Monty Python star John Cleese says he stopped appearing as the inventor Q in the James Bond films because the producers wanted to replicate the tone of the Bourne action films.
Cleese tells this week’s Radio Times that he no longer appears in the movies because they were pandering to audiences in the far East who wanted a more direct form of action movie – and were less keen on what he calls “the subtle British humour or the class jokes”.
“I did two James Bond movies [1999’s The World Is Not Enough, and 2002’s Die Another Day, playing Q], and then I believe that they decided that the tone they needed was that of the Bourne action movies, which are very gritty and humourless.
“Also the big money was coming from Asia, from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, where the audiences go to watch the action sequences, and that’s why in my opinion the action sequences go on for too long, and it’s a fundamental flaw. The audiences in Asia are not going for the subtle British humour or the class jokes.”
Cleese does not make it clear whether he walked or was pushed from the role but his comments cast a fascinating light on the often secretive world of casting for the Bond films by the producers Eon. It also shows that he is probably not a fan of the Bourne films in which Matt Damon plays the CIA operative.
In his two James Bond appearances, Cleese amused 007 fans with his surreal turn as the successor to Q, the inventor played by the late Desmond Llewelyn.
Cleese, who is gearing up for a stage comeback appearance with his fellow Monty Python stars at London’s O2 Arena next month, made his first cameo in the 1999 film The World is Not Enough as the assistant to Llewelyn’s Q. During his appearance Pierce Brosnan’s Bond jokingly wonders whether Cleese’s character should be called ‘R’.
Llewelyn, who appeared in every Bond film between 1963 and 1999 with the exception of the 1973 film Live and Let Die which does not feature Q, died in 1999 following a car crash.
This meant that Cleese appeared by himself in the gadget scenes in the next film, the 2002 movie Die Another Day (see clip below) in which he was given the name Q and had clearly taken over the role of quartermaster of the MI6 technology lab.
However the character was dropped for the next two films, the 2006 film Casino Royale and the 2008 film Quantum of Solace (2008).
When the character next surfaced in the 2012 film Skyfall he was played by Ben Whishaw.
RadioTimes.com contacted Eon about Cleese’s claims but a spokesman was unable to comment at the time of publication.
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Ben has worked as a professional journalist specialising in TV and the arts for nearly twenty years. After a two year stint on local newspapers in the mid 1990s, he spent more than 5 years as the broadcast reporter at the Stage newspaper. Following that he enjoyed staff reporting positions at the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday Times breaking stories and writing features before settling as a full time freelance writing for an array of newspapers and magazines - but mainly for the Guardian, Evening Standard, Broadcast, Independent and the New Statesman where he wrote a column.