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Q, Part II: Desmond Llewelyn
James Bond's Man with the Golden Gadgets
By Steve Biodrowski
December 15, 1999
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF AUSTIN POWERS?
You know, it's an awful thing to say: I haven't seen it. I will see it. I believe it is very funny. I did see the spoof with--I can't pronounce his name--Schwarzenegger [TRUE LIES]--and I did think that was very funny. But I suppose it's very flattering to have a series like Bond being 'taken off.' They know damn well they can't imitate it, so they may as well [spoof it]. They did try, with Sean Connery's NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, and it didn't really take off. The Broccolis just have got that something, whatever it is, that other people haven't got.
YOU'VE WORKED WITH ALL THE ACTORS PLAYING BOND, BUT CURIOUSLY, YOU'VE NEVER WORKED MUCH WITH THE ACTORS PLAYING M.
I was always in M's office; in all the early ones, M is generally there. It's only lately, with Judi Dench--I've never been with her. I've never had a scene with M, but I've been in his office, talking to Bond. It's only sort of recently, in a way, that it's all been transferred to my workshop.
WAS THE CASTING OF JOHN CLEESE A SURPRISE TO YOU?
Yes, I think it was a surprise, and I was really very flattered that anybody of his eminence, really, should be my assistant.
WAS HE VERY FUNNY BEHIND THE SCENES?
Well no, actually, poor old John, you see, was going into hospital for a hip operation, I think the day after, so he was in great form, but I think he was in awful pain. I mean, you wouldn't know it.
DO PEOPLE RECOGNIZE YOU?
Well, I'm very flattered because nowadays people do call me by my name, 'Mr. Llewelyn.' People do, when they pass me in the street, say, 'Morning, Q.' I am really very flattered that a lot of people at the moment are calling me by my name. I went down to the Millennium Stadium in Wales for rugger, the Wales and France match there, and so many people there were calling me by my name. To be recognized in one's own country is very nice.
HAS BEING RECOGNIZED AS Q AFFECTED YOUR ABILITY TO GET WORK IN OTHER FILMS?
Oh yes, very much. I've become very, very typecast. Up until the video releases and television, I did quite a lot of other work. I did a series called FOLLY FOOT. Granted, that was twenty five years ago, and I've done one or two other television things. Since then, I've only done amateur films. I've done three or four of them. And I did a German film the other day called ERA 2000, where I play a professor. I'm told I'm nothing like Q in that, which is rather nice. Whether the film is going to be generally distributed or not, I don't know--just to show these damn producers and directors that I can do something beside Q. I played a Welshman in an amateur film. I wore a mustache and a cap in that. I have a photograph from that, and somebody who saw it said, 'I didn't know you had a brother.'
YOU'VE SAID IN REAL LIFE YOU'RE HOPELESS WITH GADGETS LIKE VIDEO RECORDERS.
Luckily, I've got this thing called 'Video Plus,' where you just push buttons, so I can record all sorts of programs. I hire a television service, because it would cost me a fortune having a man come in the whole time to tell me how to work it. Now, he just comes in rather resignedly and says, 'Well, you have to press this button.' It's a very odd thing. I'll go into a hotel, turn on the television, and it won't work. I'll have to ring down and they'll come in and say, 'Well, I thought you should have been able to fix it.' And it turns out the bloody thing isn't plugged in or something, but one should have expected it to be plugged in. I fly over, and the headphone--everybody else's will work, but mine won't work. As I said, I went to this rugger match in Millennium Stadium, and they have this new thing where you push one of these [tickets into a slot] to get in. But would mine work? No. Everybody else was wandering through, and I had a queue behind me while I was trying to get this damned thing in.
YOU'VE SAID YOU WERE A PRISONER OF WAR FOR FIVE YEARS IN GERMANY DURING WORLD WAR II.
If you want to read all about that, my biography has just come out. It's all about Bond and life before Bond and after Bond--well, it can't be after Bond, can it? That's rather a slip of the tongue! It's called simply Q. It came out [in early November in England]. I don't think publication is fixed in America. All the big publishers were not interested, because what they're interested in is Bond and not me. They said, 'Desmond's childhood in Wales? We don't want that. Desmond's life in the theatre? We don't want that' But luckily this publisher said I've had a very interesting life and the book mustn't be solely about Bond. So I'm very grateful to him. I hope he does well--not only for him but for me, too.