James Bond Almost Battled a Terminator-Type Robot in Unmade Movie
Timothy Dalton, the fourth actor to portray the legendary James Bond, was ready and willing to star in a third movie, The Property of a Lady.
After The Living Daylights in 1987 and License to Kill a couple of years later, it seemed like Dalton would continue thrilling viewers as he trotted the globe saving the world and wooing women. That moment would never come, but in the 2020 book The Lost Adventures of James Bond, writer and filmmaker Mark Edlitz offers insight into various lost, forgotten or unmade Bond stories - including what would have been Dalton's third film.
A treatment titled "Bond 17 Outline" from May 1990 written by Michael G. Wilson and Alfonse Ruggiero chronicles a wild, new escapade for Bond, whose assignment begins when a chemical-weapons lab in Scotland blows to smithereens. The incident is linked to a variety of other infiltrations of high-tech facilities around the world, including one in Tokyo, where an intruder is caught on camera tampering with the technology. Bond is sent to Tokyo to determine the criminal's identity, but, of course, discovers there's more going on than meets the eye. As the plot progresses, he finds himself entangled in a web of cutting-edge technology, microchips and misdirected attacks. The story concludes with an epic battle against a female cyborg villain.
"I had just done [Miami] Vice, and I had a lot of good friends of mine who are into guns and they would follow weapons coming out of the military," Ruggiero told Edlitz. "We sell weapons all over the world. We sell to our allies. We sell to all sorts of people. We sell far more stuff around the world than anybody else. We sell missiles. But I thought, What if you could control them? What if you could sabotage them? What if you could send them to where they're not supposed to go?"
Dalton represented a noticeable shift in the Bond character from daring but lighthearted playboy, to a darker, more mysterious man. It was also a period in which Eon Productions, the studio responsible for the 007 movies, was experimenting with new directions to take the franchise. The Living Daylights did well at the box office, but Dalton's second film may have proved a bit too grim for fans' liking. Coupled with a less-than-booming budget and competition from other popular films like Lethal Weapon 2 and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, License to Kill was not received with as much enthusiasm.
Dalton, contracted for three movies, and hoping to live up the legacies of Sean Connery and Roger Moore - both of whom turned in terrific third installments of their own Bond films - was ready to solidify himself as one of the greats. Plans for the third movie, given the title The Property of a Lady after one of Ian Fleming's short stories, began to take shape in 1990, and a poster was made for the 1990 Cannes Film Festival. But a legal dispute between Eon Productions and distribution company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer stemming from a recent MGM sale caused a delay. After it was resolved, producer Albert Broccoli finally came around to asking Dalton, now out of contract, about coming back on board.
"I think that I'd love to do one," Dalton recalled telling Broccoli. "Try and take the best of the two that I have done and consolidate them into a third."
By then the longest period between releases in the history of Bond films had elapsed. Broccoli pointed out that Dalton would really need to commit to a few films, not just one, so the actor walked away from the role. Pierce Brosnan eventually took over the role for GoldenEye in 1995, a decision Dalton fully supported.
"Once you've created a character … once you've done it, once you've taken on that challenge — and hopefully been successful — what is the joy of repeating it? I don't know that there is any joy in repeating it," he told The Week in 2014. "You've climbed the mountain."
But fans can still live out the proposed excitement of another Dalton outing in Edlitz's book. They can also uncover more Bond projects that didn't quite get their due, such as a lost performance by Connery, a revisiting of the '90s-era James Bond Jr. cartoon and even a fourth Dalton film.
"It's fun going down memory lane," Ruggiero says in the book. "It was a great time. Talking about the experience always brings back happy memories."