Timothy Peter Dalton (born March 21, 1946) is an English actor of stage and screen, best known for portraying James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989) and for his roles in Shakespearean films and plays.
After a few more films, Dalton took a break in 1971 to concentrate on the theatre, performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company and other troupes throughout the world. With two notable excpetions: the 1972 film Mary, Queen of Scots and 1975's Permission to Kill, he remained a theatre actor until 1978. That year he starred in Sextette as the husband of 85-year-old Mae West, hailing his return to cinema and the beginning of his American career. While in the United States, Dalton worked mainly in television, although he starred in several films. During this time he played Prince Barin in the cult classic Flash Gordon and gave notable performances for the BBC, particularly as Mr. Rochester in the 1983 miniseries Jane Eyre.
Previously, Dalton had been considered for the role of James Bond four times. In 1968, he was asked to play Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) after Sean Connery decided that You Only Live Twice (1967) would be his last Bond film. Dalton turned the offer down, feeling he was too young for the role, and because of what he felt was an imposing legacy left behind by Connery; the role finally went to George Lazenby. During the late-1970s, he was approached again, but he did not favour the direction the movies were taking. As he explained, his idea of Bond was different. In a 1979 episode of the television series Charlie's Angels, Dalton played the role of 'Damien Roth', a millionaire playboy described by David Doyle's character as "almost James Bond-ian," either an amusing coincidence, or a specific in-joke, since it was around that time that Dalton was also asked to star in For Your Eyes Only (1981). The producers are also said to have considered him for the role in Octopussy (1983), but they finally re-contracted Roger Moore (see Octopussy), although Ian Ogilvy was also a serious contender for the role at the time. (Ogilvy was reportedly turned down because of his similarity to Roger Moore, ostensibly because he, too, had played The Saint, a role made famous by Moore.)
Since Dalton was contracted to do three Bond movies, the pre-production of his third film began in 1990, in order to be released in 1991. It was rumored that he would make The Property of a Lady (which is one of Ian Fleming's short stories and elements of which had been included in Octopussy), but this was never confirmed. What was confirmed is that the story would deal with the destruction of a chemical weapons laboratory in Scotland, and the events would take place in London, Tokyo and Hong Kong. However, the film was cancelled due to legal issues between UA/MGM and EON, which lasted for four years.
The legal battle ended in 1993, and Dalton was expected to return as James Bond in the next Bond movie, which later became GoldenEye. Despite his contract having expired, negotiations with him to renew it took place. In an interview with the Daily Mail in August 1993, Dalton indicated that Michael France was writing the screenplay for the new movie, and the production was to begin in January or February 1994. When the deadline was not met, Dalton surprised everyone on the April 12, 1994 with the announcement that he would not return as James Bond. At this time he was shooting the mini-series Scarlett. The announcement for the new Bond came two months, with Pierce Brosnan playing the role.
Dalton's assertion that Michael France was writing the new film proved correct. Working closely with the Broccoli and Wilson, France had created a first draft screenplay named after Ian Fleming's house in Jamaica, GoldenEye. The first draft had been written with Dalton in mind. However when Brosnan came on board, the screenplay was rewritten by British writer Jeffrey Caine, who retained much of France's original ideas involving Bond's relationship with the traitorous 006, Alec Trevelyan. Caine added new angles to the piece, including the addition of the prologue which opens the finished film. A third writer, Kevin Wade, was brought in to polish the script, and a final tinkering was done by Bruce Feirstein, a friend of Barbara Broccoli, and her husband, Fred Zollo. Dalton reflects in 2007 on the retrospective possibility of appearing as James Bond for a third time: "I was supposed to make one more but it was cancelled because MGM and the film's producers got into a lawsuit which lasted for five years. After that, I didn’t want to do it anymore.
This approach proved to be a double-edged sword. Film critics and fans of Fleming's original novels welcomed a more serious interpretation after more than a decade of Moore's approach. Dalton's serious interpretation was not only in portraying the character, but also in performing most of the stunts of the action scenes himself, with the assistance of stunt coordinator Jonas Carp. This is noticeable, for example, in Licence to Kill (Ultimate Edition with the film restored to director John Glen's uncut version), where it is clearly Dalton who sets fire to the villain and flees the ensuing explosion at the climax.
It may be observed that this return to Fleming's grittiness is a direction attempted by EON Productions periodically for its James Bond film series, for example with For Your Eyes Only, rather than just during Dalton's era as Bond and now with Daniel Craig in the role.
During the second half of the 1990s he starred in several cable movies, most notably the Irish Republican Army drama The Informant and the action thriller Made Men. He also played Julius Caesar in the 1999 TV movie Cleopatra.
In 2003, he played a parody of James Bond named Damian Drake in the film Looney Tunes: Back in Action. At the end of that year and the beginning of 2004, he returned to theatre to play Lord Asriel in the stage version of His Dark Materials (the same character is played in the 2007 movie version by one of Dalton's successors in the James Bond role, Daniel Craig). In 2007, Dalton played villain Simon Skinner in the highly acclaimed action/comedy movie Hot Fuzz. This was his most prominent appearance in mainstream cinema for several years.
Dalton, who is unmarried, lives in Los Angeles. He has one son, Alexander (b. 1997), with Oksana Grigorieva.