Q: Was "Licence to Kill" Benicio Del Toro's first role?

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Adam Thomlison / TV Media

It may seem as if the producers took a huge gamble on casting unknown actor Benicio Del Toro as the chief villain in 1989's "Licence to Kill" — the mega-budget James Bond movie was one of the highest-profile films of the year — but they weren't going in totally blind.

In fact, Del Toro, who was just 21 during filming, already had a couple of credits on his resume. His first big-screen role came a few months before this one — playing Duke the Dog-Faced Boy (believe it or not) in the kid-friendly comedy "Big Top Pee-wee" (1988).

But that's not likely the role that sold the Bond producers; not only did it not show off Del Toro's tough-guy chops, but it also wasn't released until after "Licence" started filming. Rather, it was likely a couple of 1987 appearances on TV crime series that showed what he was capable of.

He did an episode that year of the short-lived dramedy series "Shell Game," but it's not likely many saw that. His appearance as an ex-con working at a local theater in an episode of "Miami Vice," on the other hand, is more akin to what they wanted from him in the Bond flick.

Indeed, "Licence to Kill" got respect for its grittier, street-level version of the British super-spy, and the fact that it pitted him against international cocaine runners instead of the traditional megalomaniac bent on world domination suggests producers might have been watching a lot of "Miami Vice" during the script stage.


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