Search This Blog

Monday, January 27, 2014

007 Feature #4 - Licence To Kill featuring Dalton...Timothy Dalton

Can you believe that we're already doing the fourth installment of the special 007 theme that we have going on in the Monday Matinee?  I tell you, time certainly does fly, doesn't it?

This is the fourth of a six part series of Bond themed entries that will take us right into mid-February.  In case you missed the previous three entries, here they are below.

And this week, we'll be taking a look at one of the two films featuring the fourth actor to play the role of James Bond.

Today we look at Dalton...Timothy Dalton.

Now I will say this before I go on.   For the longest time, I always had the opinion that Timothy Dalton's Bond was by far the Bond I liked the least.  But it's not for the reasons that you might think.  For instance, my opinion of Timothy Dalton's Bond has nothing to do with his acting ability.  In almost everything else I have seen Timothy Dalton act in, I've loved.  Believe me, his acting abilities have little to do with why I didn't prefer him as Bond.  In fact, I really did want to like him in the role.

So, why was I left a bit disappointed in Timothy's portrayal?  Well, I think it had less to do with how he acted in the films and more to do with how he was written in the two films he acted in.

Whereas all of the other movies had James Bond having a multi-dimensional personality where he portrayed a number of complex emotions...I always found that the writers of the scripts (whether intentionally or not) made Timothy Dalton's Bond a lot more serious, and a lot less fun.  And, certainly it made the movies themselves seem more darker in tone, and more serious.  And, that was fine if you really liked dark movies.  After all, 1989's "Batman" worked because it was so dark and gothic.

But to take the dark and gothic imagery and apply it to a James Bond film...I don't know.  I guess it just sort of left me feeling cold.  And, I don't think it's Timothy Dalton's fault either, because he was only acting the way the script called for - and did it well upon watching him in action once again.  It's just that I found the films a little too dark, and as a result, I kind of have Dalton's films towards the bottom of my list (though admittedly, his two films rank higher than Roger Moore's last two as Bond, as well as the non-Eon production that Sean Connery attached himself to).

Now, the casting of Timothy Dalton as Bond in the mid-1980s was an interesting story.  It was widely expected that with the dismal bomb that was 1985's "A View To A Kill" that a new Bond actor would be brought on for the next installment of the series.  After all, Roger Moore was pushing sixty and Albert R. Broccoli let Roger Moore go after seven films and twelve years of playing Bond - even though Roger Moore would have you believe that he left on his own terms.  Regardless of what story you believe, Moore's tenure as Bond ended in 1985 - the same year that Lois Maxwell left her role as Miss Moneypenny after playing her since the very first James Bond movie was released in 1962!

Auditions were held all over the world to find the next James Bond throughout 1986, and of the thousands who wanted the part, the top three actors up for consideration were Dalton, Sam Neill, and interestingly enough, Pierce Brosnan.

Now, had Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson had their way, Bond would have been played by Sam Neill (a casting decision that I think might have been an awesome one as I have always loved Sam Neill's work).  But ultimately the final decision was Albert R. Broccoli's, and he didn't believe that Sam Neill had what it took to play James Bond.

With Sam Neill out of the running, the decision was between Dalton and Brosnan.  And, initially, the part was offered to Brosnan.  And Brosnan was well on his way to accepting.  After all, the series that he was starring in, NBC's "Remington Steele" was well on its way to being cancelled, and because of that fact alone, he was absolutely committed to playing Bond...

...or so he THOUGHT.

You see, with the word out that Pierce Brosnan was going to play Bond, NBC pulled what could be considered a nasty trick on Brosnan.  On the very last day of Brosnan's contract with "Remington Steele", NBC exercised a 60-day option onto Brosnan's contract, essentially contracting Brosnan to do one more season of the show - a move that NBC made when the saw how the show was experiencing a spike in the ratings right around the time that Brosnan was mulling over the option to play Bond.  That contract extension caused Albert R. Broccoli to take back the offer, as he did not want Bond to be associated with a television series on NBC, and even issued an edict that simply read "Remington Steele will NOT be James Bond".

Ouch!  And to add insult to injury, when the role was taken away from Brosnan, the ratings for "Remington Steele" took a nosedive and NBC cancelled the series after just five more episodes aired.  I wonder how Brosnan felt about that move.

But Brosnan's loss was Dalton's gain.  And, with urging from his wife, Dana, Albert R. Broccoli was persuaded to give Timothy Dalton the role of James Bond just in time to film 1987's "The Living Daylights".  Of course, Dalton accepting the role happened to be pure luck, as he was initially unavailable for filming because he was already committed to the film "Brenda Starr".  It took a lot of arm-twisting on Broccoli's part, but Dalton decided to take the part for the next two films of the series.

Now, as I have mentioned before, one was "The Living Daylights", released during the summer of 1987.  And the other one happens to be the film that we'll be looking at this week, originally released on June 13, 1989.

Today we take a look at the sixteenth film in the Eon Productions series.  The 1989 Bond film "Licence To Kill", which in addition to Dalton also starred Carey Lowell, Robert Davi, Talisa Soto, and Benicio del Toro.

Now, this film does have its stand out moments.  First things first, the theme song for this particular movie (sung by Gladys Knight) is probably one of my all-time favourite themes ever for a James Bond film (others I like include Shirley Bassey's "Diamonds are Forever", Tina Turner's "Goldeneye", and Adele's "Skyfall").  And secondly, this film does have a huge list of stars of the past as well as future stars making an appearance.  Benicio del Toro is arguably a huge A-list actor now, but "Licence To Kill" marks one of his very first appearances in a motion picture.  David Hedison - famous for his role in the television series "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" also makes an appearance as Bond's ally Felix Leiter.  Priscilla Barnes, who some may remember as Terri Alden from "Three's Company" plays Leiter's new bride in the film.  And even Wayne Newton appears in the film in the role of Professor Joe Butcher.

But at the same time, critical reception of the film is mixed, and despite being one of the more successful films of 1989, "Licence To Kill" is considered to be a financial flop in the American market, as when it was released it was the lowest-grossing Bond film.

Of course, the film did end up making $156 million on a $32 million budget, so I would still call it a success.

This film also marks a couple of notable events.  First, it would be the final film in which Albert R. Broccoli would serve as producer.  Health problems would sideline him on 1995's "Goldeneye" and he would pass away in June 1996.  And secondly, it was the first Bond film to not shoot any footage inside of the United Kingdom, with most of the filming taking place in Mexico and Key West, Florida.

NOTE:  Initially, the production was to take place in China, but after 1987's "The Last Emperor" debuted in theatres, it was decided that the film would be primarily set elsewhere.

Now, as far as the plot's probably one of the darkest Bond films that has ever been made, with lots of violent scenes.  In fact, I wasn't actually allowed to watch this Bond film until well into my teen years, as some of the scenes were quite scary for a little kid.  Looking at the film now, I can see why I was shielded from this movie as an eight year old.  The film actually received a rating in the UK that prevented anyone under the age of fifteen from seeing it in theatres!

So, anyway...the film opens at a wedding.  The wedding of Felix Leiter and Della Churchill in Key West.  But before Leiter and Della can exchange "I Do's", Leiter and jis friend James Bond are sidelined into a quest to apprehend drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) - which they are successful in doing.  They nab him in the air, and both Bond and Leiter parachute down towards the wedding ceremony where a happy Della is waiting to become Mrs. Felix Leiter.  All is happy.  The end.

Well, okay, that's just the first 5-10 minutes of the movie before the opening sequence.  You know that there's more to come.

Needless to say, thanks to a traitor within the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Sanchez managed to bust himself out of prison, and among his first orders are to get revenge.  He gets his henchmen to track down the location of Felix and Della and dispatch them both.  Ultimately, one half of the unluckiest newlyweds in the whole world end up losing their life as Della is raped, tortured, and murdered.  Leiter survives, but is badly wounded by a tiger shark in the process.  And when Bond discovers that his friend has been injured and his friend's new wife is now dead, the main thing on his mind is getting justice for both of them.

Unfortunately, since Sanchez is out of jurisdiction of the DEA, Bond has no choice but to go after him alone...and with assistance from Felix's friend, Sharkey (Frank McRae), he sets out to do exactly that.

Among some of the other highlights of the film's plot.

- The man who turned on the DEA gets karma delivered to him courtesy of Bond...and a fishy friend.
- Bond is offered an assignment in Istanbul, Turkey by 'M' (Robert Brown), but when he turns it down and resigns, 'M' suspends his 'licence to kill'.
- Bond becomes a free agent, but is still helped by MI6 armourer, 'Q' (Desmond Llewellyn)
- Two Bond girls enter the picture.  Pam Bouview (Lowell) and Lupe Lamora (Soto).  Two entirely different women who somehow find their way into Bond's heart...and one of them end up inside Bond's trousers at the end of the movie.  But of course, I won't reveal which one!
- Who knew that cocaine and petrol would make a rather expensive concoction?
- And, not to give anything away, but a lighter causes one of the most explosive death scenes ever broadcast in a Bond film.

And, that's all you get from me!  That's really all you need to know about the plot anyway.  It's a Monday Matinee, for crying out loud.  Why would I spoil the ending?

But what I can do is offer up some behind the scenes trivia about this film.  Are you ready?

01 - Benicio del Toro is the first Bond henchman to win an Academy Award (for 2000's "Traffic").

02 - Benicio del Toro is also the youngest person to ever play a Bond villain, being just 21 years of age.

03 - This was Robert Brown's last feature film role.

04 - It was also Caroline Bliss' last turn as Miss Moneypenny, assuming the role from Lois Maxwell beginning with 1987's "The Living Daylights".  She would be replaced by Samantha Bond in 1995's "Goldeneye".

05 - The first James Bond film in the Eon series to NOT take its title from an Ian Fleming novel or short story.

06 - There were two versions of Della's wedding dress made for the movie because the scene in which Della is attacked was filmed before the actual wedding scene.

07 - Della's wedding dress fabric reportedly cost $150 a meter!

08 - A postman named Doug Redenuis won a role as an extra in the movie.  Redenuis owned what was then the largest collection of James Bond memorabilia ever.

09 - Sandi Sentell, a gym teacher from Atlanta, Georgia, also won a part as an extra after winning a contest on VH1 to appear in the movie!

10 - The original title of the film was supposed to be "Licence Revoked".

11 - Maria Conchita Alonso was offered the role of Lupe, but turned it down.

12 - Carey Lowell had a difficult time in the scenes which required her character to shoot a gun.  She would always flinch and close her eyes as she pulled the trigger.

13 - The scene in which Bond hands over his resignation to 'M' was filmed at Ernest Hemingway's house in Key West.  Funnily enough, the last line Bond says at the end of the scene is "I guess this is a farewell to arms" - a casual reference to one of Hemingway's works.

14 - Benicio del Toro accidentally sliced Timothy Dalton's hand in a scene, which required Timothy to get stitches.

15 - When Talisa Soto arrived for her screen test, Timothy Dalton was unavailable, so Robert Davi filled in.

16 - Of all the Bond themes recorded, Gladys Knight's 'Licence to Kill' is by far the longest.  If you're interested in just how long the song is, the full video can be found below.

17 - But Gladys Knight almost didn't record the song because she objected to inserting the word "kill" in the song, given her Christian soul singer background.  But given that the film was called "Licence To Kill", I don't think she had much choice in the matter.

18 - This film had budget restraints due to overspending on a previous Bond film that the producers were still paying off at the time of the movie's release.  That film?  "Moonraker" from 1979!!!

19 - Robert Davi learned how to scuba dive solely for his role in "Licence To Kill".

20 - Because of the stiff competition from other blockbuster films during the summer of 1989, this film marked the last time that a film would be released in the summer months.  All subsequent Bond films were released after September in future years.

21 - The closing theme for the movie was "If You Asked Me To", which was performed by Patti LaBelle.  Three years after this film was released, in 1992, Celine Dion re-recorded the single, which became a huge worldwide hit.

22 - The last James Bond film to feature Bond wearing a Rolex watch.

23 - This movie wasn't the first time in which David Hedison would play the role of Felix Leiter.  He previously assumed the role in 1973's "Live and Let Die".

24 - The first Bond film to issue a tobacco warning in its closing credits.

25 - The first James Bond film to receive a PG-13 rating.

And that wraps up our look at "Licence To Kill"...a movie that is far from being my favourite, but certainly worth a spot in the Bond library.

So, Timothy Dalton's turn as Bond was a short one, only appearing in two Bond films.  But he was actually contracted to three.  By the time the third film was ready to be shot in 1994, Dalton stunned everyone by resigning as Bond. 

Thus set the stage for Bond #5...which was a man who would get a second chance to play the coveted role after losing it on a technicality.

Four films were made with Bond #5.  In next week's feature, we look at my favourite of the four.

No comments:

Post a Comment