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James Bond 25: Cary Fukunaga to direct next 007 film

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Ever since Danny Boyle dropped out of helming the next James Bond film in August, ominously citing ‘creative differences’, fans have been anxiously awaiting news of his replacement. Now Cary Joji Fukunaga has been announced as director of the 25th instalment of the Bond franchise.

Fukunaga made his name as writer-director of Sin Nombre (2009), about a Honduran girl and Mexican gangster trying to immigrate to the U.S.A., and went on to direct an adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (2011). His follow-up, the war drama Beasts of No Nation (2015), on which he is also credited as writer, co-producer and cinematographer, won Idris Elba the SAG award for his supporting performance. Fukunaga is probably best known, however, for his television work – he directed the first season of acclaimed anthology crime series True Detective (2014), and his dark comedy Netflix series Maniac will premiere later this week.

Despite that impressive résumé, Fukunaga will be seen by many as something of a surprise choice. Reports had suggested that David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water), Yann Demange (’71) and Christopher McQuarrie (the latest two Mission: Impossible films) were the realistic frontrunners for the job, while more fanciful suggestions of Ryan Coogler, Kathryn Bigelow, Edgar Wright, and Christopher Nolan were doing the rounds on Twitter. Betfair had given 33/1 odds on Wes Anderson taking on Bond, which would have been an, uh, ‘interesting’ choice. (If we’re playing that game, I’d was hoping that Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park would do a claymation version of 007, but never mind…).

Fukunaga admittedly isn’t a huge name, but he’s well-respected in the industry. The film’s producers have stated that his ‘versatility and innovation make him an excellent choice’, though due to that relatively diverse back catalogue it’s hard to picture exactly what his version of Bond will come to look like. It’s worth mentioning that Fukunaga was hired to work on the remake of Stephen King’s It in 2012, but abandoned the project in 2015, reportedly due to disagreements with studio executives – an incident which curiously echoes the ‘creative differences’ between Danny Boyle and his Bond producers.

It’s probably safe to assume, however, that Fukunaga’s take on Bond will be a less radical one than Boyle’s would have been, on a narrative level at least. Boyle was working from a script written by long-time collaborator John Hodge, and had suggested his film would grapple with contemporary themes and take the famous spy in a more progressive direction. But with Boyle’s departure, veteran 007 writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (who have co-written every Bond film since 1999’s The World Is Not Enough) are back on script duty, hinting that the producers are wary of alienating audiences with too much change.

Still, Fukunaga has a lot to prove. This is his initiation into franchise filmmaking, as well as his first proper shot at an action flick. He’s the series’ first American director, and taking on such a quintessentially British character in the wake of Brexit is sure to prompt a wave of (probably useless) hot takes. And then there’s the fact that this reportedly will be Daniel Craig’s last turn as James Bond – if so, that’s no small burden for the director to carry.

If the film goes well for Fukunaga, he could follow in the steps of Rian Johnson, Taika Waititi and Ryan Coogler and establish himself as a major franchise director. And if he sticks with Bond, expect renewed speculation on his Beasts of No Nation star Idris Elba taking on the role when Craig eventually hangs up the jetpack. Let’s just hope the pressure doesn’t scare The Living Daylights out of him.

Bond 25 will start shooting at Pinewood Studios on 4 March and will be released on 14 February, 2020.

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