7 Days of 007 – Day 6: Pierce Brosnan
Once more we tread into territory where someone who was previously selected to don the mantle of 007 but couldn’t (or wouldn’t) for whatever reason finally gets his opportunity. Following the seemingly endless legal battles, the “bloodless coup,” and Timothy Dalton’s pass at returning to the role, Pierce Brosnan became the face of Britain’s most famous secret agent. As before, the casting calls went forth. Liam Neeson, Mel Gibson, Sam Neill, Hugh Grant and Lambert Wilson were all rumored to be in the running for the role before Brosnan was finally chosen. But the changes didn’t stop there. GoldenEye is the first Bond film where nearly all of the recurring characters were recast, with the only holdover being Desmond Llewellyn as Q, who sadly died in a car accident in 1999. It is the first completely original Bond movie, using absolutely no material or reference from Ian Fleming’s original work. The traditional studio – Pinewood – was unavailable, booked to shoot (ironically enough) Sean Connery’s film First Knight. A new studio was built – Leavesden – which would later be the site used for Sleepy Hollow and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. This was the first Bond movie to feature an explicit sex scene. It was also the first Bond movie to be released in MGM/UA Dolby Digital, the first to be distributed in the DVD format, the first Bond movie produced by Barbara Broccoli, and the final Bond movie to be viewed by longtime Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli. And just to make the change in the era complete, this is the first Bond movie filmed after the end of the Cold War, and subsequently the first Bond movie to actually be filmed in Russia, the primary target of concern in most spy thrillers.
Despite the success and accolades of GoldenEye, all was not wine and roses for the rest of the Brosnan era despite long-time producer “Cubby” Broccoli’s final mandate to his kids before his passing: “Don’t let ‘em screw it up.” Since GoldenEye was written for Dalton’s darker-edged Bond, it was decided that Brosnan’s Bond needed to reflect at least some of the humor of the Roger Moore era for the next three films. Much to Brosnan’s disgust, he found himself quipping some of the worst one-liners ever written for Bond and a return to the excessive amount of gadgetry, noticeably missing from his first film. Brosnan laments to this day that his Bond couldn’t have reflected the same back-to-basics approach used for Dalton and his own successor in the role, Daniel Craig. Teri Hatcher claims that she accepted the role for Tomorrow Never Dies only to fulfill her husband’s lifelong dream of being married to a Bond girl and gained “no special satisfaction” from the role. Her scenes had to be filmed quickly due to an unexpected pregnancy, and the producers quickly realized that she and Brosnan had almost no on-screen chemistry. Her successor in The World Is Not Enough, Denise Richards, claims she took the role of Dr. Christmas Jones because she was attracted to the role being smart, athletic, and having “depth of character.” She is considered by and large to the be worst of the Bond girls, and as a result of her performance, the film earned the Bond franchise its first Razzie. As a direct result of this in turn, Halle Berry was cast for Die Another Day, becoming the first Oscar-winning Bond girl at the time of the shoot. Others won their Oscars after their work in a Bond film.
Die Another Day became the highest-grossing Bond film of all time, but it wasn’t enough to satisfy producers. Despite the high box office, all of Brosnan’s films post-GoldenEye have the distinction of being the only Bond movies that didn’t make at least five times their budgets due to rising costs and declining audiences. To say that Brosnan was fired is incorrect. The studios simply opted not to renew his contract, making him (arguably, if you believe Lazenby) the first 007 not to leave the role of his own accord. Regardless of how you look at it, it’s clear that Brosnan was unjustly offered up as the scapegoat for forces beyond his control so the studios could make a clean break and a fresh start.
As with all situations where the studio is not totally satisfied, yet another back-to-basics tact was considered. In keeping with the tastes and trends of the audiences, it was believed a rougher, more brutal Bond was needed, in keeping with Fleming’s original creation.
The “7 Days of 007” series wraps tomorrow with a look at the currently reigning James Bond, Daniel Craig!