007 directors who could save James Bond from post-Sam Mendes gloom

Chris Nolan on the set of ‘Inception’ with Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy (Credit: Warner Bros.)

By Ben Child

The Bond series has always been a producer-driven affair, going back to the 1960s heyday of the suave British super-spy. Production company Eon may have allowed film-makers of the calibre of Marc Forster (’Monster’s Ball’) and Lee Tamahori (’Once Were Warriors’) to take on 007 over the past two decades, but there’s a reason Quentin Tarantino was never hired despite making it clear he would have loved the job. The ‘Pulp Fiction’ director would have delivered a typically eccentric, stridently idiosyncratic take on Her Majesty’s top secret agent, shifting M’s man radically away from the basic Bond blueprint that has worked so well for decades. He would also have made the job impossible for anyone who followed him.

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But it’s arguable everything changed when Eon hired Sam Mendes to take on recent instalments ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Spectre’, as a director with undisputed auteur sensibilities ushered in an almost unprecedented era of spectacular box office returns and high critical praise for the long-running saga. Now a new interview with the current favourite to take over as 007, Tom Hardy, hints the ‘American Beauty’ director might prove just as hard to follow as Tarantino would have been. Asked who he believes should take over from Mendes, Hardy suggests only a film-maker of the calibre of his ‘Dunkirk’ and ‘Inception’ director Christopher Nolan might now be able to take Bond forward.

So is he right, and how does the Dark Knight film-maker stand up to these other potential rivals for the job?

Denis Villeneuve

‘Blade Runner 2049’ director in a room primed for the next shot. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

The Canadian director proved he has the chops to set up blitzkrieg-quick action, not to mention a stylish veneer of cruel intrigue, with 2015’s druggie crime thriller ‘Sicario’. And having signed on to direct the upcoming sci-fi sequel ‘Blade Runner 2049′, it’s clear Villeneuve has no great issue with shooting genre fare. Whether the film-maker would have the industry clout necessary to deliver a genuinely fresh Bond movie at this relatively early stage of his career is open to question. But anyone who’s seen taut kidnapping drama ‘Prisoners’ or mind-expanding alien first encounter flick ‘Arrival’ would love to see him try.

Guy Ritchie

(Credit: Getty)

The ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ director would bring a kinetic energy to the Bond saga not seen since the parkour (and Bourne)-inspired rooftop chase scenes in ‘Quantum of Solace’. He’s also no slouch at resurrecting famous sleuths, as a brace of Robert Downey Dr-led ‘Sherlock Holmes’ movies proved. But 2015’s ‘The Man from UNCLE’ was something of a disappointment, and Ritchie’s pal Henry Cavill is unlikely to get another shot at Bond after signing up to play Superman (not to mention missing out to Daniel Craig in 2005). Besides, Ritchie is a bit busy right now trying to turn ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ into the first of an ambitious six-movie saga about the once and future king of England.

Matthew Vaughn

Matthew Vaughn (Credit: Getty Images)

Ritchie’s old producing chum revealed in 2014 that he was offered the chance to shoot Craig in his 2006 debut as Bond in ‘Casino Royale’, with the pair having just made blokey crime caper ‘Layer Cake’ together. Vaughn ultimately lost out to Martin Campbell for the director’s chair, but has since adapted the spy-themed Mark Millar graphic novel ‘The Secret Service’ for 2015’s well-received ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’. It would also be fascinating to see how the British film-maker’s regular screenwriter Jane Goldman handled the saga’s propensity for casual misogyny. And if producers wanted to send Bond back to the 60s – well, Vaughn has already been there and done that on the comic book reboot ‘X-Men: First Class’.

Susanne Bier

Susanne Bier with the Best Foreign Language Film award, received for ‘In A Better World’ in 2011 (Credit: Getty)

With Tom Hiddleston one of the favourites to take over from Daniel Craig as Bond, who better to reunite with the dapper Englishman than the Oscar-winning Danish director of hit BBC espionage drama ‘The Night Manager’? The critically-acclaimed spy thriller was Hiddleston’s calling card for the role of 007, Bier reimagining the ‘Thor’ star as a surprisingly lethal and merciless operative, a wiry and muscular bad boy spy who doesn’t hesitate for a second when it comes to putting in the dirty work. If Bond’s producers want to take the series into even grimmer territory than the icy secret agent noir of the early Craig era, nobody does it better.   

Paul Feig

Paul Feig (Credit: Getty)

A bit of a wild card this, as Feig loves to work with his favoured troupe of superb female comics – Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy from ‘Bridesmaids’ and the recent ‘Ghostbusters’ remake – and would be unlikely to sign on unless Eon ventured down the ‘Jane Bond’ route. But even with ‘Spectre’ striking a decidedly lighter tone than ‘Skyfall’, there’s been a sense for some time that 007 could do with restoring a little camp 60s silliness to its modus operandi, and who better than the director of the utterly stupendous comic caper Spy? Speaking of which, Jude Law would make a sterlingly snobbish Bond.

Kenneth Branagh

Kenneth Branagh (Credit: Getty Images)

It’s been a long 10 years since the Northern Ireland-born actor and director almost killed his career with an ill-advised remake of the 1972 Michael Caine/Laurence Olivier thriller ‘Sleuth’, this time starring Caine opposite the aforementioned Law. Since then, Branagh has been slowly transformed into one of Hollywood’s safest pair of hands after delivering blockbuster success for comic book epic ‘Thor’ in 2011 and live action fairytale remake ‘Cinderella’ in 2015 – though the small matter of middling 2014 spy thriller ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’ might act as a slight blot on his CV.

Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan (Credit: Getty Images)

And finally to this rundown’s Mr Big. Nolan not only radically transformed Batman on the big screen with his groundbreaking ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy, beginning with 2005’s ‘Batman Begins’, he completely shattered the template for the entire comic book movie genre. Jettisoning fantasy elements in favour of a hard-boiled crime facade, the British-American auteur single-handedly forced Hollywood to take superheroes seriously. His determination to reimagine comic book noir through a widescreen, real world filter inspired actors as rigidly cemented to their art as Christian Bale and Heath Ledger to take on the iconic eternal double act of Batman and Joker (on the spiky, visceral thrill of 2012’s ‘The Dark Knight’), thereby making Hollywood history. Nolan would only need to look to the cast of his cerebellum-bending 2010 sci-fi brain-teaser ‘Inception’ to find the perfect 007 (Hardy), Bond paramour (Marion Cotillard) and villain (Leonardo DiCaprio). The only problem? Nolan is married to studio Warner Bros, and the Bond movies are currently made by Sony and MGM.

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