James Bond - Timothy Dalton
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This tall, steely-eyed Welsh born actor was a respected stage actor for over 20 years before exploding onto the laymans radar in 1987 as the new face of Ian Flemings master spy, James Bond. Among the last of a dying breed of classically trained Shakespearean actors who has forged simultaneous and successful careers in theater, television and film, Dalton was one of the great, underappreciated actors of our time.
Born Timothy Peter Dalton on March 21, 1946 in Colwyn Bay, Wales, Dalton began acting in his teens. In 1964, Dalton gained acceptance into Englands famed Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he studied for two years before quitting. Turning professional at age 22, Dalton got his first taste of the spotlight when he joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Under the direction of Tony winning English stage director, Peter Dews, Dalton played lead in countless Shakespearean productions and period dramas. From there, Dalton quickly moved into television. Finding work with the BBC in the late 1960s, Dalton earned critical praise for his work in Satday while Sunday (BBC, 1967), a 14-part dramatic series about a group of young, working-class people in Northern England.
In 1968, Dalton made his impressive film debut in the period drama, The Lion in Winter, opposite Peter OToole and Katherine Hepburn, who won an Oscar for her role. Just the first of several period dramas that would come, The Lion In Winter set a familiar pattern for Daltons career. With his good looks, regal bearing, and commanding presence, Dalton was well-suited to playing swashbucklers, royalty, and historical leading men.
During the early 1970s, Dalton appeared in a score of British films including a re-make of "Wuthering Heights" (1970), Ken Hughes' lavish historical biopic "Cromwell" (1970) and 1971's acclaimed "Mary, Queen of Scots" which paired the 27-year-old Dalton with his eventual real-life off-screen lover, the older Vanessa Redgrave. In 1978, Daltons first American film, Sextette was released. A thoroughly vile affair, the film starred Mae West in her last (and by far, least) screen role. Based on Wests notoriously bawdy 1929 stage play Sex, the film version of Sextette could best be described as a warped vanity project. In it, senior citizen West played Marlo Manners, a sex-starved 29-year old coquette yes, 29-year old who must contend with a bevy of horny young suitors. Needless to say, Wests attempt at playing a sex kitten half a century her junior proved less than convincing in the days of pre-CGI wizardry. Cast as the studly Sir Michael Barrington, Dalton played Marlos virile new husband. Paired up with the septuagenarian West in a number of quasi-love scenes, Dalton looked positively shell-shocked.
The actor fared better in his next major role, playing the noble Prince Barin in Mike Hodges campy sci-fi cult hit, Flash Gordon (1980). An over-the-top action-packed space opera, Flash Gordon provided an excellent showcase for such veteran stage hams as Brian Blessed and Topol to chew the scenery. Though more restrained in his own performance, Daltons turn as the suave and dignified Prince Barin fit in beautifully, serving as a steadying anchor to all the fun. During the first half of the 1980s, Dalton maintained high visibility appearing in a number of television miniseries and made-for-TV dramas. Among his most notable works were Jane Eyre (BBC, 1983), Mistrals Daughter (CBS, 1984) and the scandalous soap opera Sins (CBS, 1986), in which he starred opposite the sultry Joan Collins. His biggest break, however, was yet to come.
In 1986, 42-year-old Dalton was approached by EON Productions, producers of the James Bond film series, with the job offer of a lifetime to replace Roger Moore as the worlds most famous secret agent, 007. In actuality, this was, in fact, the second time Dalton had been offered the role. The first opportunity came in 1967 when Dalton was tapped to replace Sean Connery, but had turned down the role, feeling that he was too young to play Bond. Ultimately, the part had gone to Australian actor George Lazenby instead. Eager to put his own mark on the decades old character, Dalton made a sharp departure from his predecessor, Roger Moore, by taking Bond back to his literary roots. Whereas Moores Bond was characterized by his suave, dry wit and unflappable demeanor, Dalton shed Bond of much of his light-heartedness. Much closer to novelist Ian Flemings original vision of the character, Daltons Bond was noticeably more severe. Though still suave and debonair, to be sure, Daltons take was first and foremost, a professional who took his work dead seriously.
Dalton made his screen debut as James Bond in 1987s The Living Daylights. The film was an international hit, grossing nearly $200 million worldwide. Most notable was the movies success in the U.S., where receipts for the previous three Bond flicks had progressively slipped. Unfortunately, not everyone appreciated the change. Reviews of Daltons performance were all over the board. While many fans applauded the darker, grittier Bond, an equal number did not. For the latter group, after a decade of Roger Moores tongue-in-cheek take on the character, Daltons brooding Bond simply felt too radical a departure. Unswayed by the dissent, Dalton returned as Bond, badder than ever, in 1989s Licence to Kill. Overwhelmingly considered the darkest, most violent of the Bond series, Licence to Kill featured Bond literally being pushed to the edge, defying the law, his government, and many fans expectations all in the name of revenge. License to Kill failed to perform as well at the U.S. box office, in large part due to a lackluster marketing campaign. Still, the film represented a unique entry in the 007 celluloid mythos and was viewed by many as being the quintessential Dalton Bond film.
In 1990, EONs contract with Dalton officially expired, though the actor technically still owed the studio one more Bond picture. Dalton, determined to honor his commitment, initially offered to don the tux one last time for a 1991 sequel. As fate would have it have it, however, a lengthy litigation between MGM/UA and Danjaq, LLC (parent company of EON Productions) over ownership rights to the Bond character tied up the franchise. Plans for the 17th 007 film had to be scuttled and the project was placed on indefinite hold. Finally, in 1994, after nearly five years of waiting on the sidelines, Dalton had had enough and asked to be released from his contract. EON agreed and the two parted ways amicably.
The 1990s saw Dalton consistently, if not prominently, employed in a number of high-profile film ventures. In 1991, Dalton turned in a show-stopping performance as the villainous Neville Sinclair in the otherwise underwhelming action-adventure, The Rocketeer. In 1994, Dalton was cast as Rhett Butler, opposite Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, in the major American miniseries, Scarlett (CBS, 1994). Adapted from Alexandra Ripleys novelized sequel to Margaret Mitchells Gone with the Wind, the overblown production was ripped apart by critics. Proving that Clark Gable was no easy act to follow, reviews on Daltons performance were decidedly mixed, at best.
In 1997, Dalton returned to the big screen in The Beautician and the Beast, a lightweight romantic comedy co-starring Fran Drescher. Continuing with his lighthearted streak, Dalton popped up in Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). In it, Dalton played Damian Drake, a spy playing an actor playing a spy, in a fitting parody of his James Bond persona.
Copyright � Baseline 2006.