The film was originally to be set in China, but production difficulties became insurmountable. Screenwriters 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 motorcycle 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 several restrictive demands, such as veto rights over the script, the viability of the location fell through. Also, John Glen felt that The Last Emperor (1987) had removed some of the novelty from filming in China.
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 A.I.D.S. epidemic at the time. However, in a 2007 interview, he admitted that this was true.
Throughout the franchise, Q 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. This was Desmond Llewelyn's idea.
Had this film been financially successful, Timothy Dalton would have starred in a third James Bond film. Titled, "Property of a Lady", it would have been set in Scotland, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, and would have involved nanotechnology.
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 this movie.
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 left EON Productions. Thirteen-time Bond Screenwriter Richard Maibaum died on January 4, 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 Timothy Dalton decided not to play the role a third time.
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.
Due to the Writers' Guild of America strike in 1988, long-time James Bond Screenwriter 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).
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.
Long-time James Bond franchise 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, and daughter Barbara. He was unable to return, and this was the last James Bond movie in which he was on the set.
The last film of the franchise 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 Broccolis (Albert and his daughter Barbara) 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.
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 C.I.A. operative would not flinch. However, she still winces a bit whenever she fires the handgun.
Gladys Knight's title song is the longest of all the Bond songs. In the UK, it peaked at the number six position on the 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).
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, and cigars occurs in numerous 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.
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 C.I.A. 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 seems to be an on-screen representation of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, who was terrorizing his country with bomb attacks and selective killing of Presidential candidates at the time of the movie's release.
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.
First EON franchise 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. 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 television 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.
This film marked the retirement of John Barry from composing scores and songs for the franchise. 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 Living Daylights (1987) allegedly also contributed.
Re-united Robert Davi and Grand L. Bush, one year after they played F.B.I. Agents Big Johnson and Little Johnson, respectively, in Die Hard (1988). As well as for Composer Michael Kamen, who scored Die Hard (1988) and this movie.
Pedro Armendáriz, Jr. played President Hector Lopez, named after Héctor López, Production Supervisor in Mexico. Armendariz's father, Pedro Armendáriz, Sr., played Kerim Bay in From Russia with Love (1963).
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 an 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.
Director John Glen said the production had a tough time pulling off the action, stunts and huge set-pieces, because the budgets of the Bond films had not changed since Octopussy (1983). This was mostly due to MGM's constant financial woes.
While in production, various newspapers reported that this would be the most violent Bond film yet, and would trying to keep up with the mega violence of such recent, popular action fare as Lethal Weapon (1987) and Die Hard (1988). This was the first Bond film to score a PG-13 rating, due to its violent content.
Martini & Rossi ran a tie-in promotion, featuring a new martini drink, and when you purchased a "Shaken, not stirred" drink, it came in a martini glass with "007 License to Kill Shaken, not stirred", etched into the martini glass.
Milton Krest's death used a prostethic head, which was created by John Richardson's team, based on a mold of Anthony Zerbe's face. The result was so gruesome, that it was shortened and toned down, to avoid censorship problems.
The project was originally titled "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 Renewed means the opposite of Licence Revoked. Another reason for the change was that "license revoked" denotes losing one's driving privileges in the U.S. Taglines for "Licence 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.
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.
Eric Clapton and Vic Flick were asked to write and perform the title song, along with 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.
Timothy Dalton stated in an interview about why his Bond was a much darker, grittier incarnation. It was because he wanted to go back to the Ian Fleming novels, and capture the essence and the spirit of the character Ian Fleming created.
In Italy, the 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); With A Right To Kill (Norway); Permission to Kill (Brazil). Finland, Croatia, Portugal, and Spain simply translated the actual title.
Final Bond film in which Richard Maibaum had a part in writing the screenplay. He died in 1991. This was also the final Bond film on which long-time Title Sequence Designer Maurice Binder worked. He also died in 1991.
The Royal World Charity Premiere of this movie was held on Tuesday, June 13, 1989, at the Odeon Theatre, Leicester Square, London, and was attended by Prince Charles and Princess Diana, the last Bond launch they attended together. The Gala Charity Premiere Benefit was held in aid of the charity, The Prince's Trust. The U.S. Premiere was held in New York City on Tuesday, July 11, 1989, at Lowes Astor Plaza theatre, near Times Square.
To portray Sanchez, Robert Davi researched on the Colombian drug cartels, and how to do a Colombian accent, and since he was method acting, he would stay in character off-set. After Davi read "Casino Royale" for preparation, he decided to turn Sanchez into a "mirror image" of James Bond, based on Ian Fleming's descriptions of Le Chiffre.
In 1985, the Films Act was passed, removing the Eady Levy, resulting in foreign artists being taxed more heavily. The associated rising costs to Eon Productions meant no part of the movie was filmed in the UK, the first Bond film not to do so. Pinewood Studios, used in every previous Bond film, housed only the post-production and sound re-recording.
Pam's pistol of choice is a .25 caliber Beretta. This was James Bond's favored gun in the books, until "Doctor No", where it's replaced with the Walther PPK. In Dr. No (1962), his Beretta was criticized as a lady's gun.
Sea-Air Service, a sea plane company located in Louisiana, leased their sea plane for the scene where Bond takes over the plane full of cash. When the plane was returned to Louisiana, an employee from the sea plane company still found loose movie cash in the back when cleaning the cabin upon return from filming.
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 scene where Della is attacked, was filmed before the wedding sequence. Therefore, seventeen meters of the material had to be located, at one hundred fifty dollars a meter. The Leiter's bridal car was a white Lincoln Limousine.
The casting of Carey Lowell raised a few eyebrows, as her most recent film had been the oddball comedy Me and Him (1988) about a talking penis, and Bond's distributor, MGM/UA, was unsure about the wisdom of casting someone who had appeared in such a film.
Pam's "I haven't heard that one in a long time" quip about Bond mentioning their escape boat has run out of fuel is most likely a reference to Bond and Honey Rider's similar predicament at the end of Dr. No (1962).
Benicio Del Toro was the third actor or actress to win an Academy Award after appearing in a James Bond movie. Dame Judi Dench was the second, and Sir Sean Connery was the first. Del Toro is the fourth actor or actress to appear in a James Bond movie, who has won an Oscar, the first was Christopher Walken, who won one before he appeared in a Bond movie, a feat repeated by Halle Berry, Javier Bardem, and Christoph Waltz. He is the first Bond henchman to win an Oscar, and the fourth Bond villain to do so.
Apart from a spin-off video game, 007: Licence to Kill (1989), the film's title lent its name to a card game in 1967. Produced by Golden Wonder, the packaging boasted the tagline: "An Exciting New James Bond Game". There are fifty-two playing cards, which include four "Licence to Kill" cards, forty-eight "Enemy Agent" cards, and twelve "Assignment Cards". The cover of the manual for the card game read: "O.H.M.S. - TOP SECRET - OO AGENTS ONLY".
The MI6/Universal Exports building exterior, used in this film, Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985), and The Living Daylights (1987), is the old War Offices near Westminster. It is close to other Bond filming locations, including the College of Arms (used in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)), Westminster tube station exit (used in Skyfall (2012)), and Westminster Bridge (used in The World Is Not Enough (1999), Die Another Day (2002), and Spectre (2015)).
In some South American media, Lupe Lamora 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 several years, it was usual to see Rodriguez introduced as a "bond Girl" in some show business programs, because she appeared as one of the hostesses at the pool in the Moroccan palace in The Living Daylights (1987).
Vehicles featured include: 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's silver metallic Maserati Biturbo; several Mopar squad cars (Dodge Diplomat and St. Regis used by the Key West Police Department, and the U.S. Marshals) a four-seat high-wing single-engine Cessna 172 Skyhawk airplane, a Cessna 185 seaplane, and a two-seat tricycle Cessna 150 airplane; a Piper PA-18-150 "Super Cub" crop duster floatplane, and Piper J-3 "Cub" airplane; Aerospatiale 350B A-star and U.S. Coast Guard Aerospatiale HH-65A Dauphin helicopters; a Harbor Pilot's boat; a black and yellow two-seater Shark Hunter submersible (mini wet submarine, as seen in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)); a Wavekrest remote controlled Sentinel underwater exploratory submersible; Sharkey's fishing boat Pa Ja Ma; a Cigarette 1 Café Racer; the WaveKrest marine research vessel; and an electric golf cart at the Olimpatec Meditation Institute.
Live and Let Die (1973) was the first James Bond movie to feature the word "die", or a variation of it, in the movie's title. Later films in the official film franchise would be called Die Another Day (2002) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). The theme song for Quantum of Solace (2008), by Alicia Keys and Jack White, was called "Another Way To Die", and Licence to Kill (1989) referenced death, as did Ian Fleming's short story "From a View to a Kill" (1960). Many of the post-Fleming James Bond novels have had titles that have referenced fatality. These include "Win, Lose, or Die" (1989), "High Time to Kill" (1999), "The Facts of Death" (1998), "Trigger Mortis" (2015), "Nobody Lives for Ever" (1986), and "Never Dream of Dying" (2001). Moreover, "Double or Die" (2007) and "A Hard Man to Kill" (2009) are the names of a Young James Bond novel and short story, respectively.
Some sources said that this was the least commercially successful, or unsuccessful James Bond movie. This isn't true, as this movie made over one hundred seventy-five million dollars against a thirty-two million dollar production budget. They called it the least successful, as the profits made by this movie didn't reach the expectations of the producers, or the studio. The producers wanted this movie to earn at least two hundred ten million dollars, in order to become the highest grossing Bond movie at that time. The producers also expected that this movie should have earned at least sixty-five million dollars from the U.S. box-office market, due to the fact that most parts of this movie were filmed in the U.S., as all the Bond movies filmed in the U.S. made good profits in the U.S. box-office market, before the release of this movie. This didn't happen, due to other blockbusters in the U.S. box-office market, like Batman (1989), Lethal Weapon 2 (1989), The Abyss (1989), Ghostbusters II (1989), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) (along with previous Bond actor Sir Sean Connery, and other actors appeared in Bond movies), and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989). But still, this movie managed to make decent profits at the U.S. box-office, as the earnings of this movie was forty million dollars, making it successful, but the least one in the U.S. market. It made good profits in other North American countries, European, and Asian box-office markets. It made good profits from VHS sales in the U.S. and other countries. It also earned a PG-13 rating, and it was the most violent James Bond movie ever. Despite this, it was met with highly positive reviews from critics and audiences, and has developed a cult following among fans. Some sources also said that On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) was also the least commercially successful, or unsuccessful James Bond movie, but this isn't true either, as it also made good profits in its box-office run against its production budget of eight million dollars, and has also developed a cult following amongst Bond fans. Actually, the least commercially successful James Bond movie is The Man With The Golden Gun (1974). No James Bond movie has been commercially unsuccessful in its box-office run to date.
When the film was released on VHS in the UK in 1990. On the videotape, just before the film started. Chris Tarrant advertised a James Bond competition set up by Kentucky Fried Chicken, which the winner's prize was to become James Bond for a day, and runners-up won a James Bond t-shirt. In the competition, owners of the videotape were asked questions about the Bond films and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Wayne Newton: 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.
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 accidentally cut Timothy Dalton's hand, and the scene had to be stopped so he could be stitched up.
According to the documentary Inside 'Licence to Kill' (2000), several 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 fatal accidents occurring on the snake-like twists and turns. Among the mishaps, involved the dummy rocket Sanchez (Robert Davi) used to bring down Pam's (Carey Lowell) plane. The rocket travelled two and a half miles, striking and injuring a telephone worker. Upon investigation, it was determined that the stretch of road, on which they were filming, was where a van with five nuns crashed and were 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 of the hill the truck was on. John Glen and others stated 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 that 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.
In the final chase sequence, just after 007 lands on the tanker, Sanchez fired 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.
The previous Special Edition DVD restored some of the original 1989 BBFC and MPAA cuts, but some footage was still missing. This included: A shot of Felix's severed leg in the water. Loti being shot in each breast. Krest's head exploding against the glass. Dario's legs being diced as he falls into the mincer. Sanchez's burning. All of these shots were restored in the 2006 Ultimate Edition.
For the climactic tanker chase, the producers used a section of a highway near Mexicali, Mexico, which had been closed for safety reasons. Sixteen eighteen-wheeler tankers were used, some with modifications made by Kenworth at the request of Driving Stunt Coordinator Rémy Julienne. Most were given improvements to their engines to run faster, while one model had an extra steering wheel on the back of the cabin, so a hidden stuntman could drive, while Carey Lowell was in the front, and another received extra suspension on its back, so it could lift its front wheels. Although a rig was constructed to help a rig tilt onto its side, it was not necessary, as Julienne was able to pull off the stunt without the aid of camera trickery.
In Live and Let Die (1973), Bond communicated with Leiter through a phone in a car cigarette lighter (a "Felix Lighter"). In this film, Leiter gives Bond a lighter as a gift, that he uses to kill Sanchez.
In a scene where James Bond leaves his C I.A. friend's wedding with a little sadness, Felix Leiter tells his wife Della, "He was married once, and it was a long time ago." That occurred in the end of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). That part had to be told, due to this film being released on the 20th anniversary year of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), as well as this film being ten films after it.
Unusual for a Bond film, out of all of people working for the main villain in the climax of the film; there are only seven confirmed deaths of Sanchez's men; Dario, three tanker drivers, Truman-Lodge, and two people driving in the pick up truck off the cliff. Heller is also killed, but he was working to get the Stingers back.
The scene where Sanchez's plane is hijacked, was filmed on-location in Florida, with Stuntman Jake Lombard jumping from a helicopter to a plane, and Timothy Dalton being filmed atop the aircraft. The plane, towed by the helicopter, was a life-sized model created by Special Effects Supervisor John Richardson. After filming wide shots of David Hedison and Dalton parachuting, closer shots were made near the church location.
Felix Leiter being caught by sharks is an element originally from the novel "Live and Let Die". In the John Gardner novelization of this film, the original shark attack is referenced, and Leiter is described using a prosthetic arm. Also, after learning of Sanchez's escape, Bond's worries about his friend are reflected as "lightning strikes twice", which is also the name of the chapter in which Bond finds Leiter's remains in the couch.