Timothy Dalton starred as James Bond in 1987's "The Living Daylights,"… (Getty Images )
Timothy Dalton, who starred as James Bond in two of the franchise's films, has seen 007 from numerous angles over the decades. But the 66-year-old believes current super-spy Daniel Craig may have his predecessors beat.
"There's a case to be made that Daniel Craig is the best Bond ever, or at least in a very long time," Dalton said in a phone interview from London. "With Roger Moore it was a pastiche that almost became a parody at the end. And with Pierce [Brosnan], I think he wanted to go darker and deeper but that wasn’t what those movies were.” (Dalton left himself and the pre-Moore Bonds of the 1960s and early 1970s, including Sean Connery, out of the equation.)
Dalton hadn't seen "Skyfall" yet at the time of the interview. But he said both Craig’s "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace" had a spirit that he believed early Bond filmmakers would have been proud of. "Daniel Craig's Bond movies are absolutely modern, up-to-date versions, but they're also the legitimate heir of 'Dr. No' and 'From Russia With Love,'" Dalton said.
"Skyfall," which opens in the U.S. Friday, has been garnering strong reviews. Filmmakers struggled with how to keep the high-living character relevant in the age of iPhones and economic austerity (you can read The Times' take on that struggle here).
Dalton anchored the James Bond franchise in an interim stage of sorts in the late 1980s after the Roger Moore movies but before a modern sensibility took hold with the post-Sept. 11 "Casino Royale." Dalton’s first film, 1987's "The Living Daylights," was reasonably well received, but 1989 outing "Licence to Kill" was given a rough ride by critics and fans.
The actor says he harbors no regrets about the way his Bond tour played out — “of course there were things I hoped would have been different but you have to be realistic and accept things for what they are” — though he's not shy about studio and perhaps even audience reaction to "Licence."
"Cubby Broccoli knew it was time for change," he said, referring to the longtime Bond producer. "There's value in retaining some of the foundation but you’ve got to keep modernizing and updating. But there's always been a great deal of resistance to that. Many people recognize intellectually there's a need to change but it's very difficult to change."
He also took a little shot at how studio MGM presented his second movie. "They changed the title from 'Licence Revoked' because they felt Americans wouldn't know what 'revoked' meant," he said with an acid laugh.
There's a feeling among some fans that Dalton’s Bond circa “Licence” was a little ahead of its time in its grimmer, more self-doubting manner.
Dalton says he holds that view too, and though he reiterated that he has no regrets, he’s a little envious of the material Craig gets to work with. “The first 25 minutes of 'Casino Royale'? I would have died to have done that,” he said.
Dalton is concentrating on voice work in animated movies now — he’s had parts in films including “Toy Story 3” — and says that while he does receive live-action opportunities, “I guess I’m at the stage where the things I’m offered are not really what I want.”
The actor says he looks back fondly at his Bond days. But he acknowledges he did grow weary of what he describes as a sort of opinion oversharing on the part of both Hollywood and the public.
“James Bond is in everybody’s heart, so everybody has an opinion about it," he said. "I understand that, but it’s different from working on any other movie.”
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