To mark the 50th Anniversary of one of the most successful movie franchises of all time and with James Bonds 23rd official outing in Skyfall due for release later this year, I have been tasked with taking a retrospective look at the films that turned author Ian Flemings creation into one of the most recognised and iconic characters in film history. Despite Licence To Kill receiving a mostly positive reaction on its release in 1989 it was felt by many that the series had run its course. Over the following four years a legal dispute between United Artists, MGM and EON Productions caused major delays jepordising the future development of the character. In the intervening years with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War James Bond was being pushed aside in favour of muscled action stars and comic book heroes bringing Bonds relevance into question. Series producer Albert R. Broccoli, who had been instrumental in bringing Flemings creation to the screen, was beginning to suffer from ill health so decided to take a back seat in the next films production. Passing the baton to his daughter Barbara Broccoli and her half brother Michael G. Wilson, both of whom had already enjoyed many years of involvement in the franchise. After Hong Kong action director John Woo declined an offer to direct the film, Martin Campbell, who had directed the acclaimed British television series Edge Of Darkness, was chosen to direct the seventeenth James Bond film GoldenEye and was assigned the unenviable task of bringing the character up to date and revitalising interest in the series.
Following the death of regular Bond screenwriter Richard Maibaum in 1991, the screenplay for GoldenEye was provided by Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein from a story by Michael France. As had been the case on Licence To Kill, the story was an original work inspired by the writings of Ian Fleming with the title taken from the name of Flemings Jamaican estate where he had written the James Bond novels. With production returning to the UK it was discovered that Bonds usual home at Pinewood Studios was unavailable. With no other British facilities large enough to house the production, an old Rolls-Royce factory at Leavesden Aerodrome near London was converted into a new studio which would go on to become one of the UKs premiere film studios being used for Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace, The Dark Knight and the Harry Potter series among others. James Bond
In the years since Licence To Kill, Timothy Dalton had remained attached to the lead role after originally signing up for a three film contract. However, after a number of false starts he eventually resigned from the series in 1994 giving the producers the opportunity to give the character a fresh start. A number of actors were in the running for the role ranging from Liam Neeson and James Purefoy to Mel Gibson and Hugh Grant but one name had stuck in the producers mind since the casting sessions for The Living Daylights, Pierce Brosnan. As far back as 1981 during the production of For Your Eyes Only when he visited his then wife, actress Cassandra Harris on set, Brosnan had been thought to be the perfect man for the role. After Dalton initially rejected the offer to play Bond in 1987, Brosnan would most likely have taken the role if his contract to star in the television series Remington Steele had not been renewed. Tied to the NBC show for another season he felt he had missed the opportunity of a lifetime but when casting began for GoldenEye, he was the obvious choice.
Dimitri Mishkin: Good morning, Mr. Bond. Sit. I'm Defense Minister Dimitri Mishkin. So, by what means shall we execute you, Commander Bond?
James Bond: What, no small-talk? No chit-chat? That's the trouble with the world today. No one takes the time to do a really sinister interrogation anymore. It's a lost art.
Bringing a clever amalgam of all four previous Bond actors to the screen, Brosnan proved himself to be the perfect fit for the post-modern take on the character. Taking the style of Connery, the broody emotion of Lazenby, the humour of Moore and the tougher edge of Dalton, Brosnan was quick to fully embody the character and make Bond his own. It is a startlingly assured debut performance capturing the essence of the character while offering a timely introspective examination of his place in the modern, post-Cold War world.