- 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.
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.
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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
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
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.