“Unlike the American government, we prefer not to get our bad news from CNN.”
Martin Campbell . 1994
“Hello Mr. Bond. You’ve got the part.”
Agent Fred Spector was calling his client at his Malibu home.It was June 1, 1994.“An outer body experience.” Seven days later he was introduced to the media in London, sporting a full beard for his Robinson Crusoe role. Finally, after 30 years after first seeing Bond and 13 years of Broccoli foreplay, Pierce Brosnan was Bond, James Bond – and said so for the first time in the Pinewood version of the Monaco Casino on January 16.
“My Bond will be charming
and sophisticated –
but also utterly ruthless.”
“I try to make him human. Making him real for myself. When you come to play the role, you have so much fucking baggage, so much mythology. How do you make him real for yourself? ?? There’s only one man that you want to take the belt from, and that’s Connery. So you go into the ring to win. It’s a challenge. Connery had a sadistic side to him. There’s a lethal quality to Bond and I want to bring out the flinty side of the character. After all, he’s a trained killer and is licensed to kill. Above all, playing the role is about confidence.”
Pierce had an harder edge now…
The eight year wait had been good for (and bad) to him… His wife, ex-Bond girl Cassandra Harris (For Your Eyes Only), had died from ovarian cancer, leaving him to raise their three children. Like Dalton on his second time around, he looked sharper, more mature – and he became the biggest box-office Bond of them all.
Bond 19 had been due to start shooting in the ‘94 autumn but was quickly on hold after the Broccolis saw the scale of James Cameron’s 1993 SFX for Schwarzenegger’s True Lies, and realised their script had a problem. Where’s the beef? The answer cost another £5m – £100,00 on his Brioni suits, alone, and a further £100,000 on the great opener – the world’s longest-ever bungee jump of 600ftr. Iit was really stuntman Wayne Michaels, the first man to abseil from one jet to another in mid-flght during Cliffhanger. And this 007 story was by Michael France, who’d written the so-so Stallone caper, Cliffhanger, itself).
Moore cabled Pierce: FROM THE OLD JAMES BOND TO THE NEW JAMES BOND – KILL ’EM SPORT. Connery praised Brosnan’s acting (the eldest of Brosnan’s three sons is named Sean). Dalton sent a good luck note. “It was nice to be acknowledged by the guys.” The one he felt was casting the longest shadow was, naturally, Connery.
Brosnan grew up with Connery’s template. “And contrary to what you might have read, I never dreamt of, or wanted to play, this character, until ‘86 when they offered me the role the first time. You’ve got to respect the role. You’ve got to really pay attention to that. You can’t just walk through it and play it flippantly. It’s a very loved role. When you read the books, the guy was human. He was hard man, but he had fear, he had doubts. He was pretty brutal.”
Finally, the entire UK has been represented in 007.
Scottish Connery, English Moore, Welsh Dalton
and now, the Irish Brosnan.
Although Eon nearly lost him a second time to anr old contract. Brosnan had fled the sequel to his surprise hit, Lawnmower Man, which had nothing to do with the Stephen King book it was supposedly based on. (Idem, for the sequel: The Lawnmower Man: Beyond Cyberspace, aka Jobe’s War). Producer Ed Simon was annoyed but understanding. Well, almost… “Pierce has always wanted to play Bond and the last thing I want is to engage an actor in a film he doesn’t want to be in.” How kind. Then, he decided to kick Pierce in the Brosnans – by suggesting the SFX had made Lawnmower Man a hit, and not Brosnan. Oh really! So how come #2 flopped with him subbed by another Irishman, Patrick Bergin. Probably something to do with, as the Austin Chronicle critic Joey O’Bryan put it, “an overwhelming lack of respect for the moviegoing audience.”
Oh yes, Dalton… Whatever happened – and why? – to td the closest to Fleming’s hero in the books, said Desmond Llewelyn.
He had been set for GoldenEye. Except, during five long years, he had to sit around waiting for it to happen due to lawsuits between MGM and the producers. “After that, I didn’t want to do it anymore.”He quit as Bond on April 12, 1994.Too much water had flowed under the bridge since he last used fhe double-O prefix in Licence To Kill.
Brosnan proved to be the last Bond selected by Cubby Broccoli. Not that Pierce had been a foregone conclusion…
007 . Plan A was inviting Timothy Dalton back to work. the Moore-script being rewritten to suit Dalton’s more realistic hero. “I was supposed to make one more but it was cancelled because MGM and the film’s producers got into a lawsuit which lasted for five years. After that, I didn’t want to do it anymore – too much time had passed since Licence To Kill.” While shooting Scarlett, Tim officially retired as Bond on April 12, 1994. Brosnan was announced on June 8.
Ralph Fiennes almost finessed a three-Bond deal. Mercifully, he didn’t – killed off poor John Steed in The Avengers, instead. (The 1998 farce was stolen by its villain… Sean Connery). Bond, said Fiennes, was not a path he wanted to take… even though he was seen again by Barbara Broccoli for the Casino Royale reboot. Some 22 years earlier, Fiennes’ cousin, the UK’s most famous living explorer, Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes – aka Ranulph (or Ran) Fiennes – was in the last six to succeed Connery in Live and Let Die. And, of course, Ralph became the new M at the end of Skyfall.
Two Owens were in the frame., one Welsh, one not. Clive Owen was the English one, best known at the time for The Chancer series while Geraint was starring in the Welsh language soap, Pobol y Cwm, before turning politician for the Plaid Cymru party. He died at 43 in 2005.
Hugh Grant was another unlikely notion. Jason Isaacs would come of age as the villainous Lucius Malefoy in the Harry Potter films (where Ralph Fiennes was also gainfully employed – as Lord Voldemort). The giant Irishman Liam Neeson would co-star with Brosnan in the 2006 Western, Seraphim Falls. Colin Wells, who covered the waterfront in everything from Casualty to Doctors, Mr Bean to Titus (Andronicus) .Plus Mark Frankel (killed at 34 in a crash on his yellow Harley in 1996), ex-world cruiserweight boxing champ Glen McCrory and Greg Wise (Emma Thompson’s husband since 2003)
Jeremy Northam was, perhaps, too elegant (shades of the Moore clothes horse) and Shakespearean stage star James Purefoy had yet to win a screen role. His name is originally Norman French for “good faith” or “my word or bond is in good faith.” His first job was Equuson-stage. “I was 17, and we opened the show with me naked in the spotlight being examined by doctors. That was my entrance to the stage, so anything after that was easy.” Rather James Franco-ish, he was later a Bond wannabe actor in Maybe Baby, 2000, went on to play Beau Brummell, Blackbeard, Mark Antony and, of course, Vanity Fair’s Rawdon Crawley – and as I never tire of saying when Vanity Fair (or Downton Abbey) pop up, you can’t go wrong with a Crawley…
When Liam, Neeson backed away, Paul McGann moved in with, apparently, a stunning test…. which short-listed him as a possible replacement for Brosnan, should the need arise. McGann became the eighth Doctor Who instead. Just the one season. “I don’t want to be remembered as the George Lazenby of Doctor Who.” And, indeed, he was called in at Casino Royale time but it was obvious that a BBC timelord could never be 007. People would laugh. Fans would flee.
Then, there was Charles Dance…
Having made his film debut as Claus, among the baddy’s henchmen in Moore’s For Your Eyes Only, 1980, he was somewhat staggered to be invited to audition 14 years later for the main man, himself. (Vice-versa for Julian Glover. He was the LiveTwice villain, but was due to be 007 when it seemed as if Moore’s TV commitments would prevent his debut, Live And Let Die, 1972 – and again in For Your Eyes Only, 1981, when the Moore problem was the old one. Money).
Dance had by now moved up in the world He’d even played Bond’s creator in Anglia Television’s Goldeneye: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming, 1989. The Eon suits were surprised when he refused their offer. (They weren’t used to guys turning down 007). “Any regrets?” Katie Burns asked him in The Sunday Times in April 2019 (by which time he was one of the stars of HBO’s enormous hit, Game of Thrones). He admitted to a few but… “I might have fucked it up by my lack of experience and inability to handle the kind of exposure it would have brought.
“I blithely took an agent’s advice. ‘Oh no, darling,’ she said. ‘You’ll be typecast for the rest of your life’.” Quelle connerie, as the French would say. What rubbish! Sean Connery, for example, had won his Untouchables Oscar six years earlier. Like Brosnan, Craig, and Moore, these Bonds were typecast only as… A-List Stars! Dalton and Lazenby, not so much, although both had rich careers after their short 007 stints. Lazenby had 62 other roles up to 2019 (admittedly three were 007 spoofs and two others were Hong Kong Bonds with Bruce Lee, who died before shooting began – one poster pitch was: “It’s Lee, It’s Lazenby, It’s Bruce vs. Bond”) and Dalton won more screen roles post-Bond than before – including playing Julius Caesar and Rhett Butler! Bond never harmed any of them.
Natalya Fyodorovna Simonova . Conversations, as Danjac put it, were held with Elle McPherson but director Joel Schumacher stole her for Batman & Robin . Eva Herzigova, Hugh Grant’s lover Elizabeth Hurley and Paulina Porizkova passed. The Polish-born Swedish dish, Izabella Scorupco accepted.
Xenia Onatopp . (Ho, ho, ho!). The German singer and actress Ute Lemper passed and Martin Campbell grabbed Famke Janssen after seeing her in rushes from Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions.
008/Alec Trevelyan/Janus . Alan Rickman was tired of villains. A previous nearly-Bond, Sean Bean took 008 to the dark side. “You know, James… I was always better.” In 2011, the (much) bulkier Bean was a grizzled MI5 agent in Clearskin – opposite an actress with the very Ian Fleming name of… Tuppence Middleton.
M was a dame-Dame Judi Dench, in fact. Alias Barbara Mawdsley, or as SISChief of Staff Bill Tanner dubbed her: The Evil Queen of Numbers.A female M was the new director’s idea. To match reality: Sarah Remington was already nearing the end of her 1992-96 reign as the first womanchief of SIS (MI6 to you!)
“The first television that I ever did,” recalled Judi, “was with… Bernard Lee. And I was completely in awe of him. So whensuddenly I was asked go play M, I was rather dumbstruck.”
Finnish director Renny Harlin had, er, conversations before the job of guiding the fifth Bond in the 17th film went to New Zealander Martin Campbell. In a London career, going from softcore comedy to the taut TV thriller, Edge of Darkness , 1985, he had previously directed three previous 007 candidates: Lewis Collins, and fellow Kiwis Sam Neill, David Warbeck. Campbell also made two dramas with the American actor Joe Don Baker, who appeared in three Bonds, GoldenEye included.
After the last three being produced by Cubby Broccoli and Michael Wilson, the new producing pair was Wilson and half-sister Barbara Broccoli, allowing Cubby “to lean on my shovel awhile.” The kids dun good! Making the most successful Bond since Moonraker.
Sadly, the man who made Bond a cinema legend (and $4.49bn from 21 movies) died June 27, 1996.