Saturday, 8 January 2011

Almost Bond

The actor Mark Greenstreet screen-tested for the role of James Bond in The Living Daylights in 1986 when Roger Moore retired from the part after completing A View to a Kill (1985). He came very close to winning the role, but it ultimately went to Timothy Dalton. In 2006, I spoke to Mark about his brush with the world of 007.

Mark Greenstreet rose to prominence in the BBC TV series Bret Farrar. This English country-estate-set crime drama, broadcast in 1986, starred Mark in the title role of a man persuaded to pretend to be a long-lost son to help claim a family fortune, but is then implicated in the murder of the man he impersonates. The drama was a hit in the US, and Mark soon drew the attention of producer Cubby Broccoli. Some may have considered Mark, then 25 years old, to be a little young for Bond, but Mark saw the influence of the teen-orientated ‘Brat Pack’ films and its large fan-base in Broccoli’s interest.

After watching all the Bond films to prepare himself, Mark was interviewed at EON’s Mayfair office by Barbara Broccoli, Michael G Wilson, and associate producer Tom Pevsner. Then it was off to the costumer to be fitted with the regulation dinner suit, and to be supplied with the spy’s essential accessory – a gun holster.

The screen test took place at Pinewood in front of Cubby Broccoli, director John Glen, and the main film crew. For tests, Glen always recreated scenes from Dr No and From Russia With Love. As Bond, Mark shot the duplicitous Professor Dent and seduced Tatiana Romanova (played by Fiona Fullerton) in a steamy bedroom scene. He also had to do some fighting and order breakfast. If only for a day, Mark was James Bond. Time enough, though for a surreal meeting in the toilets with Michael Biehn, who was at Pinewood filming Aliens and also in character.

The test went well, and Mark had a lovely time, but there his involvement with Bond ended. A case, perhaps of so close, and yet so Farrar. But if he had won the part, what would Mark Greenstreet’s Bond have been like? Mark thought that the later films were missing a hard edge. ‘When Connery slapped a woman, you felt like she wanted it’, he told me. Chances are, then, that Mark’s portrayal would have been closer to Sean Connery than Roger Moore. The actor who did become Bond, Timothy Dalton, took a similar approach, and his performance in The Living Daylights (1987) was lauded. It seems that after the Moore years, a relatively serious portrayal was inevitable as a trend to return to the roots of Fleming’s James Bond began to hold sway.

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