With Skyfall crossing the $1.1 billion mark at the global box office recently, the James Bond franchise has a huge amount of thanks to give director Sam Mendes and star Daniel Craig – however, they’re also going to have to move forward towards Bond 24 without one of their key men.

In what he’s described as a “very difficult decision,” Mendes has revealed that he won’t be returning to direct the follow-up to the critically and commercially acclaimed Skyfall. In a statement reported by Empire Online, the 47 year-old commented. “It has been a very difficult decision not to accept Michael and Barbara’s very generous offer to direct the next Bond movie. 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."

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes won't be back for Bond 24

Mendes has left the door open for a return to the franchise in future years however, adding "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". It seems to be something that producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli would welcome too, with their statement on the departure reading. "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." Sounds like it all ended amicably then, though there’s no denying the decision will come as a bitter blow to the rest of the team.