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Not many people may think of Goldeneye as a pivotal James Bond film, past the point that it introduced Pierce Brosnan to the franchise as another in the line of actors playing 007 of course. But looking at the history of Bond films (and the ups and downs the series took) the first Brosnan outing was actually pretty crucial, as it came at a pretty dangerous time in the franchise’s lifespan.
During Esquire UK’s live watch party for Goldeneye this weekend, Pierce Brosnan shepherded the audience through his first film outing as James Bond, and provided some very interesting details from his debut at 007. And early on in the event's exciting runtime, he painted the following picture of just why the movie’s success was so important:
The stakes were so high on this movie, because as I said, they’d been dormant for six years. And, you know, [people were asking] ‘Is this Brosnan fellow going to acquit himself? What’s going to happen here?’ … And there was a lot at stake. A beloved character, a franchise, a family business, a homegrown British product, and we needed to get it right.
Those six years Pierce Brosnan’s talking about are the tumultuous years between 1989 and 1995. This was the infamous gap where legal problems plaguing MGM put the James Bond franchise on hold, allowing Timothy Dalton to exit his contract after 1989s License To Kill. By that point, the regular as clockwork Bond series had gone into what looked like an extended hibernation.
With Goldeneye needing something special to get it into the hearts and minds of the 007 fandom, the Pierce Brosnan run of films would need an ace in the hole to kick things off. Thankfully, that winning card came in the form of director Martin Campbell, the man who would go on to become a two-time master of introducing new a James Bond to the world.
As he discussed his memory of Campbell’s directing skills, Pierce Brosnan recalled some vivid details as to why the future Casino Royale filmmaker made such a great fit for the project:
Martin Campbell could put the fear of God in one. … He vibrated at such an intensity, every day. One of his great directing notes was, ‘Sharp as a knife! Sharp as a knife! 150%!’, screaming ‘Action!’ at the top of his voice. You could see actors who had come in just for a day freeze in fear. But he was also very kind, also very attentive, and very supportive to everyone. He was just extremely passionate.
Laying down the law, while keeping things energized on set is exactly what people look for in a director who jumps into a franchise like the James Bond series. As Campbell’s skills were put to their test with Goldeneye, this is one of those stories that has a pretty happy ending. Pierce Brosnan’s long-awaited introduction to the tuxedo of fate became a smash hit at the 1995 box office, and ensured that the world would see more of Ian Fleming’s famed intelligence agent.
Could we see Martin Campbell’s directorial skills return to the franchise? It’s a possibility, but the right circumstances need to come into play. Should we never see another Campbell driven Bond film again, it won’t be considered a tragedy, as he knocked it out of the park twice already, in a series that rarely ever sees a return contestant when it comes to directing skills.
Goldeneye can currently be seen on Netflix, Prime Video, and Hulu.