James Bond Could Get Art-House Cred With Sam Mendes Directing

The 'American Beauty' director is in negotiations to helm 'Bond 23.'

For a hot minute, it seemed like James Bond's passports had been revoked and he would not be trotting around the globe strangling bad guys and bedding ladies. Rumors floated earlier this week that embattled studio MGM had put "Bond 23" on hold as it struggled with a dire financial situation.

But in a bit of nifty escape work worthy of the MI6 super-agent, the follow-up to 2008's "Quantum of Solace" not only appears to be back on track but seems to have recruited an Oscar-winning director for its mission. The Hollywood Reporter's Heat Vision Blog reported that "American Beauty" helmer Sam Mendes is in negotiations to step into the director's chair for the 23rd Bond film.

Production is now said to be on a fast track, and the movie could begin shooting as early as June. That's even sooner than 007 himself, Daniel Craig, indicated last October, when he declared that production would begin late in 2010. In December, Judi Dench, who plays Bond's boss, told MTV News she would be needed on set in the spring of 2011, but now it looks like she'll be arriving earlier than expected. Heat Vision reported that "Bond 23" will likely see a theatrical release next year, despite the potential sale of MGM.

"Bond 23" would mark a departure for Mendes, who is known more for critical darlings like "Beauty" and "Road to Perdition" than he is for run-and-gun thrillers. The closest he's yet come to anything that can be considered action-oriented was the 2005 Iraq War film "Jarhead," starring Jake Gyllenhaal, though that picture was far more about the psychological impacts of war than it was about bombs and bullets. Mendes' last effort was the emo indie, "Away We Go."

The "Bond" script is also getting a work over from a Hollywood vet not known for car chases and crime capers. Peter Morgan, who is sharing writing duties with two "Bond" franchise vets, has been nominated for two Oscars: one for "The Queen" and one for "Frost/Nixon." With this mixture of folks with art-house cred and action-flick experience, "Bond 23" is shaping up to be a very intriguing picture.

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