Timothy Dalton: The James Bond Who Paved the Way for Daniel Craig

When naming the best and most influential actors who have portrayed James Bond, one might expect George Lazenby to pop up at the end of the list. After all, he only starred in a single film as the famous spy. However, Lazenby’s one entry, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), is now recognized as one of the finest entries in the series. Timothy Dalton, who only bested Lazenby by one film, is now the more likely actor to be forgotten by fans. When compared to the creative renaissance of the Daniel Craig films, the Dalton films seem tonally jumbled and driven to excess where more recent Bond films are focused and lean. But despite their failings, the films prefigure Daniel Craig’s interpretation of the Bond character by introducing a darker, weathered Bond.

Dalton’s path to playing James Bond was inauspicious: originally considered for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, he was deemed too young to take over the franchise. In the late 1980s, after Sean Connery had finally given up on the role and Roger Moore had aged out of being a believable spy, Dalton was again considered for the role, this time in competition with Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan was the producers’s first choice, but his commitment to the television series Remington Steele ultimately scuttled his chances, leading to Dalton’s casting.

Dalton would portray James Bond at the end of a decade of creative stagnation for the franchise. John Glen, who directed every Bond film of the ‘80s, helmed films that lacked the craftsmanship of the iconic 1960s films, or even the baroque plots of the 1970s films. The final ‘80s films starring Roger Moore were bloated and devoted more screen time to showcasing luxury and bad puns than any kind of character development or thrills. Dalton’s first Bond film, The Living Daylights (1987) still fell victim to much of the silliness of previous entries in the series. . .

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