Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Mendes turns down next Bond film. Is Mr Nolan available? Reygadas?

The Oscar-winning director of American Beauty is standing down from Bond duties. The fans will surely cry out for Chris Nolan. Maniacs want Carlos Reygadas.

Wed, Mar 6, 2013, 19:57


During interviews leading up to the release of Skyfall, Sam Mendes had suggested that — should the film be a success — he could be persuaded to return for the next 007 adventure. “If people love the movie and they want to see another one from the same people who brought you Skyfall, then that would mean a lot to me,” he said. He now seems to have had second thoughts. Skyfall is the biggest film ever in the UK. It was the second biggest film worldwide in 2012. It is currently the seventh most successful film in the worldwide all-time chart. It secured very enthusiastic reviews. So, whatever Sam’s problem is, it can’t have much to do with the the film’s performance. It seems (and there’s no reason to doubt him) that he’s returning to the theatre, darling. “Directing Skyfall was one of the best experiences of my professional life, but I have theatre and other commitments that need my complete focus over the next year and beyond,” Sam told our friends at Empire magazine.

Mendes has had a peculiar movie career since winning that Oscar for American Beauty. None of the films that followed has been an unalloyed success with critics or audiences: Road to Perdition (lovely, but alienating), Jarhead (a boring film about a boring life), Revolutionary Road (a mild travesty of its source material), Away we Go (I liked it more than most, but most really despised it). Taking Skyfall was a risky business. It looked a little as if he was running cap-in-hand towards the mainstream. Pulling the project off has, however, done nothing to damage his standing. He is probably back to where he was after American Beauty: he could make anything he likes. But it seems he wants to do stupid plays.

More intriguingly, the deal has put the Bond people in a strong position when they go scouting around for another director. To this point, top-flight film-makers have been wary of the franchise. True, Michael Apted directed an episode. But, for the most part, it’s been journeymen such as Roger Spottiswoode, John Glen or Lee Tamahori. Now, they can hope to grab hold of somebody hot and tasty. Quentin Tarantino has long expressed interest, but he would be unlikely to play it by the style book. Joss Whedon and J J Abrams are both a wee bit busy at present. Who might they grab?

One trusts they won’t reach for the newest middle-ranking British success. I got along all right with The King’s Speech. But I don’t really want to see a Bond film by Tom Hooper. Danny Boyle makes a great deal more sense. Moreover, he might actually be interested. If they were shooting for the moon — and allowing in Americans — they might consider somebody like Michael Mann. After the weird (but definitely interesting) take on Miami Vice, James Bond would be a step up.

Oh, come on. We all know damn well who the producers want and who the fans crave. Around the time of Inception, Christopher Nolan made it very clear that he was a major Bond fan. Indeed, that picture features a conspicuous tribute to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Unfortunately, he has just committed himself to a new science fiction film entitled Intersellar. That film is, however, due to open in November 2014. It’s  not inconceivable that he could shoot a Bond film for release the following year. But would he want to? He’s just come off one huge franchise, after all.

I’ve got an idea. How about Carlos Reygadas, director of terrifyingly off-beam art films such as Japon, Battle in Heaven and the upcoming Post Tenebras Lux. As it happens, he is here, at the other end of my Skype machine. I’ll ask him.

“Ha ha ha! That depends on the pay,” he says. “To be honest, it’s really a different job. I would be useless. It’s like me asking you to play in a football team. Even if they paid you, you might not be very good. It’s not your trade.”