Skyfall director Sam Mendes brought a stronger artistic sensibility to the popcorn fun of the James Bond franchise – building on a foundation laid by directors Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) and Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) in the previous Daniel Craig 007 movies – and since it was announced Mendes is passing on the 24th installment, the search for a suitable replacement is officially underway.

Eon and Sony Pictures were reported to have approached Christopher Nolan to direct a Bond movie recently, but the Dark Knight and Inception filmmaker won’t be available to complete Bond 24 in time for the desired 2015/2016 release date. However, we’re now hearing that the studios have drawn up a a shortlist of (more) feasible candidates for the job.

The list of people currently in to the running to helm Bond 24 – according to Variety – includes Nicolas Winding Refn (Only God Forgives), Ang Lee (Life of Pi), Tom Hooper (Les Misérables), David Yates (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I & II) and Shane Black (Iron Man 3). Variety is cautioning that it may be a while before we find out if any of the aforementioned filmmakers will the man tasked to followup the $1 billion-grossing Skyfall, in part because the details of Craig’s deal for the next two 007 installments are still being worked out.

Lee and Hooper are both Oscar-winning directors – with multiple films that grossed over $100 million under their belts – whereas Refn is the auteur behind not-so-easily-accessible fare like the Pusher trilogy and Drive. Yates has an opening in his schedule due to WB putting his Tarzan movie on hold, but Black might not be an option since he’s pressing ahead with a Doc Savage adaptation.

[UPDATE: Deadline says that Mendes has re-considered and started early talks to direct Bond 24. The Bond producers – according to the site – are willing to wait for Mendes to finish his other commitments (rather than move forward so quickly with development on 007’s next screen appearance). Stay tuned for more…]

Of the people listed, Lee (in my humble opinion) is the most intriguing candidate. The Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon filmmaker is one of the most versatile storytellers in the biz – as evidenced by the fact that every movie he’s made falls in a different genre – and he has that combination of strong artistic sensibility and big-budget experience that could give rise to a truly great Bond flick.

For those who worry that a Lee-directed Bond movie would be too sluggishly paced and brooding in tone – as many feel about his Hulk adaptation – the director has since expressed regret about not delivering a more purely-entertaining Marvel movie. That’s to say, if he were to be hired on to direct Bond 24, Lee would make all the more conscious an effort to avoid repeating that mistake (while still putting together a contemporary 007 adventure as smart as his predecessors’).

Who would you like to see direct the next James Bond movie? Let us know in the comments section.

Source: Variety

Update Source: Deadline