Who will be the next director in the James Bond franchise?

We assess three candidates who may take over from Cary Joji Fukunaga

At least since Daniel Craig announced, in 2019, that No Time To Die was to be his final outing as James Bond, the internet has been ceaseless in its speculation over who will take on the role of Britain’s most lionised spy. Idris Elba, Tom Hardy, Tom Hiddleston and, more recently, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Paul Mescal have been linked to the role, and, in October, 2023, producer Barbara Broccoli told The Guardian: “There’s a big, big road ahead reinventing it [Bond and the franchise] for the next chapter and we haven’t even begun with that.”

The one key question that’s not been addressed in as much detail, however, is that of who exactly will be helming and shaping Bond 26, and, hopefully, for fans' sake, be considered as a contemporary great of the franchise alongside Martin Campbell, Sam Mendes and Cary Joji Fukunaga. Below, we look at the three directors who may be the answer.

The frontrunner: Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan

Image: Getty

Perhaps modern cinema’s leading auteur, Christopher Nolan has true big-screen chops, with a smash-hit CV that mixes styles and narratives the way in which a New York DJ jumbles his tracks: the broody, dark feel of the Batman trilogy, the time- and dimension-stretching dreamscape of Inception, and the large-scale juggernaut project of Oppenheimer.

At this moment, Nolan is probably the biggest-ticket item to be in the director’s chair – and he's also a surefire name to put bums in seats – and, seen in a certain way, his core arsenal (a tendency to chop up time and space; a strong use of Hans Zimmer synths; and a preference to direct on real sets) could be a somewhat safe answer to Broccoli’s wish to reinvent the Bond franchise (just without the envelope being pushed too far). However, even though there were rumours that suggested he’d already agreed to direct the next film or two, he recently said such talk was “Bollocks. Pure bollocks.”

The one to really shake things up: Greta Gerwig

Greta Gerwig

Image: Getty

Nolan’s big box-office rival in summer 2023, Greta Gerwig oversaw one of the largest cultural waves of euphoria and enthusiasm, ever, with Barbie, her high-production, era-defining doll comedy. If Nolan were to give Bond a sort of stylistic evolution, Gerwig’s take would likely be a more holistic upending of the brand as a whole – not only by becoming the first female director in the franchise (one that first began in 1962), but perhaps by also bringing the dialogue up to contemporary standards and smoothing out the knuckle-headed machismo that, historically, has pervaded the films. Having recently shepherded a cast that included Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, et al. Gerwig has the nous to handle big names (and egos), and, to add, the move would seem like a natural (and much-needed) progression for the 007 series, especially given that Phoebe Waller-Bridge worked on the No Time To Die screenplay – only the second woman to be credited on a Bond film script.

However, this could be viewed, especially by die-hard fans, as too left-field, even if the Bond heads want to take things on a different path; the Gerwig canon usually centres on gendered bias and the old-as-time issue of the patriarchy, and, as accomplished as she is in her sphere, and as much as we’d like to see her give things a refreshing spin, such an approach might not sit well with a studio that’s historically leant towards the more traditional.

The artistic one: Denis Villeneuve

Denis Villeneuve with Tanya Lapointe

Image: Getty

If you’ve seen the dusty, cyberpunk stylings of Blade Runner 2049 and the epic medieval-slash-sci-fi scale of Dune, you’ll no doubt know of the breadth – and experimental feel – of Denis Villeneuve’s approach to filmmaking, his set pieces, costumes and dreamscapey scores all blending together, rather harmoniously, to take viewers into his otherwordly vision.

While Nolan would add a blockbuster slant to things, and Gerwig would throw the rulebook out completely, Villeneuve would lend the film a mainstream-meets-arthouse aesthetic – and, for sceptics who, again, might think Bond would be lead down the wrong path, it’s worth noting that Villeneuve also directed Sicario – the gritty 2015 thriller that depicted the bloody violence and wild panic that comes with the Mexican drug cartel – a creation that provides him with plenty of action-thriller kudos. The main thing that may prevent Villeneuve from taking over the double-0 chair is if Dune: Part Two – which will be released in March – proves a massive success, he’ll likely have to settle in for more action on Arrakis in the coming years.

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