The most important hire in the making of a James Bond movie is the casting of 007 himself, but the second most important is choosing a director. To pull off a great Bond movie, a filmmaker needs to have a fundamental understanding of what makes the character and his stories work, a unique take on the familiar formula, and most importantly, experience with directing action.
When a new Bond movie is in development, the first few choices for the director’s chair might turn down the job, or suffer from creative differences with the producers.
Updated on October 9th, 2021 by Colin McCormick: James Bond fans can finally rejoice with the release of No Time to Die. Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007 had a lot of trouble getting to theaters including some director shakeups. It gets fans thinking about the Bond movies that might have been with some big-name filmmakers coming close to joining the franchise in the past. And of course, even with a new movie just hitting theaters, it’s hard not to look to the future and wonder what directors might take on Bond someday.
Following the poor reception of Die Another Day, the Bond franchise was certainly looking for a way to add some new energy into the franchise. Interesting, Quentin Tarantino came close to being the director to do so.
Tarantino reportedly met with the producers about an idea of adapting the first Bond movie, Casino Royale, and setting it in the 60s but with Pierce Brosnan returning as Bond. The producers instead decided to replace Brosnan and make Casino Royale with Martin Campbell directing.
Looking at Chloé Zhao’s past movies, big-budget franchises wouldn’t seem to be in her future. However, her brilliant work in The Rider and the Best Picture-winning Nomadland certainly cemented her as one of the most important filmmakers right now.
Zhao is now subverting expectations by jumping into the MCU to direct Eternals. She seems to be blending her naturalistic and indie filmmaking sensibilities with a blockbuster story. This is certainly an interesting new direction for Marvel and it could be a fascinating way to approach Bond as well.
Steven Soderbergh is an incredibly versatile filmmaker with a wide range of movies throughout his career. He has directed indie dramas like Sex, Lies, and Videotape, fun capers like Ocean’s Eleven, and intense thrillers like Contagion. But to see him step into a Bond movie would have been exciting.
Soderbergh confirmed that he was approached to direct a Bond movie which would have seemed to be during the Daniel Craig era. While Soderbergh admitted to being a fan of the franchise, disagreements over the direction of the movie caused him to walk away.
Bong Joon-ho may have been introduced to most American audiences with his Oscar-winning movie Parasite, but he has long established himself as one of the 21st century’s best filmmakers. He is another versatile talent whose movies like Memories of Murder and The Host show his distinct style in very different stories.
Joon-ho also has a talent for grounded dark humor in his movies that helps with his very intense stories. For him to bring the suspense and thrills he delivered in Parasite to a Bond movie would be a real treat for fans and something very new for the franchise.
After the success of Dr. No made a Bond franchise viable, the producers were quick to start work on a sequel, From Russia with Love. According to Jalopnik, at one point in the movie’s development, Alfred Hitchcock was reportedly interested in directing.
According to Collider, he was also later considered to direct Thunderball. Hitchcock is responsible for some of the greatest spy movies ever made, from Notorious to North by Northwest, so it would be interesting to see what he would’ve done with a Bond movie.
Having won the hearts of millions of fans with the genre-lampooning Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy and proven himself as an action director with Baby Driver, Edgar Wright is a no-brainer to direct a Bond movie.
After Danny Boyle quit No Time to Die, Wright was on the studio’s shortlist to replace him. As long as studio problems don’t arise as they did with Ant-Man, Wright could turn out a fantastic Bond film.
Steven Spielberg was one of the first directors considered for The Spy Who Loved Me. According to The Independent, he’d always wanted to direct a Bond movie and even asked the producers for the opportunity. However, the producers had cold feet due to Spielberg’s lack of filmmaking experience (at the time) and the director already had his hands full with the pre-production on Jaws, so it didn’t happen.
Spielberg later teamed up with George Lucas on Raiders of the Lost Ark because he saw it as an opportunity to create an American answer to James Bond.
After directing two Mission: Impossible movies, and currently working on another two back-to-back, Christopher McQuarrie might not be interested in helming a Bond movie. A director can only make so many espionage-themed blockbusters before wanting a change of pace.
In any discussion of the greatest action filmmakers of all time, John Woo is likely to be one of the first names to come up. According to The Guardian, early in development on GoldenEye, the 007 producers wanted to hire Woo to direct, as the early drafts had a crazy number of action sequences and they wanted someone who could handle non-stop visceral action.
Based on Hard Boiled, The Killer, and A Better Tomorrow, Woo was more than qualified. Although he was honored to be offered a Bond movie, Woo turned down the offer. The action scenes from the early drafts ended up being peppered throughout Pierce Brosnan’s subsequent Bond movies.
Throughout the 2010s, Lynne Ramsay quietly emerged as one of the greatest filmmakers working today. Ramsay’s dark, character-focused movies like We Need to Talk About Kevin have proven her to be a formidable cinematic force.
According to Warped Factor, having been a huge fan of Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, Barbara Broccoli was eager to hire him to direct The World is Not Enough. However, when she saw Jackson’s supernatural comedy The Frighteners, she turned against his directorial style and changed her mind.
Before Michael Apted was eventually hired to helm the project, Gremlins director Joe Dante was considered for the job.
After he delivered genre thrills and shocking plot twists while keeping the tone grounded in Widows, there’s no doubt that Steve McQueen could make an incredible James Bond movie.
McQueen’s introspective look at flawed characters could deconstruct the Bond mythos in a way that the outdated franchise is desperately crying out for.
Daniel Craig’s final Bond film, No Time to Die, which was due to be released this April before the coronavirus pandemic pushed it back a few months, was initially set to be directed by Danny Boyle.
Boyle later quit the project due to creative differences with the producers and he was replaced by True Detective’s Cary Fukunaga.
Denis Villeneuve is one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. His movies like Sicario and Blade Runner 2049 have been met with huge acclaim. He is also helming one of the most anticipated movies of the year with Dune.
Villeneuve has a talent for making engrossing movies that grab the audience’s attention from beginning to end. It would be great to see him put those skills to work on a big-budget spy thriller like Bond. And with Villeneuve being very vocal about his desire to make a Bond movie, it feels like a very real possibility.
Christopher Nolan’s latest movie, Tenet, is a spy thriller, and it looks like it’ll give fans an idea of how a James Bond movie directed by Nolan might play out. Fans also got a glimpse at what a Nolan-helmed 007 set piece would look like with the snowbound shootout in Inception.
But it would be terrific to see Nolan being given carte blanche and IMAX cameras by the Bond producers to go wild with a standalone masterpiece hitting the familiar beats while having a larger Nolan-esque sense of profundity.
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