Countdown to ‘Skyfall’ – A history of the James Bond film franchise Part 7
By April of 1994, Timothy Dalton decided enough was enough.
Licence to Kill had come out in 1989, done okay at the box office, yet no sequel was on the horizon. So, he quit. Now Cubby Broccoli and his team had to decide who to cast as their lead character, and decided to give one actor a second shot.
Brosnan, who had nearly become Bond back in the early 1980s but lost out on the role because of Remington Steele, was now free from TV and eager to take on the part. He first met the producers during the filming of For Your Eyes Only, in which his wife, actress Cassandra Harris, who had a small role.
The next Bond film would be entitled Goldeneye, a title taken from the name of Ian Fleming’s Jamaican estate. In addition, while working for British intelligence, Fleming had taken part in an operation codenamed “Goldeneye.” This would be the first Bond film to use none of Fleming’s written works in developing the script.
One of the obstacles the filmmakers faced was that the Soviet Union had collapsed and the “Russian” government was no longer a potential foe. So the film instead creates enemies that include Russian crime syndicates, and a former MI6 Double OO agent named “Alex Trevelyan”, portrayed by Sean Bean. He was thought to have been killed in an operation that opens the film (which may well be the most exciting first ten minutes of any film in the entire franchise). Famke Janssen is “Xenia Onatopp”, a woman who lives to kill men and works for Trevelyan. Izabella Scorupco is “Natalya Simonova”, a Russian woman whose life Bond saves and who assists him in stopping the evil plot.
Whatever reservations Broccoli had before when it came to a female “M” were clearly dropped. In a surprising twist, one that has proven to be quite popular, the role was given to a woman. And that woman was Dame Judi Dench.
No Felix Leiter here. Instead, Joe Don Baker returns, but this time as good guy “Jack Wade”, a CIA operative assistant to Bond. Robbie Coltrane portrays Vladimir Zukovsky, an ex-KGB agent.
Many thought that the long delay between films would harm the franchise. Nothing could have been further from the truth. On a budget of $58 million, the largest Bond film budget to date, it grossed over $350 million worldwide, a new record for the franchise. It spawned three different video games over the years and was the second Bond film adapted into a novel by writer John Gardner.
The film franchise then suffered what could very well be its most dramatic loss. The man who had brought James Bond to the big screen, Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, died six months after the release of Goldeneye. The next Bond film and all others to date have been produced by the team of his daughter Barbara Broccoli and his step-son, Michael G. Wilson. Wilson has appeared in 14 of the Bond films in cameo or very small roles.
MGM and others involved in the next film needed it to succeed as well as Goldeneye or better for a variety of reasons. Public expectations were high, MGM was about to make a public stock offering and that combined to exert enormous pressure on the filmmakers. They tried to get Goldeneye’s director Martin Campbell to return for the follow-up, but he refused. Roger Spottiswoode was hired. There were no more Fleming novels left to adapt.
The actual title that was chosen was “Tomorrow Never Lies”, because the plot involves the central villain, “Elliot Carver”, a media mogul manipulating world events to create the headlines for his empire to publish in the newspaper “Tomorrow”. But it was altered in error and MGM loved the title Tomorrow Never Dies, so that was that.
Michelle Yeoh was cast as “Colonel Wai Lin” from the Army of the People’s Republic of China and a Bond ally. Teri Hatcher played Carver’s wife “Paris”, who happened to be a former lover of Bond. She would later regret playing the role, saying it was an “artificial character”. Joe Don Baker returned in a very brief appearance as “Jack Wade”, while magician Ricky Jay was one of Carver’s associates, “Henry Gupta”. Dame Judi Dench continued as “M”.
Another change was that Walther used the film to introduce a new pistol for Bond, the P99. James Bond had carried a Walther PPK in every film since Dr. No, except for Moonraker, where he did not use a bullet-firing pistol. It was the second film in the three picture deal with BMW and Bond had a 7 series BMW that he could pilot via remote control.
An impending release date and the late completion of the script combined to push the budget for Tomorrow Never Dies to more than $110 million. It still managed a very respectable $333 million in worldwide grosses. Interestingly, it was the only one of the four Brosnan Bond films not to open at #1 at the box office in the U.S. (Which may have been because it opened the same weekend as James Cameron’s Titanic.)
In the next segment of “Countdown to Skyfall – A History of the James Bond Franchise” we cover the final two Bond films of Pierce Brosnan and the introduction of the man who IS James Bond in Skyfall.
To be continued…
James Bond will return