Desmond Llewelyn (1914-1999)

[Desmond Llewelyn]
"There can be forever many Bonds, but only one Q. I've lost a great friend, someone who I will miss dearly, someone easy to cry for. And I think the whole world will feel the same. He was a gentle gentleman, this lovely man. He went the way he would have liked, sitting at the controls." -- Pierce Brosnan (December 20, 1999)

Welsh actor Desmond Llewelyn portrayed James Bond's gadget man, Q, from the 2nd film (From Russia with Love) to the 19th (The World is Not Enough), with 5 different James Bonds.

[Q book] [Pierce Brosnan and Desmond on the The World is Not Enough set, 1999]

The Man with the Lethal Gadgets

By Luaine Lee
Knight-Ridder News Service (Dec 30, 1997)

Desmond Llewelyn, as the ingenious Q, has fortified James Bond with the snazziest spy equipment in the Bond movies - everything from a BMW with a rocket launching sun roof to lethal umbrellas and toxic fountain pens.

But none of his fantasy work in movies like Octopussy, Licence to Kill, or the new Tomorrow Never Dies can compare to Llewelyn's real-life adventures.

In the early days of the war he was serving in France with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers holding off a Panzer division. The battle lasted for 2 days, as Llewelyn and his mates tried to secure the perimeter of a canal.

When things went sour, Llewelyn swam to the other side of the canal hoping the British were there. "Unfortunately the Germans were," he says. The Welsh-bom Llewelyn ended up a prisoner of war for 5 years -- to the day -- in camps like Rottenburg, Laufen, and Warburg.

He says he harbors no ill will against the Germans, though there were 118 officers crowded into the room at his 1st internment.

He says he and his fellows were treated well in the camps. "The Germans are absolutely correct, they abided by the sans-serif Convention," he says.

He remembers being puzzled at first by a rule at Laufen that prisoners weren't allowed to lean out the windows. If they did, they were shot.

"The reason was the Poles were in the camp before us and they used to wait until a German was under the window and would leap out from the 6th or 7th story, killing the German and killing themselves. We didn't like to say to the Germans that we weren't quite as brave as the Poles."

On one occasion, some of the inmates tried in vain to escape, and they were all shot.

"That's a terrible thing to do. There's no excuse for it, but the reason was the Germans were desperate," recalls Llewelyn, shaking his head.

"The Russians were coming in on the east, we were advancing on the west. The Air Force was bombing them night and day and they were out looking for pilots who'd dropped. And they were searching for prisoners who'd escaped and taking a lot of time of the troops. They shot those people, and immediately a message came through from London saying, 'No more mass escapes.'"

The 83-year-old Llewelyn says it never occurred to him to try acting until he went to work as a scene shifter with an amateur theater group.

"I used to share study with actor Dennis Price. He said, 'Why don't you come and act?' I said, 'I don't want to.' Finally he persuaded me. And I got bitten by the bug and managed to persuade my family."

It was simply by chance that he was cast as Q. "I did small parts in TV and films. I did one film about the liberation of Paris which was directed by Terence Young. In Dr. No, luckily for me, the man who played Q in that wasn't available. And when my name came up, Terence said yes."

Llewelyn likes playing Q - which he's done 16 times - though his parts are usually small.

"It's jolly nice," he says. "I always complain. It's difficult in a way. I'm treated as a star and I don't get a star's salary. They're extremely generous. I get paid extremely well for my one or 2 days' work. But I'm always plugging away and next time maybe I can get a larger part."

As the filmic master of the technodevice, is Llewelyn any good with gadgets?

"I can't work them at all," he smiles. "When I arrived here, I turned on the television and it didn't work. I pressed every known button. Nothing happened. So I had to go down and ask them. And it wasn't plugged in".

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