Helmer cites busy theater schedule

LONDON

Sam Mendes has confirmed he will not return to the director’s chair for the next installment in the James Bond franchise.

Speaking to U.K. movie magazine Empire, Mendes said that producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli had made him a “generous offer to direct the next Bond movie,” but that he had made a very difficult decision not to accept due to other commitments.

“Directing ‘Skyfall’ was one of the best experiences of my professional life,” said Mendes, “but I have theater 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.”

Mendes was asked about the possibility of doing another Bond film on several occasions during the promotion of “Skyfall,” including at a BAFTA Q&A for the film. Each time he replied that though he would “never say never” (a famous reference to the first Bond, Sean Connery, who made a 007 film outside the franchise, titled “Never Say Never Again” ) he didn’t think so.

He told London’s Timeout magazine at the time, “I feel like I’ve put everything I want to do with a Bond movie into this Bond movie. I would have to feel the same again to do another one. So, it would take a lot of thought to try and make it as special to me as this.”

However, speculation was rife he may be tempted back after the film achieved a series of firsts for the franchise, including becoming the first $1 billion Bond; the highest grossing Bond film both internationally ($804 million) and domestically ($304 million); the highest grossing film of all-time in Blighty (and first to gross more than £100 million) with £102.8 million ($165.7 million); and the first to win BAFTA’s best British film award.

The film also picked up Academy Awards for Adele’s hit title song and sound editing.

Mendes also developed the plot of the next Bond pic with screenwriter John Logan, who is tackling Bond 24 and Bond 25, which will bring back Daniel Craig as 007.

Broccoli and Wilson are leaving the door open for Mendes to return at a later date in the same way Martin Campbell returned to direct Craig in the iconic role with 2006’s “Casino Royale,” having previously helmed Pierce Brosnan’s Bond debut “GoldenEye” in 1995.

The producers told Empire, “We thoroughly enjoyed working with Sam. We would have loved to have made the next film with him but completely respect his decision to focus on other projects and hope to have the opportunity to collaborate with him again.”

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

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” previews at London’s Theater Royal Drury Lane from May 18, featuring music and lyrics by “Hairspray” team Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

(Marc Graser contributed to this report.)

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