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007 MAGAZINE
Issue #21 1989

 

 

Timothy Dalton with director John Glen Licence to Kill (1989)

Parachuting? Did you do any of the parachute stuff?
(smiles) Well, we donít talk about that. I think itís safe to say now I wonít tell anybody about how the stunts are done, how effects are made, because thatís all part of the enjoyment. You remember, as I do, when we were all a lot younger and watching Dr. No for the first time and how you were on the edge of your seat when the tarantula crawls up his chest Ė if you knew there was a piece of glass between him and the tarantula, the moments blown!

But you did some actual scuba work?
Yes, I did learn to scuba dive. Itís important. I am involved in all the action. I am involved in every single, whatever you want to call it, action sequence or stunt sequence, I am involved in it all. Because itís an action-thriller. Youíve got to know that Bond is there! Youíve got to be with Bond in his moments of danger. Otherwise youíre conning the audience. And youíve got to be able to get a camera in there. So I get involved in everything. That isnít to say that there arenít stuntmen. But nobody does anything dangerous Ė the skill is to make it appear dangerous. But I did get out of the helicopter on the wire.
 
Unlike some of the other actors who have played Bond, like a true theatre craftsman, I can really sense that youíre searching for and using the subtext. For example, your reading of the line Ďshaken not stirredí was so freshÖ
Oh thatís right, he uses it as a put down to her.

I mean, we know youíre ordering a drink, but the subtext is Ďget out of here, I want to be alone with this womaní. Does the director, John Glen, work with the actors at all in `bringing out the subtextí, or is that your own work?
Itís a collaborative effort. I mean, in the movies the director must be the most harassed, under pressure man on the entire set. He doesnít want to be telling people how to do their jobs, heís got to be responsible for the movie and for getting it organised and shooting it and making his movie. He doesnít want to be telling the lighting cameraman how to light it, you know, he wants people to come to him with ideas to choose from, with alternatives, with input.

Timothy Dalton as James Bond in Licence To Kill (1989)

Do you get any rehearsal time?
We get a bit, but you donít rehearse films much.
 
Do you wish you had more rehearsal time?
Well, sometimes and sometimes not. It depends on the nature of the scene. But what we will generally do, as on any film, is something that Iíve always insisted on Ė I mean, I havenít had to insist on it, itís just the way one should work Ė you take the scene and you work the scene Ė maybe briefly, maybe quickly, but youíll explore the scene and then you do it bit by bit. You have to know where youíre going, you have to know whatís what. But real rehearsal, no thereís not a lot, and sometimes, it depends on the actor, the spontaneity, as long as you know what the scene is about, as long as you know what youíve got to achieve in the scene, as long as you understand its physicality, itís sometimes good not to rehearse because providing the aim is in your head, the spontaneity is important in itself. In theatre what you always notice is that sometimes first rehearsals are marvellous, but then you always get stale after a while; but then after a further while as a result of the exploration youíve done, as a result of the conclusions youíve come to, it starts to come fresh again. But you do go through that stale patch. That mustnít happen on film Ė youíve got to capture moments of truth, aliveness and spontaneity.
 
Do you think Bond could work on stage? If the opportunity arose, would you be interested in playing James Bond in a stage play, if it was done the right way?
I couldnít really see it being done on stage. I mean its very essence is not introspective.
 
Something low key like CASINO ROYALE?
Well, CASINO ROYALE, other people have the rights of course, but to make a film like CASINO ROYALE properly, it would be so outside what is currently accepted as James Bond on film, but it would make a bloody good film. Done as written, it would make a great film.

Timothy Dalton as James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987)

I see it black and white, 1953Ö
Done as a period piece, yes, Iíd love to do that film, but other people have the rights, and it would be so far outside what people would expect of James Bond, who knows how it would be received Ė but itís a cracking good story. But on the theatre, I couldnít imagine a James Bond story in the theatre.
 
How has playing James Bond changed your life, positively and negatively?
Hardly at all negatively Ė Iím very happy to say that. Positively Ė professionally, of course, because the nature of our world is a commercial world and if you can have a commercial success then youíll get a lot more offers.
 
What about the legions of fans whoíll hound you for autographs for the rest of your life?
Well, thatís all bollocks, isnít it? Itís all bullshit. That is not true. You get all that when youíre in a publicity situation. There might be a few people outside the hotel, but those are the professional autograph bounty hunters, or the paparazzi. But you or I could walk down the street here or in London, and people would certainly recognise me, but nobody is going to bother me. Most people on the street are healthy, decent people with their own sense of self respect and integrity and theyíll treat you regularly if you behave regularly. If on the other hand you behave like an asshole, and go around with battalions of bodyguards and limousines and press and photographers and all that, and make an issue out of it, then itís a different story. The majority of people who go and see a movie or play, if they like it, they come out and say that was a bloody good film or play, and so on, but theyíre not going to go around to the stage door; theyíre not going to write and ask for an autograph. Only a tiny percentage of them will. And the bulk of that percentage are people who really just want to say that was great and would you mind if I had an autograph. The kind of thing youíre talking about is the tiniest minority, and itís a bit odd anyway.

Timothy Dalton as James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987)

The Bond world has that group, you know, like Star Trek and Batman Ė itís got its legion of fans. Itís going to last.
Frankly, I love it from some. Someone in the airport the other day just said, ĎI saw the film Ė terrific Ė thanksí, and walked on. That felt great. Thatís how I would react, thatís how you would react, if you see a performance you love, and if you ever met the guy, maybe Ė but even if you did, even if you were in a restaurant you might not want to disturb him having his dinner, youíd just think ĎOh, thereís...í. But some people make a profession of being a fan. Itís on the edge of abnormality in a lot of ways. Itís gone beyond genuine care and respect. And thereís not many of them. The press tend to build up all the screaming hoards. Sure, if you go to a premiere itís par for the course, itís everybodyís game. New rules are set. But just going down the street to the pub, the real world is not a problem.
 
So you donít get much of that?
And Iím very pleased. As an actor you canít cut yourself off from your roots; you canít cut yourself off from the foundations of your work, and they are people - itís people who you act, itís people you take parts in stories, life is about people. If youíre stuck up on some hill surrounded by barbed wire and guards Ė how could you be in our business if you remove yourself from our world?

What was your first initiation into Bond Ė the books or the early films?
It was the film Dr. No.

Timothy Dalton as James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987)

Can you remember what really struck you about that?
Well, I donít remember how old I was, 15 or 16 Ė 1962, I must have been 15 when it came out. And it was splendid, if you think about how things were at that time; I donít know about America, but what kind of movies were you watching? War stories, drawing room comedies out of the fifties, and this film Dr. No just came and took the cinema by the scruff of the neck and banged it right down into today. As well as giving us a whole new area of adventure story to explore. And it was terrific. And then they went on. The miracle is that theyíre still as popular as they ever were. That is in great part due to the essence of the stories, because they are hero stories, and hero stories have crossed all cultures, all history; people need heroes. But theyíve always been done bloody well. Mr Broccoliís never attempted to cheaply exploit a previous success. Heís always tried to make sure that every single film is done better than the one before or absolutely as best as it can be. The money spent, the talent...
 
Objectively how do you think you compare to other Bonds?
I donít think about it. Itís a futile exercise. It becomes so complex. Itís true that Iím acting in a public sense, and I would include myself in that, that over 27 years of Bond movies, everyone has their own idea of what a Bond movie is. The fact that every single movie is tremendously different from the other. I mean how can you look at a film like From Russia With Love, a Bond film and compare it with Moonraker? Itís such a different story and itís such a different style. Connery was in a certain kind of movie and even the style of those movies began to alter. The first movies, if you look at them now, they have a different effect than they had when we watched them originally. Theyíre of their time, but they were in general wonderful adventure thrillers. The Moore movies were light-hearted and tongue in cheek technological extravaganzas. You canít compare Moore and Connery because they were in such different films. I leave it for other people to make comparisons. The other interesting thing is, of course, and the problem we all face, is that if nobody had ever heard of a James Bond movie, if there had been no James Bond movies ever, and The Living Daylights or Licence To Kill or any of the movies was just released as a movie in its own right, the public opinion and appreciation and reaction would be completely different! Itís because one is carrying all this history. Itís like going out and playing Hamlet. How can anybody do Hamlet these days? Everyone knows the bloody story, nobodyís surprised. Nobodyís been taken by spontaneous reaction.

Publicity photos of Timothy Dalton as James Bond 007

Given that Bond is something of a role model for young people...
A role model?
 
Sure, when I was a kid and saw Goldfinger, I was buying all the toys and running around with my eyebrows raised and all that...
Connery didnít raise his eyebrow! (laughs)
 
Do you think Bond should de-emphasise any of his traits? Do you think you have a responsibility as an actor to...
I donít think that Bond is a role model or that he should be a role model. Heís only part of a particular kind of story. I donít think anyone should grow up wanting to go around killing people. I donít think anyone should grow up wanting to be a secret agent...

I did! (laughs)
Well, weíre in a different world now arenít we? In those days we all had a sense of intrigue and mystery and a sense of justice and rightness about our countries. In this day and age, I donít think people have too much regard for the work of their own secret services, do they? I think itís certainly well worth believing in some kind of truth and justice. But Bond is not a paragon of virtue; heís a man riddled with vices and weaknesses as well as strength. But that is the nature of the man, and the nature of the world he lives in, but I donít think he should be a role model.
 
Do you think he should practice safe sex on screen?
I donít think weíve ever seen sex in a Bond movie.

Licence to Kill (1989)

Licence To Kill is probably the most violent Bond film ever made. Do you have any comment on that. What would you say to critics who might attack the film for being too violent?
I wouldnít say anything to the critics Ė they have every right to their opinion. I donít know that it is the most violent Bond film, because you must judge it in terms of its time. Donít forget that Dr. No created an outrage, not only for its violence, but for its sex. But thereís no sex in Dr. No at all, so what were they talking about. What they were actually talking about in Ď62, although we think of the sixties Ė the sixties didnít really begin until the mid sixties, Ď62 was still the fifties Ė what they were talking about was Ursula Andress coming out of the waves in a bikini! It was the first time weíd seen a bikini! That was an outrage sexually! As for the violence Ė it was given an ĎAí certificate (in Britain this classification meant you had to be accompanied by an adult to see the film) because Bond gunned down an unarmed, defenceless man, you know - ĎYouíve had your sixí, now that for its day was considered a) wrong, morally wrong and b) very violent. Now everything in our movie, first of all Iím pleased that our movie is more violent, because that is the world that James Bond must live in, and if you donít like that, Iím sorry, donít go and see the film. Weíre not making movies for kids, weíre making movies for adults Ė itís an adult fantasy that kids will enjoy. Yes I agree that kids can see this and they should go and see it, but weíre not making the film for 11 year olds! Weíre making the film for the child in all of us adults. It is a violent world he inhabits Ė itís the very nature of a Bond movie. But whether itís more or less violent is relatively speaking; I mean everything is classic, isnít it? I mean, people getting fed to the sharks, to the piranha fish, people getting set on fire, people being shot with harpoon guns, people being shot with bullets, Bond killing people Ė theyíre all classic elements of the genre! In a modern world you do them to the height of your skills, and is it violent? Yes, it is violent, but you donít see the violence. What the film makers do, which is brilliant is they create the tension, the extreme tension of violence. The violence is all in the mind.
 
If Ian Fleming was still alive today and you had some influence on how he was going to take the character in a certain direction, would you have anything you would say to him? Where would you like to see Bond go or happen to him?
Well, if Ian Fleming was alive today, Iíd love to spend time talking with him about the character, and Iíd love him to be involved in making the film, as Iím sure everyone in our organisation would be. But I think Iíd leave the creative ideas to him.
 
Where do you think 007ís future lies as far as the nineties are concerned?
I donít know. Itís always important to remember that he doesnít really operate as a spy or a member of the secret service. At the end of CASINO ROYALE, Fleming did make him a hero, the man who does it virtually alone. And that theme is universal Ė the hero theme, no matter what sort of hero youíve got, a white knight, or a man of many paradoxes, youíve just got to make sure the stories have some modern relevance and they mean something to a modern audience, and then rely on creativity and imagination to create those stories.


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