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Timothy Dalton

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.

Early life and career

Dalton was born in Colwyn Bay, Wales, his English father was a captain in the Special Operations Executive during World War II and had become an advertising executive at the time of his sons birth. Before his fourth birthday, the family returned to England to Belper, Derbyshire. While in Belper, he attended the Herbert Strutt Grammar School. As a teenager, he was a member of the Air Cadets however he became interested in acting and left Grammar School in 1964 to enroll in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and tour with the National Youth Theatre. Dalton did not complete his RADA studies, leaving the academy in 1966 to join the ensemble of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. He quickly moved to television, working mainly with BBC and, in 1968, made his film debut in The Lion in Winter. This was the first of several period dramas, which included a remake of Wuthering Heights in 1970 in which he portrayed the tortured Heathcliff. In 1968 (aged only 22), Albert Broccoli asked Dalton to take over for Sean Connery in the role of James Bond. This would not be the last time Dalton turned the role down.

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.

James Bond (1987-1994)

Initial offers

In 1986, the lean, 6' 2" tall, green-eyed Dalton was the first choice to replace the retiring Roger Moore, but obligations to the film Brenda Starr and the stage productions of Antony & Cleopatra and The Taming of The Shrew kept him from accepting the role. Sam Neill was then screen-tested for the part of Bond, but was ultimately rejected by Albert Broccoli. Pierce Brosnan was then approached for the role, but was forced by NBC to turn it down (after initially accepting it) because of his commitment to the television revival of Remington Steele. By this time, Dalton had completed the filming of Brenda Starr and was now able to assume the role as the first Welsh James Bond.

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.)


Dalton's first outing as 007, The Living Daylights (1987) was critically successful, and grossed more than the previous two Bond films with Roger Moore, as well as contemporary box-office rivals such as Die Hard and Lethal Weapon. However, his second film, Licence to Kill (1989), although almost as successful than its predecessor in most markets, did not perform as well at the U.S. box office, in large part due to a lacklustre marketing campaign, after the title of the film was abruptly changed from 'License Revoked'.

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.

Dalton as Bond

Unlike Moore, who had played Bond as more of a lighthearted playboy and admitted that he had read very little Fleming and found the books lacking in humour, Dalton's portrayal of Bond was darker, stiffer and more grittily serious and a welcomed relief for fans of Connery's style. A fan of the literary character, often seen re-reading and referencing the novels on set, Dalton determined to approach the role and play truer to the original character as described by Fleming. So, his 007 came across as a reluctant agent who did not always enjoy the assignments he was given, something only seen on screen before, albeit obliquely, in George Lazenby's OHMSS. In The Living Daylights, for example, Bond tells a critical colleague: "Stuff my orders! Tell M what you want. If he fires me, I'll thank him for it." And in Licence to Kill, he resigns the secret service in order to pursue his own agenda of revenge.

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.

The post-Bond era

After his Bond films, Dalton divided his work between stage, television and films, and diversified the characters he played. This helped him eliminate the 007 typecasting that followed him during the previous period. He played the villainous matinee idol Neville Sinclair in 1991's The Rocketeer, and Rhett Butler in Scarlett, the television mini-series sequel to Gone with the Wind. He also appeared as criminal informant Eddie Myers in the acclaimed 1992 British miniseries Framed.

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.

Personal quotes

  • On ‘The Living Daylights’: “This is a film that really inhabits the proper world of James Bond. I mean, James Bond lives in a world that is violent and dangerous”.
  • On his version of James Bond: “I don't believe Bond is superman, a cardboard cut out or two-dimensional. He's got to be a human being. He’s got to be identifiable, and that’s what I'm trying to be….It's not a spoof, it's not light, it's not jokey”.
  • On the difference between his and Roger Moore’s portrayal of Bond: "Roger can climb out of a pocket aeroplane and give a glib remark, I can't
  • On the land of his birth: "Richard Burton was Welsh; Tom Jones is Welsh, and we Welshmen like to think of ourselves as heroes - on screen and off!
  • On acting: "The question of what is good acting has got to be paramount in order to keep developing. If you cease to think about it, you cease to develop. There's the showy style and the acting that doesn't look like acting. I go for the latter”..
  • On fame: "If you behave like a regular guy, you get treated like a regular guy. You can't cut yourself off from the world. You ultimately would go crazy, wouldn't you?.


Stage work


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