Born in South Wales in 1914, Desmond Llewelyn has a career in the Arts that spans nearly 60 years, yet is best known for his role as “Q” the gadget man in 16 of 18 Bond films. But if it weren`t for a bit of luck along the way, Desmond may never have been as famous as he is today.
His family was opposed to his interest in theater and tried to prevent him from pursuing that course. An uncle who was a high ranking police officer arranged for Desmond to take the department`s physical exam. He flunked the eye test, he felt because the inspector was drunk with a hangover. He didn`t get the job. He was accepted to RADA (Royal Academy for the Dramatic Arts) in the mid 1930s. The outbreak of World War II stopped his acting career temporarily., and Llewelyn went to fight, eventually becoming a prisioner of war by the Germans.
After the war, Llewelyn was intent on reviving his career. He had a small part in Cleopatra which filmed in Rome. There, he became part of a repatory theater group who were on “call”. If producers had an urgent need to fill a role, Desmond could be counted on. All totaled, Desmond figures he did nearly 50 plays a year back in his theater days.
Luck again played a part in the progression of his career when the original “Q”, Peter Burton, was unavailable to reprise his role in From Russia With Love. Llewelyn, who knew the director, Terence Young, from a film they had worked on together previously called They Were Not Divided and got the call to play “Q”, a role he`s had ever since. The only time he didn`t play Q was in Live and Let Die. There are conflicting stories about why, but the most prevalent one is that the producers wanted to tone down the emphasis on gadgets.
Most people would think that with all of Desmond`s accumulated knowledge of gadgets that he`d be good with the real thing. But he`s not. “I`m not very good with gadgets. I really am not” says Llewelyn. “In the undergrounds [subways] in England, you have this ticket that you push into a machine, it comes out and the barrier opens. Well, 10 to 1, mine always sticks! I don`t know why. I watch and everybody goes through and I don`t and then people say, `Well, I thought you would be able to make it work` .
With the enormous success of the Bond series, Desmond`s biggest fear came true: typecasting. “It`s not just the gneral public, but it`s the directors, casting directors, and everybody else. I`m absolutely stuck as Q and nobody thinks I can do anything else. After all, I am an actor…but I can`t get anybody to realize that.”
Desmond counts among his favorite Bond films License To Kill (because he had his largest role ever) and Tomorrow Never Dies (he made the most money he`s ever made on a Bond film). Desmond counts among his best fans the Germans; “The Germans are absolutely terrific. They sold a million copies of GoldenEye on video there, and eventually they gave me a video Oscar, what for , I don`t know. The Germans are mad about Bond. They really are.”
Desmond was notorious among the Bond family for being the worst at remembering his lines. He once told The Incredible World of 007 “On For Your Eyes Only, I was having difficulty with my script-as usua! John Glen came up and said : “We have a good idea. We`re going to put in a new bit-can you learn this quickly?” I looked at it and said “For God`s sake, this is complicated gibberish! I couldn`t possibly learn all this in time” He said, “Of course you can” I spent the whole of lunch trying to study this bloody stuff and when I finally said I thought I knew it, John and Roger burst into laughter. Roger always took full advantage of my difficulty in learning lines.”
Desmond has spent the past few years basking in the rejuvenation of the Bond series. He filmed a commercial for Playstation`s video game version of Tomorrow Never Dies. He flew to California to promote License To Thrill, the new 007 theme park ride at Paramount. He joined Pierce Brosnan and Jay Leno on The Tonight Show to promote Tomorrow Never Dies. He also attends various Bond conventions around Europe and America, and has confirmed that he will be back in the next James Bond film. Faulty memory and all.
Born: South Wales, England