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Desmond Llewelyn, Dead at 85

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"I've always tried to teach you two things. First, never let them see you bleed. And the second? Always have an escape plan." (Q, 1999) These words, immortalized on screen, would turn out to be Q's eulogy. After seventeen movies and almost four decades with the Bond series, Desmond Llewelyn's life came to a tragic end on December 19, 1999; exactly one month after the US release of The World Is Not Enough. After a head-on car crash, Llewelyn was pronounced dead at 1720GMT. His contributions to the movies are irreplaceable and the films will never be quite the same. Rest in peace, gadget man.

"There can be forever many Bonds, but only one Q. I've lost a great friend, someone who I will miss dearly, someone easy to cry for. And I think the whole world will feel the same. He was a gentle gentleman, this lovely man. He went the way he would have liked, sitting at the controls." -- Pierce Brosnan, December 20, 1999

"Yes, I know Q is beloved. But for God's sake, don't make him some kind of sentimental grandfather - that's what I am in real life." -- Desmond Llewelyn, October 1994

Finally, Q's exit scene as written in the June 16, 1999 draft of The World Is Not Enough.
Jeff Marshall's Q Lithograph

Q and Bond look at the balloon, rolling away. Then, as the noise fades, Q and Bond share a moment. Both men know that after all these years, all these missions, this might -- possibly -- be time for goodbye. They look upon each other: Q's Merlin to Bond's Arthur. Bond fights the sentimentality:


You're not planning to retire anytime soon, are you?

Q (ignoring this)

Pay attention, 007. There are two things I've always tried to teach you. First: Never let them see you bleed.


And second?


Always have an escape plan.
POOF!!! There's a flash of powder, and Q disappears behind a secret door. Bond nods, a fond salute farewell.

Q 1999 LA Times-December 20, 1999
Bond Actor Killed in Crash

     Desmond Llewelyn, best known as "Q," the faithful and canny supplier of trick cars, reverse-firing guns, exploding toothpaste and other spy-baiting toys through 17 of the 19 James Bond films, died Sunday of injuries suffered in a car crash. He was 85.

     Llewelyn was returning home from autographing books about his life in the town of Firle in East Sussex south of London when his car slammed head-on into another auto. Sussex police said the actor died of massive multiple internal injuries after he was airlifted to a hospital.

     Three people in the other car were said to be in stable condition, and no cause was given for the accident. Llewelyn was driving alone.

     Even as the actor portraying the suave British secret agent changed from Sean Connery to George Lazenby to Roger Moore to Timothy Dalton to the current Pierce Brosnan, Llewelyn endured. His most recent Bond caper, "The World is Not Enough," is now in theaters.

     Aging wisely in the current film, Llewelyn is shown trying to train an apprentice--the comic John Cleese--for the day he ultimately might retire.

     But in real life, the actor had no intention to ease out of the franchise that brought him his greatest fame, cinematic status and, at long last, modest wealth.

     "I will play Q as long as God lets me. I have no inclination to stop," he told a newspaper shortly before the opening of the current film, which introduces Cleese, designated "R," moving into the gadget department.

     Less than a month ago, Llewelyn told CBS News that he hoped to be on board for the 20th Bond installment scheduled for release in 2002.

     Meanwhile, in existing footage, Llewelyn continues to devise new miracle gadgets for Bond, ever hopeful that his prize material may survive the mayhem-prone agent's deployment. In the 1997 "Tomorrow Never Dies," Llewelyn's first line to Brosnan as Bond was a cautionary "Now pay attention, 007." His last of the film, after Bond's usual field day of explosive action, was: "Oh grow up, 007."

     On board from the second Bond film, "From Russia With Love" in 1963, Llewelyn resisted the director's instruction that he use a Welsh accent, although he was born in South Wales, the son of a Welsh coal mining engineer.

     "My interpretation of the character was that of a toffee-nosed English," Llewelyn said. "At the risk of losing the part and with silent apologies to my native land, I launched into Q's lines using the worst Welsh accent, followed by the same in English."

     The actor's version, now a part of motion picture history, won out.

     Llewelyn missed only the first Bond film, "Dr. No" in 1962, and the 1973 "Live and Let Die," Moore's first outing as 007.

     The Q character, formally named Maj. Boothroyd, was nicknamed "Q" for Quartermaster, a position in the British army that specializes in sciences for the military. No such character existed in the Ian Fleming novels creating James Bond, although the written Bond did receive equipment from Q Branch.

     Ironically, Llewelyn said that absent the Bond cinematic magic, he was "allergic to gadgets" and couldn't even manipulate a hotel key card correctly. His comfortable home in Bexhill, England, has no computer or cell phone.

     Asked repeatedly to name his favorite Bond gadget and his favorite Bond, Llewelyn hedged. Didn't have favorites, he would say, but then concede he particularly liked a grenade fountain pen from the 1995 "Golden Eye." As for the actors, he clearly liked and admired Connery and Moore, noting that Moore simply gave Bond a lighter style. He always dismissed Lazenby with "He wasn't an actor," and called Dalton "tough, the nearest to Fleming's Bond." But he rated Brosnan "terrific," credited him with reinventing Connery's 007 and bluntly predicted that Brosnan "will be the definitive Bond."

     As a youth in Wales, Llewelyn envisioned careers as a clergyman or accountant. But at 17, he spent a religious retreat perusing Film Weekly magazine instead of praying. So he focused on acting, beginning as a stagehand in high school, and studied with the Royal Academy for the Dramatic Artists.

     Llewelyn spent his entire career as a character actor in supporting roles and achieved fame only in his 50s as Q. His first film was the 1939 "Ask a Policeman."

     When World War II intervened, Llewelyn joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers of the British army. He was captured in France and was a German prisoner of war for five years.

     After the war, he toured in small repertory theater troupes before resuming his film career in 1950. In addition to a dozen or so non-Bond films, Llewelyn appeared on several television series, including 1979 episodes of PBS' "Masterpiece Theater."

     The actor is survived by his wife of 61 years, Pamela, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease; two sons, Ivor and Justin, and two grandchildren.


BBC News-December 19, 1999
Desmond Llewelyn; Actor Played Q in Bond Films

Actor Desmond Llewelyn, famous for his role as Q in the Bond films, has been killed in a head-on car crash.

Mr Llewelyn, 85, from Bexhill, East Sussex, was killed in the crash on the A27, near Firle, East Sussex, police said.

He had been at a book signing event at nearby Drusillas Park before the fatal smash involving his blue Renault Megane and another car.

A spokeswoman for Sussex Police said he was airlifted from the scene by the Sussex Police helicopter and taken to Eastbourne District General Hospital, where he died from his injuries at 1720GMT.

He was the sole occupant in his car, the spokeswoman added.

Mr Llewelyn's son was with him at the hospital.

Family 'devastated'

Ivor Llewelyn said: "We are just devastated because like any car crash it is totally unexpected and sudden.

"We were expecting him to come back and have supper with us tonight. We are very close.

"You can't describe it when something like this happens out of the blue.

"He ate with us every evening when he was at home. He was so pleased to have done the last James Bond film and as an actor he liked to be working, he was such a very active man."

He added: "Really what you saw in the films was what he was.

"He was a very kind man, very loveable man."

The actor, as the caustic gadget-minded Q, featured in all but two of the Bond films.

With a 30-year history in the classic spy movies he had become one of its institutions and was immensely popular with Bond fans.


Despite his advancing years, he was still proving a big crowd-puller after completing his 17th Bond film The World is Not Enough.

On Monday he was due to sign copies of Q, The Biography of Desmond Llewelyn, at Forbidden Planet in New Oxford Street, central London.

Bond icon

Derek Malcolm, film critic for The Guardian newspaper, said: "The thing about him was that he was very likeable on screen despite the fact that he was evil, creating these terrible things to give to Bond to kill his enemies. Q in TWINE

"Now he has died I don't think Bond will be the same again, because he was just so good at it.

"He was actually a very kind and gentle man, he did a lot of work outside of films.

"But it was because of the Bond films that he really got known."

'Massive' injuries

A police spokeswoman said that Mr Llewelyn had suffered "massive" internal injuries.

The other car involved in the crash was a bronze Fiat Bravo company car driven by a 35-year-old man, who was seriously injured.

He was also taken to Eastbourne District General Hospital with his female companion, in her thirties, who suffered from minor injuries.

The man is said to be stable and they have both requested their details are not released, the police spokeswoman said.


  • Desmond's Funeral
  • Bruce Feirstein shares his memories of Desmond
  • BBC News Online

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