Despite being one of the least commercially successful Bond movies in the United States, it was considered by director John Glen his best "007". This opinion is shared by some fans and critics who praise the realism of Licence to Kill (1989).
Throughout the series Q (Desmond Llewelyn) is constantly reprimanding Bond for damaging or losing his equipment. Here, as a touch of irony, after he uses his rake/radio, he blithely tosses it in the bushes and walks away.
First EON Series James Bond film not to take its title from an Ian Fleming James Bond novel or short story, even though there were still some usable titles available such as "Property of a Lady", "Quantum of Solace", "007 In New York", "Risico" and "The Hildebrand Rarity". "Licence to Kill" is a phrase commonly used in the books, however. The story takes the loss of Felix Leiter's arm (here a leg) from the novel "Live and Let Die." "The Hildebrand Rarity" (a short story based on a never-filmed TV script) provided the scene where Sanchez beats his mistress with a whip made from the tail of a stingray--in the story it was Milton Krest who beats his wife with a similar implement.
During the scene where James Bond is hanging by a hook over the cocaine grinder, Benicio Del Toro's character is cutting him loose. During filming he actually cut Timothy Dalton's hand and the scene had to be stopped so he could be stitched up.
The film was originally to be set in China but production difficulties became insurmountable. Scriptwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson wrote two treatments set around drugs in the Golden Triangle with the villain being a Drug Warlord of the region. Ideas for the film included a motor cycle chase along the Great Wall of China and a fight sequence in the recently discovered museum of ancient terracotta statues at Xian. When the Chinese Government made a number restrictive demands such as veto rights over the script, the viability of the location fell through.
In the final chase sequence just after 007 lands on the tanker, Sanchez fires at Bond hitting the truck's fuel tanks. The sound of the bullets ricocheting off the tanks plays the start of the James Bond theme.
Long-time James Bond series producer Albert R. Broccoli fell sick during the production of this movie. The thinness of the air in Mexico affected his lungs and breathing and he left the location accompanied by wife Dana Broccoli and daughter Barbara Broccoli. He was unable to return and this was the last James Bond movie in which he was on the set.
The closing credits song "If You Asked Me To" sung by Patti LaBelle was featured on the B-side of the main title song's 45 rpm single and became an unexpected minor hit. The LaBelle song charted in a Rhythm and Blues Top Ten and was later sung in a cover version by Céline Dion where it became an even bigger hit.
In AMC's Bond Girls Are Forever (2002), Carey Lowell said that she shut her eyes and flinched every time she fired the gun and had to be trained to fire with her eyes open because a CIA op would not flinch. However, she still winces a bit whenever she fires the handgun.
Extras during the wedding scene include Doug Redenius, a postman from Chicago, Illinois who owns one of the largest collections of Bond memorabilia, Sandi Sentell, a gym teacher from Atlanta, Georgia, who won a MTV/ VH1 competition to appear in the film (in the film, a bystander is seen wearing a VH1 t-shirt with the late 1980s logo design), and still photographer Keith Hamshere, as the wedding photographer.
In Italy, title was "Vendetta Privata" (Personal Revenge or Private Revenge), not following the translation, because the first Bond film (Dr. No (1962)) was titled "Licenza di Uccidere", the translation of this film's title. Sweden had the same problem: Dr. No had been "Agent 007 med rätt att döda" (Agent 007 with a license to kill), so "Tid för hämnd" (Time for revenge) was used for this movie. Other countries used Personal Revenge (France); The Cancelled Licence (Japan); and With A Right To Kill (Norway). Brazil, Finland, Portugal and Spain simply translated the actual title.
The scene where Bond resigns from the MI6 was shot at Ernest Hemingway's house in Key West. That's why when M (Robert Brown) informs 007 that his licence to kill is revoked, he replies, "I guess this is a farewell to arms," a nod to one of Hemingway's most famous novels.
Governor Bob Martinez of the state of Florida presented Albert R. Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson and head of marketing Charles Juroe each with the Great Seal of the State of Florida during a month's filming at Key West. The Governor also won a walk-on part in the film as a customs officer at the Key West airport.
The Banco de Isthmus was filmed at Mexico's main post office, an old elaborate building of European styling. A real bank in Mexico called Bancomer denied permission to shoot there because it was felt that the image of the bank in the movie would be affected by the fictional money laundering story elements.
Last James Bond film for six years. In August 1990, after the box office failure of this film in the United States, Director 'John Glen (II)' left EON Productions. Thirteen-time Bond screenwriter Richard Maibaum died on 4 January 1991. Some called this a "bloodless coup". Legal wrangling over the ownership of the James Bond character, coupled by these departures, delayed the release of the next film. In the interim, producer Albert R. Broccoli retired, and star Timothy Dalton decided not to play the role a third time.
Sanchez is from Isthmus City, a reference to the country of Panama which lies on an isthmus and the corrupt dictator Manuel Noriega, whom the CIA were working very hard to oust, at the time. He was eventually deposed by U.S. troops in the same year this film was released. Sanchez itself seems to be an on-screen representation of Colombian drug-lord Pablo Escobar which was terrorizing his country with bomb attacks and selective killing of presidential candidates at the time of the movie release.
Due to the Writers' Guild of America strike in 1989, long-time James Bond scriptwriter Richard Maibaum was unable to continue working on the screenplay. A long time member of the Guild, Maibaum felt he could not betray his membership and ghost-write the script. Co-writer Michael G. Wilson had to complete the screenplay on his own. This was to be the fifth and final pairing for the Maibaum-Wilson writing team which had started with For Your Eyes Only (1981).
Final Bond film in which Richard Maibaum had a part in writing the screenplay. He would pass away in 1991. This was also the final Bond film on which long-time title sequence designer Maurice Binder worked. He too passed away in 1991.
Gladys Knight's title song is the longest of all the Bond songs. In the UK, it peaked at the No. #6 position on the UK Charts. As a Christian soul singer, Knight apparently objected to having to sing a song with the word "kill" in it, but eventually she conceded. The song is apparently based on the "horn line" from the Goldfinger (1964) title song and consequently royalty payments were allegedly made to relevant personnel. The music video of this song was directed by Daniel Kleinman, who succeeded Maurice Binder as title designer on GoldenEye (1995).
Apart from a spin-off video-game 007: Licence to Kill (1989), the film's title previously lent its name to a card game twenty-two years earlier in 1967. Produced by Golden Wonder, the packaging boasts the tagline: "An Exciting New James Bond Game". There are 52 playing cards which include four "Licence to Kill" cards, 48 "Enemy Agent" cards and there are twelve "Assignment Cards". The cover of the manual for the card game read: "O.H.M.S. - TOP SECRET - OO AGENTS ONLY".
Eric Clapton and Vic Flick were asked to write and perform the title song along with composer Michael Kamen. Apparently, they re-recorded and made a video of a new version of the James Bond theme with the guitar riff played by Flick. However, the theme was rejected by the producers and not used.
This film marked the retirement of Barry from composing scores and songs for the series. Michael Kamen took over composing duties on the film as John Barry was undergoing throat surgery at the time. Creative differences with the band A-Ha on the The Living Daylights (1987) allegedly also contributed.
The Broccolis (Albert R. Broccoli and his daughter Barbara Broccoli) arranged for a medical team to fly down from Washington with the sole purpose of attending to the crew, a lot of whom were having trouble adjusting to the pollution and high altitude of Mexico City.
The Royal World Charity Premiere of Licence to Kill (1989) was held on Tuesday 13th June 1989 at the Odeon Theatre, Leicester Square, London and was attended by Prince Charles and Princess Diana, the last Bond launch they would attend together. Reportedly, Diana wore the same dress that she wore to the World Premiere of Octopussy (1983). The Gala Charity Premiere Benefit was held in aid of the charity the The Prince's Trust. The US American Premiere was held in New York on Tuesday 11th July 1989 at Lowes Astor Plaza theatre near Times Square.
Dario's handgun, which he pointed at Bond at the fortress, was a Walther P5; which was used by Bond himself in Octopussy (1983) and unofficial 007 film released on the same year, Never Say Never Again (1983).
The last film of the series produced and released during the Cold War. At that time Soviet Communism was already being viewed as less of a threat, and any new possible foreign adversaries were not yet clearly recognized. Producers felt that a Central American Dictator and Drug Lord would give the movie a topical story line.
The project was originally entitled "Licence Revoked" and teaser artwork was produced with this title. Among the reasons for changing the title was to avoid confusion with the 1981 James Bond novel, "Licence Renewed," written by John Gardner (who ended up writing a novel based on this film as well). Licence Renwed means the exact opposite of Licence Revoked. Another reason for the change was that "license revoked" denotes losing one's driving privileges in the USA. Taglines for "Licenced Revoked" included "You're looking at the world's most wanted man" and "Dismissed. Disgraced. Dishonored. Deadly." In the movie, when M says to James Bond, "Your Licence to kill is revoked", both titles are referenced at the same time. After a minor controversy as to whether the British or American spelling ("licence" or "license") would be used in the title, the British spelling won out.
Felix's bride Della's wedding dress was made of re-embroidered French Llace adorned with seed pearls and opal sequins. Two versions of the dress had to be made because the scenes where Della is attacked were filmed before the wedding sequence. Therefore, 17 meters of the material had to be located at $150 a meter. The Leiter's bridal car was a white Lincoln Limousine.
James Bond's weapon (on loan from the U.S. Coast Guard) during the opening pre-credits sequence was a 9 mm 16 round Beretta 92F (at the time of filming, Beretta 92F pistols were issued to U.S. civilian law enforcement agencies and the U.S. military). This marks the first time that Bond is seen with a Beretta in decades (in Dr. No (1962), M ordered that Bond carry a different pistol, his signature Walther PPK as a replacement).
Product placements, brand integrations, promotional tie-ins and sponsorships for this movie include Budweiser / Busch Beer; Carlsberg Beer; the Philip Morris Company's Lark Cigarettes; Kenworth Trucks; Michelob Light; Cutty Sark scotch whisky; Armorlite; Bollinger Champagne; Rolex Watches, particularly the Rolex Submariner 16800/168000 watch; Aerospatial Helicopters; Stolichnaya Vodka; Philips Electronics; and Domark's spin-off video-games, 007: Licence to Kill (1989) and later with Tengen, James Bond: The Duel (1993).
This is the last film to date in which James Bond wears a Rolex, here identified by researchers as the "Leiter Wedding Rolex". It is a Submariner Date model, either number 16800 or 168000 or 16610 (virtually identical to the casual buyer). Two decades after the release of this film, the Rolex Submariner Date 16610 is still in production and virtually identical to the watch featured in this film - except that its case lugs no longer have holes. The only watch brand Ian Fleming ever specified by name for his James Bond character was "Rolex", although his literary 007 wore an Explorer 1016 model.
In an interview during filming in September 1988 Timothy Dalton denied media claims that his Bond was not allowed to have as much sex due to the AIDS epidemic at the time. However, in a 2007 interview he admitted that this was in fact true.
First James Bond movie to include tobacco warnings in its closing credits. This was in the form of a United States Surgeon General warning. Smoking of tobacco, cigarettes, cigars occurs in a number of Bond movies and this is the only one of them to include a health warning. The film featured product placement of the Philip Morris Company's Lark Cigarettes.
The movie featured several Kenworth W900B trucks. Three were specifically modified, one so as to be able to do back-wheelies, one with dual-steering and one with a high supercharge engine. They were named Pamela One, Pamela Two and Pamela Three, after the character Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) in the movie. 5 Others were simply modified so as to increase their horse power. P1 required new suspension be applied to the rear fault axle as well as a new front axle and fitted with steering brakes. Its horsepower was increased to 1000 hp, two to three times the normal capacity. Truckweld co-ordinated the modification. P2 was the largest and most detailed modification of all the trucks for the film Licence to Kill (1989). Apparently, it had not been done before and the process involved electronic engines and two throttle steer peddles being able to operate independently of one another. Truckweld co-ordinated the modification. Although a rig was constructed to help the 18 wheeler truck tilt onto its side, it wasn't necessary as the stunt driver was able to pull off the stunt without the aid of camera trickery. P3 had increased horsepower by fitting new turbo charges and injectors. Other vehicles in the scene included a deluxe Maserati and a 2-seat tricycle Cessna 150 crop-duster airplane. The scene was produced by Barbara Broccoli and took 7 weeks to film.
Vehicles featured included several Kenworth W900B tanker trucks; a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow and Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II; a Lincoln Continental Mark VII LSC, James Bond's hire car in Key West; Sanchez' silver metallic Maserati Biturbo; several Mopar Squads (Dodge Diplomat and St. Regis used by the Key West P.D. and the U.S. Marshals) a 4-seat high-wing single-engine Cessna 172 Skyhawk airplane, a Cessna 185 seaplane and a 2-seat tricycle Cessna 150 airplane; a Piper PA-18-150 "Super Cub" crop-duster float-plane and Piper J-3 "Cub" airplane; Aerospatiale 350B A-star and US Coast Guard Aerospatiale HH-65A Dauphin helicopters; a Harbour Pilot's boat; a black and yellow two-seater Shark Hunter submersible (mini wet submarine) as seen before in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977); a Wavekrest remote-control Sentinel underwater exploratory submersible; Sharkey's fishing boat Pa Ja Ma; a Cigarette 1 Cafe Racer; the WaveKrest marine research vessel; and an electric golf-car at the Olimpatec Meditation Institute.
In some South American media, the Lupe Lamora character was incorrectly attributed to Rudy Rodriguez, a Venezuelan ex beauty-queen who was a very popular soap opera actress and sex symbol at the time and who has a close resemblance to Talisa Soto. So for some years after it was usual to see Rodriguez introduced as a "bond Girl" in some showbiz programs.
The Las Vegas performer played a small part, in a credited performance as a televangelist called Professor Joe Butcher. His character was a dig at televangelists at the time (including Jim Bakker) who had been exposed during the mid-1980s as being involved in extra-marital affairs and/or general promiscuity. Being in a Bond movie fulfilled Wayne Newton's dream.
According to the documentary Inside 'Licence to Kill' (1999), a number of mishaps and strange occurrences took place while filming the final climatic tanker chase. The sequence was filmed on the dangerous La Rumorosa Road, which had been closed down at the time of filming because of the number of fatal accidents occurring on the snake-like twists and turns. Among the mishaps involved the dummy rocket Sanchez (Robert Davi) uses to bring down Pam's (Carey Lowell) plane. The rocket traveled two-and-a-half miles, striking and injuring a telephone worker. Upon investigation, it was determined that the stretch of road they were filming on was where a van with five nuns crashed and were fatally killed. Bizarre incidents continued. Timothy Dalton was nearly added to the list of tragedies while filming the scene after James Bond releases the tanker to blow up the tanker trucks at the bottom of the hill, and jumps into the semi. All vehicles were cleared from the area, but when Dalton came around the curve, a vehicle was in his path and he narrowly missed driving over the edge. If he had, Dalton likely would have been seriously injured, and possibly killed due to the height the hill the truck was on. Director John Glen and others state that human figures would be seen standing around the fleet of Kenworth semis being used for filming. When challenged by security guards, they would simply disappear. Two semis caught fire for no apparent reason, and one started up and drove by itself a short distance before coming to a stop. However, the biggest creepy surprise occurred while filming the final tanker explosion in which Bond sets Sanchez on fire and his flaming body ignites the tanker truck into a huge explosion. The scene went off without a hitch, with the still photographer shooting photos while the scene took place. Upon reviewing the photos, The still photographer found one contained what looked like a flaming hand (Which you can see by doing a simple web search) coming out of the flames. Four cameras were set up to record the final explosion, but after reviewing the footage, the only glimpse of the hand was found on the still photograph. According to John Glen, a copy was made for him, but his wife refused to allow it in the house.