When it came to utterly the line “Bond, James Bond” for the first time, how both Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan got the jitters.
For Pierce Brosnan, it was second time lucky. It’s a well known story that he’d originally been offered the role of James Bond 007 in the mid-1980s, and he was the chosen heir to Roger Moore. Moore, following A View To A Kill, was hanging up his tuxedo, and Brosnan fitted the bill.
However, it was ultimately his commitment to the TV series Remington Steele that cost him his chance back then, giving Timothy Dalton the Walther PPK for a couple of films instead.
When Brosnan did ultimately land the Bond role in his early 40s, he’d had a long time to dwell on potentially being 007. That said, the series was in the doldrums when he signed on, with what would be a six year gap between Dalton’s final movie in the role, Licence To Kill, and Brosnan’s debut in GoldenEye.
It’s often overlooked just how much pressure there was on GoldenEye to deliver, and it was no guaranteed blockbuster back in the mid 90s. There was no shortage of media attention on it, but also, 007 hadn’t been box office gold for quite some time.
Brosnan knew this, and he was keen to join the 007 team in reinventing the character and franchise slightly for the new era. But one line was sacrosanct, and not up for revision: the moment when 007 says “Bond, James Bond”.
He freely admits his nerves building up to the day when he had to say it on set for the first time. In the aftermath of his confirmation in the role, he’d refused to say the line in public, or even in rehearsals. He felt that it should be saved for the shoot proper, and thus the momentous day approached when it was time to deliver it.
That day was 13th February 1995, on a soundstage at Leavesden Studios just outside of London. “I was there cleaning my teeth this morning saying it over and over again”, he admitted to author Garth Pierce of the iconic three word line. “I felt very foolish with toothpaste running all over my chin”.
Brosnan reasoned that it was the kind of line where you can only deliver it in a few different ways, and as such he wanted to get it right. The nerves were building.
But if he was after some moral support that day, he found it by looking across the casino tables.
A casino set had been erected for the scene, and one of the actors milling around in the background of it was Kate Gayson.
Then 26, she was following in her mother’s footsteps here. Eunice Gayson had, after all, appeared in a similar gambling sequence all the way back in the first official James Bond adventure, Dr No. And it turns out that the late Sean Connery had been going through what Brosnan was suffering.
As Kate Gayson would tell Brosnan, Connery was incredibly nervous saying “Bond, James Bond” on the set of Dr No too, and it took many takes for him to land it for the first time.
“My mother said that those first lines of ‘Bond, James Bond’ took 32 takes”, she told the new 007. “Because Sean was trembling with nerves”.
It’s hard to imagine an actor of the gravitas of Connery being so shaky, yet this was early in his career, and his casting as Bond was a very big deal. “He kept on giving his own name, ‘Sean, Sean Bond’. And then there was ‘James, James Connery’. In the end he’d lost it already”, Gayson added.
As the story then goes, the director of Dr No – Terence Young – had a plan. He asked Eunice Gayson to take Sean Connery off for a little while, and to get a few whiskies in him. “She gave him a good tot of scotch and that eased his tension”, Kaye Gayson confirmed. Connery would nail the line successfully in the very first take after the lunch break, with the lunchtime snifters taking the edge off his nerves.
For Brosnan, and this story is recounted in the official making of GoldenEye book, hearing the tale led to him relaxing a little himself. “That makes me feel a lot better”, he reportedly smiled.
In the end, ther was no need for 32 takes here. The day’s filming was a busy one, featuring several pages of dialogue that needed to be got through, and those three particular words didn’t in the end hold it up a jot. Brosnan would concede though that “some days are rough and I lose confidence, lose power, lose everything and feel as if I am standing there naked”. And yet, on the day, he delivered.
As did GoldenEye. The film would rejuvenate the series, and send it to box office levels that it had long left behind. Furthermore, every movie in the series since has been a sizeable hit, with 2021’s No Time To Die expected to continue that run.
And then, of course, the mantle will be passed onto another actor, who’ll go through the build up to saying those words on screen for the first time.
They’ll have to go some way to match the man who said them best, though…
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