Born: September 12, 1914 Died: December 19, 1999 Place of Birth: Newport, Wales
'Q' --- aka, Major Boothroyd / the Quartermaster
For 36 years and 17 James Bond movies, 'Q' was played by one man: Desmond Llewelyn.
Q became a mainstay of the MI6 team in 1964's Goldfinger; when director Guy Hamilton told Llewelyn to "show some disdain for Sean Connery's James Bond, and the way he treats Q's wonderful gadgets."
With a quick wit and roll of the eyes, Q supplied 007 with his most memorable - and useful - gadgets.
Their relationship grew over the years from one of utter contempt and disrespect to that of a dear old friend: as evidenced by Q's final scene in The World is Not Enough.
Llewelyn was killed in a tragic car crash in 1999: at the age of 85.
It would be more than a decade before the Bond producers brought a new actor in to take his place.
Below Video: Desmond Llewelyn's final scene as 'Q'
A Brief Biography of Desmond Llewelyn (Q)
Desmond Llewelyn had numerous stage, film, and television credits. His screen debut came in 1939 playing a ghost in a Will Hay comedy, Ask A Policeman.
The son of a Welsh coal mining engineer, Desmond Llewelyn originally wanted to be a minister. However, during his education at Radley College, he worked as a stagehand in the school's productions and occasionally picked up small roles.
Llewelyn's screen debut came in 1939: playing a ghost in a Will Hay comedy, Ask A Policeman. It was his last role before World War II.
In September 1939, Llewelyn was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the British Army, serving with the Royal Welch Fusiliers. In 1940, he was captured by the German Army in France, and was held as a prisoner of war for five years. ¹
Upon his release and the end of the war, Llewelyn returned to acting: having numerous stage, film and television credits before taking on the role that would eventually make him famous.
Below Video: Desmond Llewelyn's first scene as 'Q' in From Russia With Love
Desmond Llewelyn: Not Quite the First 'Q'
Despite being the only man to portray Q (until Skyfall), Desmond Llewelyn was not the first man to portray the character.
As a result, Desmond Llewelyn got the role and movie history was made.
Below Video: Peter Burton's 'Q' in Dr. No.
How Desmond Llewelyn Became Q
Desmond Llewelyn won the role of Q because of his work with director Terence Young (the director of From Russia With Love) in the 1950 war film They Were Not Divided, in which he played a tank gunner.
Interestingly, Llewelyn had to resisting Young's direction to have Q speak with a Welsh accent.
"My interpretation of the character was that of a toffee-nosed English," Llewelyn once said in an interview. ²
Below Video: 'Q' introduces the Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger
Gadget Man? Not in Real Life!
In real life, Desmond Llewelyn was notoriously inept with technology.
However, while preparing for the films, he learned the ins and outs of each of Bond's toys.
"What is so brilliant about the gadgets," Llewelyn once said, "is their simplicity. Take the car [Bond's Aston Martin from Goldfinger). Knives coming out of the wheels were seen with Boedcea and Ben Hur; the ejector seat comes from airplanes; oil slicks were used in G-Men and so on. But the cleverness is putting all that into a new contest, in one single vehicle."
Llewelyn's lack of technical expertise also was the cause of some jokes at the actor's expense.
While filming For Your Eyes Only, Roger Moore and director John Glen asked Llewelyn to learn some new lines over lunch one day. Llewelyn desperately tried to commit the words to memory, only to find out he had been given a paragraph of meaningless techno-babble to see if he would recognize it from his real dialogue. He didn't.
Below Video: Inside Q's Lab - a documentary about Desmond Llewelyn
Fun Facts About Desmond Llewelyn
While Desmond Llewelyn was most famous for portraying Q in the James Bond movies, he also appeared in commercials, on television shows and at fan events.
Llewelyn also worked with Albert R. Broccoli on the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - where he parodied his own role as a gadget-master.
Once, Desmond Llewelyn had the honor of driving the Aston Martin DB5 before the Queen.
Since taking the role and before his death, Llewelyn only missed one performance as Q: during the shooting of Live and Let Die he was on a promotional our for the previous Bond film, Diamonds are Forever.