Judi Dench and director Sam Mendes on the set of 'Skyfall' (Photo: Columbia Pictures)
Bad news for any of you (and there are a lot of you) who have been referring to "Skyfall" as "the best Bond movie ever."
The Bond franchise suddenly became filmmaker-focused with the release of the 23rd 007 adventure, with director Sam Mendes receiving most of the praise for not only making a much better movie than the disappointing "Quantum of Solace" but for, according to many, setting a new standard of quality for the series. "Skyfall" is not only one of the best-reviewed Bond films ever (it currently holds an astonishing 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) but also the highest-grossing (by far, actually), scoring $304 million at the domestic box office and just shy of $804 million worldwide.
There's no doubt that "Skyfall" is a solid Bond outing, eclipsing its occasional goofiness (the komodo dragon fight is pure '60s Bond), creepiness disguised as eroticism and plot holes the size of tanks with a nuanced performance by Daniel Craig as an aging Bond, a nifty Western vibe and look courtesy of Oscar-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins and a highly amusing turn by Javier Bardem as the flamboyant first cousin of his "No Country For Old Men" character.
Oh, and Sam Mendes kept it all together with a respectable amount of class and skill. No argument there.
It makes sense that MGM would want Mendes back to direct another class act that makes another billion bucks. Bond directors have been known to return for another go-round (heck, John Glen directed five of 'em) and sometimes even end up topping their previous efforts (Martin Campbell's "Casino Royale" is better than "GoldenEye," yes? Yes?).
Mendes came close to signing on to doing Bond 24. "Negotiations" commenced and everything. But it didn't work out, as, apparently, Mendes is a "theatre person," first and foremost.
"It has been a very difficult decision not to accept [Bond producers] Michael [G. Wilson] and Barbara's [Broccoli] very generous offer to direct the next Bond movie," said Mendes in an official statement. "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."
Bond being trumped by Shakespeare is acceptable, but "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"? Maybe we're just still reeling from that freaky monstrosity Tim Burton delivered a few years back.
Wilson and Broccoli have since issued a counter-statement that says there's no hard feelings and the door's always open.
"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."
So that's that. And so who should direct Bond 24? We're sure never-in-a-million-years names like Christopher Nolan and Ridley Scott will now pop up all to and fro, but we'd like to go on record with suggesting, say, Duncan Jones ("Moon") or Danny Boyle ("28 Days Later") ... or, if the producers want to finally let an American take a stab at one of these things, Rian Johnson ("Looper").
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- Sam Mendes