With The Living Daylights not being re-released in 2002 a rumour was reported as fact. In truth, Sam Neill has nothing to do with The Living Daylights not being re-released on DVD and VHS.
With the 40th anniversary of the James Bond series, and the release of Die Another Day looming, MGM re-released the previous James Bond adventures on DVD and VHS. However, despite nineteen official previous adventures MGM, and internationally Fox, were only releasing eighteen of the films. For an unknown reason, 1987’s The Living Daylights was excluded from the line-up.
Theories abounded as to why the film was not being re-released. Mid-November 2002 a rumour reached the Internet that claimed the real reason for the DVD’s disappearance was an injunction placed by actor Sam Neill. Neill’s screen test for the role of James Bond, which he lost to Timothy Dalton, was included on the DVD as a special feature. Neill reportedly objected to the inclusion of the screen test and the DVD was prevented from being produced without re-authoring.
The rumour was soon, and incorrectly, reported as fact.
As a result, copies of the 2000 DVD release of The Living Daylights, since out of print due to a moratorium, have sold for in excess of $150 on auction site eBay, with most sellers making a point that the DVD includes the Sam Neill screen test.
However, Sam Neill has nothing to do with the DVD’s lack of availability. In truth, contractual negotiations meant that MGM did not own the rights to distribute the film on DVD or VHS.
The rights to distribute the official James Bond films are owned by Danjaq LLC who, in turn, sell a fifteen year distribution licence to MGM. The licence for the distribution of The Living Daylights expired in 2002, fifteen years after the initial release of the film.
Hence, with the contract in negotiation during 2002 The Living Daylights could not be re-released on DVD by MGM or Fox. For a short while it was made available in the full box set edition, however, these have now been recalled because of the inclusion.
To date, the only official statement about the films exclusion from re-release was sent in to UK television program ‘Watchdog’. It read;
The reason the James Bond DVD “The Living Daylights” is not available to purchase as a single disc, yet is available in the James Bond Collection box set, is due to a pending rights issue that we had anticipated would have been resolved before our November DVD release.
However, production timelines meant that we had assembled and packaged the Box Set including “The Living Daylights” in advance of the release, and an interim agreement was reached that we could sell “The Living Daylights” in the Box Set.
We hope to resolve the issue soon and will make “The Living Daylights” available as a single product again as soon as possible.
John Cork who directed and produced ‘Inside The Living Daylights’, the DVD documentary that features Neill’s screen test, told CommanderBond.net that news of Neill’s injunction could not be true as “a signed release [had been obtained] from Sam Neill for the inclusion of his screen test during the production of ‘Inside The Living Daylights’.”
Furthermore, both MGM and Danjaq have confirmed that there are no plans to delete the screentest from future releases of the special edition DVD of The Living Daylights.
While currently unavailable, just like James Bond, The Living Daylights will return. At present it exists is not in production in any distribution regions, however, it is expect to be released within the near future.