• Timothy Dalton’s portrayal of James Bond brought a sense of grit and reality that was absent in Roger Moore’s era.
  • Dalton’s 007 movies were initially seen as too dour and humorless, but time has been kind to his darker take on the character.
  • A third Bond movie could have cemented Dalton’s legacy within the franchise and allowed him to perfect his portrayal of the iconic spy.

An unofficial rule about James Bond actors makes Timothy Dalton’s franchise exit all the sadder. Every time the James Bond movies recast the title character is an event. There was serious doubt the series could survive Sean Connery’s exit, but after a shaky transition thanks to George Lazenby quitting the role after only one movie, Roger Moore went on to become beloved in the part. Each era not only needs to carry over franchise traditions and characters, the role of 007 has to be uniquely tailored to the actor playing it.

Timothy Dalton might be Christoper Nolan’s favorite Bond, but he doesn’t usually rank high with franchise devotees. His 007 brought a sense of grit and reality that was largely absent during Moore’s Bond era, but at the time he was seen as too dour and humorless in the role. Time has been kind to Dalton’s two movie run, with Licence To Kill prefiguring Daniel Craig’s darker take. Dalton was once set to return for a third adventure that didn’t come together for various reasons, which is a shame for one key reason.

Related: Why Bond Actors Third Movies Are Usually The Best

James Bond Actors’ Third Movies Are Usually Their Best

james bond actors third movies goldfinger spy who loved me skyfall

When critics or fans comment on the best James Bond movies of Connery, Moore or Craig, they zero in on Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me and Skyfall respectively. In the case of each of those films, they were the third 007 movies for their actors, which makes a certain amount of sense. All three performers had two previous films to finesse their take on the character, refining what worked or dropping elements that didn’t. Moore’s The Man with the Golden Gun, for instance, had elements of Connery’s more brutish version of the character.

This didn’t suit Moore’s debonair rendition, so it was largely dropped from his future 007 performances. The above Bond movies also had the benefit of filmmakers and audiences seeing what worked and what didn’t, resulting in sequels that were crafted to their star’s strengths. That said, this theory didn’t translate to Pierce Brosnan’s third Bond adventure, The World Is Not Enough. This 1999 outing is one of the actor’s weaker efforts and is only saved from being his worst due to the existence of 2002’s notorious Die Another Day.

Dalton’s Third Bond Movie Could Have Cemented His 007 Legacy

Timothy Dalton as James Bond in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill

Dalton signed on for three James Bond movies when he joined the franchise, and while 1989’s Licence to Kill was a box office disappointment – thanks to coming out during a crowded summer – work soon commenced on what to be his third 007 outing. There were actually plans for a third and fourth Dalton Bond film, with one project being dubbed Reunion With Death and which would have taken the superspy to Japan once again.

Alas, the property soon ran into legal trouble that would see Bond absent from the big screen for six years. When Dalton’s original contract ran out, he was ready to move on, though he briefly considered a return for GoldenEye. However, when he was told he would need to commit to multiple 007 adventures beyond GoldenEye, he officially stepped down and Pierce Brosnan inherited the part.

It’s hard to say if either of Dalton’s unmade Bond movies – or a version of GoldenEye where he starred instead of Brosnan – would have worked. That said, the law of Bond star’s third film being their best is a compelling one, and Licence To Kill already saw Dalton grow more confident as the character. The fact Dalton only made two movies in the role is commonly used as a negative against him, but a third Bond movie could have cemented his legacy within the franchise.

Why Dalton’s Bond Exit Was A Bigger Disappointment Than Lazenby’s

George Lazenby as James Bond in a tuxedo

Of the six actors who’ve played James Bond, only two of them failed to reach a third movie. There’s obviously Dalton, who was a victim of circumstance, but George Lazenby is a different story. The Australian model managed to beat out many other contenders for the role in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and once production was complete, he was offered a multiple-film contract that he passed on.

This was because he was told by his management that Bond would be outdated in the ’70s. History has shown this was a truly terrible decision, which is something Lazenby himself has agreed with. Lazenby was the least experienced of the actors to play the role, but while his performance is a tad wooden at times, his more naive 007 is what makes On Her Majesty’s Secret Service work so well.

Still, it was clear Lazenby had no real interest in growing into the Bond role either. Dalton, on the other hand, was still finding his footing, and a third Timothy Dalton Bond movie could have seen him perfect it. Still, the world has two solid James Bond movies with the actor, and his work in the part only appears to grow in people’s estimations.

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