The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Message for Craig in Bond close call

London, May 21: He has escaped the clutches of dozens of baddies and triumphed over scores of assassins but, according to newly released documents, James Bond came perilously close to death at the hands of accountants.

Concerned about dwindling box-office receipts for films in the late 1980s starring Timothy Dalton, the estate of 007’s creator, Ian Fleming, was warned of “grave doubts” that another Bond movie would ever be made.

The extent of the fears over the Bond brand’s future are revealed in papers discovered in the archive of Kenneth Maidment, the former vice-president of Columbia Pictures, who acted as the Fleming estate’s financial consultant for almost two decades.

In a series of letters to the estate’s solicitors, Maidment said that the way Dalton was portraying Bond was alienating fans.

In 1992, three years before Pierce Brosnan replaced Dalton as 007, Maidment wrote: “Despite the exercise of a further option before April 2, 1992, the prospect of a further Bond film seems highly uncertain. I pointed out in my 1984 valuation that there was a big question mark over the future of James Bond films. The last two pictures have starred Timothy Dalton but sadly the results have, unfortunately, not had the same box-office success.”

Three years earlier, Maidment had specifically highlighted Dalton’s characterisation as a factor for the declining appeal of the films.

Maidment, who, during his time with Columbia, presided over hit films including A Man For All Seasons and Lawrence of Arabia, subsequently said that the Dalton film was unlikely to make a profit ' a state of affairs he suggested might prove fatal for the franchise.

In an undated letter that appears to have been written in 1989, he wrote: “While Connery and Moore were playing the leading role, the successes were unique, but relative incomes have fallen when Timothy Dalton took over and the producers have indicated that they do not expect profits from the last three pictures.

'Without a star big enough to take the leading role and no indication of what the cost would be, I still have grave doubts that (another Bond movie) will be produced.”

Since Maidment’s warning, four Bond films, all starring Brosnan, have been released with Casino Royale, the new adventure starring Daniel Craig, due in cinemas this year. However, the letters will be seized upon by Bond fans who say Craig is too similar to Dalton.

The 20 Bond productions, which have taken more than '2 billion at the box office, are the second most successful franchise after Star Wars.

However, Maidment’s papers reveal that 1985’s A View To A Kill, which was Roger Moore’s last outing as Bond, took 12 years to recoup its production costs. The film has so far generated '81 million in box-office receipts.

Licence to Kill, which starred Dalton in June 1989, had failed to recoup its initial investment after seven years.

In 1989, in a reply to a letter from the estate’s lawyer asking what he thought of casting a “Pierce Brosnan”, Maidment prophetically said that he thought the move would enhance the franchise value.

Although Brosnan would not make his debut as Bond for another six years, he did manage to reverse the decline. Die Another Day, his last outing as Bond, took '230 million at the box office and is the most successful 007 film. Maidment died in February.

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