Spotlight on My Favorite Bond –Timothy Dalton in Licence to Kill

I have James Bond in my mind today, and in case some of you didn’t know, this coming October the Bond franchise is celebrating its 50th anniversary. So for Bond month we’ll have some related posts to mark the festivities. A few sites have started a Bond-related series, such as the Bond-a-thon that MTV Movie Blog is running right now and just yesterday, the movie they highlighted was Licence to Kill, woo hoo!

I’m glad they had something positive to say about it: Unlike the majority of the movies in the series, Bond has a believable motivation. We’ve known Felix Leiter since “Dr. No,” and when something genuinely awful happens to him, we care, and we care that Bond cares, especially when it kicks off a journey for vengeance.

But what got me overjoyed was last Friday my friend Michael sent me a link via Twitter to John Kenneth Muir’s appreciation post on Licence To Kill. I have intimated in more than one occasions that Timothy Dalton is my all time favorite Bond, as you probably have read in this post, but Mr. Muir absolutely nailed the reason why I love him so…

Beyond the stunts, Timothy Dalton absolutely excels as Bond in this film. He’s called upon to undergo a series of personal crises here, and gives the audience a fully human Bond who pushes himself to the limits of human endurance, both in terms of injury (as in the finale) and in terms of control over his emotions.  Some people worried that this Dalton Bond was “too sensitive,” but his is — pretty clearly — the Bond of the Ian Fleming books.  He smokes too much, drinks too much, and when he lets himself feel his emotions, he’s absolutely off the rails.

Oh my! I couldn’t say it better myself! I have seen this film recently and it absolutely renews my appreciation for it. Here’s the Bond resigning clip that shows that Bond has a heart… but still very much a bad ass!


So today I feel like indulging a bit and turn the spotlight on the Shakespearean-trained Welsh actor in his second outing as Bond… in pictorial… because sometimes, pictures speak so much louder than words!

Now, if you think the movie is devoid of humor, then you’d be wrong. Though Licence to Kill is by definition a much darker, grittier tale that’s a departure from the Roger Moore’s Bonds, but there are some fun, lighthearted moments scattered throughout, such as this one when Q shows up in Bond’s hotel room:

How Dalton came to play Bond

Director John Glen on set with Dalton

And for those who ever thought that Dalton was a ‘back-up’ Bond (like one Variety writer said in their recent post), well they need to do better research. The actor had said in The Living Daylights documentary that Albert Broccoli had offered him the role as far back as 1968 when he was only 24! It was Dalton himself who turned down the role, saying he was far too young for the role, “Originally I did not want to take over from Sean Connery. He was far too good, he was wonderful. I was about 24 or 25, which is too young. But when you’ve seen Bond from the beginning, you don’t take over from Sean Connery.”

Wikipedia also noted that he was approached again in the late 70s but he wasn’t keen on the direction the films were taking (this was Roger Moore’s era, natch!). It’s true that he finally accepted the role in 1986 when Pierce Brosnan couldn’t get his contract out of the TV series Remington Steele, but it didn’t mean that he was the producer’s second choice as Dalton was already considered before Brosnan even entered the picture!

In any case, it really is a shame Dalton only got two Bond movies under his belt. I like Daniel Craig, I mean Casino Royale is one of my favorite Bond movies now and you know I’m looking forward to Skyfall. But Dalton’s performance, which was way ahead of his time, will always be the one I remember most fondly. I’m sure glad that it seems that more people seem to appreciate Dalton and his Bond movies more as time goes by. Rightly so!


That’s it folks. Thoughts on Dalton and/or Licence To Kill? Well, let’s hear it!

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45 thoughts on “Spotlight on My Favorite Bond –Timothy Dalton in Licence to Kill

  1. Without question, my absolutely favorite Timothy Dalton movie. Bond or not, this is it. I hated the fact that this was his best in the OO7 role, and would be his last. Excellent post, Ruth — and John Kenneth Muir nailed it so beautifully. Thanks for this (and the shout-out).

    • Yeah I know Michael, I wish he had finished his 3-films contracts at the very least. Darn MGM and their money problems!! :( Thanks for sending me to Mr. Muir’s post.

  2. :D I’ve been cracking in to the Bond 50 Blu Ray set, Ruth… Bond fever is on the rise over here!

    You know who else was offered a chance to be Bond before he could? Both Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. Both were coveted by the producers, but were locked in to TV deals! Moore could have been the first Bond ever, while Brosnan could have had Dalton’s movies! Sick, no? :D

    I think I like License to Kill better than the Living Daylights, but theyre very very close. I think the tanker chase action sequence at the end is the tie breaker :D

    • I didn’t know that about Moore being offered before Connery, Fogs, but as for Brosnan, I think Dalton was offered first as back in 1968 when Cubby first wanted Dalton, Brosnan was only 15 years old! I know I’m perhaps making a mountain out of a molehill here but I don’t like it when people think that Dalton was only considered because Brosnan couldn’t do it.

      Anyway, glad this Bond fever is ON!!! :)

    • Bond Fever indeed! I got myself the lovely box set too and talk about a thing of beauty!

      I love to see who other peoples’ favourite Bond is and though Dalton isn’t my particular fav, I must agree in that this is a fantastic Bond film and most definitely his best, and there could and should have been more! He was a good Bond, far superior to what Brosnan was after that. Great Post!

      • Man I need to get my hands on those BD set, but it’s quite pricey! I’ve only got a few of Moore’s Bonds on DVD and 2 of Dalton’s (natch!) Well I hope this post makes you think of Dalton in a better light :) Glad to hear you think of him as better than Brosnan, that makes me happy!

        • For sure, I certainly do. Yeh, at first the price I paid seemed steep but at just over £3 per film with all the extras, you can’t go wrong – I had only a couple of films before, but finally I got them all for just over £70.

  3. Yup, Muir was right, Dalton is exactly what Fleming described in the books. If Dalton appeared in more Bond films, he would prob be my fave Bond actor too. It’s just too bad his version was way beyond the time, most people back then still want the silly Moore’s Bond.

    License to Kill is one of my fave Bond movies, I think it has the right amount of humor, seriousness and action. The only thing that bugged me was the music somehow didn’t jell with me. I thought The Living Daylights soundtrack was much better.

  4. Sean Connery will always be Bond to me, but Dalton comes in a VERY close second. So when did you say you were bringing in the LTK DVD for me?… ;-D

    • Oh yeah I need to give the movie to you, but it’s a BD though, so you can’t watch it. You might just have to come over to my place to see it :)

  5. Great article, and I just can’t get enough of Bond, like PG, Connery is my all time favorite Bond since I grew up watching him in action, and I really like Dalton much much better than Moore or Brosnan, just wished Dalton would have done a few more Bond films. Another film I liked Dalton in was the Rocketeer.

    • Thanks Dave! Glad to hear you rate Dalton highly. I understand people loving Connery, I mean he is the one who started it all, even Dalton himself is a big fan. Yes I wish it were Dalton who got signed to do a bunch of Bond films like Craig is being offered now.

      Oh I LOVE him in The Rocketeer too, Neville Sinclair is absolutely briiliant!

  6. It refreshing to come across someone who has Dalton as their favourite Bond. We rarely come across these guys. Usually its just Connery or Daniel Craig. I mean I like Roger Moore (mostly for his villains: Jaws and Baron Samedi) and get stick for that!!

    Haven’t seen most of the Bond films for quite some time. With all the hype, I really need to start my Bond marathon to get in the mood for Skyfall.

    • Hi Asrap, oh I have fond memories watching Roger Moore’s Bond films too, and his villains/henchmen were memorable, esp. Jaws. I just think Dalton embodies what I want my super spy to be, killer looks, bad ass but with a hear. Well, watch out for more Bond posts in October! :)

  7. I remember liking the film, but I can’t recall my thoughts on Dalton’s performance. I’ll have to rewatch it soon. :) And I haven’t even seen The Living Daylights yet. Must remedy that.

  8. I thought about you as soon as I saw the Bond collection in my store this past week! I love that you love Bond so much, Ruth! :)

    While I am a fan of Brosnan’s first 2 runs at the role, Connery epitomizes the part for me most.

  9. Very interesting post…I wasn’t aware that Dalton was approached in 1968 to play Bond at the age of 24. He was right to think he was too young for it but I can’t believe an actor if his age could turn down such an iconic character in a successful franchise.

    But I’m glad you rate Dalton as your favorite. I’ve always liked his Bond films and much prefer them to Brosnan’s post-GoldenEye period.

    • Hi Dan, yes he certainly was approached at that age, which is odd for the producers to do so but Dalton might have been more mature for his age then? I think the fact that he turned it down shows that he cared for the character and wanted to make sure he did it justice. I respect him for that as he doesn’t seem like the kind of actor who only does work for money/fame.

  10. Interesting anecdotes about how he came to be James Bond, Ruth. Good job researching that! My theory is that he was too busy being a James Bond in the real world to be one in reel world :D

  11. Ruth, you know that Craig is my favorite Bond. But LICENCE TO KILL is certainly one of my favorite Bond movies. Also I’m not sure Craig, whose portrayal is closer to Dalton’s than anyone else’s, would have gotten the role if Dalton hadn’t gotten it first. Brosnan was more like Moore by the end of his tenure IMHO.

  12. Hooray for Timothy Dalton! Licence to Kill is one of my favorite Bond films and holds up really well on repeat viewings. Dalton was definitely ahead of his time, and it’s only now that we’re seeing with Daniel Craig that a serious approach to Bond can work. I know that a lot of people appreciate Dalton’s work as Bond, but it’s still surprising to note how many dismiss his tenure.

    • Hooray for recognizing Dalton is a great Bond, Dan! I’m very pleased to read your comment. It’s disappointing that people who appreciate him are in the minority, but ah well, at least those who do are adamant about it :)

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  14. Dropped in from Fog’s Blog a Thon, and I am happy to find a fellow fan of Timothy Dalton as Bond. Of the two films, License to Kill is my favorite because the story is so much more about Bond than the mission. Having read all the books a dozen times each as a kid, I understood the take on Bond here, he often hated his job and felt like leaving it, but he never could because he was addicted to the challenge of a job, and he never suffered fools gladly. Fraz Sanchez would irritate him simply by living, much less for killing his friends wife and feeding the closest friend he ever had to a shark.

    • Wahoo!! Always nice to see a fellow Dalton Bond fan, too, thanks for stopping by. I like what you said about his Bond, ‘never suffered fools gladly’ is a great way to put it. Davi was great as Sanchez too, so I think the pairing worked well. I really want to read Fleming’s novels, esp. since Dalton is said to be the closest to how he envisioned it in the books.

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  18. Great write up. One thing I found odd which I’d never noticed before until I just watched the clip of Bond’s resignation you posted, is that when one of the agents goes to shoot Bond, M stops him and says, “Don’t! Too many people!”

    Cut to the dense foliage on what seems to be a private estate run by MI6 with no members of the public, let alone other agents, anywhere in sight!

    I figure the script must have originally had that scene placed in a much more crowded spot like a street side cafe or something. But they didn’t change the line to suit.

    Regardless, still one of my favourite Bond movies! :)

    • Hi there! Oh, I don’t see it as a mistake actually. I think the place is definitely secluded with nobody in sight. So when M shouted “Don’t! Too many people!” it’s meant to show that he’s making an excuse to avoid Bond getting killed. I mean the agent who was gonna shoot him has that confused look on his face… ‘People? What people??’ and I think that’s deliberate. M cares about Bond too much that he won’t risk having him killed just because he resigned. The clip cut it off too fast, but I think in the end M said, ‘God help you Commander’ or something like that.

  19. It is a pity that he only had two Bond flicks to his name, but the fact that he bore the title is enough! This post was awesome! I am currently busy on my Bond run, so soon enough I shall be back with the extraordinary Mr Dalton!

    Casino Royale will forever remain one of my most cherished Bonds, and Skyfall (check me out, so late to the party) was definitely worth the wait, I enjoyed it!

    • Hello again Zoë!! Always glad to hear such a kindred spirits on the blogosphere :D

      I think it’s cool that you’re doing a Bond marathon, can’t wait to hear what you think of Dalton’s two Bond outings, which of course are great ;) I do love Casino Royale and Skyfall, though Quantum of Solace, not so much.

      But to me, I really think if Dalton were playing those two movies, I think it’d be EXTRA awesome. Somehow he got the short end of the stick with his two films as he was 1) way ahead of his time 2) budget issues made Licence to Kill look cheap and it wasn’t marketed very well. Otherwise though, his performance is fantastic and that’s why he’s still my favorite Bond.

      • I have been having a blasti with the marathon so far!

        Quantum of Solace was not the greatest, but also didn’t deserve the super bashing the critics gave it.

        He did get the short end, I am just glad he got some of the stick, you know?

        You have really gotten me excitedvfor the Dalton ones! Still a way to go before them but anxious nonetheless!

    • Me too, I think his debut is still better and the production quality is more on par of today’s Bond flicks. But if we’re judging by his performance alone, Dalton absolutely rocked his role in LTK. I mean, the scene where he confronted Bouvier in bed is both scary AND sexy at the same time, he manages to balance that dark, sinister tone w/ elegance seduction beautifully! ;)

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