For a while it seemed that James Bond 24 (a.k.a. the currently-untitled Bond installment after Skyfall) could be arriving by Fall 2014, with Skyfall co-writer John Logan handling the script and director Sam Mendes taking the helm again. Logan is still carrying out scripting duties on 007’s next adventure but, for better or worse, Mendes has decided to pass on directing.

MGM is pressing full-steam ahead with another Bond movie, aiming to capitalize on Skyfall becoming the first installment in the 50-year old franchise to gross over $1 billion worldwide in theaters. However, the studio is downplaying the idea of a release date next year, as the search for a proper directorial candidate gets fully underway.

Here is the studio’s official statement on the matter (via The Guardian):

“We are very excited about the franchise, we look forward to announcing a director soon,” said MGM chairman and chief executive officer Gary Barber in a conference call with investors. “We are currently developing the screenplay and working with our partners. We look forward to developing the script soon and signing a director. We are hoping within the next three years it will be released.”

A theatrical release “within the next three years” puts James Bond 24 on course to arrive by 2015 or 2016, meaning the amount of time between installments might (emphasis on might) end up being as long as the four-year gap between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall – which, in part, resulted from MGM’s bankruptcy a couple years ago.

However, 2015 seems more likely, as it would give Logan and whoever directs the proper time to construct a quality new installment; not to mention, heighten the anticipation factor without also causing moviegoers to become too restless as they wait for more Bond. If that happens then 2015 is shaping up to be “the new 2012,” between followups to The Avengers and Skyfall opening alongside other big-time franchise offerings (ex. Star Wars: Episode VII).

The absence of an etched-in-stone date for James Bond 24 could also prove to be additional incentive for an outside-the-box director to sign on, after seeing how Logan and Mendes were able to bring a more artistic sensibility to the proceedings (once Skyfall was postponed due to MGM’s financial woes). Of course, some filmmakers have already removed themselves from the running, including Oscar-winner Danny Boyle (who returns with Trance next month).

One person rumored to be a candidate is Guy Ritchie, whose name has entered the conversation thanks to gambling giant William Hill announcing him as a favorite to take the Bond directing job. What’s interesting, though, is that he’s currently set to adapt the Cold War-era spy TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to the big screen, with Tom Cruise being approached to star. However, according to THR‘s sources, if Cruise does not sign on for U.N.C.L.E., then Ritchie “would be forced to move on” – meaning, he could soon be free to throw his hat into the Bond directing ring.

Ritchie’s bid would be bolstered by two lucrative Sherlock Holmes installments – as well as a year of developing Man from U.N.C.L.E. as a contemporary blockbuster – under his belt, in addition to action cult titles likes Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and RocknRolla. Bear in mind, all this is contingent on Cruise not committing to Man from U.N.C.L.E. (assuming insiders are correct), as well as the Bond franchise producers even considering Ritchie for the job in the first place (so don’t get out either the pitch forks or champagne bottles just yet).

Still… it could be interesting to see just what Ritchie’s version of the Bond universe is like, after his re-invention of Sherlock Holmes – and, following on the heels of a 007 installment which took a more by-the-numbers and traditional approach, when it came to staging action and set pieces (for more on that controversial point, have a listen to the SR Underground Podcast crew’s debate).

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More on James Bond 24 as the story develops.

Source: The Guardian, THR