On this day in 1987, Timothy Dalton made his debut as James Bond as The Living Daylights premiered in London. MI6 looks back at how the actor took on the role...

The Living Daylights - 20th Anniversary
29th June 2007

On June 29th 1987, Timothy Dalton made his big screen debut as James Bond in "The Living Daylights" - the fifteenth adventure from Eon Productions. But it was not the first time the Welsh-born actor had been asked to take up the mantel of the world's most famous spy.

"It is true that Cubby very kindly asked me in the past if I'd be interested in doing it. The first time was a long, long time ago. It was when Sean Connery relinquished the part. Then I had a very good career in films as a young man and was very flattered to be asked. But, you know, I mean, Connery was so good. I mean, Connery was terrific. And I was, I don't know, 24 or 25. I didn't think it possible that I could take over from him."

"So I said, 'Thank you. Terrific, terrific thanks for the interest, but no." With Pierce Brosnan dragged off by NBC in 1986, the offer went in to Dalton again - and this time he accepted (Brosnan would get his chance later in 1995).

With Roger Moore bowing out after "A View To A Kill", Dalton was not only taking over as a new actor in the infamous tuxedo, but was also charged with bringing a fresh feel to the franchise which had completed seven consecutive films with Moore - whose light touch had steered the series through the 70's and early 80's and was ingrained with a new generation of post-Connery fans.

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Although an idea by Michael G. Wilson and writer Richard Maibaum to take Bond back to the start of his career as a double-o agent was iced by producer Cubby Broccoli (the concept was resurrected for 2006's Casino Royale with Daniel Craig as the new 007), Dalton and the Bond team planned a more serious outing for a world which faced new challenges.

Dalton spoke candidly about his first Bond movie in a magazine interview at the time. "The Living Daylights was already written and was very much of the preceding humour when I signed on. We did shape it a little bit as we went along, trying to make it more involving and special."

To bring Bond back to the heights of his early films, Dalton went back to the original material - what Ian Fleming had put down on paper all those years ago. "There's a very interesting moment in 'Casino Royale', the very first book," he said. "It was a book unlike the rest of the series, a book at the end of which Bond felt that he had had enough. He was finished. He couldn't resolve the morality of working and living in a world where one day someone is your friend and ally, and the next day he's setting out to kill them, just on the whim of the government; the whim of policy.


"How do you deal with yourself morally when you're supposed to be on the side of right and good, when you're a killer? When your job is to kill people? It was either in 'From Russia With Love' or 'Casino Royale', where he says, 'When I was younger I used to think that I was doing something noble and worthwhile by assassinating somebody, and now I realize I'm a murderer. I'm just killing me, the person who works for the other side.'

"But in Casino Royale, this malaise, dirty morality disgusted him and he wanted to quit. It was in that book that someone told Bond he should then go out after the big people; the major threats, and from then on Fleming wrote books that were about a hero against evil. A flawed hero. A hero ridden with weaknesses and vices, but also a hero of strength and conviction and you definitely had honor and a sense of justice. But he didn't live in a real world of politics. He wasn't a vigilante, because he often depends on other people."

Although the level of violence and sadism would be ramped up for Dalton's second outing "Licence To Kill", his research in to the character brought some of these elements out in "The Living Daylights". Dalton said, "It's a theme that runs through all the books, really. He has a thing Fleming called acidity, which is an odd word and I don't know what it meant. But I think it means revulsion or distaste for your work. The man is a paradox. He's a contradiction. In the short story The Living Daylights – rough story, isn't it? – he's in a room with whiskey, uppers and downers in order to murder someone he doesn’t want to murder, but has to because he's licensed to kill. In other stories, of course, he takes a very pragmatic course and does kill people, because he believes in what he's doing."

The media often portrays Bond as a person that every man wants to be, but Dalton did not agree. "I don't think he’s a role model. He is a flawed hero, but then heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they're white knights in shining armour, sometimes they're detectives like Raymond Chandler, Philip Marlowe or Hammett. "Understand," he continued, "I don't think Bond reflects all of that at all. We're talking about Bond as Bond. [In my film] Bond is seen as human; a Bond who's a real person, with more dimension than maybe he's had before. You see, in films these days people talk about heroes and superheroes and supermen and all that. I don't think they're heroes. Anyone that is bound to win, anyone that's inhuman, not human, ain't a hero. Heroes are the survivors. Heroes are the people that have that extra tenacity and resolve to deal with what life throws at them."

"In order for the audience to be swept along in this fantasy, you've got to believe in the person. We want to believe. We want to be caught in it, we want to be thrilled and excited, and you can only feel those things if you're involved. And I don't believe Bond is superman, a cardboard cut out or two-dimensional. He's got to be a human being. He’s got to be identifiable, and that’s what I'm trying to be. In The Living Daylights where he's with his associate, Saunders and he says, 'I don't give a f*** if M fires me. I don't like this work.' Every movie is a different story and each film we do will present different opportunities, and show different aspects of the character. I want to participate in bringing the movies back to a world that I think a James Bond movie should inhabit."

"I think this film, The Living Daylights, it's not just an action adventure film. It's the first time we've seen what could be called a romantic mystery film. There's an honest and good relationship with the leading lady. You see Bond with a lot more I think, I hope, harder edges and also softer edges."


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