James Bond director: Susanne Bier and other possibilities
John Glen directed every James Bond movie released in the 1980s, from For Your Eyes Only to License to Kill. There were low points (A View to a Kill) and high pointers (The Living Daylights) and points beyond any recognizable human metric of quality (Octopussy). The next time a single director helmed back-to-back 007 movies, it was Sam Mendes, who brought the franchise to new heights of commercial success and critical applause with 2012’s Skyfall. Last year, Mendes delivered Spectre, a crypto-nihilist deathdream which didn’t hit Skyfall numbers and left franchise star Daniel Craig feeling just a touch depressed.
Spectre was by no means a failure — it made $880 million and won this year’s least-deserved Oscar, for best original song — but change comes fast in the world of James Bond. While rumors fly that everyone’s boyfriend Tom Hiddleston will take over the lead role in the next 007 film, a new report from RadioTimes claims that director Susanne Bier is hotly in contention to pick up the mantle from Mendes. Susanne Bier is a Danish filmmaker best known for the Oscar-nominated drama After the Wedding and mid-00s indie Things We Lost in the Fire. Bier is also the director of The Night Manager, the spy miniseries airing on AMC — which stars Tom Hiddleston!
When Mendes took the Skyfall job, he was an award-winning filmmaker who had worked with big-ish budgets. That makes him an unusual specimen. Until the Brosnan era, most Bond movies were directed by franchise lifers like Terence Young, Guy Hamilton, or Glen. Post-Brosnan, Bond directors have careers resembling Bier’s: Michael Apted, Lee Tamahori, and Marc Forster were best known for their work in low-budget independent film before they directed their films. (The results were: Cheesy World is Not Enough, lunatic Die Another Day, and grim Quantum of Solace.)
Bier would, of course, be the first female director to take on a James Bond movie — a potentially thrilling development for a franchise that has continually tried to evolve its gender politics. (Recall Dame Judi Dench, as the new M in GoldenEye, calling James Bond “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur.”) But who else could take Bond in a new direction? Here are some ideas.
An Indian born in Kenya and raised in Southall, Chadha is both a symbol of post-globalized London and one of its great chroniclers. Her last major success on these shores was 2002’s Bend It Like Beckham — one of the best sports movies, period — which invented Keira Knightley and helped launch the demi-Bondian sex symboldom of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. Like Bier, Chadha’s worked steadily and somewhat quietly since her big breakout, currently directing Viceroy’s House with hopeful Jane Bond Gillian Anderson. Chadha checks a lot of typical Bond-director boxes: A journeyman British filmmaker with a distinctive style who could benefit from working on a big-budget, globally recognized brand.
Bond directors don’t tend to be successful feature filmmakers in their own right. In the past, big names like Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, and Christopher Nolan have expressed some combination of casual or serious interest in making a 007 movie. The general rule of thumb is that the Broccoli family, which has owned and operated the Bond franchise as a family business for decades, prefers craftsmen to auteurs. The greatest Bond director of the modern era was Martin Campbell, a TV-directing pro who brought his snazzy professionalism to Goldeneye and Casino Royale. Canadian-born MacLaren is the next great television director to make the jump into feature films; best known for Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, she almost directed Wonder Woman, and her talent for tense thrills would translate nicely to the world of big-screen espionage.
Lesli Linka Glatter
Speaking of espionage: Glatter is American, which almost certainly banishes her from the running, but the frequent Homeland director has helmed many of the standout episode of the Showtime spy serial. Glatter also directed “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency,” one of the only episodes of Mad Men that contains anything resembling an action scene.
Campion wouldn’t be the first New Zealand director to work on the Bond franchise. That honor belongs to Lee Tamahori — so Campion would at least be the first good New Zealand director to work on the Bond franchise. Like Bier, Campion’s a brilliant filmmaker who has found a renewed life in short-form television. Her detective thriller Top of the Lake is one of the great works of the binge era, a six-hour masterwork of secrets and lies. As a bonus, Campion’s involvement would assure that Holly Hunter plays Felix Leiter.
Ana Lily Amirpour
The director of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night was born in England before growing up Stateside, thus satisfying the “British” requirement. Girl was an indie-level success, but Amirpour’s next film, The Bad Batch, could be her breakout — unless “romantic horror starring Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey, and Khal Drogo” isn’t your cup of tea (in which case you need to start drinking some better tea). Most previous Bond directors have worked with at least medium-sized budgets — Forster had helmed the stately Finding Neverland alongside smaller eccentricities like Stay and Stranger Than Fiction — but the Broccolis have made bold “Blond Bond” moves in the past.
Or, like, whatever, they could get a dude to make the movie: Guy Ritchie, Tomas Alfredson, Jaume Collet-Serra, maybe Martin Campbell again, why not. Who would you like to see directing the 25th Bond film?