The Making of The Living Daylights

the living daylights dalton

The Making of The Living Daylights was written by Charles Helfenstein and published in 2012. This is a fantastic gift for any Classic Bond fan who would happily contribute to a Kickstarter raising funds to blast Daniel Craig, Barbara Broccoli and Sam Mendes into the far reaches of space billions of light years away from Pinewood Studios. Helfenstein was previously responsible for a wonderful book about the making of On Her Majesty's Secret Service and turns his attention here to another pivotal crossroads in the world of Bondage - the 25th anniversary film and the first since 1971 that would not feature Roger Moore. For nearly two decades Moore had been suavely karate chopping henchmen and venturing forth quips while wearing an assortment of beige jackets, gold buttoned blazers, cream flares and safari suits. As mocked as he still is in retrospectives when a new "Bond" film comes out now, usually by idiot critics with double barrelled names who have probably never even watched half of the James Bond films, Moore did something that was once considered to be impossible. He proved that an actor other than Sean Connery could make the role his own and be popular, ensuring the series could and would continue with different actors. Who else but Roger Moore could keep his head above water in a film like Moonraker? The Living Daylights had a new mission - to prove that James Bond would be viable into the nineties and beyond. But first they needed a story and a James Bond and the new Bond actor they eventually landed would necessitate a major change of direction and tone for the venerable franchise.
This is an exhaustive examination of The Living Daylights through screenplays, casting, production, release, and even gives the reader a tantalising look at what they had planned for the aborted third Timothy Dalton Bond, a film that was nixed by tiresome studio litigation and never went into production. Helfenstein's attention to detail is a trifle pedantic at times (I don't think I really desperately needed to know the history of the parrot that features in the Blayden safe house sequence) but the book is packed with details and trivia and any cinephiles interested in the production of films and the James Bond franchise should enjoy reading this a lot. Did you know for example that the original script treatment for what became The Living Daylights featured Bond as a young officer in the Royal Navy? Michael G Wilson was the main driver of this angle, a reboot (I hate that word) that would show us how Bond met M, Q and Moneypenny for the first time. Wilson's bold concept was ultimately rejected but at least one potential Bond was screentested with a view to this brief. British actor Mark Greenstreet was in his mid-twenties and fresh off a successful television mini-series called Brat Farrar. When Greenstreet was doing his Bond audition at Pinewood he took a break to use the toilet and bumped into Michael Biehn in his Corporal Hicks colonial space marine outfit. James Cameron was shooting Aliens next door.
If you do have Helfenstein's book about On Her Majesty's Secret Service you'll be happy to learn that The Making of The Living Daylights is equally crammed with never before seen stills, behind the scenes photographs, publicity shots, memorabilia, deleted scenes and storyboards (where Bond is, perhaps not surprisingly, drawn to look rather like Roger Moore). It has often been suggested that The Living Daylights was originally written for Roger Moore and then changed when it became apparent that the actor (who was pushing 60 at the time) would not be returning again. Helfenstein dismisses this assumption and suggests that if anything the film was developed in a generic way as the identity of the actor who would play Bond was very up in the air for periods of pre-production. Helfenstein's thoroughness provokes a fascinating look too at the Ian Fleming short story from which the title and parts of the story for The Living Daylights were plucked. Published posthumously in 1966 in a short story compendium, The Living Daylights presented a murky look at the shadowy world of "sniper’s alley" between East and West Berlin. In the story Bond is on stakeout in a safe house waiting to eliminate a KGB assassin and therefore save the life of a defecting British agent. Helfenstein details the (as usual) incredibly comprehensive research that Fleming threw himself into, visiting locations in Berlin, learning about rifles etc. Fleming's Bond had a distaste for killing and the agent ruminates on the sometimes macabre nature of his ruthless profession. Dalton's Bond managed to capture some of this.

the living daylights dalton

Naturally the casting of the new James Bond is perhaps the most intriguing subplot of the story of The Living Daylights and this particular endevour proved to have as many twists and turns as the final screenplay with its double dealing Cold War themes. The producers thought they had solved the Bond casting riddle fairly on when Pierce Brosnan officially signed on the dotted line to play 007 in The Living Daylights. Cubby Broccoli was always very high on Timothy Dalton, a serious looking and darkly handsome classically trained stage actor who was best known for playing Prince Barin in campy cult classic Flash Gordon. Dalton had turned down the chance to replace Sean Connery in the late sixties because he felt he was far too young but Broccoli kept in touch with the actor and had informal meetings with him in the seventies when Roger Moore would play extra coy with contract negotiations. But when the 25th anniversary film loomed and Roger Moore had finally departed, Dalton already had existing theatrical commitments in the West End so Pierce Brosnan (who Cubby Broccoli had first noticed in 1981 when Brosnan visited his wife Cassandra Harris on the set of For Your Eyes only) had a clear run. Brosnan had begun his 007 costume fittings when fate intervened in cruel fashion. His television show Remington Steele - a piece of eighties fluff that had Brosnan as a suave pseudo private eye - was ailing in the ratings and on the way out but the studio decided to cash in on the publicity surrounding Brosnan and James Bond and optioned a new series just as Brosnan's contract was about to expire. Brosnan was furious and his Bond dream was (until 1994 anyway) shattered.
Helfenstein's passages on the search to fill Bond's boots in time for the start of shooting are completely fascinating for those who love what ifs? and alternative casting that never happened. Why wasn't fan favourite Lewis (Bodie) Collins a serious contender? Did the elusive Australian model Finlay Light (who claimed to be close to bagging the part) actually exist? How close did two other Australians - Antony Hamilton and Andrew Clarke - come to being cast? Was Hollywood star Mel Gibson (who at this point in his life had yet to go completely insane) really a contender and would he have done it? Who else was considered? Read the book for details. Helfenstein makes a slight error though when he names Trevor (Shoestring) Eve as one of Eon's chosen candidates as Eve has denied this was the case. With Brosnan and Dalton apparently out they turned to New Zealand actor Sam Neil, then something of a rising star after Reilly Ace of Spies and The Omen III. Neil was screentested and everyone seemed happy to use him - all that is except for the one person who really mattered. Cubby Broccoli was never sold on Sam Neill and when Timothy Dalton unexpectedly became available again the Bond producer finally managed to sign the man he'd been after for nearly two decades.
Dalton flew into London on September the 29th 1986 to begin work on The Living Daylights. Only the previous day he had finished his stint on a Brooke Shields film called Brenda Starr in Florida (he needn't have bothered as Brenda Starr sat on the shelf for two years and bombed when it was released) and with no rehearsal time was now immediately plunged into the biggest role of his career. Although Dalton was something of a reluctant Bond (the actor was a very private person who didn't seem that interested in fame or money) he impressed everyone with his dedication once ensconced in the role. Dalton read all the Fleming novels in preparation and was easily the most intelligent of the men who have played Bond. Dalton would give interviews where he talked about things like Harold Pinter and "accidie" - Fleming's definition of boredom and the deadliest of all sins for James Bond. Ever hear Daniel Craig or George Lazenby waxing lyrical about Pinter's distilled essence of naturalism and how art is not reality but the appearance of whatever reality is appropriate? No. In an age before CGI, Dalton also threw himself into the stuntwork, giving his stunt handlers kittens throughout his tenure. That jeep careening down the Rock of Gibraltar? That's Dalton strapped to the top.
the living daylights dalton

More than anything it was Dalton's intensity that impressed the crew after years of jovial Roger Moore extravaganzas. "You really believed he was going to kill him," says director of photography Alec Mills on a scene where Dalton's Bond has to tangle with a villain. Dalton's Byronic good looks and moody charm in The Living Daylights briefly seemed set to position him as the definitive screen James Bond but for some reason he never really caught on with audiences, perhaps a victim of the lacklustre penny pinching MGM marketing campaigns and summer release dates that were a part of Bond in those days. Look at how Sony endlessly rammed Skyfall down our throats last year in their gargantuan marketing blitz. Dalton never got that fair wind. Dalton's legacy is assessed and there is a chapter on his death knell Licence To Kill. The book is a treasure trove of artwork, stills and imagery and the film is I think a great choice for the author to give this extensive treatment to. Why? In many ways the Dalton era was really the last of the cinematic James Bond. The Living Daylights was the last film that Cubby Broccoli produced hands-on before his age and failing health caught up with him. Dalton's era also marked the last contributions of the great composer John Barry, screenwriter Richard Maibaum, titles designer Maurice Binder, actor Robert Brown as M, and in-house director John Glen to the series. The Living Daylights was also notably the last Cold War James Bond film produced.
On the subject of John Glen, I wouldn't have minded more on the relationship between him and Dalton. Did they get on? What did Dalton really think of Glen's directing skills? This book is impressively dense at nearly 300 pages long and will keep you going for a few days and I loved that the author included details about the proposed third Dalton film that would would have arrived circa 1992 had not studio wrangles kyboshed the whole thing and left Dalton as the two Bond actor that no one remembers. The script treatment by Michael G Wilson and Alfonse Ruggiero was a far out gambit set in the Far East with some notable sci-fi trappings. Would it have been the film that finally established Dalton as Bond in the eyes of the public? We'll never know. This is an amazing book and well worth buying but be warned it's fairly expensive at the time of writing. If you are a fan of the Classic James Bond films and ever see a good deal then I wouldn't hesitate to get hold of a copy.

- Jake


c 2013 Alternative 007
james bond alpine