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The Search For Bond The final part of an exclusive 3-part article


Lambert Wilson

So if Broccoli didn’t want Sam Neill, who did he want? The answer was French actor Lambert Wilson, who only a few years earlier had played the love rival to none other than Sean Connery in Fred Zinnemann’s Five Days One Summer. Born in 1958, Wilson trained at London’s Drama Centre (a couple of years after a certain Pierce Brosnan had left), and for his Bond screen test was asked to recreate the From Russia With Love hotel scene, where 007 orders breakfast on the phone (green figs, coffee, very black etc.), before finding the sultry Tatiana in his hotel bed, in this instance played by Maryam d’Abo. He was then put through his action paces with a fight scene. Wilson’s languid, youthful features were in the end deemed unsuited to Bond. Ironically though, it was d’Abo that ended up impressing the makers more, winning for herself the Bond girl role in The Living Daylights (1987).

Lambert Wilson screen test

ABOVE: Lambert Wilson's screen-test with Maryam d'Abo at Pinewood Studios. Wilson re-enacted the From Russia With Love hotel scene, where 007 orders breakfast on the phone and also took part in a fight scene.

However, the producers did feel that they had at last found somebody very special and a real contender. Timothy Dalton’s connection to Bond went all the way back to 1968 when Broccoli interviewed him for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Dalton had just made his film debut alongside Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn in the historical drama The Lion In Winter, and was seen as something of a hot new property. Showing considerable balls, Dalton declined Broccoli’s offer to play Bond believing himself to be far too young, (he was just 22 at the time) and because of the imposing legacy of Sean Connery.

Timothy Dalton screen test

In 1980 Dalton was again considered, this time as a replacement for Moore whose tenure in the role was uncertain at the time. “I went to see Mr. Broccoli in Los Angeles. They didn’t have a script finished and also, the way the Bond movies had gone – although they were fun and entertaining – weren’t my idea of Bond movies. They had become a completely different entity. I know Roger, and think he does a fantastic job, but they were different kinds of movies. Roger is one of the only people in the world who can be fun in the midst of all that gadgetry.”

It was Broccoli’s wife Dana who came up with the suggestion that they should once more approach Dalton. This time the actor was very much interested, but had already signed a contract to star in a ditzy adventure comedy with Brooke Shields called Brenda Starr and the filming schedules clashed. Reluctantly Dalton had to bow out.

Pierce Brosnan screen test

With Dalton out of the running Broccoli and studio bosses all agreed that the new Bond would be an actor that many magazines had been touting for some time as the heir apparent – Pierce Brosnan, the 33 year old star of hit US detective show Remington Steele. Indeed, a review in The Washington Post for the very first episode of the NBC series noted: “Pierce Brosnan could make it as a young James Bond.”

Brosnan made it very clear he wanted the job and it emerged later that he’d been a favourite of Broccoli’s for some time. Even better, he’d suddenly become available when Remington Steele was cancelled by NBC. The timing seemed perfect and Brosnan looked tailor made to slip into 007’s tuxedo. All the Bond team had to do was wait around until the network’s obligatory option ran out on ordering more episodes of Remington Steele – 60 days. It was a tense time, during which the script of the new Bond movie The Living Daylights lay on Brosnan’s bedside table, but he was too afraid to tempt fate and decided against reading even a page of it until the ink was dry on his contract with EON. “But the ink never got dry,” the actor later lamented.

Pierce Brosnan screen test

ABOVE: Pierce Brosnan's 1986 screen test featured the obligatory love scene - this time from On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

In the midst of all the heady publicity surrounding Brosnan’s attachment to Bond NBC suddenly realised that they had a massive commodity on their hands and were eager to exploit it. At the eleventh hour the network ordered a batch of specially made for TV Remington Steele movies. Still contractually obliged to the series, Brosnan had no choice but to comply, and so in July 1986 he watched his chance to play 007 slip through his fingers. Even worse, after just a few episodes the network decided to cancel the show again, this time permanently. Brosnan was left shocked, betrayed and angry.

Pierce Brosnan screen test/signing for Bond in 1986

ABOVE: (1 - 3) Pierce Brosnan's 1986 screen-test. (4) Brosnan with Albert R. Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson as he signs as 007 for the first time. (5 - 7) Pierce Brosnan with The Living Daylights director John Glen at Pinewood Studios. Although the clapperboard held by John Glen bears the date 26th August 1986, this was clearly designed to be used in publicity when Brosnan was to be announced as the new James Bond as shooting on The Living Daylights got underway. Timothy Dalton had been formally announced as the new 007 on August 7, 1986 - so the publicity shots of Brosnan must have been taken earlier in the year after the cancellation of the US TV series Remington Steele.