The will-he-won't-he dance between Sam Mendes and the James Bond franchise continues. After the Oscar-winning director steered "Skyfall" to the best critical and commercial returns of the series' 50-year history, it was obvious that the producers would want him to remain on board for the next entry. At one point, it seemed that could be the case: in November, screenwriter Robert Wade hinted that Mendes had devised a plot for the next film with co-writer John Logan, while at last month's BAFTA Awards, sound mixer Scott Milan suggested the director "might" return. 

Mendes himself put an end to the speculation three weeks ago, saying that it had been a "difficult decision" to turn down Bond 24, but that his theatrical work in particular -- including West End productions of "King Lear" and a "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" musical -- made it impossible for him to take the gig.

That's not to say, however, that he won't return -- and producer Barbara Broccoli seems bullishly confident that they haven't seen the last of the "American Beauty" helmer. "We haven't given up hope," she told Getty News. "Maybe not for the next one, but we will get him back again. We are working on him. We hope that maybe he will have gotten inspired to come back." 

Mendes himself, meanwhile, has admitted that that he's "left the door open" for a return to the series, but that he'd need to come back with a fresh perspective. "I've never really repeated myself, done the same type of movie one after the other," he said. "So just give me a chance to think about what I actually want to say."

Seems sensible enough. As much as I liked Mendes's work on "Skyfall" -- which repaid him with arguably the most acclaim and accolades he's received for a film since his award-guzzling debut, including the first BAFTA win of his career -- I'm not sure getting locked into a blockbuster franchise, however classy, is the best use of his time and talent. Most of Mendes's post-"Beauty" prestige projects haven't quite panned out the way they should have, but I'd still love to see him make a film closer to his stage work in terms of style and material. 

The question now, of course, is who directs the next one. Will the producers continue to chase counterintuitive choices like Mendes and "Quantum of Solace" director Marc Forster, or return to a genre journeyman like Martin Campbell, who has twice reinvigorated the franchise with "GoldenEye" and "Casino Royale?"

Joe Wright, a suitably high-end name who proved his action chops with "Hanna," would make a lot of sense as Mendes's successor. On the other end of the scale, an up-and-comer like Eran Creevy (an indie graduate who has won some admiration for his slick London cop thriller "Welcome to the Punch") could inject some younger energy into 007. Who would you like to see take on Bond 24? Tell us in the comments.