French actor Michael Lonsdale, best known for his villainous role in James Bond film Moonraker, has died aged 89.
The veteran actor took on almost 200 roles across film and television in a career spanning decades, most of which were filmed in France in his native language.
However, Lonsdale made a big splash in the English-speaking world for his memorable performance as Hugo Drax in 1979’s James Bond flick Moonraker.
He starred opposite Roger Moore in his fourth outing as the MI6 spy, playing the billionaire owner of Drax Industries with an evil plan to wipe out most of the human race.
At the time of its release, Moonraker became the highest-grossing Bond film of all time, holding that prestigious title until Goldeneye in 1995.
Moore’s Twitter account, run by his family and office, paid tribute to Lonsdale in a post that described him as “a smooth-tongued and cultured adversary to 007.”
Terribly saddened to learn Michael Lonsdale has also passed away today. As Hugo Drax he was a smooth-tongued and cultured adversary to 007 in Moonraker. pic.twitter.com/qoBbziZlZ9
— Sir Roger Moore (Legacy) (@sirrogermoore) September 21, 2020
Lonsdale was also known for playing Deputy Commissioner Claude Lebel in 1973 thriller The Day of the Jackal, as well as Dupont d’Ivry in Anthony Hopkins drama The Remains of the Day.
He starred in a large number of European films, earning acclaim in 2010 for his performance in Of Gods and Men, which earned him the César Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Born in Paris in 1931, Lonsdale moved around a lot in the early years of his life, first to the island of Guernsey, then to London and later to Morocco during the Second World War.
Eventually, he returned to Paris and began an acting career in his 20s, with early film roles including 1956’s It Happened in Aden and 1962’s The Trial, directed by Orson Welles.
The news of Lonsdale’s passing was confirmed by his agent earlier today, but the exact cause of death is not known at this time.