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Topic: Lost Bond Films: Timothy Dalton in Bond 17

Here’s the next chapter on the James Bond films that were never made, cancelled and abandoned- this time focusing on Timothy Dalton's ill-fated third adventure as 007...




In 1989, the James Bond film series stumbled. With Licence to Kill a financial disappointment, there was a climate of uncertainty behind the scenes at Eon Productions. Although Licence to Kill’s box office receipts were underwhelming, especially in the United States, it was eventually decided by early 1990 to move forwards with a third Dalton adventure. In May that year, Michael G. Wilson delivered a seventeen-page script treatment with the aid of Alfonse. M. Ruggiero, an American television screenwriter best known for episodes of “The Untouchables” and “Miami Vice” in the late 1980s. A speculative release date was projected for late 1991.



In retrospect, its perhaps surprising that Eon Productions didn’t take a longer creative break after the troubled reception of Licence to Kill. For comparison, in 1974 the middling critical and commercial response to The Man With the Golden Gun prompted an unprecedented three-year gap while Albert R. Broccoli considered how to provide a more impressive spectacle for the next film, which would turn out to be the significantly more successful The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977. At the dawn of the Nineties, however, it was Eon’s intention to press on with the regular two-year schedule that had characterised the franchise for much of the past twenty-five years. One is tempted to question whether, in hindsight, a longer rethink might have been helpful. Nevertheless, a degree of change was in the air. In August 1990, John Glen, who had directed the past five Bond adventures, parted ways with the Broccolis, and at the same time Richard Maibaum, who contributed material to over thirteen Bond scripts, was also let go. An Eon spokesperson claimed, rather insultingly, that Maibaum was “a has-been”, but bad blood was also in evidence between Glen and the 007 production team. There are reports- notably in the director’s own autobiography- that the end of shooting on Licence was marked by a blazing argument between Glen and Dalton; it is quite possible that Dalton demanded Glen’s firing from the series, with the Broccolis complying out of an understandable desire to keep their star happy.



Whatever the truth was, Bond 17 was now without a director. Eon Productions seized the opportunity to engage the services of some of the creative talent responsible for the American action blockbusters that had snapped at Bond’s heels throughout the Eighties. Tabloid reports in 1990 stated that “Rambo: First Blood” director Ted Kotcheff was among those in talks with Michael G. Wilson, while Albert R. Broccoli apparently met with Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, the duo who had scripted “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” for Steven Spielberg in 1984. At last, James Bond was catching up to his cinematic rivals.



While a full script was never penned, elements of the original screen treatment do survive, allowing some plot details of the third Dalton Bond adventure to be teased out. While The Living Daylights focused on the waning days of the Cold War, and Licence to Kill revolved around South American drug lords, Bond 17 took as its inspiration a different global threat. With the Soviet Union on the brink of collapse, and no longer hostile to the Western world, this latest storyline would see Bond pursued by the Chinese Secret Service, in recognition of China’s status as the only remaining communist superpower. Bond must navigate the complexities of the Japanese criminal underworld in order to recover a stolen microchip, encountering beautiful master thief and part-time CIA agent Connie Webb. Eventually 007’s investigations lead him to Hong Kong and the billionaire industrialist Sir Henry Lee Ching, a villain who plots to cause havoc with nuclear weapons by attacking Red China. Ching hijacks a missile in order to destroy Shanghai, but Bond sabotages the countdown and burns the villain to death with an acetylene welding torch. Ching’s underground base is destroyed, and Bond manages to escape at the last second to romance Connie.



Its an interesting collection of ideas, to say the least. The heavy use of communist China is suitably ripped-from-the-headlines, and Hong Kong could well have been a visually appealing location for a Bond adventure. Other elements of the script, such as the strange inclusion of female robot assassins, lean more towards the outlandish, and there are also discomfiting traces of repetition; was it really necessary for Bond to confront an insane billionaire industrialist with a fortune in the microchip market, less than a decade after the same concept’s debut in A View to A Kill? Similarly, Bond’s alliance with a feisty female CIA agent is cut from the same cloth as 007’s teaming up with Pam Bouvier, just one script earlier in Licence to Kill.  We can also see that aspects of the shelved 1990 treatment were themselves reused in later films. The plot device of an adversary plotting to provoke nuclear wars with China was employed for Carver’s schemes in Tomorrow Never Dies, while a prominent cameo appearance by the Aston Martin DB5 was reworked for GoldenEye. The character of Nigel Yupland, an interfering bureaucrat attempting to dismantle the Double-O-Section for good, would reappear in the guise of the treacherous Denbigh in SPECTRE, while the idea of a secret hideout in the wilds of Scotland would be reincarnated for the final act of Skyfall.



However, while several traces of the script treatment would ultimately return in other films, Timothy Dalton’s portrayal of James Bond would not. A series of legal battles over the proposed sale of MGM/Pathe delayed production until the beginning of 1993, when Michael G. Wilson and Ruggiero’s concepts were scrapped and the script entirely redrafted by Michael France. This was the genesis of what was set to become GoldenEye. By this stage Dalton’s contract to play Bond had expired, and for a long time official Bond histories held that Dalton quietly stepped away from the role in 1994 without any dispute with Eon Productions. As the actor himself revealed in a 2018 interview, the reality was rather different: “[Broccoli] asked if I would come back, and I said…’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.' And he said, quite rightly, 'Look, Tim. You can't do one. There's no way, after a five-year gap between movies that you can come back and just do one. You'd have to plan on four or five.' And I thought, oh, no, that would be the rest of my life. Too much. Too long. So I respectfully declined." These failed negotiations were the final blow for Timothy Dalton’s Bond 17, and in April 1994 Dalton formally retired from the franchise. Ultimately, Dalton’s Bond 17 stands as one of the most intriguing lost Bond films…




Any other thoughts on the plot ideas for the original Bond 17? Could the 1991 film have had a shot at restoring the series’ popularity after the general disappointment of Licence to Kill? What do others think?

Last edited by SpectreOfDefeat (17th Jul 2020 10:31)

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Timothy Dalton in Bond 17

A very interesting look at Dalton's potential third film. Great post! I don't think a third Dalton film would have helped the series. The six and a half year gap with a very different style film with GoldenEye helped restore the series' popularity. Bond needed to be something fresh and new, and the gap helped people believe that GoldenEye was something new even more.

As a note, the gap between The Man With the Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me was not unprecedented. The films were released two and a half years apart, which was the same gap between You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The gap between TMWTGG and TSWLM was only half a month longer than the gap between YOLT and OHMSS. The name of the year throws people off.

When you look at the years Bond films were released, you'd think LALD and TMWTGG were one year apart and TMWTGG and TSWLM were three, but the former gap was one and a half years and the latter was two and a half years.

When you break the time spans down to the half year, those gaps don't seem as crazy, but when you look at LTK to GE, that's almost six and a half years!

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Timothy Dalton in Bond 17

I've never heard the part about the female robot assassin before. That actually heppened in Austin Powers, so it would have been a very bad idea for DaltonBond. What's your source on that?
I'm pretty sure one of the few things Michael Wilson has said about Bond 17 is that the title wasn't "Property of a Lady". Are you sure about that part?

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Timothy Dalton in Bond 17

"I've never heard the part about the female robot assassin before. That actually heppened in Austin Powers, so it would have been a very bad idea for DaltonBond. What's your source on that?"


The robot assassin plot point sounds bizarre, but it is briefly mentioned in this MI6hq article from 2006:
"'Nan' - a female robot assassin"... https://www.mi6-hq.com/sections/article … ments.php3
I don't think the interpretation of the concept would have been identical to Austin Powers- though it leans dangerously towards the science-fiction excesses of Moonraker. Possibly the increased sci-fi/fantasy elements in this treatment were meant as a clear reaction against the seriousness of LTK? After all, GE was originally written for Dalton, and that script arguably plays as a mixture of elements of the darker Dalton (tensions between Bond and M, Onatopp's sadism) and the big bombast of Connery and Moore (the increased humour, the international scale of the plot).

"I'm pretty sure one of the few things Michael Wilson has said about Bond 17 is that the title wasn't "Property of a Lady". Are you sure about that part?"



Most sources I found simply claim that the POOL title was "Internet rumour", leaving it open to a degree of interpretation. However, if Michael G Wilson definitively said not then that clears up the mystery. Corrected my original post.


"When you break the time spans down to the half year, those gaps don't seem as crazy, but when you look at LTK to GE, that's almost six and a half years!"


That's a long gap between films - but the wait between SPECTRE and No Time to Die is steadily catching up with it...

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Timothy Dalton in Bond 17

I think a robot assassin would have been a big mistake in any Bond movie, much worse than the invisible car in DAD.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Timothy Dalton in Bond 17

I can't see how the robot assassin idea could have worked- presumably there would there have been deeply implausible action sequences where Bond fought off near-indestructible robot foes? Bond can take inspiration from other films every so often, but not The Terminator, surely? Another aspect to consider here is special effects. Would the robot characters have looked convincing in 1991, before the advent of modern CGI as we know it?


The comparison with the invisible car is a good one, Number24. While DAD at least tries to explain away the invisible car with pseudo-science about light-emitting polymers and shiny surfaces, robot assassins are a little more far-fetched for the 007 universe, and might have ended up looking more laughable than anything in Moonraker. Not a great move for a series struggling to re-establish its pop culture relevance at the time...

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Timothy Dalton in Bond 17

I absolutely agree.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Timothy Dalton in Bond 17

Good thread. It does sound like a pretty early treatment and a bit too conventional for a follow up to Licence To Kill: if it had gone further I expect it would have turned out quite different.

I think after the hiatus they really needed a new actor to relaunch interest and curiosity in Bond: using Dalton again wouldn't have been a good move.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Timothy Dalton in Bond 17

Number24 wrote:

I've never heard the part about the female robot assassin before. That actually heppened in Austin Powers, so it would have been a very bad idea for DaltonBond. What's your source on that?
I'm pretty sure one of the few things Michael Wilson has said about Bond 17 is that the title wasn't "Property of a Lady". Are you sure about that part?

Well, Austin Powers wasn't around yet. It would've just been one more thing for Austin Powers to make fun of. Who knows, maybe the FemBots in Austin came from the script idea of Bond 17?

SpectreOfDefeat wrote:

I can't see how the robot assassin idea could have worked- presumably there would there have been deeply implausible action sequences where Bond fought off near-indestructible robot foes? Bond can take inspiration from other films every so often, but not The Terminator, surely? Another aspect to consider here is special effects. Would the robot characters have looked convincing in 1991, before the advent of modern CGI as we know it?

Does the CGI in Terminator 2 still hold up today? T2 came out in 1991.

Some people would complain even if you hang them with a new rope

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Timothy Dalton in Bond 17

A fascinating article!

I audibly gasped when I read that an Eon spokesperson called Maibaum a has-been! Do you have a quote for that?

I was thinking of Bond 17 only yesterday, as it happens.

So, my main question and something I've never known for sure - Did this project become GE in subsequent re-writes from Michael France, or is GE a completely different thing altogether?

From what I've read elsewhere, the character of Denholm Crisp (probably named after Denholm Elliot, as any Bond fan worth his salt would've see Last Crusade) was a mentor to Bond who turns out to be the bad guy, and they decided to make him a contemporary instead, which gave us Alec.

I also heard that the robots sound outlandish but were meant to be quite serious and cyber-punk, but this intention gets lost when we picture them in our heads.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Timothy Dalton in Bond 17

"I audibly gasped when I read that an Eon spokesperson called Maibaum a has-been! Do you have a quote for that?"

The (pretty shocking) remark occurs in comments given to Variety magazine, around half the page down here:
https://www.mi6-hq.com/sections/article … intro.php3



"Did this project become GE in subsequent re-writes from Michael France, or is GE a completely different thing altogether?"

GE was borne out of the 1993 draft written by Michael France, which dispensed with almost all of Wilson and Ruggiero's ideas save for the return of the DB5 and the concept of a mentor figure gone rogue. However, GE was originally written with Dalton in mind to play Bond, which does explain some of the darker moments of the finished film, like Onatopp's sadism and Bond's ruthless killing of Trevelyan at the climax. Both feel like hangovers from the edgy grit of LTK in my opinion.


"I also heard that the robots sound outlandish but were meant to be quite serious and cyber-punk, but this intention gets lost when we picture them in our heads."


Perhaps the robots were designed to be 'nearly human', in a similar way to the replicants in Blade Runner or the secret android in Alien? This is the only way I can envisage that wouldn't have resembled something completely ridiculous. Apparently George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic team were involved at one stage, suggesting a more fantasy based look for the robots in Bond 17...

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Timothy Dalton in Bond 17

Very interesting. You must write more of these articles.

Re the Maibaum 'has been' comment, I can only imagine the spokesman was trying to spin his dismissal as a good thing, but it was a terrible thing to say, particularly as he died soon afterwards.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Timothy Dalton in Bond 17

Very good article! and very interesting
Take a look at that: https://propstoreauction.com/view-aucti … Screenplay
I hope someday we can read it full and the full screenplay written by william davies and william osborne.

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Re: Lost Bond Films: Timothy Dalton in Bond 17

Of course, a third film may have spoiled things.

Last edited by DavidJones (7th Sep 2020 08:10)