MI6 takes a retrospective look at what could have been the 17th James Bond film and Timothy Dalton's third outing as 007, a very different concept to what fans of today are familiar with...

Bond 17 - History
16th July 2006

MI6 takes a retrospective look at what could have been the 17th James Bond film and Timothy Dalton's third outing as 007, a very different concept to what fans of today are familiar with. The world now knows "GoldenEye" starring Pierce Brosnan as Bond 17, however at the time of original planning, 007's seventeenth outing would have looked very different.  

A disappointing box-office for Dalton's second outing "Licence To Kill", which some put down to a lack of a substantial promotional campaign in the USA, had thrown doubt on the future of the series. Dalton was candid in a 1989 magazine interview on the state of affairs:

"My feeling is this will be the last one. I don`t mean my last one. I mean the end of the whole lot. I don`t speak with any real authority, but it`s sort of a feeling I have. Sorry!".

Ultimately, Dalton would be proved partially correct, as he never returned to the role.

Production Begins
The year is 1990 - Bond 17 is just beginning pre-production and Timothy Dalton is set to return for his third James Bond picture, despite the lackluster performance of the 16th adventure.

In May, a 17-page treatment by newcomer screenwriter Alfonse M. Ruggiero Jr. and Bond veteran Michael G. Wilson was drafted with a tentative shooting date set, arranged to begin in Hong Kong, and with the aim of a late 1991 release.

Above: Timothy Dalton was expected to make a third James Bond film at the turn of the 90's

Out With The Old Guard
Thirteen-time Bond screenwriter Richard Maibaum and regular Bond director John Glen do not return to work on Bond 17, both leaving Eon on 'amicable' terms in August 1990. Despite trade press reports of a "bloodless coup", some were clearly bruised. John Glen came to the end of his run of Bond movies with a disappointing US box-office for "Licence To Kill" and the formula needed shaking up. An Eon spokesperson added insult to injury when stating to Variety that writer Maibaum was a 'has been'.

UK newspaper The Daily Express reported "Rambo: First Blood" director Ted Kotcheff was being sought by Wilson, with John Landis also mentioned (Landis had previously been involved with Bond as one of the many writers on "The Spy Who Loved Me"s epic script development saga). Unhappy with the initial treatment, Variety later reported that year that Broccoli was in talks with writer/director John Byrum to helm the film and with screenwriters Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz ("Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom") to re-work the first draft. Shooting was to start in Hong Kong in early 1991 for a late 1991 release.

Above: Above: It was planned for Timothy Dalton to make a third James Bond film, but fate intervened.

Litigation Delays
Legal action over the sale of MGM/Pathe, global television rights, and various changes of ownership at the studio put Bond 17 on hold for around three years during the litigation. Bond was seemingly back on track in May 1993 when MGM creative affairs VP Elizabeth Robinson announced in Variety that work on the 17th 007 movie had resumed with writer Michael France penning a fresh script. Variety was leaked that the story would involve "global implications" and that France was being paid to the tune of $400,000.

Two weeks later, Danjaq revealed to Variety that Richard Smith had been hired to work on storylines for future Bond films down the line. Danjaq spokesman Charles Juroe explained, "When you get up to 17 in one series, you do things differently. You don't wait until 17 is a success to say, 'Oh, we better do another one'. This two-year cycle does not give Danjaq the luxury to wait 10 or 11 months down the line to get started on the next one. They've learned they have to be ahead of the game. When United Artists say they're ready to do another one , they're expected to have one ready." When asked about the status of Dalton returning, Juroe said "Dalton is the Bond of record".

In the August 1993 edition of Film Review, Broccoli confirmed that work had resumed with writer Michael France penning the script after two earlier full length screenplays by writers Will Osbourne and Will Davies were scrapped. The first draft had been planned to take 12 weeks for France to compete, but had over-run. Eon spokeswoman Liz Ihre was quoted on the negotiations with Dalton resuming his Bond duties after his second outing way back in 1989: "nothing's been signed yet - but we are extremely hopeful".

Director Michael Caton-Jones was then reported as helming the untitled project, with locations then rumoured to include Australia - a locale not present in the first screenplay. On the subject of whether production would make it to China, as the key location was Hong Kong in the original script, Ihre said "We looked at China some years back, but it's unlikely we'll be shooting there in the foreseeable future." Vancouver was then introduced as a possible location for the majority of the filming.

With the shooting scheduled for late 1993 for a summer 1994 release, MGM budgeted the movie for $42m, an increase of $10m over the financially disappointing "Licence To Kill".

With Dalton's contract officially expired in 1993 (which was originally planned to be the year of his fourth film), the actor bowed out from the role gracefully in 1994. Dalton had read France's screenplay for Bond 17 whilst filming "Scarlett". It was there that Dalton made, and subsequently announced, his decision to walk way. This saved Broccoli, who was reportedly under pressure from MGM, from having to "fire" the actor.

When Arnold Shwarzenegger's 007-style film "True Lies" hit screens, it undid any plans to fast track Bond 17 production. Many of the action sequences in France's script were too similar so most of the screenplay had to go back to square one.

Pierce Brosnan was then cast as the fifth James Bond actor and Bond 17 eventually moved in to production as "GoldenEye" - six years after work first began and very different from its original storyline.


Planned Production Schedules

Original scheduled release date: Fall of 1991
James Bond: Timothy Dalton
Screenwriters: Alfonse M. Ruggiero Jr. & Michael G. Wilson
Rumoured director: Ted Kotcheff

Interim scheduled release date: Late 1991
James Bond: Timothy Dalton ('Bond of record')
Screenwriters: Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz
Rumoured director: John Byrum

Later scheduled release date: Summer of 1994
James Bond: Timothy Dalton (negotiating but not signed)
Screenwriter: Michael France (replacing Will Osbourne and Will Davies)
Rumoured director: Michael Caton-Jones

Bond 17 Rumours
The only known piece of Bond 17 promotional material was on show when The Carlton Hotel was transformed with a hoarding announcing Dalton's third film during the 1990 Cannes Film Festival. The banner read "Timothy Dalton returns as 007 in the 17th James Bond film. Coming Summer '91", with a smaller caption under Dalton's pose stating "The most successful series in motion pictures continues." To view a photo taken by K Collette of the Carlton Hotel Bond 17 frontage visit Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang website.

Anthony Hopkins was rumoured to be interested in playing an "intelligent" villain. Hopkins and Dalton were friends and debuted in the same film together, "Lion In Winter". Hopkins would also be rumoured as a villain for subsequent James Bond films, including "Tomorrow Never Dies" which the actor turned down due to the state of script re-writes.

Whoopi Goldberg was repeatedly reported as being interesting in playing a villainess. The American actress was dating Dalton at the time.

In the years since the ill-fated project was surpassed by "GoldenEye" in 1995, the unmade Bond 17 screenplays were often incorrectly rumoured to be titled "The Property of a Lady", after Fleming's short story of the same name. No Bond 17 screenplay was ever given this title, but it lives on as an internet myth.

Walt Disney's Imagineering division was contracted to supply designs for the high-tech robots that featured in the early screenplays. Form was to follow function, according to the treatment, so they would not have necessarily been robots in humanoid form - with the exception of the villainous 'Nan'. Apparently, first drafts of potential robot designs were completed and handed over to Eon.

Locations changed as different writers came on board. Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, was to feature as a major locale in place of Hong Kong in later versions. Australia was also touted in 1993. Bond has still to visit either country on the silver screen.

While many details of this abandoned production are vague, MI6 puts the pieces together to take a look at what could have been the 17th James Bond picture based on the available materials.
Stay tuned to MI6 for a series of features on the ill-fated 3rd Dalton film.

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