David Hedison holds the distinct honor of being the only man to play Felix Leiter, Bond's CIA friend and aid, in two seperate films: Live and Let Die and Licence to Kill. Universal Exports, in association with Bondstars.com, caught up with Mr. Hedison to pick his brain about his experiences with Bond as well as with acting in general.
How did you first become involved in acting? Were there any actors who inspired you or still do?
I first became involved in acting when I appeared in the high school play called What A Life. I played the school principal, Mr. Bradley. It was a terrific experience, and I just knew that I had found the profession I wanted to be involved in for the rest of my life. I was 16. At the time I was inspired by James Cagney and many of the contract players at Warner Bros. Today, unfortunately, no one inspires me.
David Hedison and Roger Moore
Available at BondStars
Can you describe your experience in landing the part of Felix Leiter in Live and Let Die? How was it different from Licence to Kill?
In 1972, I was having dinner with Tom Mankiewicz, [who] asked if I would like to play Felix Leiter in Live And Let Die. At the time Sean Connery was set to play Bond. Then Roger was signed on, and I was thrilled because we're such good friends. Years later I was having dinner with my wife at the Bistro Gardens in Beverly Hills and ran into Cubby and Dana Broccoli.
Several weeks later, I was trying out a new play with Elizabeth Ashley in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. One my day off they flew me back to L.A. to meet with John Glen, the director. I guess they just wanted John to see what I looked like after so many years. With that Florida tan I guess I looked okay. As you know, I got the part.
As the only actor to portray Felix Leiter twice, you surely had many enjoyable moments on set. Can you share one or two of your favorite memories?
There were so many favorite memories - particularly with Roger. Such a funny guy and so loved by all his fellow actors.
Are you still a Bond fan today and what is the most rewarding
thing about being involved with the most successful film franchise in cinematic history?
I'm sorry to say I'm not much of a Bond fan, and the last Bond film I saw was License To Kill. I've always admired Pierce Brosnan in his films but unfortunately have never seen him as James Bond. The most rewarding part of playing Felix has been the incredible response from the fans, which of course is much appreciated.
David Hedison in 2003
Can you describe the difference in your relationships with the producers of your two Bond films; ie, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman in 1973 and then Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson in 1989? Were they as accommodating as some Bond actors say they were, in regards to your own well-being?
I have always loved Al Broccoli and he was absolutely marvelous to me on License To Kill. He was a class act, and I miss him. Michael Wilson was also very pleasant and a joy to work with - as was Barbara Broccoli. Harry Saltzman was okay but a bit of a puzzle to me. I could never seem to connect with him.
Live And Let Die screenwriter, Tom Mankiewicz, has said that serious consideration was given to you reprising the part in subsequent Bond films. Why did you not return to the role in 1987 for The Living Daylights? Also, have you ever been contacted about possibly portraying the Felix Leiter character during the Brosnan era?
You ask why I didn't return to the role of Felix in The Living Daylights. Because no one asked me, that's why! No one ever mentioned Felix to me in the Brosnan era. If they had I would probably have reappeared with a heavy limp. Remember that shark? [Editor's note: Of course we all remember the shark, but Felix with a limp is still better than no Felix.]
Felix marries Della
On the topic of the Brosnan Era, what is your opinion of the Jack Wade character and how do you think Felix Leiter, if brought back, would fit into today's Bond universe?
Sorry. Who's Jack Wade? I have no idea how Felix would fit into today's Bond universe, but thanks for asking.
How was it different working with Roger Moore as opposed to
Timothy Dalton? Did you get on well with both of them? You seemed to, pardon the pun, bond well with both actors.
No I got on very well with both Roger and Timothy. Of course you know how I feel about Sir Roger, and I thought Timothy was a brilliant Bond. He's a fine actor with great intensity.
You've recently landed the part of Morgan Jameson, in the Michael Bergmann comic/crime flick, Death by Committee, due for release later this year. Can you tell us a bit about your new role and how you got it?
I was in New York and met the director Michael Bergmann and we discussed the part of Morgan Jameson in "Death By Committee which I believe is going to be released next year (2005). I play the head of a television network who falls in love - quite accidentally - with one of the guests on a talk show.
I have nothing more I can say to the readers of Universal Exports, except that I love my work and always look forward to the next assignment. I'm truly sorry that this interview is not as interesting as it might have been. I probably should have rented all the Bond films and then gotten down to some real work. Oh, I just saw a second page of questions called Short Bytes- so here goes, folks!
Who is your favorite James Bond?
My friend, of course. (Roger Moore)
Which is better - Live and Let Die or Licence to Kill
Definitely the first. [Live and Let Die]
Who is favourite villain?
Lotte Lenya [Rosa Klebb]
Who is your favourite Bond girl?
Luciana Paluzzi [Fiona Volpe]
What is your favorite Felix Leiter line?
Felix says to Roger and Jane Seymour: "I still don't see why you want to travel this way. What the hell can the two of you do on the train for 16 hours?" Bond says: "Say goodbye to Felix, darling."
Best Wife - Tracy or Della?
Tracy Bond's character is more fully realized than Della Leiter.
Who's your pick for the next Bond actor?
How about Clive Owen?
A word from the interviewer:
Iíd like to extend my profound thanks to Mr. Hedison himself for giving up some of his time to participate in this great interview. I encourage you to visit Davidís official Web site, www.david-hedison.com
Iíd also like to say a big thank you to Andy Boyle, Administrator of Bondstars.com. Without his input there would be no David Hedison interview! Thanks a lot, Andy!
Questions written by Adam Farrington-Williams and Greg Goodman.
Buy David Hedison's Bond Movies
Live and Let Die
Live and Let Die