Sam MendesThe British movie magazine Empire has exclusively revealed that Sam Mendes, who directed the smash-hit 007 film Skyfall, will not be taking the helm on the next James Bond movie, which will be no.24 in the series.

The magazine revealed on March 6 that Mendes has decided not to direct the next instalment, but has also not ruled out a return at some point in the future. Mendes told Empire: ‘It has been a very difficult decision not to accept Michael and Barbara’s very generous offer to direct the next Bond movie. 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’.

Mendes added: ‘I feel very honoured 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’.

The James Bond producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, also issued a statement in response to the magazine’s exclusive news. They said: ‘We thoroughly enjoyed working with Sam, he directed our most successful Bond movie, Skyfall. 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’.

A source told the JBIFC a couple of weeks ago that there had been some intense negotiations between Sam Mendes and the EON producers, and that Mendes had been offered ‘a substantial sum’ to tempt him back. The producers had also made it clear that they were prepared to be very flexible over the start-date to Bond 24, in order to work around Mendes’s other projects.

However, in what must have been an extremely difficult decision for Mendes, he will now be able to devote all his energies to his first love, the theatre, for the foreseeable future. James Bond fans will now see what another director will do with John Logan’s outline treatment for Bond 24, using the same team that Mendes put in place for Skyfall.

That, in itself, given the huge box office and critical success of Bond 23, will be a major challenge for any director.