James Bond will return … within the next three years

Daniel Craig As James Bond

The next James Bond film is already being planned and producers hope to announce a director soon, executives said on Tuesday.

It will not be Sam Mendes, who said recently that he had turned down the chance to oversee a follow-up to his critically-acclaimed effort Skyfall, the highest-grossing Bond movie of all time.

"We are very excited about the franchise, we look forward to announcing a director soon," said MGM chairman and chief executive officer Gary Barber in a conference call with investors. "We are currently developing the screenplay and working with our partners. We look forward to developing the script soon and signing a director. We are hoping within the next three years it will be released."

Along with An Unexpected Journey, the blockbuster first part in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, Skyfall helped MGM to record-breaking figures last year, taking $1.1bn at the box office. Not long ago the studio was languishing in insolvency, resulting in a four-year gap between 2008's Quantum of Solace and the 23rd Bond outing. Now in a buoyant financial position, and with two Hobbit films yet to come, it is unlikely to encounter similar problems in the near future.

"[Mendes] did an amazing job on Skyfall," said Barber. "We are very thankful for the work that he did."

The next Bond film will almost certainly star Daniel Craig in his fourth outing as 007, the British actor having previously signed up to two more films. Sherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie was recently revealed as the bookies' favourite to take up the reins from Mendes.

MGM produced Skyfall in association with Sony as part of a long-term deal to produce Bond movies struck after a dispute over rights. The two studios will partner up again on Bond 24, working with long-term rights holder Eon Productions.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ben Child, for guardian.co.uk on Wednesday 20th March 2013 11.51 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010