Critics and fans have been hoping that director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) would return for the next James Bond movie, especially following reports that the Skyfall script was supposed to be a two-parter. Unfortunately, Mendes confirmed to Empire that he had to turn it down.

"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."

Skyfall won Outstanding British Film at the BAFTAs this year and an Oscar for Adele's theme song, in addition to making over $1 billion at the box office. Producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli certainly left the door open for a Mendes return. ""We thoroughly enjoyed working with Sam, he directed our most successful Bond movie ever, 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," they commented.

"It has been a very difficult decision not to accept Michael and Barbara‚Äôs very generous offer to direct the next Bond movie," Mendes said. "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."

Ok, we'll have to come to terms with the fact that he isn't directing. But who will be their next choice? Feel free to start speculating wildly.

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[via Empire]