Bond fan. His handling of national identity and patriotism in The King’s Speech is also something that would lend itself to a successful venture in the Bond franchise for this director. He’s even free, as far as we know, after The Danish Girl is released later this year.