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Why Timothy Dalton Only Played James Bond Twice

As an actor, it doesn't get much bigger than landing a role in the James Bond franchise, and scoring the part of 007 himself could very well skyrocket you to the very top of the industry, making you a household name. Still, the role does come with some baggage — the long-term commitment, the immense expectations from die-hard fans, and the formulaic nature of the stories, which aren't necessarily every actor's cup of tea.

Names like Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Daniel Craig will forever be linked to their respective Bond tenures, because they stuck it out so long. They had years to develop their unique vision of who they understood the character to be, and cultivated a fan base around that. On the other hand, there's Timothy Dalton. Hot on the heels of Moore's legendary run, Dalton immediately set out to make the role his own, moving the character closer to Ian Fleming's original writings, and developing a more stoic, threatening personality that befitted his dangerous profession. Dalton's unique approach rubbed many fans the wrong way, since it was such a departure from previous incarnations, but he did gain traction with some viewers, becoming a cult favorite in the role. 

Sadly for Dalton fans, he only donned the iconic suit twice — for 1987's The Living Daylights and 1989's License to Kill — before handing the role to Pierce Brosnan. For someone so intrigued by the part, why didn't Dalton play Bond for a longer duration?

Legal battles contributed to Dalton's departure from the Bond franchise

The circumstances surrounding Timothy Dalton's exit from the James Bond series were largely out of his hands, and more so the consequence of lengthy legal disputes between Eon Productions and MGM. The result was his third Bond outing, Goldeneye, was significantly delayed from its projected 1990 release. The waiting game wore out Dalton's interest in devoting so much time to the series, and the lawsuit wore out his contract — eventually voiding it altogether. 

Still, as Dalton told the Week, he did have a conversation, at the time, with producer Cubby Broccoli, who wanted him back for his long-stalled threequel and beyond. Basically, while Dalton was all-in for one more go, the studio wanted a bit more out of him. As Dalton recalled, Broccoli said "'Look, Tim. You can't do one. There's no way, after a five-year gap between movies that you can come back and just do one. You'd have to plan on four or five.'" With that in mind, Dalton confessed that, to him, that would be "Too much. Too long," and he respectfully stepped away from the Bond role, so his successor could get started. 

Perhaps things turned out for the best. Brosnan's turn in Goldeneye is considered one of the best of the series, and Dalton got out of his grueling contract without a hitch. So, suffice to say things turned out well for all parties involved.