With Sam Mendes out, who should be the next choice to be the new James Bond director?

Daniel CraigIt’s safe to say that after making “Skyfall” — what a lot of fans are proclaiming to be the best James Bond film yet that Sam Mendes is leaving the franchise in far better condition than when he found it.

Mendes humored interviewers who asked if he’d be up for another Bond adventure, even though he’d repeatedly said he was moving on after “Skyfall,” but finally ended months of speculation with this statement:

It has been a very difficult decision not to accept Michael and Barbara’s very generous offer to direct the next Bond movie. 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.

It doesn’t sound like he’s departing on bad terms so maybe he’ll return for another Bond film in the future? In the meantime, there’s the little matter of “Skyfall’s” follow-up, which will be tough for any director attempting to fill Mendes’ shoes, both from a critical/audience  and financial perspective. “Skyfall” is the 15th film and sixth non-3D film to reach the $1 billion mark. Here’s some intriguing options for consideration:

Brad Bird and Tom Cruise on Mission Impossible Ghost ProtocolBrad Bird – “The Incredibles” and “The Iron Giant” director took his first stab at live-action directing Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg in the well-received “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.” The stunts, particularly the film’s signature scene featuring Cruise scaling the Buri Khalifa tower – the world’s tallest building – were tremendous. The “Mission: Impossible” films are almost like a starter kit for a James Bond movie and Bird would have an easy transition were he tabbed to replace Mendes.

JJ Abrams with Tom Cruise for Mission Impossible 3J.J. Abrams – Granted, he’s probably a little busy handling that small budget indie film “Star Wars: Episode VII,” but Abrams doesn’t tend to stay pat on franchises and if the Bond crew can wait, Abrams no doubt would deliver a great Bond film. Like Bird, he’s already got some familiarity with the secret agent world directing my favorite of the “Mission: Impossible” films with 2006’s “Mission: Impossible III.”

Paul Greengrass and Matt DamonPaul Greengrass – Greengrass and Matt Damon forced the Bond franchise to reinvent itself with Daniel Craig as a more rough and rugged Bond after their Bourne trilogy so he would have no trouble adapting his Bourne action-philosophy and bringing it to Craig’s Bond.

Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale on The Dark Knight RisesChristopher Nolan – Nolan hasn’t made a bad movie and with a widely vivid imagination as evidenced in films like “Inception” and an ability to craft memorable villains (see any of his Batman trilogy) he would arguably make for the best choice to handle the Bond franchise. And heck, if Craig gets tired of the role, Nolan can have his frequent collaborator Christian Bale take a turn as Bond.

Kathryn Bigelow at The Hurt LockerKathryn Bigelow – Anyone who doubts she could handle the franchise should just watch the last 30-minutes of “Zero Dark Thirty,” a gripping, tense segment that hints at what she could do with a full-scale action movie. She may consider the Bond franchise a bit beneath her, but she’d be a fascinating choice.

Who’d you like to see get a chance at the Bond franchise?

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