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Die Another Day - Cleese talks Q/writers discuss plot



Compiled by: Jack Foley

PIERCE Brosnan is the fifth actor to take on the role of James Bond, but to 007 fans the world over, there has only ever been one Q. The man behind the gadgets is synonymous with the name Desmond Llewelyn, so when the actor passed away shortly after the release of The World Is Not Enough, it was left to John Cleese to fill Q's shoes.

Cleese, though, had appeared as R in The World Is Not Enough and was being groomed by the writers to take over, and he remains incredibly relieved that he had been able to participate in a Bond film prior to assuming such a prestigious - and important - role in the franchise.

Speaking at the London press conference for Die Another Day, the former Monty Python star explained: "It was incredibly helpful that I'd done the previous movie as R, because when I walked onto the set at Pinewood, I felt reasonably familiar with the environment and the faces.

"I can't tell you how scary it can be walking onto a movie and suddenly joining this family - it's like going to somebody else's Christmas dinner; everyone knows everyone and you're not quite sure where you're supposed to sit.

"It was also hugely helpful that I'd established contact with the writers and that we'd been sending scripts and odd suggestions backwards and forwards over the fax machine, with the result that when I sat down for lunch with them and Barbara Broccoli the day before, there was a real feeling of being more comfortable."

He continued: "I always go on to sets two days before and shake hands with the camera operator, because that sense of familiarity helps to get rid of so much anxiety and, because of that, I didn't somehow take on board the enormity of suddenly having to take over Q.

"Indeed, a lot of people have asked me these types of questions, and I suddenly realised that it didn't occur to me at the time quite what a dramatic transition it had been.

"In retrospect, I suppose, what is so odd about the Q scenes is that they really are the only humourous scenes in the movie. I mean, there are funny lines, there are always those little romantic or erotic double entendres, and then after Bond has sliced someone in half, there will be a nice throwaway, but these are the only sustained scenes where, in a sense, both characters are being funny.

"And people like him, I think, because that is such a different tone from the rest of the movie and the interesting thing is that supposing Q came in later on, would it work to have the humour in a later scene?"

Indeed, tampering with the format is something that Cleese was keen to avoid.

"I could see no reason to change it at all," he explained, when asked about how important it was to carry over any of Llewelyn's traits. "I wasn't sure what the writers were going to do with it. When the script arrived, I picked it up and it felt right.

"I tend to have an odd split in my mind. I tend to look at it as a writer and, when the writing thing is OK and I'm happy with it, then I put on my actor's hat. To give you an idea of how strangely split I am, when I wrote the 'upside down' scene in A Fish Called Wanda, it was only after I was happy with the scene that I thought, 'My God, I'm going to have to do this'.

"So once I came to look at it as an actor, I thought, 'why would I change the basic relationship Q has with Bond?' I could think of no reason to do so."

So what does Cleese get out of appearing in a franchise such as Bond?

"A very good daily rate and a lot of nice people helping to get it right! And that's an accurate answer. It sounds flippant, but it's a very, very nice job.

"Also, we all had fantasies about being Bond, but that was real life Bond, if you know what I mean. It's strange, when I look back, even when I was young, I was aware that there was a group of English actors who seemed to crop up in smallish and very nice parts in films, people like David Tomlinson and Robert Morley, and I remember thinking, 'there's a very nice living to be made doing that'.

"It's funny, ambling from project to project, but we need to eat and it's an extraordinarily nice way of doing it, it's so much better than being down a mine."

 

 

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