Countdown to ‘Skyfall’ – A history of the James Bond film franchise Part 6
Following 1983’s Octopussy, the plan was to make a film titled From a View to a Kill, and the first choice to play the main villain, “Max Zorin”, was David Bowie. But he turned the role down, as did Sting.
Finally, Oscar-winner Christopher Walken was cast as Zorin, supposedly a product of selective breeding during World War II by German scientists. Tanya Roberts would become the latest Bond girl as “Stacey Sutton”. There would be a slew of Bong girls in this film, actually, including Alison Doody, Fiona Fullerton, Grace Jones and in a very brief appearance, Papillion Soo Soo (Full Metal Jacket fans will know her as the Vietnamese woman who utters the now famous phrase, “Me So Horny”). In point of fact, when this film is done, Roger Moore’s James Bond has slept with a total of 17 women spanning seven films, a record thus far among Bonds.
The story is an entirely original screenplay, with only the title taken from a James Bond short story from the “For Your Eyes Only” collection. It would be Roger Moore’s seventh and final appearance as James Bond. He decided this would be his last film during production after Roberts’ mother visited the set, and he realized he was actually older than her.
Also retiring from the franchise after A View to a Kill was Lois Maxwell, who had played Moneypenny in every Bond film to date. Her burning, unrequited love for Bond was always on display. Maxwell had hoped to be promoted into the role of “M”, but at the time Cubby Broccoli felt that fans wouldn’t accept a woman giving orders to Bond (Clearly, he had a change of heart later).
At the time the production was filming, much of it done in the San Francisco area, Senator Dianne Feinstein was the Mayor of the city. She considered Moore her favorite of the three actors to have played Bond thus far and was very helpful in securing filming permits for the production. While it was a commercial success, A View to a Kill was very poorly received by critics. Grossing $150 million on a budget of $30 million, there was no question that there would be more Bond films. But now the question was once again, who would portray James Bond.
Timothy Dalton had been considered to replace Sean Connery back in 1968, but he walked away believing himself to be too young at the time. The role was then offered to Pierce Brosnan, and he very much wanted to do the movie. However, he was under contract to the TV series Remington Steele, and after it got renewed he was forced to bow out. Dalton was approached again, but had to say no because the proposed shooting schedule conflicted with Brenda Starr, a movie he had already committed to. But the producers offered to shift the shooting schedule and Dalton signed up for The Living Daylights.
Dalton’s Bond turned out to be very different from how Connery, Lazenby and Moore had portrayed him. He was darker, with less humor. Many consider him to be the closest to the James Bond that Ian Fleming created. The film’s title is based on yet another Bond short story, and the initial sequences involving snipers is taken from that tale. But the rest of the plot is not from Fleming material.
Maryam d’Abo, who would later go on to produce a documentary, Bond Girls are Forever, was the main Bond Girl here, as “Kara Milovy”, a Russian cellist. Jeroen Krabbe was “General Georgi Koskov”, the film’s central villain, with Joe Don Baker’s “Brad Whitaker” revealed at the end as the man behind Koskov’s plot. John Rhys-Davies is a Russian general, “Leonid Pushkin”, who helps Bond put a stop to Koskov’s scheme. Art Malik plays “Kamran Shah”, who assists Bond and Milovy when they are in Afghanistan. There is a “Felix Leiter” in this film, played by John Terry, but the role is minor.
This was the biggest budget yet for a Bond film, $40 million, and while it didn’t reach the $200 million mark, grossing $191 million made it a very successful film. Dalton agreed to do another Bond adventure and production was quickly underway on Licence to Kill – which also proves to be Dalton’s last.
Based alost entirely on original material, this latest 007 film borrows small plot elements from the novel Live and Let Die and the short story The Hildebrand Rarity. Carey Lowell played “Pam Bouvier”, a Bond girl who was also a CIA pilot and agent. Talisa Soto was “Lupe”, the mistress of Licence to Kill‘s central villain, “Franz Sanchez”, played by Robert Davi. David Hedison reprised his role as “Felix Leiter” (he played him in Live and Let Die), becoming the only actor to play Leiter twice until Jeffrey Wright did it in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Wayne Newton asked the producers to give him a cameo and they did, as a televangelist who is working with Sanchez. And Pedro Armendariz Jr. plays a politician in this film. He’s the son of Pedro Armendariz, who had a major role as Kerim Bey in From Russia With Love.
As he did in Octopussy, Desmond Llewelyn’s “Q” goes out into the field to help Bond. He has an even larger role in the field this time around. Bond isn’t saving the world in this film. He’s seeking revenge on Sanchez for the injuries he inflicted on Leiter. Putting Sanchez’s drug ring out of business is just a bonus.
While the worldwide grosses for Licence to Kill were good, the U.S. box office was the lowest for a Bond film when adjusted for inflation. The marketing campaign suffered because the original title of the film had been Licence Revoked, which MGM felt most Americans would think had something to do with losing one’s license to drive. The name change caused problems with advertising materials.
Timothy Dalton intended to return to play James Bond again, but in 1990, MGM/UA was sold and the new owners intended to license the Bond films for viewing on television in several countries without the permission of EON’s parent company, Danjaq. This resulted in a six year legal battle and in 1994, Dalton exited the franchise. Another event during this time that resulted in a major change in the franchise was the 1991 death of screenwriter Richard Maibaum. He’d written or co-written the screenplay for almost every Bond film from the beginning. So Bond 17 would have a new Bond, a screenplay without the involvement of Maibaum and it would take six years to bring it to the big screen.
In the next segment of “Countdown to Skyfall – A History of the James Bond Franchise” the next James Bond enters and he had come very close to being Bond before.
To be continued…
James Bond will return