Defending Timothy Dalton
Aug 19, 2004
By: Kareem O'Keefe
The following is two portions of text extracted from different parts of an early draft of The Living Daylights:
Police men looking up, astonished, to see BOND riding a "magic carpet."
Landing in front of BOND. GORILLA grabs him, pulls him close, then reaches out with a huge hand and plucks BOND'S eyelash.
A magic carpet ride, a gorilla who plucks out eye lashes, a pair of divorcees and an aging Roger Moore. This is what The Living Daylights would have turned out like if Roger Moore did it...
Some Bond fans and a majority of the general public express the same view: Timothy Dalton was terrible as James Bond. They think that his characterization was too serious and too real. Dalton is known as an actor who nearly destroyed the James Bond franchise. Here is my chance to defend him and the two Bond films he starred in, The Living Daylights and Licence To Kill.
After Roger Moore's seventh and last appearance in the Bond film A View To A Kill, producer Albert R. Broccoli started looking for a new actor to play James Bond. Choices ranged from future Bond actor Pierce Brosnan to New Zealand actor Sam Neil, but the role ultimately went to actor Timothy Dalton.
Dalton had been approached with the Bond role years before. In 1968, Albert Broccoli asked Dalton if he would be interested in taking over the role of James Bond after Sean Connery, but Dalton later said, "I considered myself too young and Connery too good." Dalton wanted a bit of variety so he alternated between film, television and stage productions. He was offered the role again in the 1970's but turned it down because of film commitments.
Dalton's first big break as James Bond occurred when Pierce Brosnan was kept from taking on the role due to a contract starring in the television series Remington Steele. Dalton tested out for his role as 007 and was offered the part. After he re-watched all of the previous films and re-read all of Fleming's books, it was officially announced on August 7, 1986, that Dalton was the new James Bond.
Production of The Living Daylights began in September of that year, and a week later Dalton was introduced as James Bond at a big press conference in Vienna. Dalton took his role of 007 very seriously, and brought back the more realistic character of Bond from the early Fleming books. In the production of Licence to Kill, writers made several adaptations to the script to suit his style of acting.
Dalton, better known as a Shakespearian actor of repute, brought his Bond characterization to a whole new dimension. He brought a dangerous edge to the character which was not seen in any of the previous films. He played the role with a seriousness that was, at times, scary.
The Roger Moore Bond films had moments that did not benefit the film series. Fans of the Ian Fleming novels were disappointed with what Roger Moore was doing to the character. Every Moore film had something that made Fleming fans cringe with embarrassment. Bond snow boarding to the beach boys, Bond as Tarzan in Octopussy, the Jaws and Dolly relationship in Moonraker and the car jump with whistle in The Man With The Golden Gun are all perfect examples of moments that bring embarrassment to the series.
This was the time came for a change. That change was with Timothy Dalton. Roger Moore was out of date. His Bond characterization was past its prime and he was too old to play the part. If Roger Moore hadn't of retired with A View To A Kill, it it was possible that he was going to star in The Living Daylights. A script was already tailored for him but he turned down the role because he felt he was too old to play the part. An early draft of The Living Daylights featured stunts and gimmicks which you would only see in a Roger Moore Bond film. Imagine if Moore continued as 007. The Living Daylights, which (in my opinion) is probably one of the best James Bond films ever, may have ended up like Moonraker.
Licence To Kill had Dalton playing Bond like he was in the Ian Fleming novels. He was human and felt emotion. This was not received well by the public though. They were use to the fantasy adventure, the exotic locations, the trademark Bond humour and a film that promised you non-stop action. Licence To Kill was an adventure, but not a fantasy. The plot was taken right out of news headlines. The locations were not exotic and the humour was dark. The film was the first in the series to feature a PG-13 rating for the violence that it featured. The Dalton Bond films were gritty and realistic, something that the audiences of that time were not ready for.
After the box-office failure of Licence To Kill and the 6 year layoff of the Bond series, Dalton announced in 1994 that he woouldn't reprise the role of Bond.
Before you judge Timothy Dalton on his Bond films and his performance. Think what the films would have been like if Roger Moore continued the role.
The truth is, Timothy Dalton was too good to be a successful James Bond.