Dalton's Debut: Back to Fleming!5/10
With Roger Moore's 'retirement' as 007, in the less-than-wonderful A VIEW TO A KILL, Eon Productions began searching for a new James Bond for THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. A promising candidate was Sam Neill, 39, popular star of TV's "Reilly: The Ace of Spies" (and future JURASSIC PARK dinosaur expert). But Albert Broccoli didn't like Neill's tests, and announced he wanted Welsh actor Timothy Dalton, whom he'd first approached for the role 16 years earlier. At that time, Dalton had turned down Bond, saying he was "too young". Now 41, both Dalton and Broccoli agreed he was the right age, and his tests were fabulous...but it was then discovered that the shooting schedule for THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS would conflict with Dalton's current project, BRENDA STARR, and he, reluctantly, had to pass on the project.
Then an Irish actor, who had become a major television star in America, appeared on the scene. Pierce Brosnan, 34, his "Remington Steele" TV series about to be canceled by NBC, had impressed Broccoli on a visit to the Bond set 5 years earlier, and his tests were so good that he won the role. The script was adjusted, adding more humor (quips were one of Brosnan's strong points), and things were moving along nicely...until NBC, seeing the publicity value of a potential 'James Bond' in a series, renewed "Remington Steele", throwing the entire Bond production into turmoil. The network refused to release Brosnan, and he had to leave.
Fortunately, the delay gave Timothy Dalton time to complete BRENDA STARR, and he began shooting THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS two days after STARR wrapped.
Dalton, an avid fan of Fleming's novels, preferred a harder-edged yet vulnerable Bond, with little or no humor, but screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson had already tailored the script to Brosnan, and Dalton quickly revealed that one-liners were not his strongest asset. He gave, nonetheless, a strong, smoldering performance as 007. As his leading lady, Maryam d'Abo, 26, who'd been 'discovered' while doing 007 candidate screen tests, proved quite good as a blackmailed Czech cellist Bond 'couldn't kill'. The villains, while not 'top drawer' Bond, were effective; Jeroen Krabbe as a defecting Russian general, dancer-turned-actor Andreas Wisniewski as nearly superhuman assassin Necros, and Joe Don Baker, as a 'good ol' boy' megalomaniac U.S. general.
With action around the world, and a complicated plot involving a weapons heist and sale, the story attempted to be more 'topical' by involving the Afghan/Soviet conflict (which, unfortunately, 'dated' it, as well). Bond is monogamous for the first time, and the more 'physical' portrayal of FOR YOUR EYES ONLY had returned, to the delight of Bond purists.
But LETHAL WEAPON would also debut in 1987, and the 'over-the-top' solid action film would cut deeply into THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS profits. The 007 film was considered almost 'quaint' in comparison, and Dalton would unfairly take the 'heat' for the less profitable film.
The world was changing around 007, and no one was quite sure what to do about it...