From Russia With Love’s 50th Part III: Desmond Llewelyn

Desmond Llewelyn instructs Sean Connery

Desmond Llewelyn instructs Sean Connery

Audiences of the initial release of From Russia With Love didn’t realize it at the time, but they witnessed the start of a character actor’s 17-film, 36-year run.

Desmond Llewelyn took over the role of Major Boothroyd from Peter Burton, who played the part in Dr. No. In the initial 007 outing, Boothroyd presented Bond with his new gun, a Walther PPK. Llewelyn’s Boothroyd gave Sean Connery’s James Bond something more elaborate: a briefcase, if not opened properly, that would emit tear gas. It was also equipped with a sniper’s rifle, 50 gold pieces and a knife.

At this point, the character wasn’t referred to as Q. M mentions “Q branch” and its “smart-looking piece of luggage.” Boothroyd doesn’t reveal much of his feelings toward Bond either.

No matter. The actor’s appearance in From Russia With Love set the stage for his long run in the part. The Guy Hamilton-directed Goldfinger established Boothroyd’s annoyance at Bond regarding the agent’s disrespect of Q-branch equipment. In the 1965 television special The Incredible World of James Bond, the character would be referred to as “the fussy Major Boothroyd.”

Eventually, Llewelyn’s character would just be called Q, though Soviet agent Triple-X reminded viewers of the Boothroyd name in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me.

Llewelyn would play opposite five Bond actors. In the 1990s, the question was how long would the actor continue. Bruce Feirstein’s first-draft screenplay of Tomorrow Never Dies, includes a character named Malcolm Saunders, who is “Q’s successor.”

In his first appearance in the script, Saunders is “looking like a mummy – plaster casts on his left leg, left arm; neck-brace, crutch.” Saunders explains how he received his injuries: “Q’s retirement party. I’d just put the knife into the cake, and – ” However, the retired Q shows up later in the story. In the much-revised final story, we get a standard Bond-Q scene with Llewelyn opposite Pierce Brosnan, except it takes place in Germany instead of MI6 headquarters.

In Llewelyn’s finale, 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, Q/Boothroyd is talking retirement. Brosnan’s Bond doesn’t believe it — or doesn’t want to believe it. Q gives Bond some advice (always have an escape route) and makes his exit.

Llewelyn died in December 1999 of injuries from a car accident.

NEXT: Legacy

Tomorrow Never Dies’s 15th anniversary: tightrope


This month marks the 15th anniversary of Tomorrow Never Dies, the 18th 007 film and one whose drama behind the camera — a tightrope act to meet a tight schedule — may at least match that of the finished product.

GoldenEye, Pierce Brosnan’s debut as James Bond, revived the franchise after a six-year hiatus. So MGM’s United Artists wanted a follow up within two years’ time. The film had a $110 million budget, almost twice that of GoldenEye. That meant more resources but also more pressure.

Eon Productions for a time had employed writer Donald E. Westlake to do a story, which he said in interviews in 1995 concerned the U.K.’s 1997 return of Hong Kong to China.

For whatever reasons, Westlake didn’t work out and Eon hired Bruce Feirstein, who had done the final versions of GoldenEye’s script to have a go. Feirstein’s FIRST DRAFT (archived at the Universal Exports Web site) proved to be much different that the eventual final product.

Feirstein’s first draft concerned the theft of gold being transferred back to the U.K. from Hong Kong. The villain, Elliot Harmsway, also plans to create a nuclear meltdown in Hong Kong, because he opposed the giveback.

Co-bosses Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, working on their first film after the 1996 death of Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli, decided major surgery was in order. Other writers were summoned. Eventually, the Hong Kong angle was dropped; the movie would be out in December 1997, after the colony was returned to China. Sidney Winch, a former New York lawyer who runs a salvage ship, Feirstein’s female lead, was also a casualty.

In the rewriting process, a new heroine, Wai Lin, a Chinese agent, emerged. The move evoked Agent Triple-X from The Spy Who Loved Me two decades earlier. But the martial arts skills of actress Michelle Yeoh meant the new character would be deeply involved in the action sequences. One character that survived from Feirstein’s original story was Paris (Teri Hatcher), the villain’s wife who had a previous previous relationship with Bond.

Feirstein was then brought back to perform the final drafts of the revised storyline, in which a media mogul now named Elliott Carver (Jonathan Pryce) wants to start a U.K.-China war to boost ratings for his cable news empire and gain exclusive broadcasting rights in China. Feirstein ended up with the sole writing credit.

Director Roger Spottiswoode faced a tight deadline. The main until didn’t begin work until April 1, with the film set for a December release. The crew at one point was supposed to film in Vietnam but had to switch to Thailand. David Arnold, a new hire as composer, told journalist Jon Burlingame in an interview he had to score the movie in sections. That’s because the post-production time would be “non-existent,” Arnold told Burlingame. (To read a detailed account of filming, CLICK HERE for an article on the MI6 James Bond fan site.

In the end, the deadlines were met. Spottiswoode, in a commentary on the film’s DVD, while complimentary of Eon said he’d be in no hurry to repeat the experience. Michael G. Wilson, in interviews after the film came out, talked about being exhausted by the grind of making a 007 movie.

Tomorrow Never Dies ended up selling $339.5 million in tickets worldwide. That was down from GoldenEye’s $356.4 million (although Tomorrow’s U.S. ticket sales exceeded GoldenEye’s). All in all, it was plenty enough to ensure future film adventures for 007.

1996: Tomorrow Never Dies’s first draft

Writing a James Bond movie is harder than it looks. Bruce Feirstein is among those who know best because he’s among the rosters of writers Eon Production has hired over the years to devise new adventures for Ian Fleming’s character. Feirstein kicked off months of agonizing efforts by multiple scribes when in 1996 he submitted his first draft for Bond 18, which would be titled Tomorrow Never Dies when it was released in December 1997.

The Universal Exports Web site has archived various scripts, including Feirstein’s initial draft. So we took a look at the 150-page effort.

You get the impression that Feirstein had watched a lot of 007 movies. The stage directons in one action scene says an entrance door explodes in a “thunderball of water.” In some cases, Feirtein maybe watced 007 films a little too closely. A meeting of villain Elliott Harmsway (renamed Carver in the final film) comes across as a little too close to Blofeld’s meeting with SPECTRE’s leadership in Thunderball. One of them has embezzled from Harmsway and, naturally, meets a premature end. We’re also told in the sequence that Saddam Hussein was on Harmsway’s payroll.

The McGuffin of the draft is also familiar territory. It’s the one-third of the U.K. gold reserves that had been stored in Hong Kong but is being moved back to London. It’s not even Goldfinger the movie, it’s like going back to Goldfinger the novel where that iconic villain actually wanted to steal the gold in Fort Knox. Harmsway also intends to cause a nuclear meltdown in Hong Kong because he’s angry at the impending giveback of Hong Kong to the Chinese.

Paris, the villain’s wife who formerly had a relationship with 007, is present — she’s even contacts MI6 to alert the agency about Harmsway’s plans. As in the finished product, Paris also meets an unpleasant end but it occurs pretty early in the story. There is no Wai Lin, the woman Chinese intelligence agent who’d be the lead female character of the finished film. Instead, the female lead character is named Sidney Winch, a former New York lawyer who runs a salvage ship. She also calls Harmsway “Uncle Elliott,” because the villain knew her father.

Feirstein’s draft also contains some bits that didn’t make Tomorrow Never Dies but would get included in The World Is Not Enough. There’s a fight at a bar where Bond plunges an icepick through a thug’s necktie, then kicks the chap’s bar stool out from under him.

Also, there’a line for Judi Dench’s M that, “Contrary to what you may believe, 007, the world is not filled with mad-men who can hollow out volcanoes, stock them with big-breasted women, and threaten the world with nuclear annihilation.” That reference to You Only Live Twice would get filmed for The World Is Not Enough, but be cut from the final version of that movie.

As we said, the ranks of people who’ve gotten to write a James Bond movie is relatively small. Feirstein got a writing credit on three 007 films in the 1990s. Eon had enough confidence in Feirstein to bring him back to write Tomorrow Never Dies’s final drafter after others had spent months revamping his original. Whatever you think of his work, he was undoubtedly under a lot of pressure at the time. The film would be Pierce Brosnan’s second Bond film and expectations were high.