The most recent James Bond film, Spectre, could have been a very different kind of movie had one early decision gone another way. Back when Skyfall was dominating the box office and garnering some of the best reviews for a Bond film ever, director Sam Mendes was not exactly eager to return for the follow-up. The franchise’s producers asked Mendes to reprise his directing duties for the next Bond movie, but the filmmaker declined, citing prior commitments to theater projects like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and King Lear, and it wasn’t like a massive franchise like James Bond was just going to wait a couple of years until Mendes’ schedule was clear.
Eventually Mendes came around, landing an agreement with the Bond producers that allowed him to fulfill his theater duties before turning his attention to what would become Spectre, but now some news about that interim time has surfaced reflecting how the movie nearly ended up in very different hands.
In an interview with The Telegraph (via The Playlist), Drive and Only God Forgives filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn reveals that he was approached to direct Spectre. The Neon Demon director doesn’t elaborate on exactly what happened, only adding that he’s now firm in his non-franchise path saying, “I just know this way I can do whatever I want, and that outweighs any money anyone can give me.”
This wasn’t the first time Refn flirted with a blockbuster project. He was previously attached to direct a Logan’s Run remake for Warner Bros. in the wake of Drive‘s success, but after developing the film for years, he finally left, admitting his sensibilities just didn’t seem like a solid fit for a big blockbuster film. It’s unclear if Refn outright turned down Spectre, flirted with the idea, or if the conversations ever went past fielding his interest, but a James Bond movie directed by Nicolas Winding Refn would certainly have been a sight to behold.
While Refn’s Bond never happened (although he has his own spy thriller in development called The Avenging Silence), this news does give us an idea of the kind of filmmaker Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have in mind for the franchise going forward. I previously offered up a list of potential candidates, and interest in Refn signals that they’re not necessarily tied down to folks who will deliver a down-the-line blockbuster on time and under budget. Lest we forget, Mendes was a wildly ambitious choice for Skyfall at the time given his unfamiliarity with set pieces and such, but he delivered one of the best Bond movies ever—although the less said about Spectre the better.
What do you think, folks? Would you have been game for a Refn-directed Bond movie? Who do you want to direct James Bond 25? Sound off in the comments below.