Why Sam Mendes will make a third James Bond movie (even if he doesn't know it)
I would like to declare that I don't believe a word of it.
It was absolutely a career transition for Mendes when he took the job making "Skyfall," and he was a surprising choice in many ways. Before he ever broke through as the filmmaker behind "American Beauty," he was already acclaimed for his stage work, and he has continued to return to the theater between film jobs as often as possible. Normally, I'd say, "film is where the money is," but Mendes has been behind some genuinely massive stage successes, including the recent theatrical production of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," which is one of those shows that will play for the next 50 years in various touring productions, lining the pockets of Mendes as well as the Roald Dahl estate.
I have no doubt Mendes is itching to tackle more stage work, and to make some different types of films. But he started something with "Skyfall" that continues quite clearly in "SPECTRE," and my guess is that once he's had time to decompress, he is going to be unable to resist wrapping up the story he began. Try to imagine Christopher Nolan declaring at the end of "The Dark Knight" that he just wasn't going to be doing any more Batman stories. He might full well have meant it at the time, but he wasn't done yet, and I don't think Mendes is, either.
Here's the thing… I'm excited to see "SPECTRE," as I would be for any Bond film, but I am already somewhat frustrated. What we're getting this Christmas is going to very much feel like the first half of a story. Just based on the trailers, it is clear that, yes, we're going to learn how every single one of the Daniel Craig films has been telling one secret story so far, with a puppetmaster behind everything, and we'll learn some of the reason that puppetmaster has been doing everything and who he is. When they originally started talking about this film in the press, John Logan talked about writing two scripts for movies that could be shot back to back. He walked back on that after they turned everything in, and everyone's adamant now that this is the one story they have to tell.
But this is not the conclusion of this story, and Daniel Craig still has one more movie on his contract after this. They essentially set things up in "SPECTRE" for the next movie to work as both a new story that wraps up the bad guy story from this film as well as a quasi-remake of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," and if they go for it and fulfill all the narrative promises that "SPECTRE" and "Skyfall" have made, then that next film will be a fitting farewell for Craig.
I find it hard to believe that Mendes is going to avoid this one. He's the David Yates of this series. More than that, though, he's one of the biggest name directors to ever step into the series. Traditionally, the Bond films were not directed by superstars. It was not a series that attracted big names. Steven Spielberg famously tried to make one, only to get rebuffed because he wasn't English. Thank god, because that's why we have "Raiders Of The Lost Ark," but that is a great example of the way the Broccolis, aka EON Productions, have typically thought of the filmmakers they hired. Even when they brought Martin Campbell in for "Casino Royale," I saw that as them coming back to someone who they knew would do what they asked. I'm always amazed when people consider Campbell as a director with any sort of signature or voice. But hiring Marc Forster after that was a very different choice. I don't think Forster is a particularly strong filmmaker, but he was highly in-demand when they brought him on for "Quantum Of Solace."
And then hiring Mendes for "Skyfall" was such a huge out-of-character move for the producers that it really did feel like a sea change, like they were trying something totally different. "Skyfall" divided viewers, but I thought it was a lovely classing up of the formula, and it may be the single most visually ravishing film of the series.
It's going to be interesting to see if this is just a case of a director using the press to negotiate his fee for a sequel, or if this is a filmmaker feeling burnt out at the end of a giant production. I don't think people understand quite what sort of exhaustion sets in while you're making these giant franchise movies. When you're making a sequel to something that was successful, the pressure is increased exponentially, and so is the scale of everything. Mendes has got to be feeling it right now, and when you factor in the return of SPECTRE to the franchise, something that both producers and fans have been hoping for, this is one of those moments where it's got to be almost overwhelming trying to get it all right.
Mendes says we'll hear the new theme song very soon, and the film will be in UK theaters on October 26th before arriving here in the US on November 6.