Revealed - The 007 Flops Who Almost Killed Bond

Written by James MacGregor on . Posted in Film industry

 

007 -licensed to kill, but almost killed offIt is a little-known story until now, but though James Bond triumphed over all kinds of would-be assassins, but according to some newly released documents, it was a bunch of accountants who almost killed him off.

 

Concerned over dwindling box-office receipts for films in the late 1980s starring Timothy Dalton, the estate of 007's creator, Ian Fleming, was warned of "grave doubts" that another Bond movie would ever be made.

 The extent of these fears over the Bond brand's future are revealed in papers just discovered in the archive of Kenneth Maidment, former vice-president of Columbia Pictures. He acted as the financial consultant for Fleming's estate for almost two decades.

     FATAL TO THE FRANCHISE

During his time with Columbia, Maidment presided over many hit films including A Man For All Seasons and Lawrence of Arabia. In correspondence he said that neither of the Dalton films was likely to make a profit - a state of affairs he suggested might prove fatal for the franchise.

Writing to the Fleming estate's solicitors, Maidment said that the way Dalton was portraying Bond was alienating fans.

Three years before Pierce Brosnan replaced Dalton as 007, Maidment wrote in 1992: "Despite the exercise of a further option before April 2, 1992, the prospect of a further Bond film seems highly uncertain. I pointed out in my 1984 valuation that there was a big question mark over the future of James Bond films. The last two pictures have starred Timothy Dalton but sadly the results have, unfortunately, not had the same box-office success.

     "NO PROFITS HAVE BEEN RECEIVED"

"It seems that, as I conjectured, the laws of diminishing returns have come to roost with the result that, in spite of keeping down the production costs, no profits have been received from the last three films. It would, therefore, be unrealistic, despite the exercise of the last option, to anticipate any value to the Trust on the expectation of further Bond films."

Three years before that, Maidment had specifically highlighted Dalton's characterisation as affecting the appeal of the films. 

He wrote: "My confidential advice is that Licence to Kill has not performed as well 'relatively speaking' as the previous Bond pictures but this has been attributed to the characterisation of Timothy Dalton more than anything else."

     NO PROFITS EXPECTED

In letter that was undated but which appears to have been written in 1989, he wrote: "While Connery and Moore were playing the leading role, the successes were unique, but relative incomes have fallen when Timothy Dalton took over and the producers have indicated that they do not expect profits from the last three pictures.

"This, of course, leads me to the main query of your letter - the possibility of future pictures. It had been the practice to make a Bond picture every other year, but without a star big enough to take the leading role and no indication of what the cost would be, I still have grave doubts that one will be produced."

Since Maidment's warning, four Bond films, all starring Brosnan, have been released. Casino Royale, the new adventure starring Daniel Craig, is due in cinemas this year. However, the letters will be seized upon by those Bond fans who say Craig is too similar to Dalton.

  20 BOND PICS WORTH £2BILLION

There have been 20 Bond pictures, which have reaped more than £2 billion at the box office, making Bond the second most successful franchise ever, after Star Wars.

But the Maidment papers reveal that 1985's A View To A Kill -  Roger Moore's last outing as Bond -  took 12 years to recoup its production costs. The film has generated £81 million in box-office receipts, so far.

Licence to Kill, which starred Dalton in June 1989, had failed to recoup initial investment seven years later.

    REVERSING THE DECLINE

In 1989, Maidment was asked by an estate' lawyer asking what he thought of casting a "Mr Pierce Brosnan". Mr Maidment replied  that  he thought the move would enhance the value of the franchise. In fact Brosnan would not make his debut as Bond for another six years, but after doing so, he did manage to reverse the years of decline.

Die Another Day, Brosnan's last outing as Bond, took £230 million at the box office making it the most successful 007 film. Mr Maidment, was award-ed a CBE for services to cinema and was a president of the Film Production Association of Great Britain. He died in February.

 

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