What if?...Alternate Bond history

This topic is for suggestions of who you would have preferred/wished to see in front of or work behind the camera or even stylistic choices that never happened in the James Bond films.

For instance:

Alfred Hitchcock directing From Russia With Love – While I love Terence Young’s effort, I’ve always been intrigued by Hitchcock directing a 007 film, and FRWL is the one Bond film that best suits his style. (Although Young’s effort is so good that I don’t know that Hitchcock’s version would have been a whole lot different.)

Steven Spielberg directing Never Say Never Again – He’s always wanted to direct a Bond film and if he couldn’t do one in the regular series then NSNA would be the next best thing. Plus, he could really put his stamp on 007 by doing virtually whatever he wanted with the film since it is outside the canon. And I can’t help but think he would have upped the film’s excitement level a notch or two.

John McTiernan directing The World Is Not Enough – I love McTiernan. Predator, Die Hard, The Hunt For Red October, Die Hard With A Vengeance, and The Thomas Crown Affair–he had a long string of action hits. It’s a shame, he never got to do a Bond. TWINE is the one film during his stellar run that could have most used his talents–and he’d worked well with Pierce Brosnan twice before. I can’t help but think TWINE would have been better had he been in charge.

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For a time Fleming and the men involved in what came to be known as Thunderball actually hoped to interest Hitchcock for their project. The prospect excited them so much there was even talk of James Stewart taking the Bond role.

Nothing came of it, either because Hitchcock would have squeezed them out of the project or because it just wasn’t what the director usually preferred, the innocent bystander drawn into a dangerous situation and way out of his depth. But FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE clearly aims for a Hitchcock atmosphere with the silent Grant we observe picking out people around Bond.

As for Spielberg doing NSNA, I’m not sure he could have delivered a much better film. Eon kept a tight leash on the story, allowing only what McClory actually had secured his rights for. The 60s blackmail plot with atom bomb wasn’t fresh any more and McClory himself only interested in cashing in a second time on a project he had had only very limited creative influence to begin with. The shooting of NSNA seems to have been a helter-skelter job and Spielberg would have been far from free to do as he pleases, certainly not the way he was with Indiana Jones. So that may have been a blessing, at least for Spielberg.

My own ‘what if’ would have been Richard Burton as Bond, though I doubt he’d have done more than a single film. And he would have likely played the part significantly more seasoned than we are used to. 1965 he played the 50ish Alec Leamas at forty and I dare say Burton’s Bond would probably always have come across as older and tired beyond his years.

Certainly Burton would only have done one, James Mason is another attached that could have presented a very different Bond.
I suppose my ‘what if’ has to be Dalton taking over from Moore after Moonraker. I really think FYEO would have been significantly improved with Dalton performing as a more serious 007.

A bit of a “what if” for me is what if EON obtained the rights to SPECTRE, Blofeld, etc. at the very beginning of Craig’s tenure as Bond? Would we have seen SPECTRE being behind Le Chifre from the very beginning? Would we have Quantum?

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Interestingly, the Bond film history gives one the chance to acknowledge how everything that seemed to be a missed opportunity turned out to be a blessing so far.

Connery dropping out after YOLT - oh, how great he would have been in OHMSS. Then again, if he had left the role after that or even DAF, would people still have accepted another actor in the role? Or would it have become the “Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones, nobody else”-problem? Was the frequent change of main actors between YOLT and LALD in fact helpful to get the audience familiar with the idea of “Bond can be played by many actors”?

Dalton dropping out after LTK - damn, he would have been so great in future films. But would the 90´s audience have embraced the grittiness he brought? Brosnan stepping in turned out to be the perfect Bond for that time.

As for other directors - well, Hitchcock would not have delivered what we now know as a Bond film, and the series of films would rather not have been made; with his signature way of crafting and directing a film it would have been too big of a stamp on the first Bond film. That’s why the “workman-like” directors like Young and Hamilton were perfect to start the series. Spielberg? Sure, he would have delivered an exciting and visually arresting later Bond film. But as much as I like his work, I don’t think that the films have suffered from his non-involvement. In fact, they don’t need such a giant behind the camera. They are the star, not the director. That balance must never be shaken, only to the detriment of the film.

Right now, I would have preferred more Craig films, just to have more Bond films to watch. But maybe the scarcity of his tenure has made his appeal more interesting. Familiarity can breed contempt. So, I’m looking forward to “No time to die” instead of getting bored and feeling obligated to see “A View To A Kill” (back then when a new Bond film came every two years).

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Nice thread… and great points, there.

I think Spielberg could’ve given us a far more satisfying NSNA! Those tropes and gimmicks unavailable through copyright would’ve inspired him to come up with alternatives that could well have proven even more popular than those in the canon.

After all Indy Jones was him coming up with an alternative to Bond, after Cubby turned him down. He was the perfect choice for NSNA.

John McTiernan is in my book perhaps the greatest ever ‘action-movie’ director. He can do the visceral aspects as well as anyone, but can also do character and story. It’s a very rare combo and means that we always root for our characters no matter how mad the mayhem. He’s a master of pacing, knowing when to slow things down to allow the characters to breath and build, so that when it speeds up with that much more ‘there with’em’.

He should’ve been nabbed for LTK, after the success of Die Hard and at the height of his powers. He’d have been a great fit for TND and DAD.

Hitchcock’s FRWL is something that surely anyone would want to see… but only in a parallel universe. Young’s film is so damned great (not perfect, but what is?). And i doubt even Hitchcock could done as good a job of the Bond/Grant train fight as Young. However, Hitchcock would have probably given us a more nuanced Tatiana; had more fun with the phycological aspect of all the double crossing/manipulation and had tons of fun with Klebb.

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Here’s some more what ifs for composers:

Henry Mancini composing The Man With The Golden Gun – Of the 1st seven Bond films the weakest musically is the only one NOT composed by John Barry–Dr. No. However, Monty Norman is largely responsible–with a great assist from Barry–for the creation of the James Bond Theme so I can’t replace Norman. So the next weakest entry in the series through 1974 is TMWTGG. I love the theme song, but the rest of the score is Barry’s weakest to that point so enter Mancini. I’d love to hear the jazzy stylings the author of The Pink Panther Theme could come up with for Bond. I’d expect something on the level of George Martin’s Live And Let Die score.

Jerry Goldsmith composing Moonraker – I can appreciate what Barry came up with for Moonraker, but I’m not wild about the theme song or the score. As a result, I’d be interested to hear what noted sci-fi composer Goldsmith, the creator of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s theme song (which originated in Star Trek: The Motion Picture) would produce.

John Williams composing Never Say Never Again – He is the primary reason I went with Steven Spielberg for NSNA instead of A View To A Kill. Spielberg almost always selects Williams to compose his films and while AVTAK could benefit from Spielberg’s steady hand, I can’t replace Barry on this film as he teamed up with Duran Duran to give us arguably the greatest Bond theme song. But with the Spielberg/Williams NSNA double bill, we’d get optimum conditions for Williams’ creative juices to flow. He has authored some of the most memorable and iconic themes in history from: the Star Wars theme, the Imperial March, the Jurassic Park Theme, the Superman Theme, and the Raiders Of The Lost Ark Theme to name a few. What would he do with 007? The mind boggles. It certainly would have been WAAAY better than we got with Michel Legrand. Williams and Mancini are the two greatest composers I wish could have done a Bond film.

Lalo Schifrin composing GoldenEye – This might have been past his prime, but he still had a good effort in Rush Hour to come and, as I mentioned earlier, I would have liked to hear Mancini and Williams more on the series’ weaker entries–and Moonraker’s sci-fi plot was more up Goldsmith’s alley. Schifrin gave us one of the most iconic theme’s in history with the Mission: Impossible Theme–arguably the second greatest theme after the James Bond Theme, so on that basis alone I would like to hear what he would do with Bond, and GoldenEye is the film I’d give him as it is the weakest score in the EON Bond series.

Michael Giacchino composing SPECTRE – Thomas Newman brought little new to SPECTRE, rehashing a lot of what he did in Skyfall–and both times he didn’t do his own version of the James Bond Theme! As a result, new blood would have been better and Giacchino, who gave us the Bondish sound of The Incredibles, is probably the most qualified of the current composers to do a Bond film who haven’t done one yet.

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Definitely with you on Schifrin for anything and Williams on FYEO.

I agree with secretagentfan, here: things have generally turned out for the best, so “what if’s” are at best just interesting mental exercises, and not at all what I’d call “pining” for an alternate reality.

For instance, I consider FRWL as close to perfect as a Bond film ever got, so I have no motive to imagine a different take. Having Hitchcock on board might have been interesting, but let’s face it, he wouldn’t have stuck around for more, and then if it had been a success, every film after it would’ve been judged through that lens (“The new Bond director is no Hitchcock”…“Doesn’t pack the wallop of the one entry by the great Hitchcock, still the only Bond film worth watching”, “They’re only still going because Hitch provided them with a foolproof blueprint,” and so on). Ultimately, hiring on directors who were very gifted but not media stars in their own right was as canny a move as hiring on an unknown in the lead: whatever success the films found was attributed to the merits of the material and the execution, and not merely a case of riding on the coattails of a gravitas or imprimatur loaned out by an already-established “name.”

Maybe Spielberg could’ve saved NSNA and maybe not, but it was not having a shot at Bond that led him to create Indiana Jones, and frankly if its a choice between Indy or even a thousand-times better NSNA, I’d take Indy every day of the week.

Connery would’ve been great in OHMSS as written and directed, but if he’d been on board, I’m convinced it would’ve been written and directed differently, so we’re better off as-is.

That said, and in the spirit of participation, it’d be interesting to visit another reality where each Bond film involved a “start from scratch” approach. Since they never managed continuity anyway, what if they’d just tossed the notion of recurring leads and re-cast Bond every time? And each with a new director? We might’ve seen Richard Todd, Laurence Harvey, Richard Johnson, Sam Neill or Sean Bean as Bond, and directors like John Frankenheimer lured in on a “one time at bat” plan.

TWINE needed a new script more than a new director.

Probably the most enticing part of this thread is the chance to re-score some of the films, but I’d never give up Barry’s MR score. The closest we’ll get to a “Bond in space” score from Goldsmith is Outland, which was great, BTW.

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George Lazenby back in FYEO: starting at Tracy’s grave, then later “goodbye, Countess.”

I’m gonna avoid the obvious of a proper OHMSS sequel and instead say delaying QoS until 2009. The film needed more polish and a different director. Mathieu Amalric could’ve given us a much better villain had his role been fleshed out more. He needed a better henchman than Elvis. I’d have liked to see something more engaging than jamming 4 action scenes centered around the elements. That was unnecessary and honestly actually making the plot about oil instead of it being a red-herring would have been more topical. No offense at all to Bolivia, but creating an artificial drought to become a utilities provider to a landlocked country in South America, that has NO ties to the UK, does not for a stirring Bond plot make.

Nearly all our “What If’s” over the years tend to ultimately be elements that would not have changed the series overall history (except for the lead actor threads). So for discussion, I’m going to throw 3 moments that might have altered the course of the franchise, for better or for worse:

1- Laz returning
2- TD 3rd film
3- Spielberg directing either NSNA or OP in '83

For me (as someone who’s always said that I’d love to have seen Spielberg in his prime get a go), I’m going to say that if Spielberg had directed in '83, it might have re-set the series as the number 1 action franchise in the way that it was the biggest in the 60s. And by extension, would it have innoculated the series against the competition that undoubtedly cut into its box office and “street cred” at the end of the 80s?

Spielberg stayed with Raiders through 4 (and an often mooted 5th) films, so who knows, if he’d done one Bond, he might have returned to the series.

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This one might be the ultimate what if?..Certainly it would have one of the most far-reaching implications today:

Harry Saltzman, in financial straits, checks his ego/spite at the door and agrees to sell his 50% ownership of the James Bond rights to Albert “Cubby” Broccoli. The future United Artists/MGM financial issues would not affect EON as they would simply move on to whatever distribution company met their needs/desires. We wouldn’t have had the 6-year gap between films in the early '90s or any of the temporary stoppages in the 2000s.

Had Saltzman done that, we would have gotten a third 007 film from Timothy Dalton or a fifth Bond film from Pierce Brosnan (who could have replaced Dalton earlier than 1995). We could have already had a 5th Daniel Craig Bond film and gearing up for his sixth and final turn as 007 or eagerly anticipating the debut of James Bond #7 next year in what could easily be Bond film #29.

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I could piggyback that and say, MGM sells the Bond rights to Sony outright in 2009 during MGM’s bankruptcy. We get a 2010/11 Bond film in between QoS and Skyfall and then another film between Spectre and NTTD. OR NTTD releases in 2017/18 as Bond 26 instead of Bond 25 and we are about to see Bond 27 in 2019/20 with either Craig or Bond 7,

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Hmmm, Cubby and Saltzman is a difficult one!

I don’t know who had final decision in keeping Moore on two films too many, with the likes of Lewis Collins, James Brolin and god knows who else chomping at the bit.

But if that was Cubby deciding to play int safe, then i think i’m happy that Saltzman was around as long as he was to at least hold Cubby to account a little more. But that’s a big ‘if’ and maybe there were other suits insisting upon Moore.

Very much this. Some of our what-ifs are only so intriguing over the years - mythical almost - because they never happened and didn’t have the chance to disappoint. Connery returning to the role used to be a favourite of many fans - until he did return. And if we dream of, say, Marlon Brando as Blofeld ca. 1978 in YOLT, then we ignore of course that he would likely have turned the whole production into a trip directly through hell.

As for Spielberg, we of course think of Jaws, Close Encounters and Duell - but we might just as well have gotten an Always or Hook. And it probably depends at which point in his career he’d have been given a chance, and with how much leeway.

With Hitchcock I think the idea was not to have a series of films, rather to get one Bond film (with that particular Thunderball plot) on the screen. This could well have turned out as your ‘start from scratch’ approach; it would have captured the attention of other directors and studios and might have resulted in several films by various directors like the Boileau-Narcejac or Sjöwall-Wahlöö adaptations or the different 87th precinct adaptations. Bond would have seen any number of varying incarnations, not necessarily confined to cinema or one single productions entity.

One of my personal favourites with regards to a vastly different outcome: what if the books had never seen that kind of success on the screen and Connery had instead starred in a series of Harry Flashman adaptations a few years later, maybe produced by Broccoli?

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A modest what-if: I’d have liked Dalton to take over after Octopussy (Moore was still needed for that film, to combat Never Say Never Again). This would have made A View to a Kill Dalton’s first movie. Perhaps tailoring the film to suit Dalton’s strengths would have resulted in a substantially rewritten, superior script. Even if it hadn’t, the sillier parts of the film would still have been thrown away and the grittier parts that didn’t suit Moore would have played to Dalton’s strengths. Moore and Walken didn’t have much chemistry together, but Dalton versus Walken would have been a glorious clash of intensities.

Part of Dalton’s problem was that he took over after a film that made Bond look geriatric and after Brosnan had been sold to American public as Bond. He might have avoided these problems by starting earlier in the role. An AVTAK with a new Bond would have garnered more attention and publicity. And of course it would have given us a third Dalton film.

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Either Dalton or Brossa would’ve been the right choice for AVTAK (and imo OP).

But i wouldn’t want anyone other than Moore for his first 5.

Great points Revelator!

I love TD. And while I fall into the “Sir Rog probably went 1 or 2 too long camp”, I’m not entirely convinced that things would have turned out differently if he had taken over earlier.

Granted, TD was always hurt by the “not Brozza” vibe of '86-87, 2nd choice etc etc. Without that, maybe he would’ve received a different look from the (specifically US) audience which didn’t take to him. Unfair I know, but the US audience had been primed for Remington Steele, a character that was very much a Saint/Persuaders Sir Rog rip-off. That they got a guy they hadn’t heard of, playing Fleming’s Bond, well what chance did TD have?

So I can’t decide - with a cleaner succession in the earlier '80s would TD have been more popular? Was it being 2nd that hurt? Was it playing Fleming’s Bond that caught the audience off-guard? Or maybe being a great actor with Hollywood looks, is a very different thing from having that essence that makes a Hollywood movie star?

Sadly, I’m not convinced that a 3rd TD would have arrested the late 80s box office slump.

It was the way these films were made that lead into the cul-de-sac. Had Brosnan taken over sooner - by AVTAK perhaps - he’d have had two successful films. Yet even Brosnan with a backstory of AVTAK & TLD couldn’t have saved the shrunk-to-telly-size LTK. That was just killing the goose with a diet around its neck. Remington Steele was 80s cheap tv fare, yet it looked hardly worse than LTK - and was probably even more entertaining at times.

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