I would have named a hundred directors more likely than Sam Mendes, the auteur of such lyrical masterpieces as American Beauty, Road to Perdition and Revolutionary Road to take helm on a James Bond picture but The Hollywood Reporter say it's true, and I couldn't be more delighted to report it. Despite earlier reports to the contrary, Bond 23 is being fast-tracked for a possible June start with an expected release next year. Sony don't seem to care that distributors MGM are up for sale, and are going ahead with the movie anyway though I'm not sure how that could be possible? I'm not a legal expert though and if THR say it's on, I guess it's on. Mendes is in deep negotiations to direct and if the contracts are indeed signed - he will become the first Oscar winner to helm a James Bond movie. I would wager he is also the biggest director ever attached to the franchise? The prospective hiring certainly marks a shift in mentality for the Bond producers as they infamously turned down the likes of top-drawer talent such as Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino over the years to go for safer "yes man" helmers, who weren't likely to question the producers tight-nit requirements of what a James Bond movie should be. Why now, in 2010 and after 23 movies do they go with someone like Mendes who is uncomprising and wouldn't have signed on unless he got exactly his way to tell the story he wanted to tell? Well the answer is simple... Marc Forster's fairly radical (personally I believe the most kick-ass Bond movie of all time) and fast-paced Quantum of Solace didn't get the universal love Casino Royale won with the public and producers Wilson and Broccoli probably felt they had to get an A-team in to get the character back on track. Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) last year stepped forward to help franchise writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, and now comes one of the top two Brit helmers (Chris Nolan the other) working at the peak of their game today, to direct. I've criticised Sony and MGM for well over a decade for their desire to overlook top industry talent but today they really came through and have surprised us all. I just wonder how much influence star Daniel Craig had on proceedings? Did he suggest Mendes to the producers after remembering fondly his time on Road to Perdition?
Let's hope the proposed June start date becames a firm one, and we can get cracking with a title, a cast and an idea of what places the next movie is going to take our more damaged, and more interesting than ever 007.