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Why Goldeneye’s Martin Campbell Turned Down Directing Every Other Pierce Brosnan 007 Movie

Sean Bean holds Pierce Brosnan at gunpoint in Goldeneye.

Bringing a modern James Bond to the big screen is a daunting enough task for a director like Martin Campbell to do once. Yet the New Zealand director not only delivered the goods with 1995’s Goldeneye, but also in 2006 with Casino Royale. Apparently, resurrection is a hobby of Mr. Campbell’s, and the fact that he turned down every Pierce Brosnan sequel after that initial turn only proves it.

As it turns out, the pre-determined path of 007 was exactly what pushed the helmer off of returning for another Brosnan-era entry. Which was only revealed after Martin Campbell had told me during our talk for The Protégé that he’d been offered the director’s chair for each film. It was a prospect that didn’t hold much sway with Campbell, with his official reasons why aligning perfectly with what he feels makes the James Bond franchise so special:

I pretty much got offered everything after Goldeneye, and I turned them down. The reason I turned them down was I didn’t really know where to go with the character after I’d done one. I mean, the character’s set, and really the formula was set, and it was always some nutcase trying to take over the world, building rockets and all sorts of stuff. Which, by the way, there’s some great stuff with that. But I just felt, ‘Do I really want to keep blowing up another control room’, albeit with a different bad guy?

While there’s definitely a debate over how the rest of Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond tenure ranks, Martin Campbell has the formula dead to rights in that description. From Tomorrow Never Dies, straight through to Die Another Day, there’s a moment in each film where the primary villain is overseeing some sort of action in a control room. Elliot Carver, Elektra King, and Gustav Graves all get their chances to show their more devious sides, complete with huge screens and important looking readouts.

Hearing Martin Campbell talk about what appeals to him in the James Bond series, the man is definitely not one to just settle into a formula he’d already played around with in Goldeneye. While the ensuing Brosnan era films still differ through the presence of interesting characters and various motivations pushing the villains through their evil schemes, things did spin quite out of hand by the time the 40th anniversary came along in 2002. Die Another Day’s infamy would prove to be the key to Campbell’s big return, as explained below:

So I turned them down, and they came back to me for Casino [Royale], and it was just because we had to reboot the whole franchise. It had got to a point of just too much in [Die Another Day], I think, with ice palaces, invisible cars, and people snowboarding off ice floes, and all that stuff. The producers felt that it just needed to be completely rethought. Casino Royale, they had difficulty getting the rights to that, but they finally did, and that seemed the perfect opportunity to reboot it with a new Bond.

Daniel Craig stands in the water in his bathing suit in Casino Royale.

After the rights to the long sought after Casino Royale landed in the hands of EON Productions, Martin Campbell found his door darkened yet again with an offer. With a brand new Bond in Daniel Craig, and a soft reboot approach taken when executing the story, the ingredients were there to lure Campbell into kicking off another era of 007 films. One that, while he hasn’t returned to the director’s chair since, Campbell has enjoyed to varying degrees. For the record, the man loved Skyfall, but Quantum of Solace and Spectre were disappointments in his eyes.

Of course with Daniel Craig’s departure, there’s a question of whether or not Martin Campbell would come back and kick off another epoch in James Bond cinema. He’s definitely discussed the possibility in the past, and it almost feels like a safe bet to reenlist his skills to keep Bond 26 as grounded as Goldeneye once did. Though at the moment, the hunt for a director doesn’t sound like a going concern. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are still, officially, focusing on No Time To Die’s promotional machine.

That leg of the journey comes to the beginning of the end on September 30th, when No Time To Die debuts in UK cinemas. Though US audiences will have to wait a little longer, as the film will hit their shores on October 8th. And if you want to check out Martin Campbell’s latest film, The Protégé, it's currently showing only in theaters.

Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.