Born on March 21st 1946, in Colwyn Bay, Wales, UK, Timothy Dalton is of mixed English and Italian-Irish ancestry. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Belper, Derbyshire, England, UK. He became interested in acting in his teenage years, and left school in 1964 to enroll in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and tour with the National Youth Theatre in the summer. He did not complete his RADA studies, leaving the academy in 1966 to join the ensemble of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. He quickly moved to television, working mainly with BBC, and in 1968 made his film debut in The Lion in Winter, the first of several period dramas.
After a few more films, Dalton took a break in 1971 to concentrate on the theatre, performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company and other troupes throughout the world. With the exception of the 1975 film Permission to Kill, he remained a theatre actor until 1978. That year he starred in Sextette, hailing his return to cinema and the beginning of his American career. While in the United States, Dalton worked mainly in television, although he starred in several European films and gave notable performances for the BBC.
In 1986, after Roger Moore’s retirement from the James Bond role, the lean, 6’2″ green eyed Dalton was approached to replace him but obligations to the film Brenda Starr and the stage productions of Antony & Cleopatra and The Taming of The Shrew kept him from accepting the role. Sam Neill was then screentested for the part of Bond but was ultimately rejected by Cubby Broccoli. Pierce Brosnan was then approached for the role, but rescinded because of his commitment to the television revival of Remington Steele. In the ensuing time, Dalton had completed the filming of Brenda Starr and was now able to accept the role of Bond.
Previously, Dalton had been offered the role in 1971 to replace Sean Connery after Diamonds Are Forever, but turned it down feeling he was too young for the role and because of what he felt was an imposing legacy left behind by Connery . Work commitments made him again refuse the role in 1986, but when asked a second time, he agreed to appear in three James Bond films. The first, The Living Daylights (1987) was successful and grossed more than the previous two Roger Moore Bond films as well as contemporary box office rivals such as Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.
The second film, Licence to Kill (1989) did not perform as well at the U.S. box office, in large part due to a lacklustre marketing campaign after the title of the film was abruptly changed from Licence Revoked. However, MGM reported a net profit of $28.2 million for the film.
Dalton’s third Bond film (rumoured title: The Property of a Lady) was due for a 1991 release but its production was scuttled by internecine corporate litigation between Danjaq, LLC, the copyright holder of James Bond on screen and MGM/United Artists (Giancarlo Parretti), the financier and distributor of the series. In 1994, Dalton officially dropped the James Bond role, re-opening the door for Pierce Brosnan.
Dalton’s portrayal of Bond – darker, more grittily realistic and truer to the original character as portrayed in Fleming’s novels – was something of a double-edged sword. Critics and fans of Fleming’s original novels welcomed a more serious interpretation after more than a decade of Roger Moore’s lighthearted approach but the reaction of Moore aficionados and those who had grown up with Moore as their Bond during his 15 year tenure as well as Sean Connery before him were generally unfamiliar with Ian Fleming’s original novels was mixed.
After his Bond films, Dalton’s career entered an uncertain period. Successes on stage and television were balanced by indifferent films. He also endured the unenviable assignment of playing Rhett Butler in Scarlett; the television mini-series sequel to Gone with the Wind. In 2003, he played a parody of James Bond named Damian Drake in the film Looney Tunes: Back in Action.