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Saturday, 15 September 2012

Countdown to Skyfall - The Brosnan Years

Pierce Brosnan was cast as 007 following the departure of Timothy Dalton and for many Bond fans, as well as Brosnan himself, this was a dream come true. The actor had long coveted the role and came very close to replacing Moore after A View to a Kill and apart from the fact that he was tied to the Remington Steele TV series would have been cast. As it turned out Brosnan had to wait until 1995's Goldeneye.

"People will forget Sean and I after they get a load of Pierce." Roger Moore.

By the dawning of the 1990's, the Cold War had taken a series of unexpected turns. A poll of Western Europeans voted Ronald Regan as the biggest threat to world peace, while his Russian opposite number Gorbachev was seen as a great and saintly man by liberal thinkers in  the West. These were years of great change and Gorbachev who cut back the Russian military machine and removed 10,000 tanks from the Eastern bloc seemed to be doing more for the security of the world than a million spies like James Bond. The spirit of change swept across the world and in 1989 the Berlin Wall came down as millions of protesters danced in the streets.

If James Bond was to return he would have to be a very different James Bond with very different enemies. Although Bond fought only a couple of Cold War battles in the movies, the fact was that the character was a part of the cold war mythology. And besides all the very real political battles of the period, the producers were fighting a cold war of their own that resulted in the series being suspended after Licence to Kill, while legal issues were fought out.

The result was that we wouldn't see James Bond on cinema screens again until the mid Ninties and Goldeneye - Timothy Dalton had been the intended Bond but the actor declined to do anymore Bonds and so Pierce was swiftly cast. And although Dalton was superb I have to say that I think this was the best thing for the series at the time - this was a very different world than that which had existed only a few years previously. And Pierce was the perfect Bond for this new world - the actor could handle the humour in the way Moore could but was much tougher, and he seemed too good to be true - a perfect mix of the best of both Moore and Connery and without the weaknesses of either.

Pierce Brosnan was an excellent James Bond and despite what the Craig fans think, the series has not yet recovered from his loss. The reason Pierce left is still unclear but it seems the actor was sacked from the role by new producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Brocolli. Chubby, the original Bond boss,  had died in 1996 and I firmly believe that if Cubby had been alive then it is Pierce we would have seen in Casino Royale and not Daniel Craig - and you know what it would have been a better film for it.

If there is a complaint against the Brosnan years then it is with the scripts - both World is not Enough and Die Another Day were terrible in terms of storyline, but even in these weak series entries Brosnan is excellent as the character he was born to play.

Goldeneye though, Brosnan's first Bond, was a massive success, raking in $355 million worldwide and in terms of pop culture Goldeneye was perhaps the most influential Bond film since Goldfinger and sparked off another wave of spymania. Tomorrow Never Dies, which came next, may have been weaker than Goldeneye but it had its moments and Brosnan was even better in the role this time around. Again the film was a massive success - as was both The World is not Enough and Die Another Day and even if Bronsnan's latter two Bonds were no great shakes they were infinitely better than Quantum of Solace. And I still feel that Die Another Day was, for the first hour, a brilliant Bond movie - it's such a pity it became such a mess in the latter half of the film.

"I was wondering why the door closed on me? I thought everything was going so well!  You
know ‘Come back,’ they say, ‘Come back’ and there you go! We won’t talk about
  Pierce Bronsan speaking of his sacking from James Bond

Of course in an alternative universe Brosnan would have continued after Die Another Day. There was talk of Quentin Tarantino directing Casino Royale with Bronsnan in the Bond role, and both actor and director campaigned for this to become a reality. Now that would have been a film to see.

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