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The Living Daylights is a 1987 spy film and the fifteenth entry in the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions, and the first of two to star Timothy Dalton as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. Directed by John Glen, the film's title is taken from Ian Fleming's short story "The Living Daylights", the plot of which also forms the basis of the first act of the film. It was the last film to use the title of an Ian Fleming story until the 2006 installment Casino Royale.

The film was produced by Albert R. Broccoli, his stepson Michael G. Wilson, and his daughter, Barbara Broccoli. The Living Daylights was generally well received by most critics and was also a financial success, grossing $191.2 million worldwide.


James Bond is assigned to aid the defection of a KGB officer, General Georgi Koskov, covering his escape from a concert hall in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia during intermission. During the mission, Bond notices that the KGB sniper assigned to prevent Koskov's escape is the attractive blonde female cellist from the orchestra, and deduces that she is not a professional assassin. Disobeying his orders to kill the sniper, he instead shoots the rifle from her hands, then uses the Trans-Siberian Pipeline to smuggle Koskov across the border into Austria and then on to Britain.

In his post-defection debriefing, Koskov informs MI6 that the KGB's old policy of 'Smiert Spionam', meaning 'Death to Spies', has been revived by General Leonid Pushkin, the new head of the KGB. Koskov is later abducted from the safe-house and assumed to have been taken back to Moscow. Bond is directed to track down Pushkin in Tangier and kill him, to forestall further killings of agents and escalation of tensions between the Soviet Union and the West. Bond agrees to carry out the mission when he learns that the assassin who killed 004 (as depicted in the pre-title sequence) left a note bearing the same message, "Smiert Spionam".

Bond returns to Bratislava to track down the cellist, Kara Milovy. He finds out that Koskov's entire defection was staged, and that Kara is actually Koskov's girlfriend. Bond convinces Kara that he is a friend of Koskov's and persuades her to accompany him to Vienna, supposedly to be reunited with him. They escape Bratislava while being pursued by the KGB, crossing over the border into Austria by using her cello case as a sled. Meanwhile, Pushkin meets with an arms dealer, Brad Whitaker, in Tangier, informing him that the KGB is cancelling an arms deal previously arranged between Koskov and Whitaker.

During his brief tryst with Milovy in Vienna, Bond visits the Prater to meet his MI6 ally, Saunders, who discovers a history of financial dealings between Koskov and Whitaker. As he leaves their meeting, Saunders is killed by Koskov's henchman Necros, who again leaves the message "Smiert Spionam". Bond and Kara promptly leave for Tangier, where Bond confronts Pushkin, who disavows any knowledge of "Smiert Spionam" and reveals that Koskov is evading arrest for embezzlement of government funds. Bond and Pushkin then join forces, and Bond fakes Pushkin's assassination, inducing Whitaker and Koskov to progress with their scheme. Meanwhile, Kara contacts Koskov, who was hiding out at Whitaker's home, who tells her that Bond is actually a KGB agent, and convinces her to drug him so that he can be captured.

When Bond awakens, he learns that he, Koskov, Necros, and Kara are on an aircraft. Once they land, it is revealed to be an air base in Afghanistan, where Koskov betrays Kara and imprisons her, along with Bond. The pair escape, and in doing so, free a condemned prisoner, Kamran Shah, leader of the local Mujahideen. Bond and Milovy discover that Koskov is using Soviet funds to buy a massive shipment of opium from the Mujahideen, intending to keep the profits with enough left over to supply the Soviets with their arms and buy Western arms from Whitaker.

With the Mujahideen's help, Bond plants a bomb aboard the cargo plane carrying the opium, but is spotted and has no choice but to barricade himself in the plane. Meanwhile, the Mujahideen attack the air base on horseback and engage the Soviets in a gun battle. During the battle, Kara drives a jeep into the cargo hold of the plane as Bond takes off, and Necros also leaps aboard at the last second. After a struggle, Bond throws Necros to his death and deactivates the bomb. Bond then notices Shah and his men being pursued by Soviet forces. He re-activates the bomb and drops it out of the plane and onto a bridge, blowing it up and helping Shah and his men escape the Soviets. The plane subsequently crashes, destroying the drugs, while Bond and Kara escape.

Bond returns to Tangier to kill Whitaker, infiltrating his estate with the help of his ally Felix Leiter, and Pushkin arrests Koskov, ordering that he be sent back to Moscow “in the diplomatic bag”.

Some time later, Kara is the solo cellist in a Vienna performance. Kamran Shah and his men jostle in during the intermission and are introduced to now-diplomat General Gogol and the Soviets. After her performance, Bond surprises Kara in her dressing room, and they embrace.


  • Timothy Dalton as James Bond: an MI6 agent assigned to look into the deaths of and conspiracies against several of his allies.
  • Maryam d'Abo as Kara Milovy: Koskov's girlfriend and later Bond's love interest.
  • Jeroen Krabbé as General Georgi Koskov: A renegade Soviet general who attempts to manipulate the British government into assassinating his rival, General Pushkin.
  • Joe Don Baker as Brad Whitaker: An American arms dealer and self-styled general, who serves as Koskov's primary ally. Baker called his character "a nut" who "thought he was Napoleon".[1]
  • John Rhys-Davies as General Leonid Pushkin: The new head of the KGB, replacing General Gogol.
  • Art Malik as Kamran Shah: a leader in the Afghan Mujahideen.
  • Andreas Wisniewski as Necros: Koskov's henchman, who poses repeated threats to Bond.
  • Thomas Wheatley as Saunders: Bond's ally.
  • Robert Brown as M: The head of MI6 and Bond's superior.
  • Desmond Llewelyn as Q: MI6's "quartermaster", who supplies Bond with multi-purpose vehicles and gadgets useful in the latter's mission.
  • Geoffrey Keen as Frederick Gray: The British Minister of Defence
  • Caroline Bliss as Miss Moneypenny: M's secretary.
  • John Terry as Felix Leiter: A CIA agent and ally to Bond.
  • Walter Gotell as General Gogol: The retired head of the KGB, now a diplomat shown in a cameo at the end of the film.
  • Virginia Hey as Rubavitch: General Leonid Pushkin's mistress in Morocco
  • Julie T. Wallace as Rosika Miklos: James Bond's contact in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia who works at the TransSiberian Pipeline.
  • John Bowe as Colonel Feyador: The leader of the Soviet air base in Afghanistan.
  • Catherine Rabett and Dulice Liecier as Liz and Ava: two CIA agents assisting Felix Leiter.
  • Nadim Sawalha cameos as a police chief in Tangier. Sawalha also appeared in a previous 007 film, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), as Aziz Fekkesh.


Originally the film was proposed to be a prequel in the series, an idea that eventually resurfaced with the reboot of the series in 2006. SMERSH, the fictionalised Soviet counterintelligence agency that featured in Fleming's Casino Royale and several other early James Bond novels, was an acronym for 'Smiert Shpionam' - 'Death to spies'.


In autumn 1985, following the financial[4] and critical disappointment of A View to a Kill, work began on scripts for the next Bond film, with the intention that Roger Moore would not reprise the role of James Bond.[4] Moore, who by the time of the release of The Living Daylights would have been 59 years old, chose to retire from the role after 12 years and 7 films. Albert Broccoli, however, claimed that he let Moore go from the role.[4] An extensive search for a new actor to play Bond saw a number of actors, including New Zealander Sam Neill,[2] Irish-born Pierce Brosnan and Welsh-born stage actor Timothy Dalton audition for the role in 1986. Bond co-producer Michael G. Wilson, director John Glen, Dana and Barbara Broccoli "were impressed with Sam Neill and very much wanted to use him." However, Albert Broccoli was not sold on the actor.[5] Meanwhile, financial backers at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer recommended Mel Gibson, but Broccoli was not interested.[6] Other actors touted in the press included Bryan Brown, Michael Nader, Andrew Clarke, and Finlay Light.

The producers eventually offered the role to Brosnan after a three-day screen-test.[8] At the time, he was contracted to the television series Remington Steele, which had been canceled by the NBC network due to falling ratings. The announcement that he would be chosen to play James Bond caused a surge in interest in the series, which led to NBC exercising (less than three days prior to expiry) a 60-day option in Brosnan's contract to make a further season of the series.[9] NBC's action caused drastic repercussions,α as a result of which Broccoli withdrew the offer given to Brosnan, citing that he did not want the character associated with a contemporary television series. This led to a drop in interest in Remington Steele, and only five new episodes were filmed before the series was finally cancelled.[10] The edict from Broccoli was that "Remington Steele would not be James Bond."[11]

Dana Broccoli suggested Timothy Dalton. Albert Broccoli was initially reluctant given Dalton's public lack of interest in the role, but at his wife's urging agreed to meet the actor.[5] However, Dalton would soon begin filming Brenda Starr and so would be unavailable.[12] In the intervening period, having completed Brenda Starr[13] Dalton was offered the role once again, which he accepted.[14] For a period, the filmmakers had Dalton, but he had not signed a contract. A casting director persuaded Robert Bathurst—an English actor who would become known for his roles in Joking Apart, Cold Feet, and Downton Abbey—to audition for Bond. Bathurst believes that his "ludicrous audition" was only "an arm-twisting exercise" because the producers wanted to persuade Dalton to take the role by telling him they were still auditioning other actors.[15] Dalton agreed to the film while travelling between airports: "Without anything to do, I decided to start thinking about whether I really, really should or should not do James Bond. Although obviously we’d moved some way along in that process, I just wasn't set on whether I should do it or shan’t I do it. But the moment of truth was fast approaching as to whether I'd say yes or no. And that’s where I said yes. I picked up the phone from the hotel room in the Miami airport and called them and said, "Yep, you're on: I'll do it."[16]

Dalton's take was very different from that of Moore, regarded as much more of a reluctant hero following an undeniable influence of the Fleming Bond in the way that the veteran agent was often uncomfortable in his job.[17] Dalton wished to create a Bond different from Moore's, feeling he would have declined the project if he were asked to imitate Moore.[18] In contrast to Moore's more jocular approach, Dalton found his creative muse from the original books: "I definitely wanted to recapture the essence and flavour of the books, and play it less flippantly. After all, Bond's essential quality is that he's a man who lives on the edge. He could get killed at any moment, and that stress and danger factor is reflected in the way he lives, chain-smoking, drinking, fast cars and fast women."[19] Moore declined to watch The Living Daylights in cinema as he did not wish to demonstrate any negative opinions about the project.[20] Broccoli enjoyed the change of tone, feeling that Brosnan would have been too similar to Moore.[21] Neill thought Dalton performed well in the role[22] and Brosnan called Dalton a good choice in 1987, but felt it too near the bone to watch the finished film.[23] He would win the role in 1994, based on his filmed audition from 1986.[24] Sean Connery endorsed Dalton in an interview,[25] and Desmond Llewelyn enjoyed working with a fellow stage actor.[26]

The English actress Maryam d'Abo, a former model, was cast as the Czechoslovakian cellist Kara Milovy. In 1984, d'Abo had attended auditions for the role of Pola Ivanova in A View to a Kill. Barbara Broccoli included d'Abo in the audition for playing Kara, which she later passed.[27]

Originally, the KGB general set up by Koskov was to be General Gogol; however, Walter Gotell was too sick to handle the major role, and the character of Leonid Pushkin replaced Gogol, who appears briefly at the end of the film, having transferred to the Soviet diplomatic service. This was Gogol's final appearance in a James Bond film. Morten Harket, the lead vocalist of the Norwegian rock group A-ha (which performed the film's title song), was offered a small role as a villain's henchman in the film, but declined, because of lack of time and because he felt they wanted to cast him due to his popularity rather than his acting. John Rhys Davies was optioned to revive his part in both Licence To Kill and GoldenEye in the scripting stages.[28] Joe Don Baker was hired based on his performance in Edge of Darkness, which was helmed by future Bond director Martin Campbell.[29]

Director John Glen decided to include the macaw from For Your Eyes Only.[30] It can be seen squawking in the kitchen of Blayden House when Necros attacks MI6's officers.


The film was shot at Pinewood Studios at its 007 Stage in the United Kingdom, as well as Weissensee in Austria. The pre-title sequence was filmed on the Rock of Gibraltar and although the sequence shows a hijacked Land Rover careering down various sections of road for several minutes before bursting through a wall towards the sea, the location mostly used the same short stretch of road at the very top of the Rock, shot from numerous different angles. The beach defences seen at the foot of the Rock in the initial shot were also added solely for the film, to an otherwise non-military area. The action involving the Land Rover switched from Gibraltar to Beachy Head in the UK for the shot showing the vehicle actually getting airborne. Trial runs of the stunt with the Land Rover, during which Bond escapes by parachute from the tumbling vehicle, were filmed in the Mojave Desert,[31] although the final cut of the film uses a shot achieved using a dummy. Bratislavan sequences were filmed in Vienna. The outside shots of the Bratislavan concert hall show the Volksoper, while the interior were shot in Sofiensäle. The tram scene was filmed in Währing, Vienna and the border chase was filmed in Carinthia, also in Austria.[32] Other locations included Germany, the United States, and Italy, while the desert scenes were shot in Ouarzazate, Morocco. The conclusion of the film was shot at the Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna and Elveden Hall, Suffolk.

Principal photography commenced at Gibraltar on 17 September 1986. Aerial stuntmen B. J. Worth and Jake Lombard performed the pre-credits parachute jump.[33] Both the terrain and wind were unfavourable. Consideration was given to the stunt being done using cranes but aerial stunts arranger B. J. Worth stuck to skydiving and completed the scenes in a day.[34] The aircraft used for the jump was a C-130 Hercules, which in the film had M's office installed in the aircraft cabin. The initial point of view for the scene shows M in what appears to be his usual London office, but the camera then zooms out to reveal that it is, in fact, inside an aircraft. Although marked as a Royal Air Force aircraft, the one in shot belonged to the Spanish Air Force and was used again later in the film for the Afghanistan sequences, this time in Soviet markings. During this later chapter, a fight breaks out on the open ramp of the aircraft in flight between Bond and Necros, before Necros falls to his death. Although the plot and preceding shots suggest the aircraft is a C-130, the shot of Necros falling away from the aircraft show a twin engine cargo plane, a C-123 Provider. Worth and Lombard also doubled for Bond and Necros in the scenes where they are hanging on a bag in a plane's open cargo door.[35]

The press would not meet Dalton and d'Abo until 5 October 1986, when the main unit travelled to Vienna.[36] Almost two weeks after the second unit filming on Gibraltar, the first unit started shooting with Andreas Wisniewski and stunt man Bill Weston.[12] During the course of the three days it took to film this fight, Weston fractured a finger and Wisniewski knocked him out once.[37] The next day found the crew on location at Stonor House, Oxfordshire, doubling for Bladen's Safe House, the first scene Jeroen Krabbé filmed.[38]

The return of Aston Martin

The film reunites Bond with the car maker Aston Martin. Following Bond's use of the Aston Martin DBS in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the filmmakers then turned to the brand new Lotus Esprit in 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me, which reappeared four years later in For Your Eyes Only. Despite the iconic status of the submersible Lotus however, Bond's Aston Martin DB5 is recognised as the most famous of his vehicles.[citation needed] As a consequence, Aston Martin returned with their V8 Vantage.

Two different Aston Martin models were used in filming—a V8 Volante convertible, and later for the Czechoslovakia scenes, a hard-top non-Volante V8 saloon badged to look like the Volante. The Volante was a production model owned by Aston Martin Lagonda chairman, Victor Gauntlett.[39]


Main article: The Living Daylights (soundtrack) The Living Daylights was the final Bond film to be scored by composer John Barry. The soundtrack is notable for its introduction of sequenced electronic rhythm tracks overdubbed with the orchestra—at the time, a relatively new innovation.

The title song of the film, "The Living Daylights", was co-written with Pål Waaktaar of the Norwegian pop-music group A-ha and recorded by the band. The group and Barry did not collaborate well, resulting in two versions of the theme song.[40] Barry's film mix is heard on the soundtrack (and on A-ha's later compilation album Headlines and Deadlines). The version preferred by the band can be heard on the A-ha album Stay on These Roads, released in 1988. However, in 2006, Waaktaar complimented Barry's contributions: "I loved the stuff he added to the track, I mean it gave it this really cool string arrangement. That's when for me it started to sound like a Bond thing".[40] The title song is one of the few 007 title songs not performed or written by a British or American performer.

In a departure from previous Bond films, The Living Daylights was the first to use different songs over the opening and end credits. The song heard over the end credits, "If There Was A Man", was one of two songs performed for the film by Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders. The other song, "Where Has Everybody Gone?", is heard from Necros's Walkman in the film. The Pretenders were originally considered to perform the title song. However, the producers had been pleased with the commercial success of Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill", and felt that A-ha would be more likely to make an impact on the charts.[41]

The original soundtrack was released on LP and CD by Warner Bros. and featured only 12 tracks. Later re-releases by Rykodisc and EMI added nine additional tracks, including alternate instrumental end credits music. Rykodisc's version included the gun barrel and opening sequence of the film as well as the jailbreak sequence, and the bombing of the bridge.[42]

Additionally, the film featured a number of pieces of classical music, as the main Bond girl, Kara Milovy, is a cellist. Mozart's 40th Symphony in G minor (1st movement) is performed by the orchestra at the Conservatoire in Bratislava when Koskov flees.[43] As Moneypenny tells Bond, Kara is next to perform Alexander Borodin's String Quartet in D major,[44] and the finale to Act II of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro (in Vienna) also features.[45] Before Bond is drugged by Kara, she is practising the Cello solo from the first movement of Dvořák's cello concerto in B minor.[46] At the end of the film, Kara and an orchestra (conducted onscreen by John Barry) perform Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme to rapturous applause.

Release and reception

The Prince and Princess of Wales attended the film's premiere on 29 June 1987 at the Odeon Leicester Square in London.[47] The Living Daylights grossed the equivalent of $191.2 million worldwide.[48] In the United States and Canada it earned $51,185,000,[49] including an opening weekend of $11,051,284,[50] surpassing the $5 million grossed by The Lost Boys that was released on the same day,[51] and setting a record 3-day opening for a Bond film, beating Octopussy's (1983) $8.9 million but not the 4-day record of $13.3 million set by A View To A Kill (1985).[52]

In the film, Koskov and Whitaker repeatedly use vehicles and drug packets marked with the Red Cross. This action angered a number of Red Cross Societies, which sent letters of protest regarding the film. In addition, the British Red Cross attempted to prosecute the filmmakers and distributors. However, no legal action was taken.[53][54] As a result, a disclaimer was added at the start of the film and some DVD releases.

Rita Kempley, reviewing for The Washington Post, praised Dalton's performance naming him "the best Bond ever. He's as classy as the trademark tuxedo, as sleek as the Aston Martin. Like Bond's notorious martini, women who encounter his carved-granite good looks are shaken, not stirred." Furthermore, she praised the film as "graciously paced, though overplotted, so some seat-shifting sets in about 30 minutes before the end."[55] Janet Maslin of The New York Times complimented Dalton's performance feeling that he had "enough presence, the right debonair looks and the kind of energy that the Bond series has lately been lacking." While praising the supporting characters, she criticised the long runtime and noted the "direction, by John Glen, has the colorful but perfunctory style that goes with the territory, and it's adequate if uninspired."[56]

Giving the film two stars out of four, Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times review criticised the lack of humour in the protagonist and felt General Whitaker was "not one of the great Bond villains. He's a kooky phony general who plays with toy soldiers and never seems truly diabolical. Without a great Bond girl, a great villain or a hero with a sense of humor, The Living Daylights belongs somewhere on the lower rungs of the Bond ladder. But there are some nice stunts."[57] Gene Siskel of The Chicago Tribune also gave the film two stars out of four commending Dalton as superior to his predecessor, but felt he "simply doesn't have the manliness or the charm of Sean Connery." He criticized the film for its perceived tentativeness writing that the "filmmakers were trying to strike a middle ground between the glamor of the Connery Bond films and the dubious humor of the Moore Bonds. The result is a film that is not so much bad as mechanical and uptight."[58] Jay Scott of The Globe and Mail wrote of Dalton's Bond that "you get the feeling that on his off nights, he might curl up with the Reader's Digest and catch an episode of Moonlighting".[59]

Dalton himself has said he preferred The Living Daylights over Licence to Kill.[60] Roger Moore, discussing the Bond series in 2012, called The Living Daylights a "bloody good movie".[61] IGN lauded the film for bringing back realism and espionage to the film series, and showing James Bond's dark side.[62] The review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 72% based on 53 reviews with an weighted average of 6.4 out of 10. The website's critical consensus states, "Newcomer Timothy Dalton plays James Bond with more seriousness than preceding installments, and the result is exciting and colorful but occasionally humorless."