James Bond: How Pierce Brosnan’s TV contract issues landed Timothy Dalton coveted role | TV & Radio | Showbiz & TV


James Bond bosses are rumoured to have cast Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the next incarnation of the secret agent. If true, he will join an elite list of actors who have played the coveted role including Welshman Timothy Dalton, who turns 78 today (March 21).

Roger Moore had hung up the iconic tuxedo after 1985’s A View To A Kill. With the role up for grabs, many names were bandied about before Timothy made his debut in The Living Daylights which was released in 1987.

However, if bosses had their way at the time, he wouldn’t have been cast as they seemingly had their eye on Pierce Brosnan for the role of the suave spy. Although he would eventually play the role in 1995, he found himself in the middle of a contractual obligation that would clear the way for Timothy to take the part.

Pierce had been playing TV detective Remington Steele since 1982 but after flagging ratings, NBC had announced they were axing it at the end of the 1985-86 season. This freed Pierce up to step into the famous shoes.

He flew to the UK, did a screen test, and had a costume fitting for the role. There are pictures showing him in front of Pinewood’s famous 007 stage with the film’s director John Glen in 1986 and he was expected to start filming any day.

What wasn’t expected was the ripple effect of reports linking him to the Bond role. Ratings for Remington Steele got a boost from the association leading NBC to reverse their decision to cancel the show.

They exercised a clause in Pierce’s contract that said they had 60 days to reverse their decision and act upon their right to retain the cast for another season. This left him no option but to return to the role as they recommissioned the show for another series.

This took him out of the running for Bond and Pierce has since described the whole situation as “a terrible blow”.

“It was such a terrible blow. It was such a shock because your life is going in one direction and in just a phone call it’s completely changed around,” he recalled in the book Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of the James Bond Films.

With production due to begin, producers had to find a replacement so they went to the next name on their wish list Timothy, who at the time, was best known as a theatre star. He signed up to play Bond for three movies, starting with The Living Daylights.

At the time, the production company denied Pierce had been in the frame for the role stating Timothy had always been their number one choice. Indeed he had previously been offered the role twice – first in 1970 and again in 1980 – but had turned it down on both occasions.

Pierce later spoke about the impact of learning who had been cast in his place in the aforementioned book. “When Timothy came out in the movie, the full impact of it and the onslaught of what happened really came crashing in,” he said, claiming he had to pull over his car after seeing a Bond billboard to “scream at the seagulls”.

Unfortunately for Timothy, he didn’t complete the planned three films. Following his second outing in the 1989’s Licence To Kill, a third offering was supposed to hit screens in 1991. At the time though, the franchise’s studio MGM was in dire financial straits, and producer Cubby Broccoli was mired in a prolonged legal battle with them.

Timothy spoke about the lawsuits, which led to his departure from the role, in a 2015 interview with The Week. “Because of the lawsuit, I was free of the contract. And [producer] Mr. Broccoli, who I really respected as a producer and as a friend, asked me what I was going to do when it was resolved. I said, ‘Look, in all honesty, I don’t think that I will continue.’ He asked me for my support during that time, which of course, I gave him,” he said.

In a strange twist of events, this then freed up the role for Pierce who happily signed up and stayed for four films.


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