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News editor: James Rumley
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T H E   P R E M I E R   J A M E S   B O N D   W E B S I T E

Desmond Llewelyn -
An Obituary

Desmond Llewelyn, 1914 - 1999
Desmond Llewelyn at the London premiere of The World Is Not Enough

Updated 0630 GMT December 20, 1999

Desmond Wilkinson Llewelyn
September 12, 1914 to
December 19, 1999

LONDON - The actor, Desmond Llewelyn, famed for playing Major Boothroyd of Q Branch in 17 of the 19 James Bond films produced by Albert R Broccoli's Eon Productions was killed yesterday, December 19, in a head-on collision in Southern England, on the A27 near Firle, East Sussex, UK. The actor was returning from a book signing when his Renault Megane was involved in a crash with another car. Mr. Llewelyn was airlifted to Eastbourne District General Hospital but died from massive internal injuries at 5:20 p.m. GMT. He was 85 years old.

Your memories of Desmond Llewelyn Readers from across the world have been sharing their thoughts on the death of Desmond Llewelyn. 007 NEWS has selected portions of those memories to display online. We will also send your condolences to the family.
British press reports said that the road had to be closed for two hours while rescue crews tried to extricate Llewelyn from the car. Ivor, one of Llewelyn's sons, was at the hospital with his father when he died. Ivor told The Telegraph, "Really what you saw in the films was what he was. He was a very kind, very lovable man. As a father he was great." His family said he was driving home to have dinner with them Sunday night.

Desmond Wilkinson Llewelyn was born on September 12, 1914 in Newport, Wales. He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and has an interesting and varied career in reperatory theatre and early cinema in Britain. Mr. Llewelyn was married to his wife, Pamela, on May 16, 1938 in Kensington, London. A little more than a year later, Mr. Llewelyn served his country in World War II in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. The battalion formed part of the British Expeditionary Force in Northern France and in the aftermath of the retreat to Dunkirk, Llewelyn was captured and served the duration of the conflict as a Prisoner Of War in Germany.

After the war, Desmond Llewelyn's career as a working actor continued. However, good luck was the catalyst that won Llewelyn the role of James Bond's armourer after Peter Burton, who played the part in the first James Bond film, Dr. No in 1962 could not reprise the character. Mr. Llewelyn had worked with director Terence Young on an earlier war picture They Were Not Divided and they resumed their professional relationship on the second 007 film. Mr. Llewelyn had a strong dramatic sense of what he perceived would work in the role and convinced Young that the role of Major Boothroyd (based on real-life armourer to Ian Fleming's literary James Bond, Geoffrey Boothroyd) should be played as an English civil servant instead of a boffin speaking in a lilting Welsh accent. The character was further refined on the next Bond film, Goldfinger, when director Guy Hamilton advised Llewelyn that his character does not actually like James Bond because of the contempt with which the secret agent treats Q Branch's equipment.

Desmond Llewelyn reprised the role of Major Boothroyd a.k.a. Q in every subsequent James Bond film except Live And Let Die. The size of the part varied but the popularity of the character always increased. At the press screening of the 1989 James Bond film, Licence To Kill, starring Timothy Dalton as 007, jaded journalists and reviewers cheered the appearance of Q (in his biggest role) denoting an enthusiasm for the character that was shared by a global cinema audience.

Llewelyn always felt typecast by the role and in many ways was a victim of his own success. While admitting to be hopeless with gadgets in real life, the actor was utterly authoritative in the small but important role in each film. His conviction on the way the role should be played was buttressed by subtle attention to detail: clues to the character's background can be seen in the various ties worn by Llewelyn throughout the series. Mr. Llewelyn did manage to do other television work in Britain as well as the odd film and advertising campaign.

The actor also tirelessly promoted the James Bond films worldwide. Mr. Llewelyn was particularly supportive of events put on by various James Bond fan club organizations and was always a patient and informative guest, signing autographs and answering all manner of questions with good grace and amusement. Just recently he appeared as Q in television commercials for Heineken beer.

In the 19th and latest James Bond film, The World Is Not Enough, at Llewelyn's suggestion, the character of Q obtained an assistant in the form of John Cleese. It is significant that only an actor of Mr. Cleese's stature was thought suitable to continue the tradition of Quartermaster to Her Majesty's Secret Service. Bruce Feirstein, one of the writers on the film said that he envisaged Q's exit in the film to be similar to that of Merlin leaving King Arthur. The scene works beautifully and has now, tragically, attained greater poignancy.

Desmond Llewelyn had no plans to retire from the James Bond series and often stated: "I'll carry on working as long as Eon [the Bond production company] wants me and the Almighty doesn't." It is, thus, of particular sadness that that a man who survived the better part of this pivotal century should leave it in such a sudden manner.

Desmond Llewelyn is survived by his wife Pamela and his sons Justin and Ivor.

Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang! would like to pass on its sincerest condolences and those of James Bond-philes across the globe to the Llewelyn family at this time.


BBC News: Bond actor killed in crash
CNN: Bond's 'Q', actor Desmond Llewelyn, dies in car crash

A Death in the family


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