Both on and off the screen, Timothy Dalton had an exciting life. He was born during a tumultuous time, and rose quickly to stardom. Along the way, however, he experienced many pitfalls, especially in his young adulthood. His relationships with co-stars and his conflicts with directors were legendary. Continue reading to discover Timothy Dalton’s fascinating story.
The 1940s was a hectic decade, especially with WWII happening and all. After the conflict ended, the Daltons must have decided to settle down, because only one year later, Timothy Dalton came into this world. It was March 21, 1946, when he was born in Wales. The family was going to have some peace and quiet for once, although his father hid a dark secret.
During the conflict, Timothy’s father, Peter Dalton Legett, belonged to a dangerous secret organization. It was the appropriately named Special Operations Executive. Peter was a Captain in this unit which conducted espionage and reconnaissance missions across Europe. That means he worked for spies. That’s especially fitting for the father of Timothy Dalton, as we’ll see.
As an adolescent, Tim volunteered in an air force youth organization. The Royal Air Force were heroes in the collective British imagination, especially after having defended their island from an Axis invasion. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that any British boy growing up may have had a glorified vision of the air force. Perhaps that’s why Tim joined them, or maybe he was pushed by his father, who was a veteran. Either way, his interests would soon turn to a different direction.
Schoolchildren often whine and groan when they hear their English teacher mention Shakespeare. Those long soliloquies and impenetrable walls of Elizabethan text often give them a reason to skip school. Dalton’s reaction, however, was surprising. For Tim, however, the old Bard’s plays had revealed to him the magic of the theater. He fell in love with William Shakespeare when he saw a production of Macbeth. He now knew exactly what he was destined to be.
Theater actors often dream of playing at a venue capable of housing over massive crowds. It’s even more astonishing for a teenager to realize that dream. When Tim was only 16 years old, he played Macbeth at the legendary Old Vic theater. This over 200-year-old theater, with its large audience, must have caused tremendous stage fright for the young actor, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his dreams.
Dalton was experiencing such amazing early success—but it came with a dark side. His family wasn’t too happy with his aspirations. Or at least, the maternal side of his family was against it. Tim’s father was completely fine with his son’s desire to become a star, but his mother’s family disapproved. In fact, they didn’t think acting was a promising career for a young man. Tim was rather headstrong, though. He wasn’t going to let anyone prevent him from following his dreams.
Not only was Tim set on his goals, he was also talented. In 1962, while still a young teenager, the aspiring actor dropped out of school in order to enroll in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. The kid clearly knew what he wanted, and also knew how to work unwaveringly towards that destination. Tim wasn’t a child to sit still in class and simply study. It was time for him to step into the professional world.
A few years later, in 1968, Timothy ventured into television. He landed his first major role in The Lion in Winter. This medieval drama was produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation, and Tim was set to play Philip II of France. It was an unexpected stroke of luck. The production turned out to be a commercial and critical success, and some of his co-stars even won Academy Awards. In fact, some of his co-stars were among the most famous actors in the world.
Many aspiring actors would jump up in joy at the opportunity to see legendary actors at work. Tim, however, was more fortunate than that. Not only did he get to see and work alongside Katharine Hepburn in his debut film, he also saw her acting next to Peter O’Toole and Anthony Hopkins. The star of Bringing Up Baby next to the star of Lawrence of Arabia. That’s an experience for any film or acting buff. Despite such an energetic start to his career, he found himself in some odd roles.
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After playing alongside world-famous dramatic actors, you’d think Tim would play in a drama himself. That wasn’t the case for him. The aspiring actor found himself in a musical alongside the classic Hollywood blonde bombshell, Mae West, who was 85 at the time. Was he in over his head? Maybe…
This was no regular musical—and Dalton’s role was a seriously scandalous one. At just 22, he played the husband to 85-year-old West’s vamped-up character. Raunchy jokes made up the body of the film, and the May-December pair even sang a duet together. It was quite a stretch for the Shakespearean actor—and he was luckily it didn’t put a dent in his career plans.
In 1971, Timothy Dalton met Vanessa Redgrave when they played together in Mary, Queen of Scots. They played as husband and wife, and it seemed like they must have enjoyed the arrangement, for they were soon dating one another. Despite falling for each other, the couple by no means carried on an idyllic relationship. Tim, as we’ll see, was a little odd.
Dalton’s temperament on set raised a lot of questions. Like, for example—is he reserved, or is a total jerk? He certainly wasn’t known for showering praise to his co-star. Timothy scarcely said anything nice to Vanessa, and it was said “that if he ever paid [Vanessa] a compliment, it really meant something”. That seems like an uneasy relationship to be in, where encouraging words are few and far between. It really isn’t that astonishing that they had bigger issues…
When most couples are fighting over money or other personal issues, this pair found a unique subject to quarrel about. Tim and Vanessa once reportedly argued for six hours about Shakespeare. What’s even more astounding is that they argued about only one thing: the ‘To Be Or Not To Be’ monologue in Hamlet. Is that what performers do in their spare time? It’s no wonder that actors are always breaking up with one another.
The couple had an extraordinary rollercoaster of a relationship. Throughout the decade that they were together, they allegedly broke up with each other many times, only to return to one another. This went on for most of the 1970s and 1980s. It turns out that Tim wasn’t a person one could easily get along with. He was especially critical of her films.
You usually shouldn’t tell your partner that you hate their work, even if you do. Tim had apparently never heard any advice like that. To say the least, Tim wasn’t Vanessa’s biggest fan. In fact, he didn’t really like her acting. That sounds like a bad relationship. It’s a wonder how this relationship lasted even this long. Soon, things would come to a brutal head.
The biggest surprise of this relationship was that it was Tim who ended things. Tim must have been really lonely one Sunday evening, because after Vanessa failed to meet up with him, he called it quits. That day, Vanessa chose to attend a protest instead of meetup with her off-and-on lover, and the idea that she skipped out on him for the picket line was too much for Tim to bear.
Nonetheless, the pair didn’t end their relationship on a bad note.
Any relationship that ends over a heated argument is sure to leave a bittersweet memory. Tim and Vanessa, however, did not let their volcanic parting prevent them from remaining close friends. In total, the couple remained together for over 15 years, without ever marrying. Dalton’s romantic life was clearly experiencing some tumultuous shifts—and so was his professional career.
The Welsh star was once hired to play in a production that backfired on him. Robert Bolt had casted Tim to play as the British prime minister William Lamb in the film Lady Caroline Lamb—but then dealt him a cruel blow. He then replaced him right before filming began. Tim must have felt insulted, even cheated, because he fired back.
Dalton wasn’t about to let the producer who’d betrayed him get away with what he’d done. He sued them for a breach of contract, trying to take the studio for all they were worth to soothe his bruised ego. To be fair, for an actor who argued for six hours over Shakespeare, it wasn’t a totally surprising move—but what transpired in the courtroom was.
It seems insane for a locally known actor to fight against an entire production company. This court case, however, turned into a David and Goliath battle. The company must have been worried about their chances at winning this case, because they settled out-of-court with Timothy Dalton. Unfortunately for Tim, other problems lay in wait for him during his career.
Hollywood wasn’t always a kind place for Timothy Dalton. In 1985, Tim was going to star in Roman Polanski’s Pirates. Someone’s ego must have felt bruised, because the legendary director reportedly hated Tim. The two couldn’t get along with each other, so Polanski fired him. This time, there wasn’t going to be any court case to redeem him. While some directors were ejecting Tim from their films, the slighted star was rejecting others.
Tim was no stranger to rejections—nor was he unfamiliar with dishing them out. In fact, this entire time, you might think he was on a smooth road to his most famous role: Playing James Bond. The truth was much different. On multiple occasions, the Welsh star was contacted to play the British secret agent, but continuously declined to do so. And he had his reasons.
Not only did Timothy Dalton insist that he was too young to play Bond, but he also thought Sean Connery’s Bond “was far too good”. That’s high praise coming from the star who was unusually reserved when it came to complimenting others. It was, however, only a matter of time until the temptation became too strong.
Tim had held out for so long, but it’s difficult to continuously refuse that much money. He eventually gave in, and signed on to play as the British spy. He did, however, have one stipulation. Dalton wanted to play James Bond in “the spirit of Ian Fleming”, the writer of the original novel. Tim wasn’t very fond of Roger Moore’s lighter and comedic interpretation of the character, though ironically, Moore's tenure was somewhat Dalton's fault. He had only taken on Bond after Dalton had refused it post-Connery.
Regardless, Dalton now wanted to take Bond back to his spiritual roots in the upcoming film. First, he would have to deal with something he detested.
Playing a major film role often goes hand in hand with tons of unwanted publicity. Timothy Dalton was mostly a secretive actor, who enjoyed his own private life, and he didn’t want any more publicity than he already had. The reporters, however, denied him that desire. Like firing squads, they waited outside of his West London residence in the hope that they might catch a glimpse of the new Bond. Even worse than that, they were often quite harsh.
The news doesn’t always tell the truth, as most people know. In Tim’s case, the news did worse than that. They invented fake stories regarding the Welsh actor, claiming that he had been having affairs with scantily-clad women. It seems that these reporters were bent on showing that Timothy Dalton was Bond both on and off-screen. However, not everyone saw eye-to-eye with Dalton, or the press…
Just before production began for Dalton's first outing as Bond, The Living Daylights, the actor was faced with a horrific surprise. Roger Moore, not ready to give up the role, called up producer Albert Broccoli and all but begged to stay on in the franchise. Luckily, Broccoli stood by Dalton, saying, “Timmy is my new boy”. But there was more drama to come.
Not only was Timothy Dalton’s Bond a little grittier than the previous ones, he also brought a new level of realism to his role. Instead of using a stunt double in action scenes, Dalton performed the stunts himself—at least, most of them. Even his director, John Glen, was impressed by his authenticity.
Glen claimed that when Tim had "a gun in his hand, you [believed that] he really could kill someone". For the average person, that might read like an insult, but for the star of a new Bond film, it’s a testament to his acting abilities. Timothy Dalton was clearly destined for success. But he wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
Overnight, Dalton was an international household name. The Living Daylights was a major box office success, and even went on to gross more than the two previous Roger Moore films combined. In fact, it became the fourth highest grossing Bond film of all time. Dalton had reached ultimate stardom, and it seemed like he was only going to become more popular—but something even more unexpected occurred.
It’s normal for a film production to be halted by some unforeseen event. In Dalton’s case, the event was an extraordinary one. The writers of License To Kill, his upcoming second Bond film, stopped working on it when the Writers Guild of America went on strike. The script wasn’t even finished by the time they began casting the film. This was only a taste of things to come for Timothy Dalton’s Bond films.
License to Kill eventually came out to great success, and by 1990, the legacy of Bond seemed invincible. In reality, however, the Bond series was under serious threat. When the next Bond film, Goldeneye, entered pre-production, things started smoothly…and then ground to a total halt. A complicated legal dispute over licensing rights popped up between the distributors. The consequences were immediate and intense.
Dalton held out hope that he’d get to appear as Bond for the third time in Goldeneye, but the length of the dispute turned from days into years. All the while Dalton, who had never been entirely sure Bond was the right choice for him, grew more and more restless. As he waited in purgatory, his attentions went somewhere else entirely.
What’s the best way to follow up a legendary run as one of the screen’s greatest heroes? Go villain, of course. While still stuck in purgatory and waiting to hear about the fate of Bond, Dalton starred as Rhett Butler in the TV adapation of the Gone With the Wind follow-up Scarlett. Okay, maybe Rhett being a villain is debatable—but Dalton appearing as a closet Third Reich sympathizer in The Rocketeer was definitely a dark turn.
And as Dalton kept waiting for Bond, he got into some interesting relationships.
Actors often jump into steamy romances with others during production, but this time was different for the ex-Bond star. A few of his friends had introduced him to Whoopi Goldberg, another star, and the pair must have hit it off, because they were soon dating. They even had an incredibly famous venue for one of their dates.
Dalton’s date, Whoopi Goldberg, was no stranger to the Oscars, having already one Academy Award nomination to her name. For her supporting role in Ghost, Goldberg was once again on the slate of nominees. This time, however, her luck would change. Goldberg won—but her reaction was surprising. In her acceptance speech, she did not mention Dalton at all. Maybe their relationship wasn’t serious. Either way, as will soon become apparent, they weren’t meant to last.
It’s hard to tell whether or not the two stars were close friends or lovers, but after one year, the pair all but vanished from the public’s view. It might be telling that the two actors starred alongside each other as lifelong companions in the play Love Letters. Perhaps it was only a coincidence. Dalton certainly didn’t mope about this alleged breakup, nor let it stop him from finding another lover.
Unsurprisingly, the star of James Bond wasn’t blind to foreign beauties. In 1995, Timothy Dalton attended the London Film festival, where he met Oksana Grigorieva. She caught Tim’s eye while she worked as a translator for Nikita Mikhalkov, a Russian film director.
She was over 24 years his junior, and was only 25 years old, but she must have had a thing for attractive, and rich, older men, because they were immediately in each other’s arms. But there was more to their romance than just lust.
Things quickly heated up between the Welsh star and the Russian translator. True to his on-screen persona, Dalton played his hand quickly. He invited her back to his various abodes, both in London and West Hollywood. There must have been plenty of tabloid stories about that, especially considering what they did next.
Austerity clearly wasn’t in the couple’s lexicon, because they lived like royalty. One of their first trips landed them in the Caribbean. The blue waters and tropical warmth must have seemed like heaven for the Russian native, as well as a perfect place for intimacy. Not long after this vacation, the couple announced that Oksana was pregnant.
On August 7, 1997, Oksana Grigorieva gave birth to a healthy boy. After countless unsuccessful relationships, Dalton was finally a father. The two decided on naming their son Alexander, perhaps after the ancient Greek conqueror. That’s probably a little difficult of a legacy to live up to, especially given how powerful the historical figure was.
Despite these heartwarming moments, Dalton and Grigorieva’s relationship had some difficult times headed their way.
Sometimes lovers, no matter how well they get along with each other, experience tragedies. Oksana’s parents lived in tremendously poor areas, so when their neighbors discovered that they were only a few degrees of separation from a Bond actor, there was trouble. At first, it just seemed like they possessed blinding envy towards her parents—but then things took a dark turn.
In a rage, Grigorieva’s parents’ neighbors burned down their shop, and even stole from their flat three times. Dalton eventually paid for his in-laws to move in with them in Hollywood. After having lived in such poor places, you can just imagine their faces when they saw his mansion. Yet despite being a generous son-in-law, his relationship was seriously on the rocks.
In 2003, the tumultuous relationship between Dalton and Grigorieva finally ended after nearly a decade. Just like he did with his previous lovers, Dalton parted amicably with Grigorieva. They even remained lifelong friends. After all, it’d be tough to stay angry at such a great dad and husband—or is it?
Many years after their relationship fell apart, Oksana Grigorieva came forward with brutal accusations against her Bond-star ex. While dating Mel Gibson, Grigorieva let loose in an email condemning Timothy Dalton. She said that he physically attacked her on numerous occasions, and that he was no stranger to violent outbursts. Ultimately, she never took Dalton to court over these accusations—but they clearly took their toll on the relationship.
Despite the problems in his relationship, Timothy Dalton never abandoned his duties as a father. In 2010, Tim stopped by Oksana’s home in Sherman Oaks, California, but he didn’t merely stop by to see his son. He stopped by for the birthday party of Oksana’s daughter, who was born during her union with Mel Gibson, who didn’t even attend.
In this moving episode, Dalton was mature enough to be a father for both his own son and Oksana’s daughter during her birthday. This attracted the wrong kind of attention...
For a while there around 2010, you couldn’t pass the tabloid section of the supermarket without learning about a new twist in the custody case between Dalton’s ex, Grigorieva, and Mel Gibson. And she wasn’t the only target of Gibson’s ire. Grigorieva released the tape of a call she had with Gibson where he took aim at Dalton, including him in a jealous, expletive-filled rant. Dalton, for his part, replied to questions about the tape with “No comment”.
In 1993, legal troubles with Dalton's next Bond film finally came to end, and everyone on the production team was excited to get going again at last. Everyone, that is, but Timothy Dalton himself. Since so many years had expired, Dalton had to actually renew his contract...and made a shock decision. He ended up walking away. Later, Dalton explained the reason why.
When it looked like things might finally get underway again on Goldeneye, producer Cubby Broccoli approached Dalton and asked if he was ready to go. After such a long time away, Dalton was reluctant to jump back in. He asked if Broccoli would consider him just for the one film—but Broccoli insisted that he’d need to commit to four or five films.
As Dalton said, “I thought, ‘Oh no, that would be the rest of my life. Too much. Too long’”, and he declined. And that wasn't all.
Dalton insisted that he “would be bored by [himself]” if he played the same role over and over again, concluding that his audience would be even more bored. Maybe that’s why the internationally successful star of Bond left after merely two films. Everyone needs a break once in a while.
When Dalton first came on as Bond in The Living Daylights, you might think he knew what he was doing. But his co-star revealed the truth. Maryam D'Abo, who played Bond girl Kara Milovy in the film, said the two of them barely knew what they were doing, with Dalton mostly having theater experience up to the point and with D'Abo herself afraid of guns.
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