Two weeks ago, Bond fans were dealt a devastating blow. Danny Boyle, director of Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, and Steve Jobs will no longer be directing the upcoming untitled Bond film.
Boyle would have set a new record for the franchise, three films in a row in which the director at the helm had previously won Best Director at the Academy Awards (the previous two films being directed by Sam Mendes, who won his statue for his directorial debut, American Beauty in ‘99).
With Boyle departing over “creative differences,” the search begins again. So the question is, who is going to direct the next Bond film?
The Pipe Dreams for Bond 25
Let’s get a few names out of the way. These are directors whom everyone seems to want, but directors whom the Broccolis will almost certainly never tap for the job.
Nolan is a talented director, there’s no doubt about it. He’s also the hottest ticket at the moment, and that’s precisely why he will never direct a Bond film. Steven Spielberg once said that he wanted to direct a Bond film before he directed the Indiana Jones series and “now they could never afford [him].” The same is true for Nolan. For his last film, Dunkirk, he received a 20 million dollar salary. He also has unparalleled control over his screenplays, which he often writes. While his affinity for men in tailored suits and exciting action makes him a compelling, mouth-watering choice, his desired control makes him unsuitable for the franchise. What’s more, he already made his Bond film. It was called Inception. And it was pretty good.
If you love Nolan, you probably love Fincher, and you probably tell everyone that Alien 3 is better than you remember (it isn’t). Fincher is another choice that would be too good to be true. For one thing, he’s already collaborated with Daniel Craig in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He’s also a terrific director capable of blending style and substance, and I have no doubt he would take the Bond franchise in a dark, perverted direction. However, like Nolan, his directorial command is too intense for the franchise. Often demanding dozens upon dozens of takes, it’s easy to imagine that a Bond film might slip over budget. What’s more, that last couple of Bond film were saddled with screenplay problems throughout production; it’s hard to imagine Fincher attaching himself to a project without a finished script, and I’m sure his disappointment with Alien 3 has soured his desire to negotiate with a studio.
A personal pipe dream here. Brad Bird is one of the most playful, yet classical directors of the modern era. Though he started in animation, he has handled his foray into live-action filmmaking with a considerable amount of success. His first live-action film, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was a light, breezy action film. And his second feature film, The Incredibles, combined classic superhero tropes and James Bond aesthetics, all the way down to the island lair. However, he recently returned to that world with Incredibles 2, which has already grossed 1.1 billion dollars worldwide. I imagine he’ll search for an original project, since he’s not exactly aching for a hit.
And now, for the real choices…
Chad Stahelski and David Leitch
Stunt performers-turned-directors, these guys worked in the stunt department on such titans as The Matrix series and The Bourne series. They have also become directors of sleek, sexy action shoot-em-ups in their own right. Together, they directed John Wick chapters 1 & 2, which have become fan favorites in recent years. The latter also directed Atomic Blonde, a Cold War espionage movie with some kickass stunt work, which all feels pretty prescient right about now. They have a number of films on their slate at the moment, but I’m sure the Broccolis are considering them nonetheless.
Some of the best directors started out making horror films before blowing up with Hollywood box office success. Steven Spielberg. Peter Jackson. Sam Raimi. Guillermo Del Toro. Fed Alvarez could be next. His remake of The Evil Dead was a gory, pulpy, violent thrill ride, and Don’t Breathe was one of the sleeper hit horror films of its year. He has shown a deft hand behind the camera, and he knows how to milk a scene for every drop of tension. His Bond film would probably lean back to the darker sides of Casino Royale and Skyfall, and that seems to be what audiences want right now. And, like Fincher, he’s also about to tackle his own Lisbeth Salander story with The Girl in the Spider’s Web, set for release this November.
This Korean born director has really exploded in the American cinema scene recently. His Netflix original Okja is a great blend of childhood action and special effects the likes of which we haven’t really seen since E.T. But of course, the action film that most English speakers know him from is Snowpiercer, a tight and exciting piece of work set in a dystopian futuristic train. The man knows how to make action straight-forward, stylish, and engaging. And be honest, you want to see Tilda Swinton as a Bond villain.
Are the Wachowskis overrated or underrated? The answer depends on who you ask. It has been almost 20 years since The Matrix came out and their results as directors have been decidedly mixed. The Matrix sequels were released to mixed to negative reviews, but their follow-up, Speed Racer was originally met with harsh reviews and has since earned a ravenous cult following. Is Cloud Atlas a singular achievement in filmmaking or is it a plodding, pretentious calamity? Was Jupiter Ascending a brilliant subversion of fairy tale tropes or was it another case of disastrous attempts at humor and weak characters? Whatever you think, the Wachowskis are the most controversial directors on this list. They have shown time and time again that they have a unique eye for visuals, and an unconventional approach to gender dynamics, which sets them apart from the other directors in the pack. What’s more, they would be the first women to direct a Bond film, which should not go unnoticed. They would be an unorthodox pick, to be sure, but they also need a win, and James Bond is practically a box office guarantee.
But my choice is…
Mangold has been something of a journeyman director for decades. He received an Oscar nomination for Walk the Line, and he directed the outstanding remake of 3:10 to Yuma, starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, but it was only recently that he seems to have exploded into public recognition with Logan, his second bite at the X-Men apple after the decent, The Wolverine. Logan was a rough, brutal take on the material, that had many fans calling out for a Best Picture nomination. Spectacularly, the film managed a Best Screenplay nomination, and the adoration from the fans has not diminished. Mangold was swiftly picked up by Lucasfilm to direct the Boba Fett movie, but after Solo underperformed, all Star Wars spin-offs were indefinitely postponed. Mangold is currently directing Ford v Ferrari with a scheduled 2019 release date, which would set him up nicely for a 2020 Bond film. I’m not sure what a James Mangold Bond film would look like, but I’m sure it would be devastating. Not a bad choice for a Bond who has been described as a “blunt instrument.” And that’s why he’s my number one choice.
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