As the theatrical premiere of The Dark Knight Rises draws closer, Chris Nolan is making the rounds to promote his third (and presumably final) entry in the Batman movie franchise. With his tale of the Dark Knight’s rise, fall, and re-rise almost concluded, inquiring minds are looking to hear what Nolan has in store next.

Today we learn that the acclaimed writer/director still has another heroic character on his filmmaking wish-list (James Bond), while a biopic about a real-life man of wealth and obsession (Howard Hughes) seems to have slipped through his fingers.

The news comes from a recent issue of Empire Magazine focusing on The Dark Knight Rises (where we also learned that the studio wanted Leo DiCaprio to play The Riddler). In the article, Nolan reportedly reiterrates a claim he made about two years ago while promoting Inception, in which he expressed interest in directing a James Bond movie, as he is a longtime fan of the character.

Here’s what Nolan is saying now about taking on the James Bond franchise: “It would have to be the right situation and the right time in their cycle of things.”

That comment is (once again) setting off a flurry of debate. Personally speaking, I maintain my position of two years ago: Having a Nolan-directed James Bond film could result in a sort of suspenseful and thrilling espionage flick that the franchise hasn’t necessarily seen (yet); spies, double-crosses, political intrigue, keep-you-guessing character motivations and plot arcs, big action set pieces, etc… Provided, of course, that American Beauty director Sam Mendes isn’t about to deliver just that with his upcoming Bond film, Skyfall.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in ‘Skyfall’

Of course, some people are taking Nolan’s words – about ‘the right situation… right time in their cycle…’ – to mean that he would prefer to wait until the current cycle of Bond films starring Daniel Craig (with their gritty, Bourne-esque style and tone ) are done and over with – perhaps with Craig vacating the role. Others simply take the comments to mean that Nolan would have to find actual time and opportunity in his schedule, in order to make the switch to the Bond franchise.

Given the success Marvel had with The Avengers, it’s pretty much been assumed that Warner Bros. and DC Comics will soon unveil plans for their own shared movie universe – possibly starting with next summer’s Superman reboot, Man of Steel. WB/DC once tried to make Nolan the “Godfather” of their movie universe, so they could pay to play that game after TDKR. Then again, MGM (which holds the Bond franchise rights) took on WB as a partner to help make Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films a reality; further collaboration between the two movie houses (like, sharing a director) isn’t out of the question. We’ll have to keep waiting and see what develops.

Howard Hughes Biopic

Finally, the Empire story revealed that Nolan’s biopic about famed 20th century business mogul Howard Hughes is dead for the time being. The film was going to explore the madness Hughes suffered in his later years – making it somewhat different from Martin Scorsese’s life-chronicling 2004 biopic, The Aviator, which starred Leo DiCaprio. The success of that Scorsese film (5 Oscars) delayed Nolan’s film – though Nolan’s version (which might’ve starred Jim Carrey as Hughes) sounds fascinating, nonetheless.

While surely disappointing, Nolan addresses the collapse of the Hughes film with good humor, stating: “Luckily I managed to find another wealthy, quirky character who’s orphaned at a young age.

The Dark Knight Rises will be in theaters on July 20, 2012. We’ll keep you updated as to what film project Chris Nolan embarks on next.

Source: If you’re a Batman movie fan, you need to pickup the next issue of Empire Magazine. (Hat tip to The Playlist)