Christopher Nolan has Bond in his crosshairs. At least, that’s what this weekend’s headlines were suggesting after the director of Memento, Inception and the Dark Knight trilogy signalled his interest in taking charge of the suave British spy’s next big screen adventure while promoting his new war epic Dunkirk. «A Bond movie, definitely», enthused Nolan to Playboy magazine. «I’ve spoken to the producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson over the years. I deeply love the character, and I’m always excited to see what they do with it. Maybe one day that would work out. You’d have to be needed, if you know what I mean. It has to need reinvention; it has to need you. And they’re getting along very well».
As the British film-maker suggests in his comments, there are plenty of ifs and buts in the way before we could find ourselves settling down in the cheap seats to a genuine, bona fide Nolan 007 flick, tantalising as that sounds. Timing appears to be the crucial element, and to get an impression of what a Christopher Nolan Bond movie might look like, we also need to think about the unlikely combination of circumstances that have to take place in order for it to happen.
The best place to start is the director’s previous brush with franchise film-making. The Dark Knight trilogy stands as the finest self-contained comic book saga of all time, but it only came about through a combination of Warner Bros’ openness to take risks with directors, and the abject failure of the studio’s previous film about Gotham’s caped crusader, 1997’s execrable Batman & Robin. Nolan effectively started with a blank slate, allowing him to reconfigure the DC superhero as a creature of the real world, rather than a Batnippled figure of fun. The director examined Bruce Wayne/Batman like a psychiatrist with a patient, and realised, crucially, that to truly believe in Batman, we have to understand where he comes from.
Batman Begins (2005) certainly looks like a plausible model for an opening Nolan Bond movie, at least in terms of the unique set of circumstances that led to its inception. We should not, however, expect the new director to necessarily repeat Martin Campbell’s approach on Daniel Craig era opener Casino Royale. Nolan has too much fondness for the traditional elements of the Bond mythos for him to be entirely comfortable delivering a stripped-down, back to basics 007. It’s impossible to imagine a Nolan Bond movie without gadgets, guns and cars, given the director retained all Batman’s techy paraphernalia for the Dark Knight movies, even placing a greater emphasis on the Batmobile and the eccentric workings of that famously rigid suit.
With one eye on his place in history, Nolan would surely want to deliver the definitive take on 007 – one that stood out from everything before it. The new Bond’s psyche would be meticulously plotted, and his sense of duty to Queen and country more intelligently defined. We might finally witness the source of his icy cold killer instinct – rather than just the occasional hints, winks and nudges about Bond’s youth and upbringing that have been offered up by previous instalments.
The long-mooted return to the secret agent’s 1960s roots might well appeal, acting as a means to distinguish the new era from the Craig films. It is hard to imagine Nolan overseeing a series of rigid adaptations of the original Ian Fleming novels, many of which have never been faithfully filmed. The British director is too idiosyncratic in his storytelling dynamic to allow himself to be wedded to iconic texts. He and screenwriting partner, and brother, Jonathan Nolan would surely take the source material and adapt it through a fresh prism, retaining the veneer of 60s chic while adding trademark intrigue and mystery.
Where does Craig fit into this reimagined Bond? The Mirror’s showbiz page has been reporting the return of the current 007 for a fifth movie, along with Adele to sing the theme tune. The truth is, if Craig returns, we are highly unlikely to see Nolan taking charge for some time yet. He has never been the kind of director to finish off someone else’s project, and that’s what the Bond saga requires right now.
For the Craig era to be considered a resounding success, the 25th official 007 film needs to be an epic response to all the questions left unanswered by 2015’s Spectre, with better use of Christoph Waltz’s weirdly understated Ernst Stavro Blofeld and the return of Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann. We cannot simply start the new instalment afresh, with Bond having somehow dispensed with his much-younger lover – the latest in a long line of sacrificial lambs – or the series loses all credibility, given the weight that was placed on their relationship. Nor is Nolan the man for a “soft” reboot, with Craig retaining the role but Bond restored to his colder, Casino Royale era self.
Tom Hardy, already a Nolan regular, would surely be Her Majesty’s new man. Hardy has already spoken glowingly of the Inception director’s qualities as a potential Bond director, and is the right age to take on the role. The Englishman would only need to lose the strange cod-Celtic accent he picked up for Taboo (and has carried into his run as the face of Sky Mobile) and the job would be his. Hardy has both the brutality and suavity to play Fleming’s spy, and is ripe to play the leading man in a major franchise after his barnstorming turn in Mad Max: Fury Road.
Could it happen? Despite the Mirror’s report, we should bear in mind that details for the next Bond movie remain up in the air, with a decision still to be made on which studio will be allowed to make and distribute it following the expiration of the current deal between Sony, MGM and Eon. Moreover, Eon has a reputation for ruthlessness when it comes to choosing its next 007: in 2004, Pierce Brosnan was widely expected to return as Bond for a fifth time following the blockbuster success of 2002’s Die Another Day. Behind the scenes, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson had already realised a fresh start was required, and with the rights finally secured to re-adapt Fleming’s debut Bond novel Casino Royale, appointed Craig instead.
If history should repeat itself, Nolan would surely be the first director to get a call