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In our last sermon, we discussed James Bond's the sloppy handover from Sean Connery to George Lazenby (and back again). As we all know, Sean Connery's double-back, Diamonds Are Forever, put the series back on the rails. Despite being offered the role again for 1973's Live And Let Die, it eventually went to Roger Moore, known then as Simon Templar in TV's The Saint. Roger Moore's Bond completed the trend that had started with You Only Live Twice of moving the series into a more campy, self-aware direction. I'm sure we all remember, from Diamonds Are Forever, "I'm Plenty O'Toole."
"Named after your father, no doubt."
Moore's campy trend continued up through 1979's James Bond / Star Wars crossover, Moonraker, after which the producers had nowhere else to go but to back to Earth for the more Ian Fleming-insipired For Your Eyes Only. The Bond franchise had done that previously, when they followed You Only Live Twice with On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and again later when Die Another Day's invisible car led to the series-best, Casino Royale.
After For Your Eyes Only, it was felt that Roger Moore had Bonded his last Bond. It went like this: For Your Eyes Only was a box office success and, rare for Bond films in those days, a critical hit as well (Moonraker in particular really took a drubbing). But then it was announced that Sean Connery was returning to the role in the non-official, legal-loophole Thunderball remake Never Say Never Again. Knowing that the producer's didn't want to introduce a new 007 to go up against Sean Goddamn Connery, Moore's representatives felt this was a good time to ask for a raise. A big one. Unfortunately, it was Moore than the producer's wanted to pay. See what I did there? So, for a brief time, other actors were considered. Check out a guy named Michael Billington, who made a career out of almost becoming Bond.
Eventually, a deal was struck and Moore returned for Octopussy, which ended up making more than Never Say Never Again. Everyone was happy. So happy, in fact, that Roger Moore was invited back again for 1985's ill-advised A View To A Kill. Nothing against Roger Moore, who, by all accounts, was a superlative, five star human being, but by 1985 he was getting a tad creaky, and James Bond, who moved through From Russia With Love like a panther, had been reduced to your dad's friend hobbling around Fisherman's Wharf in a windbreaker.
It was time for a change.
A French actor named Lambert Wilson tested for the role, as did Jurassic Park's Sam Neil, who got very close. Timothy Dalton was approached, as he had been previously in 1968 when Connery first left, but Dalton was doing two plays in the West End at the time, Antony and Cleopatra and Taming Of The Shrew (Timothy Dalton is an ac-TOR) and said, “Thanks again, but no again.”
There was another name on everyone’s lips, and it rhymed with Schmeerce Schmosnan. As Roger Moore rose to prominence playing a Bond-like character on television, so too had Pierce Brosnan on Remington Steele. NBC had just announced that Remington Steele had been cancelled and Pierce Brosnan was available. Brosnan screen-tested and won the part for the next 007 adventure, The Living Daylights.
So what went wrong?
NBC is what. Even after cancelling Remington Steele, the network still had everyone under contract for a sixty day hold in which they reserved the right to pick the show back up if they wanted. Within that period, it was made know that Pierce Brosnan was going to be the new James Bond. So NBC, being a corporation, decided to cash in on the publicity of having the new James Bond star in their TV show.
Not so fast. Bond producer Cubby Broccoli felt, correctly, that people don't like to pay for what they can get for free. BUT, he was an old school deal maker and struck a compromise. He told NBC they could have Pierce Brosnan for six episodes, but then he would have to report for duty as James Bond. NBC was agreed. Hooray!
But then, the twist. The evil twist. As recounted by Pierce Brosnan in Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury’s Bond history, Some Kind Of Hero, on the last day of the contract, on the last day, on day sixty, NBC changed their mind and exercised their option to keep Brosnan for a full season. The Bond deal was off.
Now, what SHOULD have happened was… nothing. For sixty days there should have been no talk, no speculation, no raising of awareness. Someone on the inside could have called Pierce Brosnan at home and whispered, "Sit down, shut up and do nothing for sixty days. One minute after midnight on day sixty-one, we'll have a car out front to take you to an audition."
It was blunder. Broccoli? Brosnan's agent? Somebody should have foreseen this because it had just happened. Tom Selleck, had to bow out of the starring role in a little film called Raiders Of The Lost Ark because of his commitment to Magnum, P.I. Television networks are major corporations and they could give a fuck if you're happy or not. And hats off to Pierce Brosnan for not driving over to NBC and going postal in the aftermath. I can't imagine how difficult that must have been. Especially when, after all that, NBC didn't even produce the full season. They made six episodes and pulled the plug. Just awful.
By this time, Dalton’s schedule and Bond’s schedule lined up, just barely, and it was agreed that the Welsh actor would be the next 007 in the fifteenth official Bond adventure, The Living Daylights
The Living Daylights returns Bond to a grittier take than Roger Moore’s arched eyebrow approach. One thing that sadly dates the film is the third act, which takes place in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. Bond teams up with a leader of the Mujahedeen, the Afghan resistance, who happened to have been educated at Oxford and is well acquainted with Western culture. In other words, Bond spends the end of the film helping out Osama Bin Laden and the pre 9/11 Taliban to defeat the Soviets. It’s pretty creepy to watch with the gift of hindsight.
A lot was made of Dalton’s “returning Bond to his roots” approach. He spoke a lot about going back to the books. And this is great, if you’re making a book. I like Timothy Dalton as Bond, but I want to like him so much more. I find his performance joyless. From Russia With Love is always cited as the Rosetta Stone of Sean Connery’s hard-assed 007, but go watch it. He is having a blast. Timothy Dalton never looks like he’s having any fun. There’s no wink, there’s no irony.
This is extra weird because, clearly, Timothy Dalton has panache to spare. Watch him in Hot Fuzz, or The Rocketeer, or Penny Dreadful. He kicks arse. Additionally, for what it's worth, he lived around the corner from us in L.A. a hundred years ago, and by all accounts he's a great guy. So please know, I'm not ragging him. But look how he delivers the signature line, ”My name is Bond, James Bond,” in the The Living Daylight’s cold open. He doesn’t so much throw it away as dig a hole and bury it alive.
All that said, The Living Daylights is a solid entry into the series, and it sets the stage for one of the weirdest Bond movies of all time, 1989's License to Kill. Which is super interesting because it’s not a James Bond movie. It’s an episode of Miami Vice with James Bond in it.
But that’s another story for another time.
As for Pierce Brosnan, as we all know, this episode does have a happy ending. Eventually. It's a good story to keep in mind for anyone in show business. It tells us that nothing worthwhile is easy, life is innately unfair, and it ain’t over ‘till it’s over.
Sometimes you do get what you want. You just don't get it when you want it.