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Licence To Kill
30th Anniversary 1989–2019


Licence To Kill 30th Anniversary 1989-2019

With the series now reaching the end of its third decade, Desmond Llewelyn was really the only connection with Bond films of the past and he took on an extended role as Bond's field helper, filming many of his scenes in Mexico which doubled for the fictional Isthmus City. The president of Isthmus City was played by Pedro Amendariz Jr., son of the celebrated Mexican actor who had memorably played Kerim Bey opposite Sean Connery as James Bond in From Russia With Love (1963). Although Robert Brown returned as M his scenes were very brief, and Caroline Bliss, the new Miss Moneypenny had an even smaller role. This would be this last time both actors played their respective roles.

Desmond Llewlyn as ‘Q/Pedro Armendariz Jr as President Hector Lopez

Several scenes shot at Churubusco Studios would later cause problems in post-production due to their violent content. The demise of Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe) in a decompression chamber was filmed on September 10th, followed two days later by the sequences involving Felix Leiter (David Hedison) being lowered into a shark tank in a scene lifted from Ian Fleming's 1954 novel LIVE AND LET DIE. David Hedison had played Felix Leiter opposite his friend Roger Moore in the 1973 film version, and although he was the fifth actor to play the part became the first to reprise the role in the EON series. Another scene that would also cause concern for the censors was the scene where Bond and Dario (Benicio Del Toro) fight atop a grinder at Sanchez's drug plant. Both actors were slightly injured during the shooting of the sequence that took the Bond films to new levels of realistic violence. Dario's death is reminiscent of the demise of a SPECTRE henchman as he falls into the track of a snowplough in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969).

Licence To Kill David Hedison as Felix Leiter

Principal photography wrapped on November 19, 1988 and the film then went into the hands of Editor John Grover when the production relocated to Pinewood Studios. Grover and his team began reducing the estimated 439,785 feet of film down to a final running time of 132-minutes (the longest since On Her Majesty's Secret Service), which amounted to around a quarter of the footage shot by all units on ‘License Revoked’. On February 6, 1989 the first assembly of the film was screened for the producers, director and key personnel. The film was then submitted to the British Board of Film Classification which began what would turn out to be five months of disputes between the Board and EON Productions. Upon its first viewing the Board felt Licence Revoked fell somewhere between a ‘15’ or ‘18’ classification. Many cuts suggested by the BBFC examiners were made to the film and it was finally released with a ‘15’ certificate. Producer ‘Cubby’ Broccoli found the decision hard to bear as the classification restricted the audience, whereas Tim Burton’s equally violent Batman was released uncut just a month later in the UK, and was the first film classified with the newly introduced ‘12’ certificate. Read the full controversial story behind the ‘15’ certificate rating awarded Licence To Kill in 007 MAGAZINE #58 which is contained within 007 MAGAZINE OMNIBUS #4.

Licence To Kill - Timothy Dalton as James Bond

In addition to their censorship problems, the Bond producers were pressured into changing the title of the film by the American distributors who felt that US audiences would not understand what ‘Revoked’ meant, or connect it with a driving licence! Licence To Kill, with the British spelling of ‘Licence’ (although some US teaser posters were printed using the American spelling), was also the first James Bond film to have a title not based on an Ian Fleming novel or short story. The original advertising campaign devised by Donald Smolen [pictured below] featuring Bob Peak’s designs were scrapped when the title changed, and lacklustre photo-montage posters took their place. The UK marketing favoured the blue photo-montage from a design by Steven Chorney on Quad-crown posters and in bus stop displays; whilst the US used the alternate red design featuring Sanchez’s face in flames and a more prominent image of Timothy Dalton as James Bond.

Donald Smolen - License To Kill Poster



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Licence To Kill FACT FILE