Having delivered Skyfall in 2012, followed by Spectre in 2015, director Sam Mendes has become synonymous with the James Bond franchise – with many devotees of the character feeling that he has successfully brought a more modern feel to the movie series, which has now been running for over half a century. However, after months of speculation and rumour, Mendes has now essentially confirmed that he will not be returning for the next instalment.
Talking to the press at the UK’s famous annual book festival, held in Hay-On-Wye, Sam Mendes explained that he leaves James Bond with nothing but fond memories.
“It was an incredible adventure – I loved every second of it – but I think it’s time for somebody else. I’m a storyteller, and at the end of the day, I want to make stories with new characters.”
This confirmation means it’s looking increasingly likely that a clean creative sweep is about to take place in the James Bond franchise, with the chances of Daniel Craig returning to the iconic role shrinking by the day. While the next Bond instalment is already in early development, Craig is busy signing on for a number of non-Bond projects.
This turn of events opens up a great opportunity for what has become something of a stagnant property. Bond is undoubtedly a legend, but in this age of superheroes and calls for gender equality on screen, he also something of a relic from a different, more problematic era. This was never more evident than during the promotional tour of Spectre in 2015, when the media celebrated the film’s achievement in including a ‘Bond Girl’ who wasn’t half the age of the leading man (Monica Bellucci). That this was even considered an achievement at all speaks volumes about the nature of the films.
But, perhaps now is the time for a real re-invention. While the current odds are stacking very much in favour of Tom Hiddleston taking over the Bond mantle, this is not confirmed yet. Yes, the Sam Mendes instalments did well at the box office, but imagine how much better these films could do if more of an effort were made to bring the concept into the 21st century. Idris Elba as James Bond would be perfect, as would switching the gender of the character – especially since Gillian Anderson has expressed an interest.
But, even if the casting of the role continues the ‘privileged white man’ tradition with Tom Hiddleston, how about having a woman behind the camera for once? In 50 years and 24 films, there has never been a female director of a James Bond film – and now that Sam Mendes is stepping aside, it’s about time that ridiculous statistic was changed.