❉ Eoghan Lyng on a new book revealing Timothy Dalton’s unrealised missions and more.
“There are many other reasons to recommend the book but the meat of Mark Edlitz’s book is dedicated to the many what-ifs Dalton could have shown had he been Bond in the immediate fall of the Berlin Wall.”
From Pussy Galore to Octopussy, innuendo has seeped into the James Bond series with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season. Sean Connery embraced the smut, Roger Moore lived for it, and George Lazenby – the burling beefcake satisfied to end his tenure after one movie – was partial to some of the Angels who traipsed by Ernst Blofeld’s hideout with a degree of self-satisfaction.
Then along came RADA savant Timothy Dalton, learned as he was from the tricks Irish actors Peter O’Toole and Richard Harris gifted him, who bore a Bond performance direct from the inkwell Ian Fleming left behind. His second feature, Licence To Kill, wrapped itself in an honesty unbeknownst to the audiences who once ran to the theatres to watch messrs. Connery and Moore clothe themselves in gaudy, garish space uniforms. Dalton presented the world the most astonishingly truthful portrayal any Bond star has committed to screen, unveiling a portrait his successors Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig echoed in the movies audiences welcomed in the subsequent thirty years. But Dalton was made unwelcome to a part he moulded in the image of its sterling creator.
Depending on who you ask, the Welsh born actor either quit or was made quit, but the performer left having only fulfilled two of the potential four missions offered to him in 1986. And that’s where Mark Edlitz – author of the excellent The Many Lives of James Bond – comes in to fill the gaps. For Dalton (considered by many, including this reviewer, as their favourite Bond) was set to complete a third film that held promise from many corners of the cinema world. There are many other reasons to recommend the book (Toby Stephens pops around to give an insight into how he commits a Bond to tape), but the meat of the book is dedicated to the many what-ifs Dalton could have shown had he been Bond in the immediate fall of the Berlin Wall.
Take Alfonse Ruggiero’s treatment, a probing, piercing effort that may have acted as blueprint for series leviathan Skyfall. Opening in a chemical lab in Scotland, Bond 17 exhibited a travelogue set to the beats of an Asia reclaiming its own voice amidst the collapse of a Soviet Union. Amidst the notes taken comes a teary-eyed Q (presumably portrayed by the ubiquitous Desmond Llewelyn), whose tears he sheds for the fallen agent for services paid to the crown.
Sharing his memories with Edlitz, Ruggiero remembers the enthusiasm producer/custodian Albert R. Broccoli held for an opening sequence he put together; “This is the best Bond opening we’ve ever had.” Considering the exalted car chase that opened The Living Daylights to its most dedicated Bond, I have my personal doubts, but the infectiousness from which the story holds for Ruggiero is one of the many highlights that draws the readers onto the following treatment, this one pencilled by Twins scribes William’s Davies and Osborne.
Inspired in part by the treatment Ruggiero and Michael G.Wilson laid for them, Davis and Osborne painted a Bond burnt-out by the acidity that colours him a slave to the weapon, enjoying the fruits of his loins and labour. In keeping with the bite the filmmakers clouted on the sombre Quantum of Solace, Bond focuses his anger on the work that keeps him fed. “I cost too much,” he spits; “I’m out of date, and I’m in your way.” It reads like something out of Le Carré, but given Dalton’s penchant to play Leamas and Bond in one package, the possibilities were endearing, intoxicating and endless.
As it stands, we never had that Bond, and we never had any other films with Dalton as Bond. The character actor (offered the chance to take up Rhett Butler in the strangely underwatched Scarlett) hasn’t done too badly for himself since trading the Walther for the theatre, and his post Bond CV includes stints with luminaries Franc Roddam, Edgar Wright and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. And in the wake of a cinematic landscape more indebted to projecting demons than shooting them, Dalton’s two-part work holds very well in the eyes of the Bond fans that follow him. Edlitz, with all his acumen and animated prose, has done Dalton more than justice, both as an artist and a Bond. He’s brought dimensions to Bond, he’s given context to the best Bond. He’s written about my Bond.
❉ A regular contributor to We Are Cult, Eoghan Lyng is the author of ‘U2: Every Album, Every Song’ which is out now and available from Sonicbond Publishing, RRP £14.99 (ISBN 1789520789). Follow him on Twitter. Visit his homepage.