Licence to Kill: Timothy Dalton stars in 1989 trailer
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After a strange few years when Sean Connery and Roger Moore both returned (a little past their prime) to play the British secret agent with decidedly mixed results, Dalton confidently and classily put the franchise back on strong and modern footing. Following Connery’s Never Say Never Again and Moore’s Octopussy, both in 1983, the latter was coxed to return in 195’s A View To A Kill, but it was clear an era was coming to an end. His successor made his debut in 1987’s The Living Daylights. He was praised in the Washington Post as “the best Bond ever” and the film was a box office success, grossing $191million against View’s $152million. But his time in the tuxedo was devastatingly cut short.
There has, perhaps, been a popular conception that Dalton, a Royal Shakespeare Company star, felt uncomfortable making such a commercial formulaic franchise. Yet, Connery himself had not tried to hide his contempt for the role (and his feud with Bond producer Cubby Broccoli) in his final films.
In fact, Dalton’s shock exit from Bond was not what the actor had wanted or planned when he took on the role. After 1989’s Daylights, he and the producer were confidently working on the third film in his saga. The actor later revealed he was happy with the first draft of the script. So what went wrong?
Speaking of View, Dalton said: “If it is a success I would be delighted to do another film. What could be a greater pleasure and satisfaction than giving a lot of excitement and enjoyment to people all around the world and doing it again with a different film?
“Success isn’t just fame or notoriety or money, success is achieving your objective and that is to give people, in this populist genre, a very thrilling an exciting time in the cinema. And if you’ve done that, why not take the elements and do it again. I think that is thrilling. I’d love to.
“I’d be more thrilled than anything if the critics thought this film as a film as a piece of work, certainly within its context as being a populist film, was a terrific and enjoyable piece of entertainment.”
Dalton had enjoyed a long and successful stage career before he took on the Bond role, notably in Shakespeare and Noel Coward. Even his early screen roles were typically classic projects like playing Heathcliff in a 1970 film of Wuthering Heights or Mr. Rochester in the BBC’s 1983 Jane Eyre.
However, he had also already dipped into more “populist” entertainment with 1980’s Flash Gordon and the 1986 Joan Collins mini series, Sins. In fact, he appeared to take his role as James Bond seriously and has publicly explained he was eager to make more, until factors beyond his control changed everything.
Pre-production was underway for the final film in Dalton’s original three-movie contract. However, a protracted four-year legal battle between MGM and Bond producers Eon put everything on hold. Although Dalton’s contract had now expired, he was approached to start work on Goldeneye in 1994.
The actor later said: “Albert Broccoli asked if I would come back, and I said, ‘Well, I’ve actually changed my mind a little bit. I think that I’d love to do one. Try and take the best of the two that I have done, and consolidate them into a third.’”
“He said, quite rightly, ‘Look, Tim. You can’t do one. There’s no way, after a five-year gap between movies that you can come back and just do one. You’d have to plan on four or five.’
“And I thought, ‘Oh, no, that would be the rest of my life. Too much. Too long.’ So I respectfully declined.”
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