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New Bond Film: Less Hardware, More Story

November 16, 1986|DONALD CHASE

VIENNA — "Doesn't this remind you of those streets we used to see in all those wonderfully gritty espionage thrillers like 'The Spy Who Came in From the Co" Timothy Dalton asked.

The hard-lit Vienna street was where the showpiece "Ludove Konzervatorium" (Lenin Conservatory) faced a grimy-gray apartment block bearing a giant yellow hammer-and-sickle and storefront signs for the "Dom Sportu" (Sport House) and "Kvety" (Flowers). It's all a simulation of Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, for the currently shooting "The Living Daylights."

But, as everyone knows by now, Dalton is the new James Bond, replacing Roger Moore, and "Living Daylights" is the latest entry in the surpassingly escapist 007 series. So this set must be an aberration, right? And, more to the point, Dalton's talk of grit must have limited applicability.

Well, yes--and no.

True, "Living Daylights" once again seats Bond behind the wheel of an Aston Martin (the DB5 of "Goldfinger" is now a Volante), and it's been outfitted with more, frequently lethal technology than you can shake a radar detector at. There are also two eminently road- and stunt-worthy Audis in the movie.

And the director is John Glen, who piloted the last three Bonds and, as second-unit director, was responsible for the thrillingly kinetic parachute-jump-onto-a-ski-slope pre-credit sequence of "The Spy Who Loved Me." He has already shot the "Daylights" opener, for which Dalton volunteered life and limb as he navigated the Rock of Gibraltar.

As well, there's a 25-minute land-and-air-battle finale set in Russian-occupied Afghanistan and due for shooting in Ouarzazate, Morocco. (Other filming sites include Italy, Tangiers and Pinewood Studios in England, where the $28-$30 million production will wrap in February in anticipation of a summer 1987 release by MGM/UA.)

Despite all this, there is some evidence that "Living Daylights" may take the series in a new and at least marginally more realistic direction.

For one thing, the impressive automobilia aside, everyone involved seems to agree that the Michael G. Wilson-Richard Maibaum script on which it's based is less hardware-dependent than recent Bonds. "We wanted to go for a story of intrigue and mystery rather than potential Armageddon," said Wilson, who is also co-producer with Albert R. Broccoli.

Furthermore, the "Bond Girl" here is rather unlike the majority of the Ian Fleming superspy's past playmates. According to Maryam D'Abo, the 25-year-old French-raised English-Dutch-Russian blonde who plays her, "she's a very natural character, totally honest, with a great passion, which is the cello. She's Czechoslovakian and is involved with Koskov (the film's KGB-general villain, played by Jeroen Krabbe) because he helped her secure a place in the conservatory. However, she's apolitical. And she's got a brain; she falls for Bond totally, but not in a stupid or naive way."

But the key to the new approach is Dalton, even though he was cast after the script was written and relatively few changes in it have been made to accommodate him.

Citing his "rugged physicality" and "dry wit," director Glen said Dalton will be a "more ruthless" Bond than Roger Moore. Moore, it must be said, became increasingly spoofy as he became better-upholstered, finally verging on the Teddy-bearish.

Producer Broccoli, responsible for six of Sean Connery's seven Bond outings, George Lazenby's solo flight (in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service") and all seven of Moore's 007 epics, came right out and said it: "He has more of a Sean quality." (Interestingly, Broccoli said that Moore suggested Dalton as his replacement.)

Dalton himself expressed a particular admiration for the Connery-Bond in the 1963 "Dr. No," the first 007 film and the one that he--like many a Bond purist--feels is closest to the spirit of the Fleming novels.

"You could see that everyone involved in the making of that film had been reading the books," said the actor who re-read all of them and re-saw all the films before shooting on "Daylights" began. Azure-eyed, dark-haired and lean (6-1, 180 pounds), the 40-year-old Dalton is fairly close to the Bond that Fleming described. Dangerously ferrety in repose, his features soften into accessibility when he smiles and a chin dimple comes into play.

"And while," Dalton continued, "what I'm doing has to be reconciled with the fact that we're making a film in 1986 that is the product of a long series of movies, I'd like to come back to something like that. As you go through the books underlining various bits and pieces, the essential quality you see in Bond is that he's a man who lives on the edge.

"The man chain-smokes," Dalton laughed ruefully as he lit another cigarette himself, "he drinks, he likes driving fast. The man is a gambler, he likes and uses women"--though, the actor thought, Bond's putative male chauvinism "is very much in the eye of the beholder. The man kills --and therefore his own life is at risk; he himself can be killed at any time.

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