The hunt was on again for a fourth actor to play Flemings creation. James Broady, Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood where considered for the role, but they all had one thing in common. They where all American. Cubby strongly believed that Bond should be one hundred per cent British. However Broccoli had contradicted himself as he had casted Australian George Lazenby for the part. The role went to English actor Michael Billington, who confusingly, had been given a small cameo in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’.
Billington was thirty nine when he was announced as Moore’s replacement in 1980 and signed a three-picture deal. Even though ‘Moonraker’ was the highest grossing Bond film of all time, the producers felt it was time to bring Bond back to earth. It was decided Bond should have a grittier and a more, darker edge than Roger Moore had given the character.
On 2nd September 1980 cameras rolled for the 14th Bond film and the 12th for EON. ‘For Your Eyes Only’ was the first to be adapted from Fleming’s short stories about James Bond and began production with Michael Billington holding the Walther PPK. Richard Maibuam had written the script combining two short stories, ‘For Your Eyes Only’ and ‘Risico’, both featuring the Bond characters. It also featured the keelhauling scene, taken from the novel ‘Live And Let Die’.
The pre-title sequence, which is the most important part whilst introducing a new Bond, featured a spectacular action piece featuring a jet pack, which Bond uses to escape, after confronting enemies at a funeral of a fellow agent. Throughout the film he gets behind the wheels of a speedboat, a Citroen 2CV and a Lotus Esprit Turbo.
On a budget of $28,000,000, ‘For Your Eyes Only’ made $194,000,000 and was considered a classic by Bond fans. Billington’s incarnation of Bond had received positive reviews, with fans claiming ‘it was good to see a Bond, who was close to Connery, but at the same time had a bit of Roger in him.’
With EON happy with the result of Billington as Bond, and ‘For Your Eyes Only’, Broccoli announced that ‘Octopussy’ would be the next Bond film. At the same time, McClory also announced that he was to make another Bond film with Connery in the role.
Again this didn’t bother Broccoli, as he knew he couldn’t stop McClory, plus ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ had beaten ‘Warhead’ by $6,000,000. However, Billington wasn’t as calm. He knew the deal with McClory and Broccoli and was worried how the world would take to his second outing as Bond, now ‘the Big Man is back’.
Broccoli had hired George Macdonald Fraser to work on the script alongside his stepson Michael Wilson, and Richard Maibaum. The final script included elements of the short story ‘Octopussy’ and ‘The Property Of A Lady’ and was to be filmed on location in India.
John Glen returned as director and he gave it the darker and more realistic approach that had been seen if ‘For Your Eyes Only’. Bond wasn’t relying so heavily on gadgets, but his wit. Maud Adams returned to the world of Bond as the leading lady, Octopussy, however, some people did find the title inappropriate. Even though Roger Moore was no longer Bond, he visited the set and remained close to the Bond family, and would often make jokes about the title.
Meanwhile Connery wasn’t making jokes at all whilst working on the ‘other’ Bond film. Firstly he hated the associate producer Jack Swarzman, who he clearly did not get on with. The relationship could easily be compared to that of McClory and Hitchcock. Secondly, Connery felt that the whole production was a mess and that everything was being rushed and lastly, that the script was not as good as ‘Warhead’.
McClory had hired Lorenzo Semple Jr to rewrite the script that had originally been written by Mclory, Fleming and Whittingham. However, Connery wasn’t happy and turned to British writers Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement to do a major rewrite. Irvin Kirshner was brought on board as director, and after working on the epic sequel to ‘Star Wars’, found the production somewhat of a turbulent ride.
The year 1983, became another year that was to be dubbed the ‘Battle Of The Bonds’. ‘Octopussy’ starring Michael Billington, Maud Adams, and Louis Jordan was produced with a budget of $27,500,000 and made $189,000,000 at the box office. This was $5,000,000 less than Billington’s previous outing as Bond.
However, McClory’s second remake of ‘Longitude 78 West’, this time titled ‘Never Say Never Again’ starring Sean Connery, Max Von Sydow as Blofeld, Klaus Maria Brandauer as Maxmillian Largo and Kim Bassinger as Domino was made on a budget $36,000,000, which was $15,000,000 more than ‘Warhead’ and made $160,000,000 at the box office. Broccoli’s Bond came out on top once again, perhaps due to the fact that critics had slated ‘Never Say Never Again’, claiming it wasn’t a patch on ‘Warhead’.
Billington was pleased with the result and felt happy that he had come up to fans expectations for his second outing and was more than happy to fill the role for a third film.
McClory on the other hand wasn’t as happy, deep down he knew that Bond was Broccoli property and after two films, one being better than the other, knew that his films would never be as good as the EON films.
‘From A View To A Kill’ took its name from one of Fleming’s short stories, but bore no resemblance to it, apart from a motorbike chase through a forest and having the first half of the film set in Paris. The story was written by Richard Maibuam and Michael Wilson and involved Bond preventing Halley’s Comet destroying Silicone Valley. The villain Max Zorin wanted to destroy Silicone Valley, the home of the microchip, so that the value of his own would shoot through the roof. Fans and critics have claimed that this was simply a reworking of ‘Goldfinger’.
‘From A View To A Kill’, was directed once again by John Glen, and would be the last film for Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny and Bernard Lee as ‘M’. Lee had passed away the following year at the age of seventy seven. It would also be Billington’s last Bond film. He had been offered an option for a fourth but declined as he felt he was being typecast, and wanted to concentrate on theatre and TV work.
‘A View To A Kill’ opened on 22nd May 1985, with David Bowie as Max Zorin. Bowie also performed the title song as well. The film also starred Tanya Roberts and Grace Jones. The film was produced on a budget of $30,000,000 and made $159,000,000 at the box office, £30,000,000 less than ‘Octopussy’. Fans and critics blamed this on a storyline that wasn’t believable. The next Bond adventure had to be brought back down to earth once again.
When Michael Billington’s contract as Agent 007 came to an end, another Bond was being looked for. Irish born New Zealander, actor Sam Neill, was considered for the part but lost it to Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan was contracted to the TV show ‘Remington Steele’, however, due to a fall in ratings further shows had been cancelled. The announcement of Brosnan as Bond, caused a large amount of interest in the series therefore prompting a further season to be filmed tying Brosnan to his contract.
Welsh born Shakespearian actor Timothy Dalton, won the part of James Bond, and at the age of forty one was very enthusiastic about doing his own stunts.
John Glen had returned as director for his fourth Bond film, ‘The Living Daylights’ which had been one of Fleming’s last short stories. The script was written by Maibuam and Wilson and was based on the plot. However, it was greatly expanded to feature current events, namely the war with Russia and Afghanistan. It was also the first time in sixteen years that Bond was again behind the wheel of an Aston Martin.
After the death of Bernard Lee, English actor Robert Hardy became the new ‘M’, whilst Caroline Bliss made her debut has a younger Miss Moneypenny.
Dalton’s portrayal of Bond was dark and grittier and played the way Fleming had written the character. The humour and one-liners that had featured in all of the previous Bond films had been left out and were not to be heard.
‘The Living Daylights’ was released in 1987, commemorating twenty five years since the release of EON’s first Bond film ‘Dr No’. Sadly the anniversary of ‘Longitude 78 West’ was never celebrated, being a film often ignored, and there were no licensed products that went with film. However, the licensed products and merchandise for the EON Bond films was, and still is, clearly big money.
‘The Living Daylights’ was made on a budget of $40,000,000 and earned $191,000,000 at the box office. The producers and film studios where happy with the result which prompted Maibuam and Wilson to write an original story, with an original title that was not Fleming’s.
In 1988 work began on the script for Dalton’s second Bond film ‘Licence Revoked’, which would see Bond going rogue, on behalf of his longtime CIA friend Felix Leiter and to avenge the death of Leiter’s wife. Elements were taken from the novel ‘Live And Let Die’ which saw Leiter being gruesomely attacked by sharks. The villain Milton Krest, was taken from a Fleming short story entitled ‘The Hilderbrand Rarity’.
Complications involving the Eady Levy, resulted in the production of ‘Licence Revoked’ having to be moved to Mexico, which acted as the backdrop for the film. This was to be the bloodiest Bond film yet, and was the first to be rated as a fifteen, although it came very close to becoming an eighteen. This was the first Bond film that Broccoli’s daughter Barbara had become involved with. She oversaw the production of what is considered to be the most exciting chase in the whole Bond series. This involved five Kenworth tankers and served as the climatic finale to the film. Guitarist Vic Flick, who had worked on the original James Bond Theme with Monty Norman, teamed up with Eric Clapton and performed the title song to ‘Licence Revoked’. John Barry was unavailable due to throat surgery and the score was put in the hands of Michael Kamen.
Filmed on a budget of $32,000,000 which was $8,000,000 less than ‘The Living Daylights’ it only made $151,000,000 at the box office. This was considerably less than the previous film had made. 1989 was however, a big year for blockbusters and ‘Licence Revoked’ had competition. Paramount had released a Bond inspired Indiana Jones film, directed by Spielberg, ‘The Last Crusade’ which starred Sean Connery. Also Warner Bros had released the highly anticipated Tim Burton film ‘Batman’.
By Matthew Grice
Wikipedia James Bond Box Office
The Battle For Bond by Robert Sellers ISBN 10: 0-9531926-3-6
For Your Eyes Only poster created by Kimberly Dewhurst