Former two-times James Bond star Timothy Dalton, who has a role in the new gothic horror TV series Penny Dreadful, has given some detailed reflections on his screen career in a new interview, including some interesting comments on his 007 movies.
In probably one of the most detailed interviews he has given in recent years, conducted by Will Harris of the AV Club website, Dalton talked at some length about his various film and TV roles, starting with his ‘breakthrough’ role in the award-winning film The Lion in Winter (1968), through to movies such as the now rarely-seen Permission to Kill (1975), Flash Gordon (1980), his two James Bond adventures, and on to recent roles in the comedy movie Hot Fuzz (2007) and the cult British TV sci-fi series Dr. Who (where he played a Time Lord).
Dalton, who has been helping to promote his role as ‘Sir Malcolm’ in Penny Dreadful (a supernatural drama set in late 19th century London, which is written by Skyfall‘s John Logan and produced by Sam Mendes), explained at the outset of the interview that his part in the new series is that of a man who is ‘obsessive, determined, ruthless, and manipulative… and as you can see, I’m one of the good guys!’
At another stage in the interview, Tim also answered questions about The Living Daylights (1987) and License to Kill (1989), both directed by John Glen. Will Harris noted that the story from several sources is that Dalton was pitched the role of 007 many years before he eventually accepted it.
Dalton responded: ‘I was. After Sean Connery left’. But he added that, at the time, ‘it just seemed a ridiculous notion! I mean, I was very flattered that someone should even think that I should, but I don’t know, I was in my early 20s, I think, and… hey, look, on an intelligent level, it just seemed idiotic to take over from Sean Connery’. Dalton said he had been to see the Connery movies when he was a teenager: ‘I mean, you can’t take over for Sean Connery in that series at its height!’ In Dalton’s estimation, Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger ‘were always the three great ones. You don’t take over. So of course I said no’.
Later on, however, some years later, things were somewhat different. Dalton explained that, by then, there had been George Lazenby and Roger Moore: ‘I think now everybody was now used to the idea that this series was gonna last. No one was trying to cheaply exploit the success, which is a path that’s doomed to failure. This was a series where the producers were honestly trying to make each one better than the one before, a series that the producers took pride in and wanted to maintain’.
Dalton pointed out that this was down to the fact that the series was controlled by a family, the Broccoli family. If it had a been a studio, he said, it might have been an entirely different trajectory for the EON series. On his decision to finally accept the role, Dalton added that, by then, three people had now played 007 and he (Dalton) ‘was lots older – I must have been 10, 12, 13 years older – I thought it was worth a shot’.
Turning to his particular interpretation of James Bond, and his desire to be as close to the original Fleming character as possible, Dalton said that the ‘prevailing wisdom at the time – which I would say I shared – was that the series, whilst very entertaining, had become rather spoof-like’. He said it had become ‘too light-hearted’ and producer Cubby Broccoli ‘wanted to try and bring it back to something more like its original roots with those Sean Connery films’.
Consequently, that was the ‘loose framework’ that Dalton and Broccoli together ‘sort of embarked upon’, but then they found ‘that nobody else wants to change it all!’ Dalton hinted that the studio did not want to change it, and some of the people working on it did not to change it, as everybody was ‘happy with what they know’.
Dalton explained further that, despite people at the time conceding that the series had become a bit stale, nobody actually wanted to change it in practice: ‘So it wasn’t as easy as one would hope. I mean, now they have. I think now, with Daniel, they have. But that was, what, almost 20 years later that they actually embarked on something more believable?’
Reflecting now on his time as 007, Dalton said he has to be careful what he says ‘because, of course, everyone is interested in Bond’. He said the only people who could explain accurately what it is like to be the actor playing 007 are the other actors who have played the part: ‘It’s kind of astonishing, really’.
Did you know? Just after it was released, Timothy Dalton said he was ‘hugely impressed’ with Skyfall (2012). He also told the Sunday Express in December, 2012: ‘On almost every level this Bond movie is right at the forefront of what cinema is capable of. It is an absolutely modern James Bond, a movie truly of its time. Daniel Craig is fantastic and it feels very real’.