Desmond Llewelyn



"Bond -- James Bond," would have been nothing without Llewelyn -- Desmond Llewelyn. Llewelyn played the tweedy technophile who invented the bizarre gadgetry 007 used to thwart the sinister machinations of Dr. No, Goldfinger, and other dastardly villains in 17 Bond movies. Llewelyn's character was named Geoffrey Boothroyd, but no one in the Bond movies called him that. Instead, they called him "Q," short for "quartermaster." Like an army quartermaster who equips troops, Q equipped Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and other Bonds with the supplies of the espionage trade. Desmond Wilkinson Llewelyn was born in South Wales on September 12, 1914, the son of a Welsh coal-mining engineer. Interested in acting at an early age, he first studied accounting and law enforcement before enrolling in the Royal Academy of Arts at age 20. After joining the Royal Welsh Fusiliers at the onset of World War II, he fought in France as a second lieutenant and fell into enemy hands after a two-day battle with a German panzer division. He spent the next five years in German POW camps at Rottenburg, Laufen, and Warburg. He once tried to tunnel his way to freedom, but failed. Llewelyn returned to acting and began his film career in 1950 with a part in They Were Not Divided, then went on to appear in 31 other films, including the Bond films. Among the non-Bond films he appeared in, sometimes in quite minor roles, were Cleopatra (1963), Silent Playground (1964), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), Merlin (1992), and Taboo (1997). Between 1963 and the year of his death, 1999, he played in all but two of the Bond films -- more than any of the actors who starred as James Bond, including Connery, Moore, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan. As Q, Llewelyn was always irascible and cranky in response to 007's carefree nonchalance. Like a professor with a flippant student, he scolded Bond to pay attention and tutored his charge in the use of "Q toys," as his booby-trapped marvels came to be known. Still, Q was a master of mischief, a gray-haired boy who concocted an endless variety of spy paraphernalia and bizarre weapons, like the Rolex watch that could alter the path of a speeding bullet; the pen grenade that, with three clicks of a button, could be set to detonate in four seconds; the key ring that could open almost any lock in the world, release nerve gas, or simply explode; and the Lotus sports car that doubled as a submarine, complete with torpedoes and surface-to-air missiles. In real life, Llewelyn was all thumbs when it came to technology, and he was kind and gentle to all he encountered. On the movie set, his co-workers and other fans crowded around to observe when it came time for him to introduce his new marvel to the Bond de jour, and he spent as long as it took to sign autographs for anyone who wanted one. Ironically, it was an automobile, a blue Renault Megane, that killed Llewelyn. He died in a hospital shortly after the Renault collided with another car near Firle in East Sussex, England, on December 19, 1999. The crash site was not far from his home, Bexhill-on-Sea, south of London. He was survived by his wife Pamela, whom he married in 1938, and two sons. His son Ivor told Britain's Sky Television, "He was a kind, very lovable man, and as a father he was great."