Best known for his James Bond roles in The Living Daylights and License to Kill, Timothy Dalton was considered a versatile actor for forging successful careers in theater, TV and film, simultaneously.
Timothy Peter Dalton was born on the 21st March 1946 in Colwyn Bay, North Wales to an American mother and an English father, being the eldest of five in the family. At the age of four, his entire family moved to Milford, near Belper, after his father started working for an advertising company in Manchester.
Young Timothy joined a local grammar school in Manchester where he excelled in sports and sciences, before getting the acting virus. At the age of 16 he went to see Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and that became the turning point in his life. He was so inspired that he decided right away to follow an acting career and started performing in several local theatre plays.
In 1964 after finishing high school, he joined Michael Croft’s National Youth Theatre where he won a role on “Coriolanus”, the company’s Shakespearian production of at London’s Queen’s Theatre, spending his summers touring the country.
With his already impressive resume he soon won a place in the famous Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, but he left just before he’d completed two years of study, to join the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Years after, Dalton stated in an interview that “It took a year to undo the psychological damage done by the oppressive teachers at RADA.”
With his great talent and classical good looks, Dalton began to find his way in the acting business, as an old-fashioned, swashbuckling-style actor. Soon he began his TV career, appearing regularly in the series “Sat’day While Sunday” along with Malcolm McDowell.
In 1968, he the made his breakthrough in cinemas with his role as King Philip of France, in the Academy Award winning drama “The Lion in Winter”.
After his successful start in the film business, he returned to the UK stage, winning a role in “The Three Princes” BBC production.
At the end on 1968, he was approached by the Bond producers for the first time to take the role for “On Her Majesty`s Secret Service”, but he refused for the reason of being too young and unprepared for such a great role. The Bond producers promised to return and not take no for an answer, for their future screenings.
Dalton continued to follow an impressive and varied career as an actor and stage producer developing his true passion for drama on stage throughout Shakespeare’s plays. He joined the Royal Shakespeare Society and the Prospect Theatre Company and toured the world with both groups.
During this period he took the lead in “Romeo and Juliet”, “King Lear”, “Henry V”, “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and “Henry IV”.
In the late 70’s he returned to his cinema career, appearing in a number of low-profile features and even a US mini-series ‘Centennial’. Surprisingly, those little roles boosted his popularity in the US and over the next few years he continued playing in several TV shows – including a guest appearance in Charlie’s Angels.
He additionally continued his affinity for playing sovereignty in the camp Flash Gordon and put in an awesome execution as Rochester in the BBC’s very acclaimed adaptation of Jane Eyre.
In 1983, rumors that Roger Moore was going to quit the role of James Bond started going around, and Dalton was once again approached by the James Bond producers, and he turned them down because of his busy schedule.
A few years later, Roger Moore officially resigned from the James Bond role and Dalton was still trapped by theatre commitments.
The role was offered to Pierce Brosnan who accepted the part without any problem but there came another twist. Being part of the Remington Steele contract, Pierce Brosnan was unable to come at peace with both contractors and decided to leave the Bond role and continue his original project, leading the producers once again to Timothy Dalton.
And since the third time’s a charm, the Bond producers found Dalton with a more flexible schedule and convinced him to take the role. He ended up playing in two Bond films, “The Living Daylights”, that was a 1987 box office success, credited as being one of the best in the series, and “License to Kill” that failed to succeed due to improper promotion that broke its success from the beginning. Despite this, the film got good reviews from the critics and it was credited as being one the closest to the literary Bond, created by Ian Fleming.
After the Bond franchise started falling apart due to legal infringements between the producing companies, Dalton decided to return to his other projects, performing regularly in theatres and taking the role of Neville Sinclair in the Rocketeer in 1991.
In 1993, after the legal battle for the James Bond series has ended, he was expected to return to the sequence, but he surprised everyone with the refusal of the part. At this time, he already started playing Rhett Butler in the successful TV series Scarlett and continued with the well-known “Gone with the Wind”.
He continued to put in strong performances in often undeserving productions but has slowly faded from the public’s interest since leaving the role of James Bond.
Many other productions followed that brought him back to the public’s attention with key roles or voice over roles in films like: Irish Republican Army, Made Men, Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, His Dark Materials, Hot Fuzz, Doctor Who, The End of Time, Toy Story 3, Penny Dreadful and many others.
Timothy Dalton will always be remembered and appreciated for excelling in his roles, through his psychological complexity and a special refinement in attitude and charisma.