Greeting Primates!

Evil Ash checking in again.

Every fellow cinephile has his or her own relationship with James Bond. Bond movies, whether you’re 20 or 80, have been here for all of us, and we all have a different story to tell about our connection to the Bond universe. For me, it was watching Roger Moore and Sean Connery in the den with my my Dad when I was a teen in the early 80’s. Then, going off on my own and seeing Timothy Dalton at the cinema with friends in the late 80’s. Then? Nothingness. 1989’s License to Kill was not a bad movie (many will argue that), and like just about all Bond movies, did very well at the box office, grossing almost $160,000,000 on a $30,000,000 budget. Still, it sagged a bit domestically, and came out at a time when the franchise seemed creatively bankrupt, while at the same time, having to to deal with a changing world, i.e. the end of the Cold War.

While pre-production on Dalton’s third movie was moving forward in 1990, there were rumblings and dissatisfaction within the Bond universe, and many people on the inside felt that the franchise was becoming irrelevant, and even worse – boring. Current writer Richard Maibaum was released from his contract, and Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli also parted ways with longtime director John Glen. Soon after this, legal issues between Broccoli’s Danjaq, LLC (the holding company that held the rights for copyrighting and trademarking the James Bond name) and MGM ensued. Lawsuits were filed by both sides that had to do with licensing and distributions rights. It was during this tumultuous time in the early 90’s that the franchise ground to a halt.

In May 1993, all legal matters and suits were resolved and a 17th Bond movie was back on track. Contrary to what some people may think, Dalton WAS approached to return as James Bond. Broccoli was confident that a new writer and director could inject some fresh life into the fading franchise. Dalton went on to say:

“When [the next movie] did come about, it was probably four or five years later. [Producer Albert Broccoli] asked if I would come back, and I said, ‘Well, I’ve actually changed my mind a little bit. I think that I’d love to do one. Try and take the best of the two that I have done, and consolidate them into a third.”

Broccoli was none to pleased about this, as after a long layoff, he needed his star to stick around for more than just one more film. Broccoli wanted Dalton to commit to four more features. Dalton had NO desire to do this, and stated:

“And I thought, ‘Oh, no, that would be the rest of my life. Too much. Too long.’ So I respectfully declined.”

With Albert Broccoli’s health starting to fail, daughter Barbara Broccoli and her half-brother Michael J. Wilson took over the day-to-day duties of getting the films production back on track, and finding a new star to carry the franchise successfully into the future. Martin Campbell (Edge of Darkness, No Escape, Casino Royale), was brought in to take over directing duties, and Pierce Brosnan was finally crowned King after failing to take over the mantle of Bond when Roger Moore retired from the franchise in 1985. As many will remember, Brosnan’s star was rising in the mid-80s as the co-star of the successful show Remington Steele, on the NBC network.

Pierce Brosnan had been on the inside of the James Bond universe as early as 1981 on the set of For Your Eyes Only, when his first wife Cassandra Harris was cast in the film. Brosnan and Albert Broccoli hit it off, and the role was deemed his according to Broccoli, if and when Roger Moore retired. In 1986, with Moore’s departure after the awful A View To A Kill, it seemed that the stars had aligned when NBC cancelled Remington Steele, and Brosnan was officially offered the role. This wound up backfiring for all parties involved as his casting made people flock to the NBC show, which drove up the ratings. Remington Steele was subsequently renewed, and Brosnan would not be let out (or loaned out) of his NBC contract (shades of Tom Selleck and Indiana Jones).

With Brosnan “stuck” at NBC and locked into fulfilling his contract, the role was offered to his friend, and fellow thespian, Timothy Dalton. Dalton subsequently made The Living Daylights (1986) and License To Kill (1989). As previously stated above, legal battles ensued after Dalton’s second outing, sending the franchise into chaos and uncertainty. I remember vividly thinking in the early 90’s that we may never see another Bond movie again. If you were around back then, this was a real thing. Bond movies were also being stripped off of cable  channels because of the ongoing licensing and distribution legal battles that were being waged. All of this is what made what happened on November 17, 1995 in North America – twenty-five years ago yesterday – all the more incredible and glorious.

I can’t stress enough what that teaser trailer meant for movie lovers and Bond nuts 25 years ago. Watching it again, even now 25 years later, makes me a bit emotional. It’s such a well done trailer; and it’s pushing the novel idea that the world is changing, but we can still count on James Bond. It had been over six long years since the last James Bond film, and rabid fans – such as myself – were excited. It should be noted that Mel Gibson, Liam Neeson and even Hugh Grant all passed on the role before it was offered to Brosnan. Personally, I could have only seen Neeson as a possible replacement to Dalton’s Bond, and I’m not so sure even about Neeson, to be honest.

With a budget set at $60,000,000 and a franchise that had been dormant for half a decade, the studio needed to hit a home run, or face the possibility that James Bond just may go away forever. As a sign of the changing times, the formidable Dame Judi Dench was cast as M – the head of MI6 – replacing a string of men who had previously portrayed the character; most recently Robert Brown, who had played M in the previous five films. Both Alan Rickman and Anthony Hopkins were considered for the role of Augustus Trevelyan, later changed to Alec and portrayed by Sean Bean, who is just chewing up the dialogue in this movie (“For England James?”). Alec, also known as 006 or Janus is Bond’s comrade-in-arms during a mission to blow up the Arkhangelsk chemical weapons facility in the Soviet Union. Things go horribly wrong, and we’re off and running!

This article isn’t about reviewing the movie itself (I will say GoldenEye, I feel, is a top five Bond movie), rather its about telling you how important this movie was to the franchise. I also think Brosnan not being cast as Bond back in 1986 was a GOOD thing. He was still too young, baby-faced and skinny. The extra 6-7 years was crucial to Brosnan’s portrayal. He’s grizzled just enough that he plays this Bond as a bit edgier and masculine than Roger Moore (no disrespect intended), yet he’s still incredibly pretty and can easily pull off the tongue-in- cheek routine. It also helps that it looks like he gained about 20 pounds for the role and was in solid physical shape. Also, not since Dominoe Derval in Thunderball, had I fallen so head-over-heels for a Bond Girl as I did for Famke Janssen’s portrayal of Xenia Onatopp. She’s stunning in this movie, and, much like Bean, is dialing it up to 11 for the whole film.

The rest of the cast is rounded out by love interest Isabella Scorupco, Alan Cumming, the legendary Desmond Llewelyn (as Q), Joe Don Baker (another one chewing up the scenery as CIA buddy Jack Wade), Samantha Bond, Robbie Coltrane and Minnie Driver, among others. Michael France (Cliffhanger), Jeffrey Caine (The Constant Gardener) and Kevin Wade, all worked on perfecting a script that would be the first James Bond film to take place after the fall of the Soviet Union, the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. Principal photography would commence in January 1995 in England, Monte Carlo, the Contra Dam in Switzerland (for the iconic pre-credit bungee jump), St. Petersburg, and Puerto Rico. Most importantly to lunatics such as myself, we would see the return of the Aston Martin DB5; the classic Bond car that first appeared in Dr. No and had not been seen since 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Brosnan has stated repeatedly, of Bond, that he wanted to:

“…peel back the layers…find a chink in Bond’s armor.”

I think that he partially achieves that here. The humanization of Bond certainly takes a huge step forward in this film, as we find out for the first time that James Bond was an orphan, and there is constant wordplay throughout the movie as to what makes Bond tick. What was so refreshing about GoldenEye was that the writing confronted Bond’s irrelevancy head on, and used it to its advantage. His old school behavior is used to drive the plot forward throughout the whole movie, and its brilliant. At one point, Dench’s M refers to bond as a relic. Further stating:

“You don’t like me, Bond. You don’t like my methods. You think I’m an accountant, a bean counter more interested in my numbers than your instincts… Good, because I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur.”

While the film humanizes James Bond a bit, and creates a more PC female lead in Scorupco’s Natalya Simonova, GoldenEye never takes itself too seriously. That can be easily evidenced by Famke Janssen’s character, whose evil superpower is crushing men to death between her thighs. Also, the stunt work in this movie is simply phenomenal. I’d have to say that Brosnan’s performance as the iconic super spy is solid. It’s somewhere between the ruggedness of Sean Connery and the suaveness of Roger Moore, and that’s a good place to be. Audiences immediately loved this latest iteration of James bond and flocked to the theaters in droves.

GoldenEye was a smash hit at the box office, grossing almost $360,000,000 worldwide, and Pierce Brosnan was firmly cemented as the new and improved James Bond for the 1990’s. He would stay in that role for an additional three movies and officially stepped down as James Bond in early 2004. GoldenEye would also be the first Bond film that wasn’t produced by Albert Broccoli, who, as previously stated, was in failing health. However, Albert Broccoli would get to see the finished film, and would be able to briefly enjoy the renaissance of the Bond franchise that he had started back in 1962. Broccoli would pass away in June 1996.

GoldenEye was a success in so many different ways. On top of the box office that it grossed (it was the highest earning Bond film since Moonraker), it put the franchise back on track for the next 25 years. Almost every Bond film following GoldenEye, has equaled or outperformed the one before it financially. That’s astonishing. It’s also not a coincidence that when Brosnan stepped down, and James Bond was rebooted with Daniel Craig, that GoldenEye director Martin Campbell was the man that Eon Productions called on to take the helm. GoldenEye brilliantly reintroduced James Bond to a new world, and 25 years later it still holds up. The future was looking bright for 007.

Sound off Outposters and let me know what you think about the 25th anniversary of GoldenEye!

Hugh “Evil Ash” Feinberg