January 1995 marked the start of production for the 17th James Bond Film “GoldenEye” and fans all across the globe were looking forward to a new film after a six year absence of agent 007. The next actor to portray James Bond and thereby taking over from Timothy Dalton, was Pierce Brosnan. While principal photography had already begun on January 16th 1995, the full cast was not revealed until January 22nd at a photocall in Leavesden Studios.
Filming of ‘GOLDENEYE’ was completed in just under five months and England doubled for some locations seen in the film such as parts of St. Petersburg. Instead of Pinewood Studios, which had been reserved for ‘THE FIRST KNIGHT’ starring Sean Connery, Director Martin Campbell and his crew were forced to use an old Rolls-Royce factory at the Leavesden Aerodrome in Hertfordshire which was converted into a new studio, now known as Leavesden Studios. Exotic locations such as the Contra Dam in Switzerland or the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico gave the new Bond film a very special atmosphere and the scenes filmed there still remain to visually amaze audiences.
Actually, the prelude to the 17th Bond Film started five years prior to filming when actor Timothy Dalton, having appeared as James Bond twice, was still in his three-film contract. After Albert R. Broccoli’s stepson Michael G. Wilson had contributed a script, and co-producer Alfonse Ruggiero Jr. had been hired to rewrite, production was set to start in 1990 in Hong Kong for a release in late 1991. In a 2010 interview, Timothy Dalton declared, that the script had been ready and “we were talking directors” before the project entered development hell caused by legal problems between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, parent company of the series’ distributor United Artists, and Broccoli’s Danjaq, owners of the Bond film rights. The lawsuits were only settled in 1992, and during these litigation delays, Dalton’s deal with Danjaq expired in 1990. The new Bond Film was once again brought back to life in May 1993 when MGM announced that a new film, based on a screenplay by Michael France, was in development.
‘GOLDENEYE’ was also the first Bond Film in which Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson took the lead roles as producers while their father Albert R. Broccoli oversaw the production of GoldenEye as a consulting producer, credited as “presenter”. With Broccoli’s health deteriorating (he died seven months after the release of GoldenEye), his daughter Barbara Broccoli described him as taking “a bit of a back seat” in the film’s production. In an interview in 1993, Timothy Dalton said that Michael France was writing the screenplay, due to be completed in January or February 1994. Despite France’s screenplay being completed by that January, Dalton officially resigned from the role of James Bond in April 1994. After Michael France delivered the original screenplay, Jeffrey Caine was brought in to rewrite it. Caine kept many of France’s ideas but added the prologue prior to the credits. Kevin Wade polished the script and Bruce Feirstein added the finishing touches.
To replace Dalton, the producers cast Pierce Brosnan, who had been prevented from succeeding Roger Moore in 1986 because of his contract to star in the Remington Steele television series. Before negotiating with Brosnan, Mel Gibson and Liam Neeson passed on the role. The actor’s relatively low $1.2 million salary also allowed the producers to spend properly the $60 million budget lent by MGM.
Judi Dench was cast as M, making ‘GOLDENEYE’ the first film of the Bond series to feature a female “M”. The decision is widely believed to be inspired by Stella Rimington becoming head of MI5 in 1992. The producers then chose New Zealander Martin Campbell as the director. Brosnan later described Campbell as “warrior-like in his take on the piece” and that “there was a huge passion there on both our parts”. Campbell would later return to direct the James Bond Film ‘CASINO ROYALE’ in 2006.
Although only six years since the release of ‘LICENCE TO KILL’, world politics had changed dramatically in the interim. With ‘GOLDENEYE’, the first James Bond film to be produced since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Cold War era which Bond was known to inhabit was brought to an end, and therefore it was doubtful whether the character was still relevant in the modern world. Much of the film industry felt that it would be “futile” for the Bond series to make a comeback, and that it was best left as “an icon of the past”. The producers even thought of new concepts for the series, such as a period piece set in the 1960s, a female 007, or a Black James Bond. Ultimately, they chose to return to the basics of the series, not following the sensitive and caring Bond of the Dalton films or the political correctness that started to permeate the decade. However, when released, the film was viewed as a successful revitalisation, and it effectively adapted the series for the 1990s. One of the films innovations was the casting of a female M. In the film, the new M quickly establishes her authority, remarking that Bond is a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” and a “relic of the Cold War”. This is an early indication that Bond is portrayed as far less tempestuous than Timothy Dalton’s Bond from 1989.
Twenty years on, ‘GOLDENEYE’ is still an iron favourite with the Bond Fan community and widely regarded as a milestone in restarting the Bond franchise after a very uncertain time in the history of the franchise. For some fans, me included, it also was the first ever Bond Film we saw in cinemas and therefore has a special place in our hearts.
My partnersite “The GoldenEye Dossier” has recently launched a 20th anniversary tribute which spans across all social media sites and offers a lot of interesting insights surrounding the making of ‘GOLDENEYE’. Head over there to learn more.