Director Sam Mendes’ Skyfall is the first James Bond installment to gross over $1 billion worldwide, beating out blockbusters like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Dark Knight Rises. Similarly, it earned unanticipated critical accolades for the twenty-third addition to a popcorn movie franchise that’s now existed for over half a century.

Mendes expressed his reluctance about directing James Bond 24 prior to Skyfall arriving in theaters, but changed his tune slightly after Daniel Craig’s third bout as 007 proved a monumental success on all fronts. However, following months of rumors and claims that the Oscar-winning filmmaker is close to accepting the job, the official word from Mendes is he’s passing on the chance.

Early on it was reported that Skyfall co-writer John Logan is scripting both the 24th and 25th 007 adventures as a two-part story (a la Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace), which was perceived as a possible obstacle to Mendes’ returning given the minimum four-year commitment. While those plans were eventually dropped, Mendes has informed Empire that his decision to step aside from the spy game for now is motivated by other factors:

“It has been a very difficult decision not to accept [producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli’s] very generous offer to direct the next Bond movie,” explained Mendes. “Directing Skyfall was one of the best experiences of my professional life, but I have theatre and other commitments, including productions of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and King Lear, that need my complete focus over the next year and beyond.”

Those “other commitments” include the Victorian horror literature television series Penny Dreadful, which Mendes and Logan are re-teaming on. Meanwhile, the 24th Bond flick begins production later this year, with Daniel Craig reprising as 007 alongside Skyfall players Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw as the new Moneypenny, M and Q, respectively.

Plans for Bond 24 to hit theaters by November 2014 may also be partly to blame for Mendes taking a pass. He’s admitted the extra development time allotted on Skyfall (resulting from MGM’s bankruptcy) benefitted the final product. Indeed, pre-packaged release dates were part of the reason why he’s skipped on directing other blockbusters, like when he was approached to oversee The Avengers.

However, because his Skyfall experience proved so rewarding, Mendes isn’t ruling out a return to 007’s world sometime in the future:

“I feel very honoured to have been part of the Bond family”, said Mendes, “and very much hope I have a chance to work with them again sometime in the future”.

It’s feasible Mendes could follow in the footsteps of Lewis Gilbert, who directed You Only Live Twice in 1967 before returning to the franchise a decade later on The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Similarly, Martin Campbell directed Goldeneye in 1995 before kicking off Craig’s run by overseeing Casino Royale in 2006. That said, don’t expect Mendes to necessarily wait 9-10 years before deciding to tackle another Bond flick.

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Who would you like to see direct James Bond 24? And before you say Christopher Nolan, remember he’s currently working on Interstellar.

Source: Empire