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'Skyfall's' Sam Mendes to direct new James Bond movie for fall 2015

After months of in-and-out reports on the new James Bond film, “Skyfall” director Sam Mendes is heading back to MI6.

Sony Pictures, MGM and longtime Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson made the official announcement Thursday morning, confirming news that had been widely reported as a strong possibility, then widely reported as not happening after Mendes himself said he wouldn’t do it, over the previous few months.

The movie, unofficially known as Bond 24, is to hit U.S. theaters on Nov. 6, 2015, and British screens two weeks before. Though it's not the two-year gap between films some fans were hoping for, it's  also just a three-year lag, after legal troubles created a four-year gap between "Skyfall" and its predecessor, 2008’s “Quantum of Solace.” As previously reported, Daniel Craig will return as the iconic Bond.

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Since directing the 23rd Bond picture, Mendes has been engaged in theater work with shows such as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “King Lear.” He told Empire magazine in the spring that it was an “extremely difficult decision” but he had decided “not to accept” Broccoli's and Wilson’s offer to do a new Bond movie.

Mendes did not specifically say what changed his mind, but in a statement released on Thursday, he alluded to producers being accommodating on his schedule:

"I am very pleased that by giving me the time I need to honour all my theatre commitments, the producers have made it possible for me to direct Bond 24. I very much look forward to taking up the reins again,” he said.

Certainly they and Sony/MGM would have reason to want Mendes back. Mendes' "Skyfall" was the franchise's highest-grossing installment yet, taking in $304 million domestically and a total of $1.1 billion worldwide.

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Every single Bond film over the last 18 years has grossed more in the U.S. than the one that came before, but "Skyfall" particularly shattered the record, taking in nearly twice of “Quantum’s” $168 million. Of course, the “Skyfall” number will set the bar considerably higher, box-office wise.

It also will do so critically. The film was regarded as a canny update on the Bond legend, garnering widespread acclaim and an extraordinarily high 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The new film's creative direction remains to be seen, but from the end of “Skyfall,” a few things seem clear: The film could have a bigger role for Naomie Harris’ Miss Moneypenny, and it will thrust Ralph Fiennes’ government agent Gareth Mallory into a central role occupied by the now-late M (Judi Dench). Mallory is, of course, a government sort who may not have the field experience required for the gig -- at least Bond thought so in a heated argument with him in “Skyfall” -- which could create some interesting tension. The previous movie left a lot of runway for Mallory’s back story.

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The man who will help fill that runway is John Logan; the "Hugo" screenwriter who also penned "Skyfall" will return for the new film, Sony said. There was no word on the involvement of longtime Bond writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.

The overall tone remains a question. Despite the inward-looking, post-9/11 turn in "Skyfall," the film had a certain throwback quality as well. “I said from the beginning I wanted this movie to get the Bond back into Bond,” Craig told The Times on “Skyfall’s” release. And Broccoli said, "There are a lot of things in this film where you say, ‘Only in a Bond movie.’”

[For the record, July 11, 12:45 p.m.: A previous version of this post said that every Bond movie grossed more than the one that came before it. That's only been the case since 1995.]

ALSO:

'Skyfall' will blow up box office

For James Bond’s ‘Skyfall,’ a delicate balancing act

'Skyfall': Timothy Dalton says Daniel Craig may be best James Bond ever

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