Why did you turn down the role when Cubby Broccoli first approached you to play 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?
Well, I grew up with Sean’s films. He was James Bond, he was terrific, and it would have been really dumb to have tried to take over from Sean Connery. Besides that, I was far too young. I was only 24 at the time.
Before you landed the part for The Living Daylights, the role was between you and Sam Neill. Cubby Broccoli backed you personally. That put the pressure on...
I didn’t take the decision lightly. The real problem in taking over the part is the responsibility to keep it successful, and what Cubby Broccoli and Michael Wilson’s requirements of me were. Mr Broccoli courageously said, “You’d be no good unless you brought your own interpretation.” Everyone supported me in that and that, together with the script, made me say, “I’ll do it.”
What was your personal take on Bond?
I wanted to make him human. He’s not a superman; you can’t identify with a superman. You can identify with the James Bond of the books. He’s a tarnished man, really. I wanted to capture that occasional sense of vulnerability and I wanted to capture the spirit of Ian Fleming.
How did you cope with the notoriously hectic shooting schedules?
It was five months on The Living Daylights. I found some difficulty in staying awake on some of the late-night shoots. I was due to have four days off in the five months, and I didn’t get any of them. That’s the hardest thing, constantly having to be on your toes. You’ve just got to come up with something now, because now’s when we’re doing it and there’s not going to be another chance, and that’s a never-ending process for five whole months.
Are the sets like one big family?
I must admit that I’d heard this talk about how much like a family it is to work on a Bond picture and you do take it with a pinch of salt. But the truth is that everybody has worked together on an awful lot of films, everybody knows each other, and there’s a terrific warmth and sense of support, which was wonderful.
Did flopping as 007 ever enter your mind?
I knew that if I made a mess of it, it would have a damaging effect on my career, of that there was no question. But when I went into it I was delighted to take on the challenge.
So what about being measured up against the other Bonds?
I don’t think about it. It’s a futile exercise. Every single movie is tremendously different from the others. I mean, how can you compare From Russia With Love with Moonraker? You can’t compare Moore and Connery because they were in such different films. I leave it for other people to make comparisons.
Do you think people view Bond as a role model?
I don’t think Bond is a role model, or should be a role model. I don’t think anyone should grow up wanting to go around killing people. It’s certainly well worth believing in some kind of justice and truth, but Bond is not a paragon of virtue: he’s a man riddled with vices and weaknesses as well as strength. That’s the nature of the man, and the nature of the world he lives in.