Timothy Dalton - Becoming Bond

At 58 years of age, Roger Moore finally hung up his tuxedo for good after 1985's A View to a Kill. It was high time to make way for a younger actor. 1984, the year before Roger's last Bond film was released, had seen a number of rumours that Pierce Brosnan was going to be the new Bond. An Australian newspaper published an article in which they said Brosnan had already signed a secret deal to replace Roger. Brosnan had to deny these rumours and even wrote to Cubby Broccoli assurring him that these stories did not originate from him or anyone connected to him.
1987 would mark the 25th anniversary of the James Bond series and what better way to celebrate than to launch a new era which looked to the future? The Bond producer/writer Michael G. Wilson felt that the series needed to make some radical changes to stay fresh and relevant after seven Roger Moore films. Wilson drafted a treatment which was essentially an origin story. Wilson's script treatment had a twentysomething Bond teaming up with a veteran agent to battle a Chinese warlord named Kwang. By the end of the story, the veteran agent is dead and Bond has inherited his mantle and become a full fledged secret agent. The story would show us how Bond met M, Q and Moneypenny for the first time.
According to CinemaBlend, this treatment '... would have introduced the world to Lieutenant James Bond as he lives a carefree youth of punching out Austrian diplomats and gambling away what’s left of his family fortune. Bond’s grandfather and aunt are introduced at the Bond family’s ancestral home, with James deciding to take up M’s invitation into her majesty’s secret service after his grandfather’s passing. Learning from his mentor, 00-agent Bart Trevor, we eventually learn that Trevor recruited Bond into a mission to kidnap/kill a warlord known as General Kwang required someone with his skills on a short notice.'
The reboot story would have seen Bond travel to Scotland to explore his roots (something which EON clearly put in the bank and used for Skyfall) and end with him being asked to investigate Dr No. A DC3 aeroplane sequence in the treatment later seemed to end up in the 2008 film Quantum of Solace. It is pretty obvious that this treatment, had it gone ahead, would not have featured Timothy Dalton - who was nearly 40 at the time. This story would obviously have required a Bond actor in his twenties.
Michael G. Wilson's reboot script treatment (which was obviously an influence on Casino Royale in 2006 - though Wilson has downplayed this connection himself) was vetoed by Cubby Broccoli in the end. Cubby felt that audiences would not want to see James Bond depicted as an amateur. He wasn't sold on the idea at all and preferred a more business as usual approach where Bond is a mature professional in his late thirties or forties. Cubby was though willing to accept that changes would have to be made to the franchise to keep it fresh. He wanted the next film to be more grounded and feel like more of a blood relative to Ian Fleming than many of Roger Moore films had been.
It was decided that the next film would be called The Living Daylights. The Living Daylights took its title from Octopussy and The Living Daylights - the fourteenth and final James Bond book by Ian Fleming and published posthumously in 1966. The constant on the writing team in the Cubby Broccoli era was Richard Maibaum. Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson wrote the screenplay for The Living Daylights together. You never really got too much script chaos on the old Bond films (although the screenplay for The Spy Who Loved Me went through many hands) because Cubby Broccoli liked everything to be planned out in advance.
Maibaum said that the key to writing a Bond film was to come up with the villain's 'caper' first and then the rest would fall into place. If Cubby didn't like a script he would ask for more 'bumps' to be added. This was essentially his code for more Bondian staples. "Where are the bumps?" he would ask if the story wasn't sufficiently drenched in enough cinematic 007 residue for his liking. It is sometimes reported that The Living Daylights was originally written for Roger Moore but this was not the case. Maibaum and Wilson knew that a new actor would be coming in for the next film. The identity of that actor proved to be a rather complex puzzle to solve
Cubby Broccoli thought he had solved the latest James Bond casting puzzle when Pierce Brosnan officially signed on to play 007 in The Living Daylights. Cubby had obviously not forgotten meeting Brosnan on the set of For Your Eyes Only and kept tabs on him. Brosnan had begun his 007 costume fittings and shot a gunbarrel intro for The Living Daylights when fate intervened. Brosnan's NBC (and produced by MTM Enterprises) television show Remington Steele - a piece of light eighties hokum 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.
NBC offered to adjust their Remington Steele schedules so Brosnan could still do The Living Daylights but Cubby Broccoli declined to take advantage of this offer. In those days television had less prestige than it does today and Broccoli simply didn't want to share his Bond actor with a TV show. Broccoli had apparently told NBC they could have Brosnan for six episodes but NBC insisted on 22 episodes so no compromise could be arranged and EON decided to move on. "James Bond will not be Remington Steele, and Remington Steele will not be James Bond," declared Broccoli.
"My first reaction," said Brosnan, "was to tell them to shove the Remington contract. It was a knife in the heart. And not just for me, for my family, because we moved our children back to England and got ****** over by very short people. They had me by the short and curlies and there was absolutely nothing I could do. They’d nailed me to the wall. I went out and played a lot of tennis - to get the anger out of my system. You get over it. It's just being an actor." The August 1986 issue of People Magazine featured Pierce Brosnan on the cover with the headline - Take This Job & Shove It. Brosnan was still fuming to say the least.
Now that a furious Pierce Brosnan was out of the picture, Cubby Broccoli (apparently on the advice of his wife Dana) turned to Timothy Dalton and offered him the part of James Bond in The Living Daylights. Broccoli had always liked Dalton and always kept note of his career. Broccoli described Dalton as - "A vanishing breed, a gentleman actor with a highly tolerable ego!" However Dalton, who was now 40 years-old, declined the part because of existing theatrical commitments (in 1986, Dalton appeared in both Antony and Cleopatra and The Taming of the Shrew). Dalton's schedule was also complicated by a Brooke Shields adventure film called Brenda Starr he had signed up to appear in.
This then was the third time that Dalton had been approached about playing Bond and the third time he had recoiled from the overtures. This time was slightly different though in that Dalton's hands were tied (this was also the first time too that he had actually been offered the part). Dalton was contracted to both a play and a movie so was simply unavailable. It was tough luck but Dalton, who was never really that interested in stardom, wasn't unduly bothered by having to turn down James Bond, certainly in comparison to Brosnan - who was crestfallen to lose the part of Bond at the last minute.
With both Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton apparently out of the running, this opened the door for any number of other actors to come into contention to play James Bond in The Living Daylights. It was like a tennis tournament where the top two seeds have been knocked out early and so everyone now fancies their chances. The New Zealand actor Sam Neill was now the preferred choice of many at EON to become the new Bond. The television series Reilly, Ace Of Spies and a suave turn as the diabolical Damien Thorn in the trashy Omen III had made Neill a viable 007 candidate. It was arranged for him to do a screen test (as ever with Bond auditions he acted out a From Russia with Love scene) at Pinewood but Neill was atrocious in the audition and seemed disinterested.
Cubby Broccoli was never really sold on Sam Neill and the dire screentest merely confirmed his opinion. Years later, Sam Neill explained his low energy Bond audition when he said he had no interest at all in playing James Bond and had been pressured into the audition by his agent. "I don’t know why I was asked to audition, but I was, and I did, against my better judgment. My agent, who has now left this mortal coil, so I suppose I can say what I like. But she was deluded about certain things, and one of her delusions was that Bond would’ve been good for me, and vice versa, so I went very reluctantly out to test for that. And to my great relief, I didn’t get the part, and I haven’t looked back. It was one of the worst days of my life. I didn't want to be there, and I was so uncomfortable all day. There was nothing good about the day at all."
Another actor who auditioned to be James Bond in 1986 was Mark Greenstreet. Greenstreet had just appeared in a miniseries called Brat Farrar and spent three days doing screen tests at Pinewood. Greenstreet later said that during a break he went to use the toilet and bumped into Michael Biehn in his Corporal Hicks colonial space marine costume (James Cameron was shooting Aliens at the studio while Greenstreet's auditions took place). The interesting thing about Greenstreet is that he was only 25 at the time - which suggests EON, at some point, had a vague idea about making Bond much younger than usual.
Greenstreet spoke about his James Bond test in an appearance on Terry Wogan's chat show. Greenstreet said the first scene didn't go terribly well because he trapped his finger in a door while trying to make a suave entrance! Terry Wogan also commented on Greenstreet's hair and said it would be very strange to have a blond Bond! Michael Praed, the star of the TV show Robin Sherwood, was another actor who tested for The Living Daylights. Praed did his Bond audition with Fiona Fullerton. Marcus Gilbert was another young actor seemingly in contention. Gilbert had appeared in The Masks of Death (starring Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes) and Biggles: Adventures in Time. Gilbert would become best known for the television miniseries Riders.
The French actor Lambert Wilson (who spoke perfect English) was also a candidate. He was in his late twenties and had acted with Sean Connery in the 1982 film Five Days One Summer. Wilson screen tested for The Living Daylights opposite Maryam d'Abo as Tatiana Romanova, re-enacting scenes from From Russia with Love. In his memoir, Cubby Broccoli said he liked Lambert Wilson and would have happily hired him but he said Michael G. Wilson wasn't convinced. The director John Glen was quite keen on Highlander star Christophe Lambert playing Bond in The Living Daylights but Lambert's heavily accented and not exactly fluent English made this a highly dubious prospect. The search for Bond in The Living Daylights became so labyrinthe in the end that even American soap stars like John James and Michael Nader were said to be under consideration.
Bond fans used to wonder if Finlay Light was fictitious. A newspaper article in 1986 claimed he was a 32 year-old Australian model who had signed a ten year contract to become the new Bond but any evidence of Finlay Light being a real person was thin on the ground. However, while he didn't get the part he was actually real. John Glen confirmed in his memoir that Finlay Light tested for The Living Daylights. Light has since said that he did a screentest and Barbara Broccoli wanted to cast him but United Artists vetoed this because of his inexperience. It's a slight shame that the only picture of Finlay Light you can find online makes him look like the shapeshifting lizard conspiracy theory nut David Icke!
The Australian actor Andrew Clarke (who looked a lot like Tom Selleck and even had a tache) was another Australian candidate to play James Bond in The Living Daylights. In his memoir, John Glen said that Clarke was a 'front runner' for quite some time. Clarke played Simon Templar in a 1987 TV film pilot. On the evidence of Clarke's dreadful performance as Simon Templar, Bond fans got a lucky escape. MGM's new chief Jerry Weintraub suggested they should break the bank and cast Mel Gibson as Bond. Gibson would later say that he turned down James Bond twice because the part didn't interest him. Tom Mankiewicz, writer on Bond films for Cubby Brocoli, disputed this though and said it was Cubby Broccoli who didn't want Gibson and not the other way around. Gibson was becoming a huge star in Hollywood at the time and an unrealistic option anyway.
At some point during the casting process, Timothy Dalton became available again when his theatrical schedule unexpectedly cleared. Cubby Broccoli, who was clearly not convinced by any of the other candidates, decided to approach Dalton again and offer him the part of Bond in the Living Daylights. Cubby offered to push the production of The Living Daylights back by six weeks so that Timothy could fufil his obligation to appear in the film Brenda Starr. This was now the FOURTH time that EON had spoken to Dalton about becoming Bond - stretching right back to the late 1960s. Surprisingly though, Dalton was still not completely convinced he should take the role. Time was running out at this point so Broccoli continued to test actors - some it seems as a deliberate ploy to persuade Dalton.

Robert Bathurst, later best known for the television show Cold Feet, claims he tested to play Bond for The Living Daylights but thought it was only to put pressure on Timothy Dalton to make a decision. Bathurst was about 30 at the time and had mostly appeared in comedy shows. "Oh, that was such a ludicrous audition," said Bathurst. "I could never have done it - Bond actors are always very different to me. But some casting director persuaded me to go. The thing was, they already had Timothy Dalton. But I think he hadn’t signed yet so they wanted to tell him, ‘They’re still seeing people, you know,’ to put pressure on him to sign. I was just an arm-twisting exercise."
Cubby Broccoli's persistance finally payed off and Timothy Dalton signed on to become the fourth official James Bond actor. Dalton later said he was at an airport when he decided to accept the Bond offer. "I’d taken the Concorde from London to Miami to catch and make a connection to go up to Jacksonville to start Brenda Starr… and the Concorde was late! Or something went wrong, anyway, and I was stuck in the Miami airport. There was a hotel there in the airport, and I took a room there. Without anything to do, I decided to start thinking about whether I really, really should or should not do James Bond. Although obviously we’d moved some way along in that process, I just wasn’t set on whether I should do it or shan’t I do it. But the moment of truth was fast approaching as to whether I’d say yes or no. And that’s where I said yes. I picked up the phone from the hotel room in the Miami airport and called them and said, “Yep, you’re on: I’ll do it.”"
EON insisted that Timothy Dalton do a screen test before he could be officially signed as Bond. Dalton was reluctant to do this and felt that his body of work was more than sufficient evidence for them to judge him. "Look, nobody doubts your talents," Michael G. Wilson told Dalton, "but we have to see you as Bond, just to get an idea of what we're dealing with, what we have on camera." Dalton eventually agreed to the test and it all went fine. He scrubbed as well as you might expect and looked preposterously handsome in his test. EON felt like they had made the right choice and were confident that Timothy Dalton was going to be a terrific Bond.
Dalton was at 6'2 the tallest actor to be cast in the part. After the tongue-in-cheek nature of the Roger Moore era, the casting of Dalton was a bold decision by Cubby Broccoli. It automatically guarenteed that the next film would be a less flippant and jovial affair than Roger's movies had been. But would audiences miss the fun and humour? Only time would tell. "I couldn't see myself taking over and not doing it my own way," said Dalton, "to try and capture Fleming's Bond. He's tarnished. He's not a superclean hero. He's not a white knight. He drinks, smokes. He suffers from this thing called accidie, a moral malaise or confusion which makes him... thoroughly like us."
Given that, to this day, Bond fans sometimes wonder what Goldeneye would have been like with Timothy Dalton, it only seems reasonable to wonder too what The Living Daylights might have been like with Pierce Brosnan. On the evidence of Brosnan's performance in the 1987 film The Fourth Protocol (and of course Goldeneye eight years later), Brosnan would have been perfectly fine in The Living Daylights. Brosnan probably would have made the film somewhat lighter with his presence (Dalton simply had more depth and subtext to his acting than Brosnan) but Brosnan would clearly have been more at home with the Bond quips than Dalton.
You can easily imagine Brosnan in most of The Living Daylights. He'd have been terrific in the Aston Martin ice chase sequence and would have made a competent fist of the more dramatic moments in the story. Brosnan later said he was relieved that he didn't get Daylights because in retrospect he was too young and felt more appropriately mature and confident in 1994 when he did get the part. I'm not sure I agree with this though. If you watch Brosnan in The Fourth Protocol (which was made around the same time as Daylights) it's easy to picture the Brosnan of that era making a very good Bond.
EON haven't cast a really young actor as Bond since George Lazenby. Even Daniel Craig (who was supposed to be a young Bond new to the service in Casino Royale) was a rather mature looking 38 year-old when he got the part. Casting a 33 year-old Pierce Brosnan in Daylights would have been quite radical in hindsight - especially as Bond was played by a 57 year-old actor in the previous film. It would certainly be interesting to see EON go down the Lazenby path again in the future one day and cast a really young actor. Brosnan in 1986 is the closest they have ever got to doing this though at the time of writing.
One advantage Timothy Dalton had over Brosnan is that his Bond was more enigmatic. Dalton's Bond was more of a quiet thinker. Brosnan was more of a tabula rasa in comparison. Not to say Brosnan wasn't good. Most people feel Brosnan was much better than the scripts he got in his Bond films. The essential difference between the two interpretations is that Brosnan's Bond seemed to mostly be having a good time. He seemed to enjoy being a secret agent. Dalton's Bond did not have this quality. Dalton's Bond was more like Fleming's Bond in that he often questioned the harsh realities of his profession.
* The article above is an extract from the book Timothy Dalton's James Bond - The Retrospective

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