Which director should take the helm on James Bond now?

Now that Danny Boyle has walked out of filming, there’s a vacancy in the chair. We suggests six candidates – and asks whether their 007 will leave us shaken or stirred

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The future of the James Bond franchise was thrown into chaos last week when director Danny Boyle, who was in charge of both writing and directing the forthcoming 25th 007 film, left the project due to “creative differences” just as the movie was due to start shooting in early December.

The departure was announced on the official James Bond Twitter account, and immediately, the rumour mill went into action. What had happened? Who would be taking over? When would the film go into production now? What about the November 2019 release date? What would happen to Boyle’s script? Will Daniel leave now, too? 

Will Daniel leave now too? 

One of the earliest rumours to spread was that Daniel Craig, who plays the British spy, would be leaving Bond, too. Craig has already played the spy four times, and has made no secret of his desire to depart the franchise after this, his final contractual film. This new delay could push production back by as much as a year. Would the actor take the opportunity to jump ship during the turmoil?

This seems unlikely – the official statement was very clearly attributed to producers Michael G Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and Craig, suggesting he was very much part of the decision, not a victim of it. Nothing has happened in the days since to suggest Craig is going anywhere, and reports from the Bond camp indicate that the new movie will be in every sense a big send-off for one of the most successful Bonds ever – who wouldn't stick around for his own leaving party?

What about Boyle's script?

Next came Boyle's script. When the Trainspotting director agreed to take on the project, he insisted on casting aside the existing material by Bond mainstays Neal Purvis and Robert Wade in favour of what he had created with his close friend and Trainspotting collaborator John Hodge. Rumour has it that Boyle had wanted to make his own movie, rather than a traditional Bond film, perhaps even killing Bond off. This seems feasible – with 24 films already made in the franchise, Bond is something of a cinematic monolith, while Boyle is not a man known for taking orders. The "killing Bond off" rumour seems to have been off target, however. Sources close to the movie suggested on Sunday that, in fact, the producers wanted to kill Bond as part of Craig's farewell, and Boyle found the idea "ridiculous."

The Telegraph, on the other hand, has claimed that the fall-out came because of Boyle's insistence on casting little-known festival darling Tomasz Kot (Cold War, Gods) as the movie's main, Russian, baddie. Craig reportedly wanted someone higher profile. It seems a trivial thing to walk out over, but stranger things have happened.

We may never know the exact details behind the rift, but what we do know is that someone will be taking over. Here are some of the names we think should be in the frame.

Christopher Nolan

Who is he? Nolan surely needs little introduction, having directed the smash hit Dark Knight trilogy for Warner Bros, as well as his own hits, such as the dream-bending Inception (below) and the gripping war film Dunkirk.

Does he fit the bill? He's English, he's a genius, and he knows how to fill seats without dumbing down. Many would love to see Nolan in the job.

What could we expect? Something dark and brooding, probably with far more levels than is really necessary. Is Bond perhaps a construct of his own fevered imagination? Nolan's version would most likely make Quantum of Solace look like a My Little Pony movie.

Is it likely? Probably not. Like Boyle, Nolan is a man who likes to make his own films. He did have huge success with his Batman trilogy, but he was granted total creative control on that project, something Bond's trustees are clearly not willing to give.

Yann Demange

Who is he? Demange is an up-and-coming director whose debut feature '71 was a minor success, and who is about to hit the Hollywood big-time with second film White Boy Rick, with Matthew McConaughey in the lead, which will debut at Toronto International Film Festival next month.

Does he fit the bill? Although born in Paris to a French mother and Algerian father, Demange picks up bonus Bond points for having lived in London since the age of 2. He has proved his mettle with the intense Northern Irish struggles drama '71. He was also declared "favourite" to take over by British newspaper The Guardian over the weekend.

What could we expect? It's hard to say with too much certainty, having only seen one Demange movie previously. That film was tense, high on drama and action and eminently watchable. His Bond would likely be similar, though more in line with the producers' requirements than a name like Nolan or Boyle could demand. He'd be the Casino Royale choice.

Is it likely? It's possible, though you do wonder if Demange may be a little wet behind the ears for producers. Recent directors have included big names and Oscar winners such as Marc Forster, Sam Mendes and even Boyle. Would the Bond team take a chance on such a relative newcomer in such trying circumstances?

Ron Howard

Who is he? Howard is Hollywood's current go-to director for rescuing troubled projects, having stepped in to steady the Star Wars ship on Solo after it lost two directors. He also directed big hits Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind.

Does he fit the bill? He has a reputation as a steady hand, which could be exactly what the project needs if it is to meet the 2019 release date.

What could we expect? Solid fare. Reliable. He'd take the producers' vision and deliver it in a no-nonsense fashion. Probably something akin to Spectre, which was high-octane, expensive, the longest Bond film to date at 148-minutes, but still kind of … average.

Is it likely? Not greatly. Bond has traditionally leaned towards British directors, and his last emergency repair wasn't exactly an unqualified success – Solo was the lowest-grossing Star Wars movie of the Disney era to date.


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Spike Lee

Who is he? Political firebrand and civil rights champion, Lee has been conveying a message for three decades with films like Do the Right Thing  and Malcolm X. His critically acclaimed BlacKkKlansman (below) is currently in cinemas.

Does he fit the bill? He'd certainly be an interesting choice, and with the current lean towards increasing diversity in Hollywood, not to mention the rumours of Idris Elba taking on Bond post-Craig, a black Bond director would be a powerful message.

What could we expect? Something the likes of which we have never seen before. Bond takes on civil rights, goes rogue, and assists the #BlackLivesMatter movement against the direct orders of his superiors. Craig's Bond ends the film sitting on a Brooklyn porch with his replacement, Elba's Bond, discussing how the character can effect deep institutional change in future films.

Is it likely? Not really. The producers seem to be in "don't rock the boat" mode after having their fingers burnt by Boyle. Appointing Lee wouldn't be so much rocking the boat as wilfully capsizing it. It would be great to hear Bond say "yo, the name's Bond," though.

Hany Abu Assad

Who is he? Twice Oscar-nominated Palestinian director Assad is the director of Omar and Paradise Now. He recently got his Hollywood debut with the Idris Elba and Kate Winslet film The Mountain Between Us (above).

Does he fit the bill? He'd certainly bring some regional interest to proceedings, and his relationship with Elba from his previous movie could stand him in good stead for future Bonds.

What could we expect? Another relative unknown. His previous Arabic efforts suggest we could expect some light humour despite challenging situations. An Assad Bond would definitely be an outlier, something along the lines of On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Is it likely? Probably not. His Hollywood debut, while not a disaster, was met with critical indifference and box office mediocrity. Maybe in the future.

Daniel Craig

Who is he? He is Bond, James Bond.

Does he fit the bill? He knows the franchise inside out. The crew reportedly loved Boyle and Hodge's script, aside from the "creative differences," so who better to bring it to the screen than someone already intimately familiar with it? And who better to take the helm of his own Bond swansong?

What could we expect? Surely if anyone can deliver the perfect Daniel Craig finale, it's Craig himself? He has been involved with the franchise in some capacity since as early as 2004, when Pierce Brosnan stepped down, and officially since October 2005, when Bond's producers finally made the announcement official (Craig made his own unofficial announcement in May 2005, though Eon Productions insisted they hadn't approached him). We'd get Bond, by Bond. A kind of a meta-Bond.

Is it likely? It's not as unlikely as it might sound. Craig's already a producer on the movie, and although he'd be a directing debutante, he'd have an experienced team around him that he already knows like family. It could be the movie's best chance of starting shooting in December and releasing as planned. Don't write the idea off.